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BEST OF 2013

Dear Readers,

Here we fête the special ones we were able to lay our eyes, ears and hands upon. Like you, we wish we could have been able to hear all the performances and discs of 2013, although we gave it a good shot.  I’m still gorging on box sets, as you will read, but my groaning shelves are still grateful for slim-packaged single discs (“Death to multidisc Digipaks!”).  Here’s to a richly diverse and growing, artistically rich future.  Whenever possible, buy from the artists or labels directly, or from the few independent shops left.  Happy hunting.

Steve Koenig,

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New York State
Managing Editor

Compiling this list always proves to be a challenge.  This year was no different and brought the usual embarrassment of riches. The first draft of this list included no less than 68 releases, and it was hard to let any of them go.  I finally managed to get it down to 25, and I'm sure you'll hear about the others in a follow-up sometime soon.

Links provided are a little more cumbersome looking this year, with reason.  Rather than just provide the label's website, each link points to a page for the specific release, where you can find more information and, alas, purchase.  And please do purchase....

Rez Abbasi Trio - Continuous Beat, enja.

Diego Barber / Hugo Cipres 411, Origin Records.

Tim Berne's SnakeoilShadow Man, ECM.

David Binney - Lifted Land, CrissCross.

Samuel Blaser Consort in Motion - A Mirror to Machaut, Songlines.

Jaimeo Brown - Transcendence, Motema.

Claudia Quintet - September, Cuneiform.

Harris Eisenstadt September Trio
- The Destructive Element, Clean Feed.

Marty Ehrlich Large Ensemble
- A Trumpet in the Morning, New World.

John Escreet - Sabotage and Celebration, Whirlwind.

Satoko Fujii New Trio - Spring Storm, Libra.

Drew Gress - The Sky Inside,  Pirouet.

Barry Guy New Orchestra - Mad Dogs,  NotTwo.

Joel Harrison 19 - Infinite Possibility, Sunnyside.

Chris Kelsey & What I Say - The Electric Miles Project.

Bern Nix Quartet - Negative Capability, 56kitchen.

John O'Gallagher - The Anton Webern Project, Whirlwind.

Gary Peacock/Marilyn Crispell - Azure,  ECM.

Noah Preminger - Haymaker, Palmetto.

Resonance Ensemble feat. Ken Vandermark - Head Above The Water-Feet Out Of The Fire, NotTwo.

Antonio Sanchez - New Life, Cam Jazz.

Wayne Shorter - Without A Net, Blue Note.

Survival Unit III - Game Theory, NotTwo.

Jorge Sylvester Ace Collective - Spirit Driven, Unseen Rain.

Tarbaby - Ballad of Sam Langford, Hipnotic.

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New York City

Most inspirational rituals of 2013

Keiji Haino & Tamio Shiraishi @ Issue Project Room 4/18/13

Hikashu @ Muchmores 5/23/13

Pete Swanson @ Boiler Room 7/5/13

The Julie Ruin @ Union Pool 8/8/13

Wolf Eyes @ Issue Project Room 8/24/13

Body/Head + Yoshimi & Ikue Mori drum duo @ Union Pool 9/10/13

John Zorn's Game Pieces @ Miller Theatre 9/27/13

Moonchild @ Le Poisson Rouge 9/29/13

Goblin + Secret Chiefs 3 @ Music Hall of Williamsburg 10/5/13

Nate Wooley & Philip White @ Jack 10/29/13

Melt Banana @ St. Vitus 11/1/13

Mark Fell @ artist space 11/10/13

Ikue Mori/Fred Frith/Lotte Anker/Jim Black @ the Stone 12/21/13

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Ethnomusicologist, composer, improviser


In alphabetical order:

Burtner, Matthew. NOISE Plays Burtner. Burtner is a remarkable composer, sound artist, and inventor.  NOISE is an ensemble based in San-Diego. St. Paul, Minnesota: Innova Recordings. Innova-871. 2013.  

CHINA. Ethnic Minority Music of Southern China. CD with 16-page booklet. Seattle: Sublime Frequencies. SF-081. 2013.  

Clarke, James. 25 Compositions. Posted by the composer himself in November, 2013. A fantastic collection! See also his artwork and writings at his website.

Fafchamps, Jean-Luc. YZ3Z2Z1S2, a Five-Letter Sufi Word. “My second complete Sufi Word - or cycle - consists of five contrasting Letters - or movements - calling for various combinations of soloists [2, 3, 4, 5], instrumental ensemble [1, 3, 5], and real-time electronics [2, 4, 5].”-Jean-Luc Fafchamps. Brussels: Sub Rosa. SR-365. 2013.

Gesualdo, Carlo. Madrigals Books 5 and 6. Delitiae Musicae, Marco Longhini. Three CDs with 24-page booklet in English and Italian, including text translations. Franklin, Tennessee: Naxos. 8.573147-49. 2013.  

HOSOKAWA Toshio. Silent Flowers-String Quartets. Arditti Quartet. Includes the premiere recording of “Kalligraphie.” Mainz: Wergo. WER-67612. 2013.,316155.html

INDIA. South India: Music of the Nilgiri Hills: Kota-Toda-Irula-Kurumba. Two CDs and 88-page booklet in French and English. Paris: OCORA. C-560250-51. December, 2012.

Krause, Bernie. The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places. 65 sound examples that accompany this wonderful book can be heard from the website below. New York: Little, Brown, and Company. 2012.

KURDISH-Iran. Ritual Music of Guran. This is Volume 41 of the Mahoor Institute’s wonderful series, “Regional Musics of Iran.” Collected and researched by Partow Hooshmandrad. Two discs with booklets in Farsi and English. Tehran: Mahoor Records. MCD-343.  2013.

Makan, Keeril. Afterglow. New York: Mode Records. Mode-257. 2013.

