Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Favorite Jazz of 2008

May as well get it over with, especially since the Village Voice Poll was posted last week.

  1. Mostly Other People Do the Killing: This Is Our Moosic (Hot Cup)
  2. Fieldwork: Door (Pi Recordings)
  3. Ben Allison & Man Size Safe: Little Things Run the World (Palmetto Records)
  4. Anthony Braxton, Milfor Graves, William Parker: Beyond Quantum (Tzadik)
  5. Rob Brown Ensemble: Crown Trunk Root Funk (AUM Fidelity)
  6. Vijay Iyer: Tragicomic (Sunny Side Records)
  7. Roy Campbell: Akhenaten Suite (AUM Fidelity)
  8. William Parker: Petit Oiseau (Aum Fidelity)
  9. Vandermark 5: Beat Reader (Atavistic)
  10. Mike Reed People, Places & Things: Proliferation (482 Music)
The rest, in no particular order but all graded 7 or better (i.e. recommended):
(the links go mostly to CD Baby and Jazz Loft, but the records may also be available from other retailers).

I'm tempted to borrow Christgau's phrase from his review of Air's Air Lore in order to describe Mostly Other People Do the Killing: "Demonstrating not only that ragtime (...) and New Orleans (...) are Great Art consonant with Contemporary Jazz, but also that they're Corny. And that both Great Art and Corn can be fun."

MOPDtK rip out the intervoven molodies and the joie de vivre of vintage Dixieland and fuse that with the power and speed of post bop and hard bop, verging on the avant garde, at least in terms of their fondness for the odd skronk. There is also a post modern wit to their music, which makes me want to pit them with Pavement, of all bands, also due to their loose approach. This Is... may on occasion feel darker (e.g. "East Orwell") than their previos record, but then again think of the duality of their excellent moniker: the serious accusation that we're not as evil as the others sounds quite funny at the same time. I liked This Is... so much that I picked up and played 2007's Shamokin!!! again, and it is just as good.

The other "winner" this year may be Vijay Iyer, who has two entries on my list: the powerful and percussive Door by his trio Fieldwork (with last years newcomer of the year Tyshawn Sorey and Steve Lehman), and the straighter quartet session Tragicomic.

Ben Allison demonstrated the simplicity can be more, musically, on Little Things...

2008 was in some regards Anthony Braxton's year, not only because of great records like Beyond Quantum (with William Parker and Milford Graves), but also due to the Mosaic box set that re-issues his Arista records. Finally the excllent Creative Orchestra Music 1976 is available again.

William Parker was all over 2008, a testament to how highly I and others hold him in the world of contemporary jazz. He played bass on Beyond Quantum and Rob Brown's excellent free bop quartet session Crown Trunk..., among others. As for his records as a leader, I preferred the groovy quratet album Petit Oiseau to the large ensemble Double Sunrise... (I'm still not 100% comfortable with the vocals of Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay).

There are still some records I am sifting through, Matana Roberts The Chicago Project among others, but the top 10 should remain unchanged.

Best jazz record originally released in 2007 that I discovered in 2008: Sonic Openings Under Pressure: Muhheankuntuk (Clean Feed)

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