Friday, October 06, 2023


 A belated post to notify that as of December 2022, I have moved over to Substack. This blog will have no further updates, so go find me over at the new place. Link:

Friday, July 01, 2022

Favorite new music releases, January through June, 2022

With so many seemingly determined to destroy all that is good in the world, music's ability to provide strength, create hope, invigorate, provoke thought, ignite sparks of imagination and life affirmation, break down barriers and reveal the beauty of human diversity, among many other things, has seemed as important as ever. Here's a list of 20 new releases as well as a handful of old/vault/reissues from the first six months of 2022 (and one from late 2021) that, on one level or another, have managed to do so (Entries kinda, sorta ranked by order of preference, but by no means set in stone):


 New albums:

  • Mary Halvorson: Amaryllis (Nonesuch Records) – The terrific band on Amaryllis provides a purposeful, and exciting, thrust to much of the music, coupled with rich textures and solo outings that twist, turn, probe and encircle the blossoming compositions. A stand-out album in what is an already remarkable discography. [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, May. 23., 2022].
  • Andrew Cyrille, William Parker, Enrico Rava: 2 Blues For Cecil (TUM Records) – Three masters of modern music pay homage to Cecil Taylor, whom they all have had stints playing with, not by revisiting his music, but by finding common ground along their own, unique paths. Masterfully restrained in their collective expression, the trio avoids sudden outburst or forceful blows in favor of deep reverberation, creating something truly majestic and magnificent in the process. [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, Feb. 31., 2022].
  • John Zorn: New Masada Quartet (Tzadik [released late 2021]) – The latest version of the Masada Quartet, now a sax, guitar, bass and drums combo, finds new ways to combine familiar Zorn elements like klezmer, Coleman, drive, propulsion, unruliness, hooks and joy. [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, January 3., 2022].
  • Zoh Amba: O, Sun (Tzadic) – My predisposition for sax, bass and drums trios, coupled with my immense admiration for all things William Parker, made me very curious about O Life, O Light, Vol.1, (577 records) by young tenor saxophonist Zoh Amba. And while it showcases her admirably developing a personal voice along a path first traveled by Albert Ayler, on the wonderful, daring O, Sun she reveals a richer, more diverse palette that combines the rough and crude with the delicate and gentle. Album debut of the year (so far). [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, June 13., 2022].
  • Alexander Hawkins Mirror Canon: Break a Vase (Intakt Records) – From bits and pieces, as the cover says, the immensely talented pianist and composer Alexander Hawkins and a terrific cast of musicians probe, turn, twist, stretch the compositional framework, at times seemingly breaking it into tiny fragments, only to put it back together in a fascinating, and surprising, ways. [Reviewed for Jazznytt #262, Spring 2022].
  • Nduduzo Makhathini: In the Spirit of Ntu (Blue Note) – South African pianist and composer Nduduzo Makhathini's best album to date, which finds him in great company perfecting a synthesis of the rich South African jazz tradition and adventurous, American predecessors like Andrew Hill and Don Pullen. [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, June 20., 2022].
  • Jacob Garchik: Assembly (self-released) – A digital only release by trombonist and composer Jacob Garchik (who also plays on the above-mentioned Mary Halvorson album). Music that is full of hooks as it is tricks, establishing a pattern one moment before pulling the rug from under you, and scurrying off in another direction the next. I find it utterly delightful.
  • Moskus: Papirfuglen (Hubro) Few Norwegian ensembles fit the idea of jazz as a toolbox rather than a set of guidelines better than Fredrik Luhr Dietrichson, Hans Hulbækmo and Anja Lauvdal of Moskus. Papirfuglen is further proof of this, where rather than aiming to fully develop melodic, thematic and rhythmic ideas and fragments, they allow the elements to ebb and flow, disappear and reappear, reveling in the music's fragmentary nature, and as such playing up the beauty and wonder of the the unfinished, that which has not not yet been revealed, and the inconclusive. [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, March 21., 2022]. 
  • Erlend Viken, Jo Berger Myhre, Thomas Pohlitz Strønen: Djupet (OK World) – A reworking of Viken's and Berger Myhre's commissioned work for the 2020 Ultima Festival, Djupet weaves and flows through strands of Norwegian folk music, improvisation and electronic dance music, revealing mysticism and depth along the way. [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, March 28., 2022].
  • Luke Stewart's Silt Trio: The Bottom (Cuneiform Records) – Following the idea of taking cues from the past in order to move forward, the tireless, brilliant bassist Luke Stewart joins forces with DC saxophonist Brian Settles and ace drummer Chad Taylor, connecting the dots bewteen, among other things, blues tinged landscapes and "fire music" throughout the decades with open mindedness and elasticity. [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, January 24., 2022].
  • Myra Melford’s Fire and Water Quintet: For the Love of Fire and Water (RogueArt) [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, April 11., 2022].
  • Lisa Ullén, Elsa Bergman, Anna Lund: Space (Relative Pitch Records) [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, March 7., 2022]. 
  • Eri Yamamoto, Chad Fowler, William Parker, Steve Hirsh: Sparks (Mahakala Music) [Reviewed for Jazznytt #263, Summer 2022].
  • Oren Ambarchi / Johan Berthling / Andreas Werliin: Ghosted (Drag City) 
  • Billy Mohler: Anatmoy (Contageous Music)
  • Amalie Dahl’s Dafnie: Dafnie (Sonic Transmissions Records) [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, May 16., 2022]. 
  • Max Johnson Trio w/Anna Webber and Michael Sarin: Orbit Of Sound (Unbroken Sounds)
  • TEIP Trio: TEIP Trio (Sonic Transmissions Records)
  • Emmeluth / Knedal Andersen / Skavhaug Nergaard: The A-Z of Microwave Cookery (Astral Spirits) 
  • Ches Smith: Interpret It Well (Pyroclastic Records) [Reviewed for Jazznytt #263, Summer 2022]. 