RUSSIA-Siberia. Khanty, Mansi: Bear Songs, Harps, and Lyres from the Banks of the Ob River. Volume 11 in a terrific series of ethnographic recordings from Siberia. Vincennes, France: Buda Musique.

Scelsi, Giacinto. Collection Vol. 5. This is the third publication of the essential recording of Scelsi’s complete string quartets, first issued on the short-lived Salabert label, and then reissued by Disques Montaigne. My very top desert-island choice of any genre. Available as two CDs in Europe, and download-only in the United States. STR-33805. 2013.

TAIWAN. Sounds from Wartime Taiwan 1943. Includes the first recording of “Pasibutbut,” one of the most remarkable pieces of music in the world. Three CDs and hardbound booklet in Chinese, Japanese, and English. Taiwan: National Taiwan University Press. December, 2008.

Various Artists. A Young Person’s Guide to the Avant-Garde. Two CDs and an illustrated booklet with detailed historical notes. A wonderful collection of works by 26 composers, ranging from Eric Satie’s “Vexations” (1893) to György Ligeti’s “Atmosphères” (1961). Norfolk, United Kingdom: LTM Recordings. LTMCD-2569. 2013.

Xenakis, Iannis. Ensemble Works 3. Includes the first recording of “Zythos,” for trombone and 6 marimbas. Liner notes by Steven Schick, Benny Sluchin and Kivie Cahn-Lipman. New York: Mode Records. Mode-261. 2013. 

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New York City


Disc Of The Year:  
William Parker Quartet In Wroclaw. 
See below.

Pepper Adams.  I Carry Your Heart: Alexis Cole Sings Pepper Adams. 
I first heard a set of these at a performance at Cornelia Street Café.  With lyrics poet Barry Wallenstein (thankfully none of them twee, as things things so often turn out) set to Adams’ compositions (Adams had asked for lyrics before he died), Alexis Cole swings in this well-recorded session. Excellent solos and ensemble work by Pat LaBarbera and Eric Alexander on saxes, pianist Jeremy Kahn, bassist Dennis Carroll and drummer George Fludas, who are given plenty of room to spread out on each track.  Informative liner notes by vocalist Cole, poet Wallenstein, and arranger and leader Kahn, and producer Gary Carner, author of a Pepper bio and who runs the Adams website. I encourage you to look for Alexis Cole’s other CDs as well, the majority superb examples of singing in that wonderland where jazz and cabaret overlap, which you can hear on her website.  Motema MTM-02.,,

The Apophonics (Gino Robair, John Butcher, John Edwards).  On Air.  Now all can enjoy this riveting set from BBC Radio 3.  Robair plays “energized surfaces” and synth, Butcher saxes, and bass, John Edwards.  There’s a 36-minute extended improv followed by two shorter pieces that show these masters totally in synch.  Upper and lower case sound, as each piece evolves.  Super stuff.  Weight Of Wax WOW 05.,

J. S. Bach.  “Bach Keyboard Masterworks.” Partitas, Goldberg Variations, Toccata in F sharp minor BWV 910, Musical Offering: Ricercars 1 & 5.  Different from most Bach performances in my collection, Andrew Rangell seems not as concerned with presenting structure for its own sake.  The structural aspect comes as a given.  These are playful Partitas.  You wind up humming melodies, yet are drawn up, listening intently to slower movements. The Goldbergs are also performed with a sense of a playful journey, a twinkle in the eye.  Brief, intelligent notes by Rangell grace this reissue.  A joy from start to finish.  Andrew Rangell, piano.  Steinway & Sons 30024, 3 CDs.,,

Beethoven.  Diabelli Variations, Sonata 32, Six Bagatelles András Schiff.  A playful (when appropriate) Sonata 32, followed by an individual Diabelli which begins with a bouncy theme, then the ‘majestic’ march serves much like Mussorgsky’s “Promenades,” continues making each of the 33 variations unique.  The second disc is a different performance of the Diabellis, this time on a Franz Brodmann hammerflügel fortepiano circa 1820, and the flavor of that piano often provokes different interpretations different from the 1921 Bechstein.  The “Quasi Allegretto” bagetelle almost sounds is if it was played on an electric piano by a jazz musician.  These discs are excellent for their performances, as well as for the soundworld of the different pianos.  This has been done before, on piano by the likes of Paul Badura-Skoda, and never fails to fascinate.  Notes by the ever-insightful Paul Griffiths: “The wonder of the Diabelli Variations is the wonder of superlative absurdity.”  ECM New Series 481 0446, 2 CDs.,

Beethoven.  Violin Sonatas.  Leonidas Kavakos, violin; Enrico Pace, piano.  You don’t feel like you have to work with these performances, yet there’s nothing facile about this duo’s offering.  Decca 478 3523, 3 CDs.,,

John Butcher, Thomas Lehn, John Tilbury.  Exta.  A casual, low-key, high-interest, discursive set of sax, electronics and piano.   Samples on the website.  Fataka 7.

“Cooler Than Ice: Arctic Records and The Rise of PhillySoul.”  Yes, early Kenny Gamble, Barbara Mason, Harold Melvin, Jamie/Guyden, but the unknowns make this even more valuable.  Much deserved criticism on the web for this beautiful but unwieldy laminated 10x10” cardboard three-fold binder holding a 78-style album of six 45s of unreleased material not on the six CDs, six empty white 45 sleeves floating loose, and glued to the left-most panel so you can’t read it without it ripping, a 50-page book with lots of artist photos.  Soul fans gotta have this.

