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BEST OF 2018

Dear Readers,

Okay, I know my personal list is rather long, but it’s not my fault there were so many excellent performances and recordings this year, of all kinds. Start off with Craig Nixon’s 2018 faves, and then Robert Reigle’s 2018 discoveries. Then audition at your favorite streaming sites, and then, most important: support the artists by buying from their own or their label’s websites, and better yet, attend concerts and buy directly from the artists. Keep our independent record stores like alive. They fertilize artistic communities.

Steve Koenig,

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Beacon, NY
Managing Editor

As it is every year, recordings are a trove of riches.  It's always next to impossible to narrow it down... the first draft gets it down to about 100 recordings.  In addition, choosing the best really implies you've heard all the rest.  Lifelong record nerd that I am, that was pretty much true in years past, not as much any longer.  Of the dizzying myriad choices, these are 20 that particularly moved me this year.

RODRIGO AMADO - A History of Nothing (Trost)


TIM BERNE/MATT MITCHELL- Angel Dusk (Screwgun)

ZACK CLARKE- Mesophase (Clean Feed)

SEAN CONLY - Hard Knocks (Clean Feed)

MILES DAVIS - The Final Tour - The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6 (Columbia Legacy)

ENDANGERED BLOOD - Don't Freak Out (Skirl)


ART HIRAHARA - Sunward Bound (Posi-Tone)

JOE LOVANO - Trio Tapestry (ECM)

MAKAYA McCRAVEN - Universal Beings (International Anthem)

NOAH PREMINGER - Genuinity (CrissCross)


RICH ROSENTHAL-JACK DeSALVO-TOM CABRERA - Connoisseurs of Chaos (Woodshed)

JACOB SACKS- Fishes (Clean Feed)

JAMIE SAFT QUARTET - Blue Dream (Rare Noise)

SARA SERPA - Close Up (Clean Feed)

EDWARD SIMON AFINIDAD - Sorrows & Triumphs (Sunnyside)

Dave Sewelson
DAVE SEWELSON - Music for a Free World (FMR)

DAN WEISS - Starebaby (Pi Recordings)

STEVEN WILSON - Home Invasion (Eagle Rock/Universal)

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Long Beach, California
Ethnomusicologist, composer, improviser


As always, I include a handful of items of outstanding interest that I only recently discovered, though they were published before 2018. This year’s list includes recordings by six beautiful musicians whom we lost this year.


Toop, David. Into the Maelstrom: Music, Improvisation, and the Dream of Freedom: Before 1970. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Published 2016. [See Willis JACKSON, below.]


ARMENIA. Nostalgique Arménie: Chants d’amour, d’espoir, d’exil, & improvisations 1942 – 1952. Vincennes France: Buda Musique 860318. Released 2018.

ASHWELL, Thomas (c. 1478 – c.1527), and John BROWNE (fl.c. 1480-1505). The Liberation of the Gothic. Graindelavoix, directed by Björn Schmelzer. San Lorenzo de el Escorial, Spain: Glossa Music. GCD-P32115. Released 2018.

John Butcher

BUTCHER, John (born 1954), dieb13, and Gino ROBAIR – The Open Secret. A Geography for Plays. Recorded 2014. San Francisco: Rastascan Records. Released 2018.

DE LA RUE, Pierre (c. 1460 – 1518). Masses. Four first recordings. Beauty Farm: Bart Uvyn [countertenor], Hans Jörg Mammel and Hannes Wagner [tenor], Joachim Höchbauer [bass]. Wien, Austria: Fra Bernardo. FB-1800751. Two discs. Released 2018.

DOBRESCO, Mara (piano). Soleils de nuit (Suns of Night). A beautiful collection of nocturnes from Chopin to Vieru, culminating in a lovely rendition of George Enesco’s “Carillon nocturne,” No. 7 from the Pièces impromptues, opus 18 (1916). For me, this is the highlight of the album — a prescient piece brilliantly imitating bells with a spectral understanding not generally realized until the 1970s. Sevran, France: Paraty Productions. PTY-107159. (24 bit 96 khz). Released 2018.

