Over the past week I’ve unveiled some of the music that brought me satisfaction and, often, extraordinary moments of sonic alignment–which is how great music strikes me, and, has struck me for forty-five years.
Nowadays it is clear that musical culture in the USA revolves around everybody being their own mix master. Almost all the music mentioned in the previous week’s post can be sampled via Spotify or Pandora. It can be purchased at iTunes or Amazon or GooglePlay, yet the best place to purchase it, is at the artist’s web site–where such an opportunity exists.
The following is my ordering of my very favorite releases from last year. This evaluation isn’t intended to parse artistic merit. It just serves my desire to name Wussy the album of the year, and to put their superb Attica in the company of other peerless examples of vital musical artistry.
12 ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS – 2014
1. Wussy – Attica |buy direct| ***record of the year***
2. The Swans – To Be Kind |buy direct|
3. Sam Newsome – The Straight Horn of Africa A Path to Liberation (Art of the Soprano, V2) |buy Amazon|
4. Noura Mint Seymali (Mauritania) – Tzenni |buy direct|
5. D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Black Messiah |buy Amazon|
6. Hassan Hakmoun (Morocco) – Unity |buy Amazon|
7. Tisziji Munoz – Taking You Out There! Live |buy direct|
8. Irma Thomas – Full Time Woman (The Lost Cotillion Album)
|buy Lousiana Music Factory|
9. Aya Nishina – Flora [from 2013] |buy|
10.The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream |buy direct|
11.Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music |buy direct|
12.FKA Twigs – LP1 |buy Amazon|
Improvisation – call it jazz, if you must Sam Newsome – The Straight Horn of Africa A Path to Liberation (Art of the Soprano, V2)
Tisziji Munoz – Taking You Out There! Live
Chicago/Sao Paulo Underground Feat. Pharoah Sanders – Pharoah & The Underground
Notes – The best improv sounds for itself. It takes me more than a year to absorb the rich experiments. Especially with the field of improv, it is what I happen to be dealing with as a listener in the moment that comes to the fore and comes to be favored. Still, compelled by the year-end project to give some shape to my most glorious preferences, it was straight forward to elevate Mr. Newsome and Mr. Munoz & Mr. Sanders and Mr. Mazurek to the top rank. I spent the most time with Tisziji Munoz, simply by virtue of his prolific delivery of entire recordings and partial recordings on eMusic. By my count he put out twelve new recordings. Their quality is uniformly excellent. He is a stirring improviser, but of course so are Sam Newsome, and the ageless Pharoah Sanders. The only possible conclusion is that 2014 was a year for reviving the feel of John Coltrane.
Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden – Last Dance
Oliver Lake – Heard the Organ Trio
Jason Ajemian – Folklords
Ken Vandermark Duos and Trios – Nine Ways to Read a Bridge
Steve Lehman Octet – Mise En Abi?me
Ideal Bread – Beating The Teens
Roscoe Mitchell with Craig Taborn, Kikanju Baku – Conversations I/Conversations II
Jemeel Moondoc – The Zookeeper’s House
Jochen Rueckert – We Make the Rules
Orrin Evans & Captain Black Big Band – Mother’s Touch
Sonny Simmons & Moksha Samnyasin – Nomadic
Tisziji Munoz – Omega Nebula-The Afterlife
Abdullah Ibrahim – The Song Is My Story
Sam Newsome – The Solo Concert – Plays Monk and Ellington
George Lewis, Wadada Leo Smith, John Zorn – Sonic Rivers
Keith Jarrett Trio – Somewhere
REISSUES John Coltrane – Offering – Live at Temple University
Miles Davis – The Unissued Cafe Bohemia Broadcasts
Miles Davis – Plugged Nickel Complete
Clifford Brown – The Blue Note Recordings
Arthur Blythe was born in 1940 in Los Angeles and grew up in San Diego. He took up the alto saxophone at the age of nine, playing R&B until his mid-teens when he discovered jazz. In the mid-1960s he was part of The Underground Musicians and Artists Association (UGMAA), west coast counterpart to Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) founded by Horace Tapscott, on whose 1969 The Giant Is Awakened, Blythe made his recording debut.