Steve Dalachinsky and Joëlle Léandre.  The Bill Has Been Paid.  Poet Dalachinsky, a friend of this magazine, passionately performs a sequence of poems with acoustic bass, and solo bass interludes by the intrepid Ms. Léandre.  If you’re not familiar with Dalachinsky’s performances, you can listen here in AcLev with Steve Swell’s Nation of We Ensemble [] or all over youtube to get a sense of the energy in this CD.  DarkTree DT03.,

The Dowland Project.  Night Sessions. John Potter, tenor; Stephen Stubbs, lute, chitarrone, baroque guitar, vihuela; John Surman, soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, percussion; Maya Homburger, baroque violin; Milos Valent; violin, viola; Barry Guy, double bass. You’ll likely know Surman, Homburger and Guy from the world of improvisation.  Early music with world-music tones, none of it pretentious or ponderous.  Tenor John Potter, a performer with the Hilliard Ensemble and founder of Red Byrd, is the arranger and note-writer (although no texts are provided).  If some of Jordi Savall’s Mediterranean travelogues have put you off, this might just hit the spot.  Much of it is improvised around medieval poetry, which Potter delivers very clearly, possible for multilinguists to follow the lyrics by ear.  The rest uses the score and improvises from there.  My favorite track is one of my favorite songs, “Fumeux Fume,” which has haunted me ever since I heard Joel Cohen’s emsemble perform it at Merkin decades ago.  By the way, this is not music of John Dowland; that was a previous disc.  ECM New Series 476 5968.,

Paul Dunmall.  25 Years: The Entire 50 CD Collection on FMR Records.  For budget price, a spectacular collection.  All of sax (and bagpipe) man Paul Dunmall’s FMR discs in his various solos and groups, on factory-pressed CDs.  Some of the greatest free improvisation in a lummox of a package: A thin, laminated slipcase (reminiscent of that used for Pink Floyd’s By The Way collection) with Dunmall’s photo on the inside and stickers of the limited edition serial number and Dunmall’s autograph on stickers (!) on the spine of the slipcase, which enfolds a snapcase, which enfolds a looseleaf binder, with two discs to a plastic sleeve, the discs unfortunately already sticking to the plastic, plus a large-format 250-page book called The FMR Years (incorporating the book Music In The Big Key: Paul Dunmall’s Musical Vision), containing each album cover, track info (only some give timings), detailed notes, essays, and over 30 of Dunmall’s paintings.  Still, I’m going to put each disc in a Tyvek sleeve for longevity.  Indispensable music, mandatory purchase while you can.  As of this writing, the FMR website still lists it for $221 USD including shipping.  FMR BOXSET1.,

The Ex + Brass Unbound.  Enormous Door The rightly legendary Dutch punk/rock/jazz band is joined by some brassy folk which include Gustafsson, Vandermark and Wierbos.  Loads of fun; just a strong, fun album.  Ex Records 138 D.

Mohammed Fairouz.  Native Informant.  A stunning disc of compositions by a composer with an innate talent for selecting and setting words to music.  Several of these are specifically about the holocaust.  Posh uses the poetry of Wayne Koestenbaum.  For Victims, for baritone (David Kravitz) and string quartet (Borromeo), utilizes has a Semitic flavor, but none of Fairouz’ works are world-music or cross-over.  The title work is a five-movement piece for solo violin, played by Rachel Barton Pine. Tahwida is a powerful not-so-lulling lullaby with the multi-faceted David Krakauer on clarinet and soprano Melissa Hughes.  Jebel Lebnan (Imani Winds) has a spiky and piquant Stravinskian flair.  A must-have for nearly all types of listeners.  (You can sample before buying on a popular on-line streamer, but you can only find it by the album title, not composer.)  Naxos 8.559744.,

Mohammed Fairouz.  In The Shadow Of No Towers.  Philip Glass.  Concerto Fantasy for 2 Timpanists and Orchestra.   University of Kansas Wind Ensemble.  Two works for wind ensemble.  The Glass starts out ripping the theme from Mission Impossible, then going on to some exciting rollercoasting, and then a bit of “squatsi”-type grandiosity.  The timpani solo section is quite striking.  When he was doing process-music in the ‘60s, you never dreamed Glass would eventually write amazing operas, but also pieces like that that could be taken up by Pops orchestras.  The Fairouz is a striking set of tone poems which, based on Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel of the same name, deals with the emotional and political repercussions after September 11, 2001.  There are some Glass-homage blended with Ivesian bombast in the movement. The power of this work is immediate, and grows even more so after repeated listenings.  Many thanks to Naxos for selecting a cover photo of the Twin Towers which is strikingly beautiful and not horrific.  Naxos 8.573205.,,

Morton Feldman.  Violin and Orchestra Carolin Widmann, violin.  Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Emilio Pomàrico.  Fifty minutes of Feldman’s unique type of beauty, composed 1979, with only one competing recording, out of print, which I haven’t heard.  The work has, for Feldman, quite large forces, sparingly employed.  Required listening.  ECM 476 4929.,

King Floyd.  I Feel Like Dynamite: The Early Chimneyville Sigles and More 1970-7.   I often have to research how to alphabetize an artist, but his given name is King Floyd III, out of New Orleans. (King Curtis’ name is Curtis Ousley, so on my shelf he’s filed under K).  Perhaps not the level of Joe Tex, but still 24 tracks of mandatory Southern soul, alternately funky and balladic.  12-page booklet with excellent notes and tons of photos of original labels.  Kent Soul CSKEND404.

Satoko Fujii.  Gen Himmel.  Solo piano works, mostly in the four-minute range.  The classical analogies would scan from Cowell to Liszt to Messiaen and boogie woogie.  This has been on repeat-play a lot in my home.  Libra 211-033.