  •  Cecil Taylor: The Complete, Legendary, Live Return Concert (Oblivion Records) [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, February 28., 2022].
  • Albert Ayler: Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings (Elemental Music) [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, May 2., 2022].
  • Peter Brötzmann, Milford Graves, William Parker: Historic Music Past Tense Future (Black Editions) [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, February 28., 2022].
  • Sirone: Artistry (Moved By Sound)
  • Pere Ubu: The Lost Band (Ubu Projex)

Friday, December 31, 2021

Fave music of 2021

 Just days before 2021 turned to 2022, the results for the 2021 edition of the annual Jazz Critics Poll were posted. Earlier than usual, if memory serves, and after a few years being sponsored and hosted by NPR, this year The Arts Fuse is hosting the poll.

I mention the Jazz Critics Poll partly because I have been a voter in it since 2011, but additionally because although I have kept lists of favorite albums since the inception of this blog (though much less diligently in recent years), once Francis Davis' invitation to vote in the Jazz Critics Poll lands in my inbox, usually near the end of November, that's when I really start to scratch my head to figure out which albums I want to highlight form the past year. This year was no different, and although the ballot I provided for the poll is arbitrary for several reasons, colored by whatever felt or seemed "right" on that particular day, the 10 albums I ended up voting for (my ballot is available here, by the way) will be very similar to those at the top end of the list below. 

Though there is at least one key difference: I've long since quit ranking my fave albums in any strict sense, and rather sort them into tiers. And although I'm sympathetic to the writer (I forget who at the time of typing) who argued that (and I'm paraphrasing from memory) although ranking should never be taken to be set in stone (fully agreed), doing so is a service to the reader in signaling that, if this list piques your interest, maybe start here. I myself will argue that all of those albums in the top tier contain terrific, singular and are all worth your time. For each of these I've written about why I think so in print, albeit only in Norwegian. 

But to try and offer a couple words of guidance on at least a couple of these albums here. For airy searching tenor sax melodies accompanied by a malleable rhythmic push in supple interplay sounds intriguing, try Mariá Grands reflections on motherhood on the magnificent Reciprocity. For rugged, freewheeling but determined explorations both fiery and soulful, James Brand Lewis / Red Lily Quintet's terrific Jesup Wagon should hit the sweet spot. For a jubilant, celebratory, open minded musical travelogue that dances along on influences from, among other places, Chicago, Austin, Amsterdam and Oppdal (Norway), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten's celebratory Exit (Knarr) has you covered. And if music that soars towards the skies with an alternately shimmering and screaming guitar and a bass and drums combo that boom and propel as if they were the engines of a rocket ship, that's part of the excitement of William Parker's stellar Mayan Space Station.

Those four, along with several more, where highlights of my music listening in 2021, lifting the spirits and mood, providing for for thought, inspiration and much more during yet another odd year. I've listed a total of 30 albums below, because I had to stop somewhere. Many more albums are worthy of a mention, but these were the ones I chose to highlight today. A longer, if not very up-to-date and by no means complete or final list of music that tickled my fancy in 2021 can be found here. And with that. I'm wishing you all the best for the new year!