He made his big splash on the jazz scene after he moved to New York in his mid-30s and subsequently played with the Gil Evans Orchestra, Jack DeJohnette and McCoy Tyner. Renown for his ripe, passionate, vibrato-rich sound, Blythe recorded on Columbia Records through much of the 1980s and his most recent recorded appeared on the Savant label between 2000 and 2003.
He recently underwent a serious kidney operation, which affected his ability to walk and swallow foods. He is also struggling with Parkinson’s disease. While he’s slowly regaining strength at a rehabilitation centre in California, he needs financial support to pay bills and to get the help of a good neurologist.
Proceeds from this concert will be donated to Arthur Blythe to help him cover health care expenses. via Angel City Jazz
One of the greatest recordings of the New York loft scene, The Grip by Arthur Blythe, 1977, India Navigation Records.
In 1977 Arthur Blythe was 37, and I was 23. He was three years removed from his California roots and I was three years removed from Cleveland. I was trying to create a foothold for great Black music in the bins of The Vermont Book Shop and on the radio at WRMC-fm. I played the shit out of this record. Janet liked it. Buckeye gave it his seal of approval.
Heck, Blythe made a string of classic records for Columbia Records starting the next year. They remain some of the most startling music CBS ever issued!
But, poor health silenced Black Arthur by 2004. This robbed the improv scene of one of its most talented auteurs. Not only was Blythe a virtuoso alto saxophonist–think Sonny Stitt on acid–he was also a terrific conceptualizer of ensembles, and an innovative composer and arranger. He swung, was an avant-gardist, and he drew on the entire history of jazz going right back to jelly roll.
Arthur Blythe has Parkinson’s Disease. he’s been dealt a tough hand. You can help by shelling out a penny short of ten bucks to buy his record, Live at Yoshi’s. It’s been released for the purpose of giving you a chance to give him a hand.
Recorded December 2003 at Yoshi’s Jazz Club Oakland CA (Part of the Eddie Moore Jazz festival)
Performers of the Arthur Blythe quartet are:
Arthur Blythe (alto sax)
Gust William Tsilis (concert grand marimba)
Bob Stewart (tuba)
Eddie Marshall (drums)
All money will go to support Arthur in his fight against Parkinson’s disease. The production company Jazz in Flight donated the recording and all of the musicians are donating their work in support of Mr. Blythe. Please join us to help Arthur.
1 PEE WEE RUSSELL Pee Wee’s Blues 4:24
2 ORNETTE COLEMAN Check Up 10:08
3 CHARLIE HADEN Nardis 12:56
4 GERI ALLEN Blues In Motian 8:20
5 ORNETTE COLEMAN Song For Che 12:05
6 LIBERATION MUSIC ORCHESTRA Not in Our Name 7:16
7 LIBERATION MUSIC ORCHESTRA This Is Not America 10:52
8 ENRICO PIERANUNZI Distance from departure 6:46
9 QUARTET WEST Lets Call it A Day 5:53
compiled by Dub Collision – July 2014 noguts noglory studios – Cleveland Hts Ohio [download mp3]
“I’m always searching. It’s the reason I’m here. It’s not really about music, it’s about searching for meaning.” Charlie Haden (interview)
Bandcamp hosts this unalloyed sparkler from cornet virtuoso Bynum and percussionist Fujiwara. It’s their third duo record, They are currently one of the most substantial and resourceful improvising pairs.
My muso colleague Dr. Bill weighed in at the end of January with his best of 2013 jazz choices. His list names a top ten. There is one point of overlap between our different estimations, Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom date, No Morphine No Lillies.
Yet, I too enjoy almost everything I also heard that is on his larger list. Our tastes are very similar.