Satoko Fujii Ma-Do.  Time Stands Still.  This quartet of Fujii, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, bassist Norikatsu Koreyatsu and drummer Akira Horikoshi is everything a satisfying set of modern jazz music should be, deftly covering all the emotional, structural and technical terrain.  If you can only buy two this year, get this and the Parker.  Not Two MW897-2.,

Christian Gerhaher.  The Art Of Song: Lied Edition.  Sony Poland 88883751482, 13 CDs plus 150-page book.  Amazing: Sony, whose megaboxes usually are done with either negligible notes or with giant hard-covered books, but nothing useful on the cardboard sleeves (i.e. works, performers, timings), here offers us a compendium of Gerhaher’s work ranging from the Schubert and Schumann cycles to Mahler orchestral to Schoenberg’s Book of the Hanging Gardens with Frank Martin's Jedermann songs, complete with bilingual German/English texts for all, plus all info in the individual sleeves!  I paid about two dollars per disc.  If you like his voice, the majority of the interpretations are excellent, and are well worth the investment.

Gunter Hampel, Cavana Lee Hampel and Steve Swell.  holy lights + human rights.  This set by a trio of three masters was recorded at WKCR radio a few days before an amazing concert they gave at Downtown Music Gallery’s Free Sunday music series.  Vibes and flute from Gunter, a swell Swell (he must get really tired of that) on trombone, and Cavana’s singing (eerily reminiscent of Jeanne Lee’s, not at all a bad thing.  Genetics would have made similar timbres, and nearly every modern vocal improviser has suckled from Jeanne Lee’s vocabulary and phrasing.)  If you don’t know Gunter Hampel’s work yet, this is as fine a place to start as any, and then make sure you get his ‘70s masterpiece That Came Down On Me.  Birth 131222, CD-r.,

Hilliard Ensemble.  Il Cor Tristo By rights this should be listed under contemporary composer Roger Marsh, whose three magnificent settings from Dante’s Divine Comedy are interspersed between works by Renaissance composers Bernardo Pisano (Pisa, Rome) and madrigalist Jacques Arcadelt (Dutch, worked in Italy and France).  Good notes plus all texts in side-by-side Italian and English.  ECM 481 0637.,

Jethro Tull.  Benefit: A Collector’s Edition Benefit is one of their first three largely blues and jazz influenced albums which never fail to set my adrenaline going, even if not all tracks are brilliant.  (The others are Stand Up and This Was,)  If you only know Aqualung and the later albums, you owe yourself a listen to these.  CD1: Steve Wilson 2013 stereo mixes plus bonus tracks, Disc 2: outtakes and related tracks.  NTSC DVD: Surround 5.1 plus flat transfers in 96/24, including bonus tracks.   48-page booklet with detailed notes.  Chrysalis R2 537449.

Ernst Krenek.  Works for Violin.  Christoph Schickedanz, violin.  Holger Spegg, piano.   Mathias Beyer-Karlshoj, cello.  Two solo sonatas, one with piano, and the Triophantasie.  Audite 95.666,

Franz Liszt.  Sonata in B minor, Petrarch Sonnets, Mephisto-Waltz No. 1, La Campanella.  Alexei Grynyuk, piano.  I’ve become obsessed with the Sonata in B minor these past few years.  What’s striking about Grynyuk’s performance (my previous favorites are Khatia Buniatishvili on Sony and an early Earl Wilde on Ivory) is that it sounds like strands of conversation, a different take on this than I’ve heard before, but utterly natural and right.  All the other works involve you so you forget to be critical and instead get lost in their individual worlds.  Liner notes by Grynyuk.  Orchid Classics ORC 100031.,,

“Live at Caffe Lena: Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse 1967-2013.”  Unreleased San Francisco coffeehouse performances by Guy Carawan, Sleepy John Estes, Kate McGarrigle, Tom Chapin, Arlo, Seeger, Danko, Sorrels, Sky, Ritchie… they just keep coming, and they’re good performances too, not just names.  Excellent book with plenty of color photos.  Tompkins Square TSQ 2967, 3 CDs.

“Love, Poetry and Revolution: A Journey Through The British Psychedelic And Underground Scenes 1966-1972.”  Apt title, with four hours on three discs of mostly unreleased tracks, rare 7-inch, or cherry-picked LP cuts.  Very little duplication of material on other collections, and nary a track to skip past.  A special treat for me: The Shame’s cover of Janis Ian’s “Don’t Go ‘Way Little Girl.”  36-page full-color booklet with notes and original labels, album covers, or group photos for each track.  Delightful parodies of the Capitol and Vertigo labels on the CDs.  Grapefruit CRSEGBOC025, 3 CDs.

“Looking Good: 75 Femme Mod Soul Nuggets.”  Another collection with many new-to-CD tracks; the title speaks for itself.  36-page booklet with notes, photos and label pix for each track.  RPM RPMBX521, 3 CDs.

Steven Lugerner.  For We Have Heard.  Album Most Likely To Skip Your Radar, So Take Heed: Reedman Luganer, new to me, has constructed a cycle of compositions for jazz quartet (Myra Melford, Piano; Matt Wilson, drums; Darren Johnston, trumpet) based on the biblical escape from Egypt.  Purely instrumental, with no liner notes, the writing is intricate without the showing-off of so many recent endeavors to prove that they can be complicated for its own sake.  Excellent ensemble, solos, and at 32:47, I would usually protest short length, but why mess with perfection.  Primary/No Business PR013.,,

Lutoslawski Quartet (Wroclaw).  “Bridge.”   Shostakovich SQ 3, Szymanowski SQ 2, Marcin Markowicz SQ 3 and Shostak-witz Absolutely stunning graphic design, no joke, on label, matching silkscreened thin jewel case, thick booklet and slipcase.  The feint grey text in the booklet is impossible to read.  None of the four edges of the slipcase have text, so this got misplaced in the stacks until now.  The Shosty is jaunty, yet perfectly piquant when called for.  Unexpectedly, you get caught in this performance’s undertow.  This is a very special performance of a somewhat frequently-recorded work.  Markowicz is second violinist, and his 15-minute work isn’t as powerful as its discmates, yet serves as a fine modern bridge - the title of the album - between them.  The under-recorded Szymanowski 2 gets a fine peformance as well.  Shostako-wicz is a delightful, frisky, one-minute lagniappe.  NFM/Accord/Universal ACD 172 NFM 13.,,

