BEST OF 2015
always, we offer suggestions about recordings and give
praise to the most memorable performances, as best we
can; we can’t hear every CD, attend every show, nor be
everywhere in the world. We wish we could.
I’ve just had to downsize my collection and I’m shedding
tears, but meanwhile, let’s doff our hats to our Best of
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Barry Altschul 3Dom
of the Unforeseen. Bassist Joe Fonda and
saxist Jon Irabagon join the veteran drummer for rich
improvisations. TUM CD 044.
The Katie Bull Project. All
Hot Bodies Radiate. The saucy singer is
supported here by the fine crew of Jeff Lederer, Landon
Knoblock, Joe Fonda and George Schuller. The
boldness shown in her unique take on “Ding Dong The
Witch Is Dead” is only one of thirteen delights on this
solid disc. Ashokan Indie AI 001.
Joseph Daley. The
Tuba Trio Chronicles. The great tubist
pays homage to the Sam Rivers tuba trio with Warren
Smith, marimba, percussion; and Scott Robinson, saxes,
bass flute, jazzophone, theremin, and waterphone.
JoDa Music 004.
At Newport 1955-1975:
The Bootleg Series Vol. 4. Columbia Legacy 88875081952,
Anthony De Mare. Liasons:
Reimagining Sondheim from the Piano. The
pianist known for doing Rzewski and other moderns
presents a triple-CD set of various composers the likes
of Duncan Sheik, Mary Ellen Childs, and Wynton Marsalis
to Mark-Anthony Turnage refracting Sondheim songs
through their own lenses. You don’t need to know
the Sondheim songs to get much pleasure from this
marvelous project. It has a 34-page booklet
explaining everything. ECM New Series
Jad Fair & Jason Willett. The Greatest Power.
No, not a gospel record but another delectable
collection of short, quirky songs from Fair, leader of
Half Japanese, with his pal Willette. If you don’t
know Jad Fair, imagine a cross between Daniel Johnston
and Pere Ubu. Dymaxion Groove. (no catalog number)
Satoko Fujii Tobira. Yamiyo
ni Karasu. Pianist Fujii expands
her New Trio (bassist Todd Nicholson and percussionist
Takashi Itani) by adding trumpeter Natsuki Tamura.
Five sets of solo percussion: wood hoop drum, cymbals on
stands, and hand cymbals. Subtle; rewards close
listening. Corner Store Jazz CSJ-0086.
Jason Kao Hwang. Voice.
Two sequences of poems by a variety of poets, with music
composed by violinist Hwang with some room for
improvisation, each set with a different ensemble.
“Lifelines” has mezzo Deanna Reyea, new to me, a
fascinating voice and delivery, sort of improvised, sort
of sprechtstimme. The band includes Ken Filiano on
bass, Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet and flugelhorn, and
Andrew Drury on drums. “Words of Our Own” features
baritone Thomas Buckner, with Joe McPhee on tenor sax
and pocket trumpet, William Parker on bass, Sang Won
Park on kayagum and ajeng, and Hwang on viola.
ICP Orchestra. East
of the Sun. The orchestra of the Instant
Composers Pool, after last year’s 50-disc retrospective,
come up with its first new single disc.
Mengelberg, Moore, Honsinger and company are as savory
as ever. ICP15. icporchestra.com
Jon Irabagon. Inaction
Is An Action. The excellent saxist in a
riveting album of solo sopranino saxophone.
ist. ist:new york, featuring
john zorn. Recorded at Tonic, 2001. On the
final track only, Zorn. Harpist Rhodri Davies,
bassist Simon Fell, cellist Mark Wastell. You
probably cherish them from various releases on the
emanem label. Confront CCS 40.
Bobby Lance. First
Peace/ Rollin’ Man. White NYC dude
in Muscle Shoals, 1971. File with Delaney and
Bonnie. Real Gone Music/Atlantic RGM-0332. realgonemusic.com
Juliette Gréco. l’essentielle
Gréco. This might be all rather than some
of the great French singer’s work. Thirteen CDs,
each with a different original label. The booklet
contains each song’s writers, and the label and number
the song appeared on. Decca/ Universal France 474
Guillaume Machaut. Heinz
Some unadulterated Machaut via the Hilliard Ensemble,
and some of the great oboist Heinz Holliger’s
transcriptions for four vocalists (the Hilliard) with
three violas, with a nearly improvisatory modernist
sound. ECM New Series 2224.
Rob Mazurek and the Exploding Star
Parables: Volume 1. Sun Ra-touched texts
and a psych-jazz big band. Rich listening.
Cuneiform Rune 409/410.