Voyager Golden Record

  • Maria Grand: Reciprocity (Biophilia) 
  • Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: (Exit) Knarr (Odin)
  • James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet: Jesup Wagon (Tao Forms) 
  • Trondheim Jazz Orchestra & Ole Morten Vågan: Plastic Wave (Odin)
  • The Source: . . . But Swinging Doesn't Bend Them Down (Odin)
  • William Parker: Mayan Space Station (AUM Fidelity)
  • Irreversible Entanglements: Open the Gates (International Anthem)

Profound, lasting impression

  • Anthony Joseph: The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running for Their Lives (Heavenly Sweetness)
  • Flukten: Velkommen håp (Odin)
  • Mariá Portugal: Erosão (Staatsakt Rec.)
  • John Zorn: New Masada Quartet (Tzadik)
  • Aki Takase-Christian Weber-Michael Griener: Auge (Intakt)
  • Wadada Leo Smith's Great Lakes Quartet: The Chicago Symphonies (TUM)
  • Mach Hommy: Pray For Haiti (Griselda Records) 
  • Marthe Lea Band: Aura (Motvind)
  • Luís Vicente Trio, Gonçalo Almeida, Pedro Melo Alves: Chanting In the Name Of (Clean Feed)
  • Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg (4AD)  
  • Madlib: Sound Ancestors (Madlib Invazion) 
  • Tim Berne - Chris Speed - Reid Anderson - Dave King: Broken Shadows (Intakt)
  • Andreas Røysum Ensemble: Fredsfanatiker (Motvind)
  • Little Simz: Sometimes I Might Be Introvert (Age 101)
  • Kari Ikonen: Impressions, Improvisations and Compositions (Ozella)
  • Emily D'Angelo: enargeia (Deutshce Grammofon)
  • Punkt. Vrt. Plastik. (Kaja Draksler, Peter Eldh, Christian Lillinger): Somit (Intakt) 
  • Turnstile: Glow On (Roadrunner Records)
  • Japanese Breakfast: Jubilee (Dead Oceans)  
  • Henry Threadgill Zooid: Poof (Pi Recordings)
  • No-no Boy: 1975 (Smithsonian Folkways)
  • Miguel Zenon: Law Years: The Music of Ornette Coleman (Miel)
  • Claire Rosay: a softer focus (American Dream Records)

Friday, August 06, 2021

50 fave new music releases a bit past 2021s midway point

There are a couple of reasons why I'm posting this belated "mid-year" faves lists now. For one, July was incredibly busy, and I had no time nor energy to do any writing, either of the professional or blogging kind. My first piece of August is due to be published this coming Monday, so for reason number two, consider this a sort of kick off. And third, today is Bandcamp Friday, which means today the hosting site will be waiving their cut for all sales, digital or physical media. Most of the releases listed below can be found on Bandcamp.

Now, I'm acutely aware that simply listing music without adding any rationale, explanation, whys or hows is of limited use. Yet, I've been posting music lists for years. In part, I do this for selfish reasons, as a way to keep track of what I've been enjoying the most over a specific period of time, a way of narrowing down and sorting all those incoming CDs and digital files (and sometimes LPs) into one neat pile. Now, I could easily keep those lists in my notebook or on my PC, but then again, some folks like lists, for one reason or another. As a shorthand, quick way to get a glimpse into what music the listmaker in question has been grooving to, I can see the usefulness. And if that's a thing you enjoy, well then this is for you.

Those who have read or hear me opine on music will likely get why, say, the interweaving patterns, lithe melodic flights and supple bounce of María Grand's Reciprocity and the irrepressible rambunctious thrust and soar of William Parker, Ava Mendoza and Gerald Cleaver's  Mayan Space Station are stuff that resonate with me. As for the other music listed here, well I wish I had time to elaborate some. I have written about several of these picks over these past six months or so, mostly for Klassekampen's weekly music supplement Musikkmagasinet. Others, I have not, for any number of reasons. I do wish I had the opportunity to write more than I have in recent years. In time, perhaps a solution and more opportunities will arise.(The list is by no means exhaustive, there has been even more music that has struck my fancy over the past six/seven months, but for today, 50 will suffice).