John Martyn.  The Island Years Universal 374 228-8, 17 CDs, DVD (NTSC), poster and folder of memorabilia in a 12x12 hard slipcase.  Those pricks at Universal have screwed us again with a UK-only, expensive, multi-disc, limited edition package, with tons of extra material.  The reason they are pricks is that many of the extra tracks on the individual and the 2CD “deluxe” editions we already bought are not in this compendium, so fans will need to keep all of those as well.  The cheapest source as of the writing was Amazon UK.,

Yvar Mikhashoff.  Panorama of American Piano Music from Antheil to Zappa: 1911-1991 Mode262/65, 4CDs plus 28-page booklet.  I have been cherishing this “Great American Piano Marathon,” as it was originally billed, from New York’s Symphony Space, ever since it was broadcast live on WBAI and recorded, at home, to my beloved Tascam cassette deck, from which I still listen to those four C-90s.  Why the time disparity?  The CDs have deleted the greatly-missed Mishakhoff’s  commentary on each piece.   The booklet had a long useful essay by Brian Brandt (Mr. Mode), and Yvar’s notes for a smattering of the many works here.  I’d been wanting to make a set-up to digitize my cassettes, but now has Brian Brandt (Mr. Mode) saved me the work.  I’m still keeping my cassettes, though.

“John Morales presents The M+M Remixes Vol. 3: Instrumentals.”  More club classics, but the purely instrumental sides. The sub-subtitle tells all: “NYC Underground Disco Anthems & Previously Unreleased Disco Mixes.”  Among others, Barry White, Loose Joints, Third World, T-Connection, Loleatta Holloway, Teddy P. and Marvin G. tracks frolic joyfully across the two discs.  BBE BBE211/CD.

Tom Moulton.  “Philadelphia International Classics: The Tom Moulton Remixes.”  Half the tracks are new remixes, the others the original Tom Moulton mixes, all from the Philadelphia International label.  The Three Degrees, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, Jean Carn, Lou Rawls, MFSB and the other PIR regulars.  Harmless HURTXCD112, 4 CDs.   

Tom Moulton.  “Philly ReGrooved 3 - Tom Moulton Remixes – More From The Master.”  Classic late ‘70s club disco in different and/or extended mixes of The Spinners, The Trammps, Double Exposure, Melba Moore and some lesser-knowns, but they all retain the basic shape and sound of Tom Moulton.  No robotic beats or Auto-Tuning here.  24 pages of detailed bio and track by track notes in a tiny but happily-legible font.  Harmless HURT CD 122, 2 CDs.   

Musiques Nouvelles.  2012 – 50 Ans – 25 Compositeurs.   Some great new works by a great Belgian ensemble at budget price.  The most famous names are Pierre Bartholomée (founder of the group), Philip Boesmans, Claude Ledoux, Jacques Leduc, Bernard Fouccroulle (to name the ones I had on my shelves already) and an entire disc of Henri Pousseur (leader of the group).  This seems to be the same group with the name in singular, Musique Nouvelle, which released a Ricercar CD of works by the late Jonathan Harvey, Franco Donatoni, Magnus Lindberg and Hugues Dufourt, circa 1991. Cyprès CYP4650, 6 CDs, 104-page book bilingual French/English.,

Eddie Noack.  Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  Prime country singer with a bunch of rockabilly tracks as well, covering 1949 through 1960.  Aside from the country lyrics, if you like early Woody Guthrie, you might be the target audience for Noack’s style of pickin’ and singin’.  Three different original picture labels and a 104 page book all in English.  Bear Family BCD 17142 CH, 3 CDs.

William Parker Quartet.  Live In Wroclaw.  Master bassman William Parker is joined by long-time musical partners Rob Brown on alto, Lew Barnes on trumpet, and percussionist Hamid Drake.  I’ve been collecting Parker Lps and CDs, and attending performances seemingly forever.  Although I haven’t yet heard Parker’s new AUM Fidelity 8-disc box set of recent material, I declare this the one to get if you’re only having only one.  There’s a 47-minute excursion that
is the epitome of the places free improvisation can go, plus two other excellent performances.  Fortune 0002 0002.,,

Gary Peacock and Marilyn Crispell.  Azure.  Excellent bass-piano set of nine duos and one solo apiece from these two improvisers who never fail to please.  ECM 2292., marilyncrispell,com,

“Prix Italia and Radiophonic Experientation: Imagination At Play.”   A few of these radio plays have appeared before in other versions, or in lesser audio, but this magnificent production gives detailed notes, texts and contexts for works by Rota, Castiglioni, Maderna (3), Berio and Sciarrino.  Audio interviews in Italian with Madrena and Sciarrino.  die Schachtel/RAI DS22, boxed 386-page book with texts, essays in Italian and English, 6 CDs.

Doctor Ross and His Jump And Jive Boys.  Juke Box Boogie: The Sun Years Plus Memphis and Michigan.  Harmonica, guitar and vocal boogie woogie from Isaiah Ross and crew start the set in 1951 and after 31 more tracks into the ‘60s, you only feel enlivened and rush to play some John Lee Hooker and Captain Beefheart blues.  The original yellow Sun label and the yellow rays from the 78 sleeves on the excellent picture label.  46-page booklet.  Bear Family BCD 16939 AH.