(expanded). Mandatory (re)purchase due to
the alternate takes (“Madame George,” “Beside You”) and
extended release of “Slim Slow Slider” and especially
“Ballerina,” which show what an amazingly improvisatory
singer Van Morrison is. Collectors want to know:
The Japanese WPCR-75419 has the olive Warner label, but
with the Warner-7Arts escutcheon whereas this new one
has the WB escutcheon. Oddly, the textured paper
cover to this new one has the W7 logo on the cover,
which the other issues don’t. The liner notes are
more than excellent and give good credit to our friends
bassist Richard Davis and vibraphonist Warren Smith,
Jr. See below re sound quality. Warner Bros.
Van Morrison. His
Band And The Street Choir (expanded).
Van’s third Warner album is given a remaster.
Compared to the Japanese remaster WPRC-75421 from a few
years back, the sound is different but not necessarily
better. The new ones sound a wee bit mushy, and
the Japanese issues highlight individual instruments
and, for whatever reasons, get you more involved;
edge-of-your-seat. Van fans will need this new
issue for the truly fine five alternate tracks, so much
better than the weak ones appearing on the Moondance
multi-disc set from last year. Warner Bros. R2
Mural. Tempo. Three
sets recorded in the Rothko Chapel.
Jim Denley, winds; Kim Kyhr, twelve-string guitar,
zither; Ingar Zach, gran cassa, percussion. Not
Morton Feldman-like at all, but slowly shifting acoustic
and electronic patterns of sound, with many
changes. This is a follow-up to a single-disc
limited edition put out by the Rothko Gallery itself.
Ivo Perelman, Mat
Maneri and Tanya Kalmanovich. Villa-Lobos
Suite. Free improvisations from Perelman
with two violas inspired by Villa-Lobos, but not using
any of his music or sound palette. Leo CD LR
Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp. Callas. The
sax/piano duo in free improvisations, which later were
dedicated to various Maria Callas heroines. Leo LR
CD LR 728/719, 2 CDs.
Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp. Complementary Colors.
A lower-keyed set of beautiful improvisations. Leo
CD LR 744. ivoperelman.com,
Le Rex. Wild
Man. A Swiss quintet of two saxes,
trombone, tuba and drums, create a very second-line
sound that will have your face grinning and your ass
Tom Robinson. Only
In which our hero gives is a dozen brief songs, each of
them exciting in a rock or cabaret way. Not a weak
one in the bunch. It’s good to have Tom back is
such good form. Lyrics included. Castaway
Northwest/ Absolute CNRCD1.
Andy Sheppard Quartet.
Surrounded By Sea.
Okay, so this sounds like the 1970s-80s Jan Garbarek
group. That’s a good thing. ECM 2432.
Sly and The Family Stone. Live At The Fillmore East:
October 4th & 5th, 1968. From before
the album Stand! Sly’s was a good-time rock and soul
band, with the same line-up they always had.
Excitement abounds through all four discs. Excellent
tape, but at a few random times there are balance
problems. Doesn’t matter: no album this year gave
me as much joy. All Sly fans must own this.
Exclamation mark. Yellow Epic label
replicas. Sony/Epic/Legacy 88843023712.
Small Faces. The
Decca Years: 1965-1967. I heard bits and
pieces of this collection and was surprised that I
didn’t already know how riveting these guys were, even
when doing old blues covers. I also didn’t know
that “Whole Lotta Love” was not written by Led
Zeppelin. Great chunky 6x8” box containing 5 CDs
(with a lift-up ribbon) in individual picture sleeves,
various full-size original Decca labels, photo cards and
an excellent,(approximately 60-page book. Plus, it
wasn’t expensive. There is some overlap between
tracks on the five CDs: Greatest Hits, Small Faces, From
The Beginning, Rarities & Outtakes, and BBC
Sessions. Decca/Universal (UK) 473 429-6, 5 CDs.
Natsuki Tamura and Alexander Frangenheim.
intrepid trumpeter meets and improvises with the
doublebassist in Berlin. Creative Sources
Get the double-disc edition; it’s more than worth the
two dollar difference. All the songs are strong;
I’m a Thompson freak, but not uncritical.
Yell At Eels.
In Quiet Waters. In which the Dennis
González clan’s ensemble of DG plus two sons give a
smoking performance in Dallas. Fortune 0046 033.
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a love/hate thing compiling this list each year proves to
be. Love, for the artists and many great recordings
from which to choose. Hate, in that it seems
impossible to narrow the list down to any less than about
75 discs. The concept of a “top 10” went out the
window years ago, so these are but 40 of the recordings
that moved me this year.
Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet - Intents
& Purposes. enja reztone.com/album/06-intents-purposes/
Rodrigo Amado - This
Is Our Language. Not Two nottwo.com/#!mw922/hh0u3
Michael Bates – Northern
Spy. Stereophonic outsidesources.org/buy-cd/
Karl Berger & Kirk Knuffke - Moon.