Music from the spheres:
  • María Grand: Reciprocity (Biophilia Records)
  • James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet: Jesup Wagon (TAO Forms)
  • William Parker: Mayan Space Station (AUM Fidelity)
  • Luís Vicente Trio, Gonçalo Almeida, Pedro Melo Alves: Chanting In the Name Of (Clean Feed)

Heavy rotation:

  • Alder Ego: III (We Jazz Records)
  • Christian Reim Sextet: Mona Lisa Suite Live at Molde, 1973 (Jazzaggression) 
  • William Parker: Painters Winter (AUM Fidelity)
  • Kari Ikonen: Impressions, Improvisations and Compositions (Ozella)
  • Madlib: Sound Ancestors (Madlib Invazion)
  • Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg (4AD)
  • Punkt. Vrt. Plastik. (Kaja Draksler, Peter Eldh, Christian Lillinger): Somit (Intakt) 
  • Mario Pavone / Dialect Trio + 1: Blue Vertical (Out Of Your Head Records)
  • Silke Eberhard Trio:  Being the Up and Down (Intakt)
  • Three Layer Cake (Brandon Seabrook, Mike Watt, Mike Pride): Stove Top (Rare Noise Records)
  • Sibusiso Mash Mashiloane: Ihubo Labomdabu (self-released)
  • Mach-Hommy: Pray For Haiti (Griselda Records)
  • Miguel Zenon: Law Years: The Music of Ornette Coleman (Miel)
  • Carl Magnus Neumann, Ketil Gutvik, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, Paal Nilssen-Love: New Dance (PNL)
  • Fire!: Defeat (Rune Grammofon)
  • Ivo Perelman Trio: Garden of Jewels (Tao Forms)
  • Marthe Lea Band: Aura (Motvind)
  • Claire Rosay: a softer focus (American Dream Records)

Thoroughly enjoying

  • Aki Takase/Christian Weber/Michael Griener: Auge (Intakt)
  • William Parker: Migration Of Silence Into and Out Of the Tone World (Centering Records)  
  • Tom Rainey Obligato: Untucked In Hannover (Intakt)
  • Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Standards) 2020 (New Braxton House)
  • Signe Emmeluth: Hi Hello I'm Signe (Relative Pitch) 
  • Koma Saxo: Live (We Jazz Records)
  • Christopher Hoffman: Asp Nimbus (Out Of Your Head Records) 
  • Body Meπa: The Work Is Slow (Hausu Mountain)
  • Part Chimp: Drool (Wrong Speed Records)
  • Rodrigo Amado This Is Our Language Quartet:  Let the Free Be Men (Trost)
  • Skarbø Skulekorps: Dugnad (Hubro)
  • Flow Trio with Joe McPhee: Winter Garden (ESP)
  • Tine Surel Lange: Works For listening 1-10 (Sofa Music)
  •  Mats Eilertsen: Solitude Central (Hemli)
  • Mario Pavone Tampa Quartet: Isabella (Clean Feed Records)
  • Aksel Rønning Trio: ART (Øra Fonogram)
  • Frode Haltli: Avant Folk II (Hubro)
  • Butcher/Weston/Storesund/Knedal Andersen: Mapless Quiet (Motvind)
  • Hedvig Mollestad Trio: Ding Dong. You're Dead (Rune Grammofon)
  • No-no Boy: 1975 (Smithsonian Folkways)
  • Paul Dunmall / Percy Pursglove / Olie Brice / Jeff Williams: Plindronmes (West Hill Records) 
  • Iréne Schweizer & Hamid Drake: Celebration (Intakt)
  • Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victime (Matador) 
  • Devin Grey, Ralph Alessi & Angelica Sanchez: Melt All the Guns (Rataplan)
  • Arne Torvik Trio: Northwestern Songs (Losen)*
  • Barry Altschul 3Dom Factor: Long Tall Sunshine
  • Sons Of Kemet: Black To the Future (Impulse!)
  • Mind Maintenance: Mind Maintenance (Drag City)

* Full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes for this release.  

Monday, April 12, 2021

The spritied collaborations of Calle Neumann and Christian Reim

From my piece in today's Musikkmagasinet supplement in Klassekampen

Partly because the sparky and fiery altoist Carl Magnus "Calle" Neumann and the soulful pianist Christian Reim never made a studio recording together, their collaborations during the 1970s have become somewhat forgotten parts of the story of the Norwegian jazz explosion of that era. However, theirs were no less vital or vibrant than the music of their contemporaries, as exemplified by the reissue of Live at Molde International  Jazz Festival 1976 and, in particular, the hitherto unissued Mona Lisa Suite, both recently released by Jazzaggession Records.

On the latter, recorded live in Molde in 1973, we hear a sextet lead by Reim, who also composed the suite, with Neumann on alto and soprano, Knut Riisnæs on tenor and flute, Ditlef Eckhoff on trumpet, Terje Venaas on double bass and Epsen Rud on drums. The first part of the suite opens with Reim's gently flowing piano tones over arco bass, and the piece segues via a folk music inspired fanfare into a soul jazz tinged landscape, marked by Eckhoff's expressive trumpet solo. 