Sly and The Family Stone.  Higher!  Four CDs (five if the Amazon exclusive edition with a meager 6 extra tracks) on what Sony bills as a “77-track, 4-CD Overview and Rarieties Box Set.”  Sly fans don’t need a fucking overview, we need unreleased material, of which here are only 17 cuts, plus many more in their single and mono mixes.  Newbies can buy the excellent 2-disc Essential Sly & The Family Stone set before they get all the individual albums.  Why not give us the mixes from the Quadrophonic LP of Greatest Hits, even in stereo- they’re amazing.  An early Sony Legacy CD has an extended version of “Thank You.”  Not here.   Fans will grab this for the rare or unreleased, but have most of this already; the pre-Family Stone tracks have long been available from Ace (UK), Autumn Records anthologies and on bootlegs.  C’mon, Legacy, give the fans what they need.  10x10” box with 106-page book with plenny plenny photos.  Sony/Epic Legacy 88697536652MC1.,

Sly and The Family Stone.  There’s A Riot Goin’ On.  Perhaps the most significant and, at least by me, beloved album of the 1970s gets yet another re-edition.  The sound is what matters, so I’ll simply say that this Get On Down gold (yawn) disc remaster has a flow and ease missing from the 2007 Sony remaster, with lots of detail: the guitar and keyboard lines are in relief, the bass and guitars click and gurgle in loosely-woven strands more like the original LP.  (The Sony has a fatter bass and sounds solid but clotted; it doesn’t draw you in.)  This has only the original tracks; the Sony adds three outtakes and the single mix of Family Affair.  The slightly oversized flip-cap box has a embroidered cloth version of the cover’s flag.  It includes the lyrics (Sony doesn’t) and has a 48-page hardcover CD-size book, with truly great photos and a pretentiously-written essay which overlaps facts with the also-informative but business-like Sony liner notes.  For the price, G.O.D. should have better editing and production values in the book.  Fan(atic)s like me will want this.  Get On Down/Sony Epic Legacy GET 9009 CD.,,

Wadada Leo Smith and Louis Moholo-Moholo.   Ancestors By turns ethereally delicate and vehement, the trumpeter and drummer create a disc that will retain interest over the decades. TUM 029.,

Wadada Leo Smith.  Ten Freedom Summers.   A series of strikingly well-layered compositions, each referencing some aspect of the 1950s-1960s civil rights movement in the US and its further resonances, literally and musically.  Cuneiform RUNE 350-353, 4 CDs.,

Wadada Leo Smith and TUMO.  Occupy The World.  Two disc, five extended tracks with the laser-like trumpeter composing for an improvising orchestra, and able to find an excellent one in Finland.  TUM 037-2.,

Michael Jefry Stevens and Dom Minasi.  Angel’s Dance.
  Pianist Stevens and guitarist Minasi present a delight of intricate, improvised miniatures, mostly between three and four minutes, which don’t mandate but will greatly repay close listening.  Stevens writes, aptly, “Recording this music with Dom can only compare to two children inventing the most interesting games to play together, one after another.”  Nachtrecords.,

June Tabor.  Quercus.   Tabor is in my pantheon of British folk and ballad singers.  What a treat to find her on an ECM recital of traditional songs, works by Robert Burns, Shakespeare, and a few modern songs, with a jazzy accompaniment by saxophonist Iain Bellamy and pianist Huw Warren.  All texts included.  Next, find her masterpiece Airs and Graces, and the her duo with Maddy Prior, Silly Sisters.  ECM 2276 (372 4555).

Tommy Tate.  I’m So Satisfied: The Complete Ko-Ko Recordings and More.  Tate is a soul singer who might fly under your radar, so sample some online (you know where).  After a few just-okay tracks, you get a really fine serving of several styles of Southern soul, and a few 1970s near-disco tracks, all with that good Malaco and Stax feel.  Some are sociopolitical, especially the Stax tracks with the Nightingales (Tate replaced Ollie) but most are love songs. Kent Soul CDKEND 289.
The Thing.  Boot!  Mats Gustafsson on bari, bass, soprano and tenor saxes, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on electric bass and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love do more than blow energy; they play deep and dig deep grooves on standards from Ellington (“Heaven”) and Coltrane (“India”) and four of their own.  Thick LP-style gatefold jacket, but beware the glue on the edge.  Trost/The Thing Records TTR001CD.

“Ike Turner’s Other Singers Step Up To The Microphone.”  Ace UK reissue label Ace presents another smashing set, this one of classic yet obscure tracks produced for Modern Records 1963-1965 by Ike in New Orleans and LA, with the correspondent flavors, the natural development of jump and blues into modern r&b.  Each of the 27 cuts is a gem.  16 pages of detailed notes and photos.  Ace CDCHD 1329.

Dave Van Ronk.  Down In Washington Square: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection. 
  The first release of 16 of the 54 tracks recorded 1958 through 2001, by the raspy folk rascal who was witty, crass, tender and tough.  The title does not say “complete” and doesn’t include work from his 2001 concert, on Smithsonian SFW CD 40156, titled “…and the tin pan bended and the story ended…” Intelligently designed, even with a 40-page book, the three-CD set takes up the space of a single jewelcase.  Smithsonian Folkways SFW 40213.

Ken Vandermark’s Resonance Ensemble.  Head Above Water/Feet Out Of The Fire.  The groove is strong as New Orleans on one track, strong ‘70s loft jazz or free-blowing others, but the playing and the eleven players are international, one disc recorded in Chicago, the other live in Hasselt, Belgium.   Not Two MW 910-2.

Velvet Condom.  Vanity and Revolt I’m not fond of most ‘80s haircut/electro bands, but this current group has taken many of those sounds and made 19 tracks of interesting music here.  “Trash Vaudeville” could be easily be a lost track from The Cure’s Boys Don’t Cry.  Neat packaging in a DVD case in a hot pink plastic envelope, various inserts inside.  There is also a 2CD + DVD deluxe edition I haven’t heard.  Cymbeline/Rustblade RVL039BOX, CD + DVD.,

The Waterboys.  Fisherman’s Box  This Irish folk-flavored rock band’s superb Fisherman’s Blues (1988) was expanded into two discs a way back, and now six, of alternate and takes and unused tracks, all of high interest.  Colin Meloy wrote the 5-page appreciation, followed by leader and Scotsman Mike Scott’s photos, personnel listings and notes for each track in the box which resides happily on my shelf next to, appropriately, the British family of traditional song, The Watersons.  Chrysalis/Ensign 825646413300, 6 CDs.