Michael Bisio - Accortet.
Relative Pitch relativepitchrecords.com/releases/rpr1040.html
Tim Berne's Snakeoil - You've
Been Watching Me. ECM ecmrecords.com/catalogue/143038752071
Samuel Blaser Quartet - Spring
Rain. Whirlwind whirlwindrecordings.com/spring-rain/
Bobby Bradford & John Carter Quintet -
NoUTurn Live In Pasadena,
1975. Dark Tree darktree-records.com/en/
Daniel Carter & Federico Ughi - Extra Room. 577
Carlo Costa's Acustica - Strata.
Chris Dingman - The
Subliminal and the Sublime. Inner Arts
Andrew Drury - Content
Provider. Soup and Sound andrewdrury.bandcamp.com/album/content-provider
Harris Eisenstadt - Canada
Day IV. Songlines songlines.com/release/canada-day-iv/
Joe Fiedler Trio - I'm
In. Multiphonics Music joefiedlersbigsackbut.bandcamp.com/
Milford Graves & Bill Laswell - Space,Time Redemption.
Devin Gray - RelativE
ResonancE. skirl skirlrecords.com/devin-gray-relative-resonance
Mary Halvorson - Meltframe.
Firehouse 12 firehouse12records.com/album/meltframe
Ross Hammond - Lowburn
Joel Harrison 5 - Spirit
House. Whirlwind whirlwindrecordings.com/spirit-house/
Stephen Haynes - Pomegranate.
New Atlantis newatlantisrecords.bandcamp.com/album/pomegranate
Joe Hertenstein - HNH2.
Clean Feed cleanfeed-records.com/product/hnh-2/
Jason Kao Hwang - Voice.
Jon Irabagon - Behind
the Sky. Irabbagast Records cdbaby.com/cd/jonirabagon3
Rocco John Quartet - Embrace
The Change. Unseen Rain unseenrainrecords.com/?page_id=2750
Max Johnson Trio - Something
Familiar. Fresh Sound New Talent freshsoundrecords.com/record.php?record_id=6280
Henry Kaiser & Ray Russell – The Celestial Squid.
Chris Kelsey & Lewis Porter - Free, Kelsey-Porter Duo
Plays Ornette vol 1. Tzazz
Kirk Knuffke - Lamplighter.
Fresh Sound New Talent freshsoundrecords.com/lamplighter-cd-6299.html
Matt Lavelle's 12 Houses - Solidarity.
Unseen Rain unseenrainrecords.com/?product=solidarity-matt-lavelles-12-houses-limited-edition-cd
Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth -
Epicenter. Clean Feed cleanfeed-records.com/product/epicenter/
Nick Mazzarella Trio - Ultraviolet.
International Anthem Recording Company intlanthem.com/releases/iarc0005
Joe McPhee - Alone
Together, The Solo Ensemble Recordings 1974 & 1979.
Corbett vs. Dempsey corbettvsdempsey.com/2015/11/11/album-joe-mcphee-alone-together/
Billy Mintz - The
2 bass Band... Live. Thirteenth Note thirteenthnoterecords.com/2bb-page/
Ben Monder - Amorphae.
William Parker - For
Those Who Are, Still. AUM Fidelity aumfidelity.com/aum09234.html
Eric Person feat. Shinnosuke Takahashi -
Tomeka Reid Quartet. Thirsty Ear amazon.com/Tomeka-Reid-Quartet/dp/B013D10GQA
Adam Rogers & David Binney - R
& B. Criss Cross crisscrossjazz.com/album/1379.html
Jamie Saft - Ticonderoga.
Clean Feed cleanfeed-records.com/product/ticonderoga/
The Spanish Donkey - Raoul.
Kamasi Washington - The
Epic. Brainfeeder brainfeedersite.com/2015/05/06/kamasi-washington-the-epic/
Weather Report - The
Legendary Live Tapes 1978-1981.
Nate Wooley Quintet - (Dance
To) The Early Music. Clean Feed cleanfeed-records.com/product/dance-to-the-early-music/
Liner notes: John Kelman, for John
Abercrombie - The
First Quartet. ECM ecmrecords.com/catalogue/1443703901
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Ethnomusicologist, composer, improviser
In alphabetical order:
BALLON, Severine. Solitude. Cello
works by Rebecca Saunders-“Solitude”; Mauro Lanza-“La
Bataille De Caresme Et De Charnage”; James
Dillon-“Parjanya-Vata”; Liza Lim-“Invisibility”; and
Thierry Blondeau-“Black Bird.” Brussels: Outhere SA;
Aeon. AECD1647. outhere-music.com/en
BUTCHER, John, and Andy
with a Leaf. Amsterdam: Unsounds. 48U. Recorded
2013, published 2015. unsounds.com/index.php
DENYER, Frank. Whispers. More
wonderful music from Denyer, including a piece
incorporating the sounds of an axe chopping wood.