Local educator and jazz pianist, composer, bandleader, David Ake appears at the top of his list. Last year he became the head of the music department at Case Western Reserve University and put out a fine small ensemble date, Bridges. I like the record immensely.
For me, Bill was also, along with Harvey Pekar, one of my key musical mentors. I first met back when I worked in a Cleveland Heights record store, Budget Records and Tapes, in the winter of 1971. He insisted I check out Howlin’ Wolf–and I did so–and he then carried the blues flames to me. (Harvey covered the jazz fire.) We both became crazed jazz heads over the next many years and we both worked in music retail and were broadcasters, Bill here in Cleveland, and me in Middlebury, Vermont.
I was pleased as punch that we took up our friendship when I returned in 1992. We get together and have what we call sessions–something muso tend to do!
comments: It occurs to me, thanks mostly to Harvey Pekar, that I am in my fifth decade as a jazz fanatic. The attrition of jazz masters has been slow and sure for decades. Looked at generationally, the be-bop masters have almost all expired. Last year my friend, singer Sathima Bea Benjamin died suddenly with her last great artistic summit right in front of her. Then: Stan Tracey! John Tchicai! I mention this because my listing here of favorite records, chosen from hundreds I encountered last year, is chock full of near old timers.
Corea, Brotzman, Wadada Leo Smith, were all born in 1941. Munoz, Holland, Guy, Perelman, Gonzalez, Fujii, Melford, were all born between 1946-1958. My generation.
In my muso’s world, the above are all well-known qualities. Each in their distinctive way is at the top of their artistic endeavor. If you are an older swinging moldy fogy than I am, and you’re going to buy but a single jazz record this year from last year: Roswell Rudd’s Trombone For Lovers. Feeling more ambitious but still–after so many years–not into raw experimentation, try Jane Ira Bloom’s meditative outing.
Everybody else check out the brilliant big little band record by Sylvia Versini. If you like pre-electric Gil Evans, it’s a no-brainer. Versini is really one to keep an ear on.
The Tchicai date is my favorite of the year. It’s free bop with the slippery rhythms Tchicai enjoyed rambling over.
Brotzman and Parker issued extravagant box sets drawn from their private archives. Each is essential without reservation for anybody who appreciates the gargantuan artistry and force of will at work in their decades-long quest.
Turning to the younger generation, the central reality of jazz today is that it is a global musical culture animating an intense syncreticism. This means wave after wave of fascinating music coming at the listener during our Age of Documentation.
If this year I favor the oldsters, it is probable that next year I won’t have the luxury. My attention is being pulled as it always has been pulled, toward the most daring improvised hunters and gatherers. Of the up-and-comers, none was better to me than the small ensemble post-bop offered by guitarist Mary Halvorsen and the second chapter let fly by saxophonist Matana Roberts. You wouldn’t be in a position to have an opinion on contemporary jazz if you haven’t dealt with those two records.
In 1955 he moved to New York, but had barely begun to find his way about before being called up for two years’ military service. A few days before his unit left for Germany, Duke Ellington’s orchestra came to play at their camp.
For a dare, Walton asked if he could sit in: “The last thing we expected him to say was ‘yes’, but he did. He said ‘Go easy on those keys, young man’.” At the end of the number Ellington smiled, saying: “I thought I told you to go easy!” This, Walton later realised, was a “very Ellingtonian” way of paying a compliment.
Cedar Walton, who has died aged 79, was a noted jazz pianist and composer; a leading exponent of the style known as “hard bop”, he came to prominence as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, before going on to a prolific career as a player, bandleader and recording artist. Telegraph.uk
I do not very often deploy this blog to mark the passings of giants. Today is different because piano is my favorite jazz instrument and Mr. Walton has been one of my favorite pianists for close to four decades. In the middle of the strip above, pulled from youtube, is a triangle and if you click it magic happens courtesy of Cedar Walton, George Coleman, Sam Jones, and Billy Higgins.
In the best of all worlds, start here: You Didn’t Know What Time It Was – live at Maybeck Hall (Concord Jazz)