Tony Joe White.  Hoodoo Another solid chunk of hoodoo swamp blues rock from the master, who shows no sign of waning.  The lyrics are graveyard spooky.  All his recent albums have been winners.   If you don’t know his work, no need to go back to the “Polk Salad Annie” days; jump in here or anywhere.  Swamp/YepRoc YEP-2348.,

Nate Wooley and Seymour Wright.  About Trumpet and Saxophone Gurgling and spittle, there’s still life in what’s sometimes called “lower case sound.”  Sample a full track on the label website.  Fataka 8., natewooley,com,

Robert Wyatt.  ‘68.   Yes, these “lost” tapes are mostly for the already converted, but I am one.  This take of “Moon In June” is a gas, the other 20-minute track, “Rivmic Melodies,” is a funfest, and there are two other, shorter tracks.  Cuneiform RUNE 375,,

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Performance Of The Year:
Petr Kotik’s Many, Many Women.
  (See below)

Argento New Music Project, conducted by Michel Galante.  Georg Friedrich Hass: Attis, for soprano, bsn, horn and SQBerg: Adagio from Kammerkonzert, arr. quintet by Michel Galante.  Webern: Drei stücke for cello and piano.  Schoenberg: Sechs Kleine Klavierstúcke.  This New York welcome to composer Haas, now joining the Columbia University faculty, featured exquisitely-fashioned performances of the Second Viennese works.  Different, but on an equal exalted plane the new and longer vocal work by Haas.  Austrian Cultural Forum of New York, July 2, 2013.

Two Old Hats.  Bill Irwin and David Shiner.  I used to hate clowns.  Then I saw this show.  Now I love clowns.  At least, these ones.  I also love Nellie McKay, well-known but new to me, who sang and jokes and played piano and ukulele and led her band to great effect.  I’ll be keeping an eye out for her work.  Directed by Tine Landauer.   Signature Theater, NYC.

Todd Capp Mystery Train.  The drummer’s quartet with some fine young musicians (Barry Weisblat (electronics), Marcia Barrett (guitar), and Andrew Lafkas (bass).with creative use of analog synth and other electronics, which usually I don’t like, but this was great. Downtown Music Gallery Sunday Music Series, NYC, December 15, 2013.,

Free Improv Memorial for Peter Stanley Cox.  March 27, 2013, Roulette, NYC.  A personal friend of the Editor, Peter Cox was a longtime fan of the music and beloved by musicians worldwide.  Around fifty performers came together at Roulette in spontaneously organized ensembles in performances set for around five minutes each so all would have a turn.  Violinist Mat Maneri served as ringmaster.  It’s posted here for your listening pleasure, in two parts:,

Merce Cunningham Trust.  Variations V, July 5, 2013.  Native Green, with live music by John King, July 26, 2013.  Young performers inhabiting this work, as magical as ever.  City Center Building, NYC.     

Ebène String Quartet. I’d only heard of the group, but at this superb series, held that year at the High School of Fashion Industries, was enrapt by the Ebène’s Mozart Dissonant Quartet, Schubert’s Rosamunde Quartet, and Mendelssohn’s Quartet in F minor.  The delight still lingers.  People’s Symphony Concerts, NYC.  April 20, 2013.,

Rinde Eckert and Ned Rothenberg Five Beasts.  A concept piece by the singer/actor and clarinetist, which brought to mind evolution as well as interrelation of humans and animals.  May 31, 2013, Roulette, Brooklyn NY.,,

Vladimir Feltsman, piano.  I know Feltsman only by a felicitous encounter with an MHS Lp of Liszt’s Sonata in B minor.  I was so looking forward to this, and most of the pieces were edge-of-the-seat listening.  Haydn Sonata 31, Liszt’s Ballade 2 and from Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, Schubert’s Sonata D.537, and Scriabin’s Ver la flamme.)  People’s Symphony Concerts, NYC.   April 27, 2013.,

Georges Feydeau.  A Flea In Her Ear.   Love Creek Productions, directed by Le Wilhelm.  The Producer’s Club, NYC.  Classic French farce, presented deliciously.,

FONT Music Presents Music for Small, Medium & Massive: Premieres, Fanfares & Remembrances.  The highlights: Roy Campbell’s Akhnaten Large Ensemble; John Zorn’s Antiphonal Fanfare For The Great Hall, three pairs of trumpets on either side of the balcony making but music and spatial magic; and the always magical, spatial-music specialist Henry Brant’s Flight Over A Global Map, Spatial Assembly for 52 trumpets, 3 percussion and piano (scattered throughout the hall and balcony) conducted by Neely Bruce.  The Brant was originally scored for 200 trumpets, but Bruce explained, with a twinkle, that 100 were too hard to gather in such a short time.  September 10-11, 2013, Roulette, Brooklyn NY.,

Horton Foote.  The Old Friends.  Directed by Michael Wilson.  Delicious Southern Gothic comedy, with over-the-top writing about a group of old friends with history and secrets, stunning delivered by an amazing cast, the most famous being Betty Buckley and the indomitable Lois Smith, but all perfect in their roles.  Signature Theatre, NYC.