The axe part was performed by the late Bob Gilmore, one
of the finest writers on music, and author of the
album’s liner notes. Sheffield, UK: Another Timbre.
AT82. Published 2015. anothertimbre.com/denyerwhispers.html
40 Years Anthology
Vol. 1, 2. Volume 1 has works by Cristóbal
Halffter, Brian Ferneyhough, André Richard, and Detlef
Heusinger. Volume 2 has works by Chaya Czernowin and
Mark Andre. Compositions from the SouthWest Radio
ExperimentalStudio. Munich: NEOS. NEOS-11515 and 11516.
Published 2015. neos-music.com/
of the Empty Place: The Memorial Poetry of the Foi of
the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea,
by James F. Weiner and Don Niles. Book and
sound recordings (click “media files”) available for
free download from the publisher. Canberra: Australian
National University Press. ISBN 9781925022230 (Online).
Published 2015. press.anu.edu.au/titles/monographs-in-anthropology/songs-of-the-empty-place/
Thinking of... Stefano
Scodanibbio. Mainz: Wergo. Splendid tribute album
performed by ten bassists, as well as a duet with
Scodanibbio and Gramss. Published 2015. wergo.de/
March. Mats Gustafsson-soprano and tenor
saxophone, Sten Sandell-piano and voice, Raymond
Strid-drums, cymbals and percussion. 25th anniversary
celebration of this supergroup, recorded in 2013,
published in 2015. Malmo, Sweden: Konvoj Records. (No
catalog number.) konvojrecords.com/
“Voyage VIII, X” “Stunden-Blumen,” “Arc Song,” “Lied.”
Works for European instruments, plus a piece for
shakuhachi and European instruments. Mainz: Wergo.
WER-6860-2. Published 2015.
Music-Ashuqlar Muqamlari. Volume 49 of the
great Seires “Regional Music of Iran.” “Performances by
the last survivors of the generation of Qashqayi
Ashuqs.” Tehran: Mahoor Institute of Culture and Arts.
Copyright 2014. mahoor.com
Verdi, Scelsi, Nono, Pizzetti, Petrassi. SWR
Vokalensemble Stuttgart, Marcus Creed. Neuhausen,
Germany: Haenssler Classic. [No website!]
NUNNS, Richard, and
Mark Lockett. Redaction.
Nunns, highly regarded expert on Maori instruments, is
joined by percussionist Mark Lockett and inspired with
photographs by Veronica Hodkinson. Auckland: Rattle.
Naked Curvature: Four
Memories of the Daimon (A Whispered Opera). An
hour-long, “whispered chamber opera/concerto grosso for
six instrumentalists, whispering voices, electronics and
interactive computer software.” Excellent liner notes
with extensive score excerpts. New York: Tzadik. #4009.
SCELSI, Giacinto. Scelsi Collection Vol. 6.
Roberto Fabbriciani plays the world premiere recording
of “Tetraktys,” along with “Maknongan’ (two versions,
one on bass flute and the other on octobass flute),
“Pwyll,” “Hyxos,” and “Quays.” Milano: Stradivarius.
Alexander von. Features.
Schlippenbach Trio: Alexander von Schlip-penbach, Evan
Parker, Paul Lovens. Recorded 2013, published 2015.
Liner notes by Bert Noglik. Zurich: Intakt Records.
Schnebel Andante Con
Moto: A Portrait. Mainz: Wergo. MV-8125. DVD.
90-minute film plus 20-minute interview. PAL
TENNEY, James. Arbor Vitae. These
are the complete string quartets and quintets of James
Tenney, including the world premiere recording of his
last—and perhaps most remarkable—work, “Arbor Vitae.”
This is a revolutionary composition, using multiple
tuning systems in the way tree branches grow. In a
moving article published in Contemporary Music Review,
Michael Winter describes how important the completion of
the piece was to Tenney, how he helped him complete it,
and the tuning systems devised by Tenney. I discovered
this very late, perhaps because the album was issued
under the performers’ name, Quatuor Bozzini, with the
composer’s name only in small print at the bottom left
corner. Collection QB. CQB-0806. Published 2008. actuellecd.com/en/cat/cqb_0806/
YANOMAMI. Lost Shadows: In Defense
of the Soul. Yanomami Shamanism, Songs, Ritual,
1978. Extraordinary field recordings from Venezuela.
Recordings and 40-page booklet by David Toop. Brussels:
Sub Rosa. SR379. http://www.subrosa.net/en.html
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