The second part opens with another intro by Reim, bluesy yet upbeat, but soon kicks into another gear, propelled by Venaas' two bass ostinatos, the first light-footed and eager, the second a deep and powerful groove, its bustling energy accentuated by Rud's delightful, alternating ride and hi-hat work, and agitating horn riffs, creating a launch pad for a saxophone solo that lifts off, soars, and rips and tears at the seams of the tune.

A highly recommended recording in its own right, but especially for anyone interested in what Norwegian jazz had to offer outside of the more famous ECM associated acts of the era. Vinyl copies are limited, but can still be found at stores like Dusty Groove.

Friday, April 02, 2021

A quick 2021 1st quarter round-up: Bandcamp friday is a Good Friday

Three elder statesmen of jazz and improvised music, one resolutely productive "mayor", the continued emergence of a singular talent of the alto saxophone, fascinating takes on solo albums and latin associated musicans takes on Ornette Coleman all feature among my fave recordings of 2021 so far (adding one album released today). Below, a quick and easy list of 20 of those favorite releases, and since it's Bandcamp Friday, I've added links to the relevant Bandcamp pages where such are available. I'll be posting a round-up of my published writing from January through March, many featuring some of the music mentioned below, later this week.

  • Butcher/Weston/Storesund/Knedal Andersen: Mapless Quiet (Motvind Records)
  • Gary Bartz, Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Adrian Younge: Jazz Is Dead 6 (Jazz Is Dead)
  • Calle Neumann / Ketil Gutvik / Ingebrigt Håker Flaten / Paal Nilssen-Love: New Dance (PNL)
  • Sana Nagano: Smashing Humans (577 Records)
  • Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra: Promises (Luaka Bop)
  • Paul Dunmall / Percy Pursglove / Olie Brice / Jeff Williams: Palindromes (West Hill)
  • Archie Shepp & Jason Moran: Let My People Go (Archieball)
  • Johan Lindström Septett: On the Asylum (Moserobie Music Productions)
  • Frode Haltli: Avant Folk II (Hubro)
  • Patricia Brennan: Maquishti (Valley Of Search)

Saturday, March 06, 2021

Peter Brötzmann at 80


The sudden screams and splutters from three saxophones is shocking and disturbing, the following rat-at-at-at of the two drums rattling and unsetteling. The sound barrage is almost overwheling, shaking the listener out of their comfort zone. Even now, having listened to Machine Gun countless times since I first encountered it over 20 years ago, I'm never quite prepared for that opening salvo.

That initial outpouring soon gives way to much mellower sounds, though. Out of the smoke pops Fred Van Hove's slighty swinging piano, subtly stumbling bass patterns by Peter Kowald and Buschi Niebergall, and an off-kilter, drunken saxophone forging its way in between. Only to be shaken up by yet another outburst.

Peter Brötzmann's work tends to keep you on your toes and alert. It can also seem like perfect examples of what Robert Wyatt termed "trying to find beauty where others see ugliness" (paraphrasing here, since I can't at the tie of writing find the original quote). Not that there's anything beautiful about a machine gun barrage, mind you. Some of his work is just downright beautiful in its own right, though, such as the solo work 14 Love Poems (reissued last year on vinyl by Cien Fuegos). On the other side of the spectrum is stuff like LAst Exit, music that hits as hard as any you can think of.

Throughout his career Brötzmann has played with some of the greatest bassists. The above mentioned Kowlad, of course, not to forget William Parker in projects like Die Like a Dog. But I mention this specifically to highlight one of my fave Brötzmann recordings, Songlines, where he teamed up with the mercurially brilliant Fred Hopkins (of Air fame) as well as a certain Rashied Ali, arguably the nimbles bass-drum combo Brötzmann ever played with, and he more than holds his own.


That's just the tip of an iceberg of recorded output that numbers over 300 recordings and counting, with groups and solo work under his own name, Die Like a Dog and Last Exit, to collaborations with Cecil Taylor, ICP, Globe Unity Orchestra, Frode Gjerstad, and the more recent work with pedal steel guitarist Heather Leigh. I've only had the chance to witness him live in concert once, with the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet at Molde International Jazz Festival in 2007. It was an experience I won't soon forget. Hopefully, another chance or two will arise once this pandemic blows over.

Happy 80th b'day, maestro!

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