Satoko Fujii.  Residency at The Stone, NYC, August 20-15, 2013.  Six days with twelve ensembles.  I regret I could only catch half of them.  Highlights were Kaze (listed separately, below); a duo with drummer Tom Rainey; a larger ensemble with Briggan Krauss on sax, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, guitarist Nels Cline, and drummer Michael T. A. Thompson; and a brass and percussion ensemble featuring Frank London and Nate Wooley on trumpets.,

David Grollman (snare drum) and Ryan Sawyer (voice.)  Yoni Kretzmer (tenor sax) and James Ilgenfritz (bass). Double bill March 3, 2013.  Downtown Music Gallery Sunday Music Series, NYC.

Ross Hammond (guitar) and Catherine Sikora (sax).  Kyoko Kitamura and Ann Rhodes (vocalists).  Double bill March 24, 2013.  Downtown Music Gallery Sunday Music Series, NYC.

Gunter Hampel, Cavana Lee Hampel and Steve Swell.  Vibes and flute, voice, and ‘bone.  Masters all (See this trio above in the CD Best Of.)  At Downtown Music Gallery’s annual Hoilidaze party, December 29, 2013.,,

Alexander Harrington.  The Great Society: The True And Tragic Story Of How LBJ Failed To Go All The Way.  The York Shakespeare Company at The Harold Clurman at Theatre Row.  Directed by Seth Duerr.  In a play full of great performances (Mitch Tebo as LBJ), Special Mention for Charles Gray in the role of Bayard Rustin.,

Kaze.  A two-trumpet quartet featuring two fantastic Frenchman, trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins. plus the well-known pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura.  They are an inherently organic unit and are already at the top of their game.  The final half of the exciting set found them joined by poet Steve Dalachinsky for a particularly impassioned performance.  Kaze has two good CDs out, Rafale and Tornado.  Look for Orins’ and Pruvost’s own highly recommended CDs, too.  (Full CD reviews forthcoming.)  August 23, 2013.  The Stone, NYC.,,, muzzix.infoPruvost?lang=en,,

Petr Kotik.  Many, Many Women.  S.E.M. Ensemble.  Paula Cooper Gallery, NYC.  December 20, 2103.  Decades ago I heard the premiere performance and was totally blown away.  I expected the same for this revival of this minimalist work for six winds and six voices over five hours based on Gertrude Stein’s 86-page novella, but nothing prepared me for the sheer electricity of these performers in this particular resonant space.  Cathedral like resonance yet each instrument and voice shone clearly, nothing was hazy.  But that’s just the icing.  It was the timing.  Every breath, every note and silence had a mesmerizing flow.  This should be taken up by many, many other performers, but in the meanwhile, you can get the 3CD set from Dog With A Bone.  I’ve owned the LPs from the beginning, but also got the CDs to take with me when outside.,,

Ingrid Laubrock.  Vogefrei.  Tri-Centric Orchestra, Taylor Ho Bynum, conductor.  Laubrock’s composition was the highlight of this festival of large-ensemble commissions by the Tri-Centric. Roulette, Brooklyn NY.,,

Francis Poulenc.  Dialogues des Carmelites Metropolitan Opera, NY.   Louis Langré, conductor.  A simple set lets the music and action take center stage.  Isabel Leonard was excellent as Blanche, but Erin Morley shone as Sister Constance and Felicity Palmer was deeply moving as the Prioress.

Wadada Leo Smith.  Ten Freedom Summers May 1-3, 2013, Roulette, Brooklyn NY.  Three consecutive night were needed to present six extended movement of this expandable multimedia work, wonderful on the Cuneiform 4CD set, but even better live.  Wadada is a living national treasure.,

Craig Taborn.  May 6, 2013, Roulette, Brooklyn NY.  A packed house, surprisingly with a lot of young trendies.  Pianist Taborn, with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver, did a set of extended, hypnotic pieces which flowed into each other, very different stylistically from the ECM album it was supporting.,

Regina Taylor.   stop.  reset.  Directed by the playwright.  A funny, jarring socio-political science-fiction allegory about the effects of technology. which had flaws, but made you think and then left you pondering the future as well as the present.  Special Mention to Ismael Cruz Cordova who stole the show in the role of the time-traveling naïf/savant, “J.”  Signature Theatre, NYC.

Vision Festival 18.  June 12-16, 2013, Roulette, Brooklyn, NY.  Highlights: All of June 12, honoring drummer Milford Graves, in three settings, all of which were passionate, and his Afro Cuban Roots Ensemble had everyone moving.  June 13 was a solid day, with violinist Terry Jenoure in duo with dancer Maria Mitchell, the late Roy Campbell’s Akhnaten Ensemble, and the ever-solid Rob Brown with Joe McPhee, Miya Masaoka, Mark Helias and Qasim Naqvi.   Roscoe Mitchell scored via his trio with Henry Grimes and Tani Tabbal. French night introduced me to the savory clarinetist Sylvain Kassap and pianist François Tusques, and the better-known Louis Sclavis on clarinets and Didier Petit on cello.  They divvied up into two very successful ensembles which included Americans Ochs, Masaoka, (Kidd) Jordan, Drake, and Parker. Another highlight was when Marshall Allen teamed up with Christian McBride in a quartet, ending with a magic comp on “Space Is The Place,” seemingly instigated by McBride.

Lanford Wilson.  The Mound Builders.  Directed by Jo Bonney.  Zachary Booth (Dr. Dan Loggins), Janie Brookshire (Cynthia Howe), David Conrad (Professor August Howe), Lisa Joyce (Dr. Jean Loggins), Rachel Resheff (Kirsten), Will Rogers (Chad Jasker), Danielle Skraastad (D.K [Delia] Eriksen).  This revival made the play much more clear than the 1970s performance from Broadway, which is available on DVD, and still worthy.   Excellent ensemble work.  Signature Theatre, NYC.

Lanford Wilson.  Talley’s Folley Roundabout Theatre Company, NYC, directed by Michael Wilson.  Danny Burstein (Matt Friedman), Sarah Paulson (Sally Tally).  Laura Pels Theatre, NYC.

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