FAIRON, Laurent (compiler). KlangSpektrum – Klangexperimenten Unser Zeitgenossen, 1916-2013. This is a collection of little known musics from various epochs of the 20th century, all featuring sound experiments of one kind or another.” Free download, with 11-page PDF. Released 2018.

GAZIN (Rukiye Kızıl 1959-2018) and LEYLI. Van’dan Yerevan’a - From Van To Yerevan..Dengbêj Gazin & Âşık Leyli. Istanbul: Kalan. CD and book. Released 2017.

GREECE. Apollo & Dionysus: Sounds from Classical Antiquity. “This fifth and final volume in Delphian’s landmark collaboration with the European Music Archaeology Project includes pieces based on fragments of musical notation, found by archaeologists carved into stone or written on papyrus and dated to between 300 BC and 300 AD, as well as new music created to give a contemporary voice to the instruments of the period. Reconstructed by experts drawing on the latest archaeological research, these include the aulos – a double-reed instrument played in pairs and often depicted as belonging to the retinue of the god Dionysus – and the hydraulis, or Roman water organ.” Stef Conner, Barnaby Brown, Callum Armstrong, Olga Sutkowska, Justus Willberg, John Kenny, Rupert Till. Wallyford, United Kingdom: Delphian Records DCD-34188. Released 2018.

HARVEY, Jonathan (1939-2012). WeltEthos (2009-2011). Harvey’s 65-minute swan song, for speaker, organ, orchestra, and chorus. Six movements tying humanitarian concepts with major religions: Confucianism, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity. Reminds one of Josip Slavenski’s 1934 “Symphony of the Orient.” Recording of the United Kingdom premiere in 2012. San Bruno, CA: YouTube. Published 2018.

HIRAYAMA, Michiko (1923-2018). Michiko Hirayama (1923-2018). An intense glimpse into the soul of the great soprano as she listens silently to her 1969 recording of song No. 1 from Canti del Capricorno, the remarkable cycle by Giacinto Scelsi (issued on Wergo in 1987). When I met her in 2002, she told me that she was the one who improvised the Canti, and yet she considers the work to be by Scelsi. This video is from a documentary by Sebastiano d'Ayala Valva about Scelsi, Le premier mouvement de l’immobile (The First Motion of the Immovable) []. Menlo Park CA: Facebook. Video [2:27], posted 2018.

Iranian Music
Recordings of Iranian Music in the Wax Cylinder Collections of the BerlinPhonogram Archive 1923-1940. Cylinders recorded by Robert Lachmann in 1923, Ali-Naqi Vaziri's performance in Berlin; cylinders recorded by M. E. K. Dammholz in 1927 in Gilan and Mazandaran; and cylinders recorded by Wilhelm Eilers in 1939 and 1940 in Tehran and Isfahan. Tehran: Mahoor Institute MCD-500. Released 2018.

JACKSON, Willis (1932-1987). “
Willis 'Gator Tail' Jackson live on Ed Sullivan” [2:19]. This is the most transcendental saxophone performance captured on video. David Toop writes, “120 eyeball bursting seconds …, all pretense at musicality jettisoned after two choruses, Jackson shredding and blasting notes as if trying to ignite the air of the television studio.” [See BOOK in this column.] San Bruno, CA: YouTube. Recorded 1955, posted 2016.

KOREA. Jindo Island-Funeral and Shamanic Chants. OCORA (Office de Coopération Radiophonique)-Radio France C-560271. Released 2018.

LACHENMANN, Helmut (born 1935). Got Lost. “Got Lost” (2007-2008); Streichtrio (1965); “Serynade (1997-1998). Yuko Kakuta: soprano / Yukiko Sugawara: piano / Trio recherché. Mainz, Germany: Wergo WER-73672. Released 2018.

LEE Okkyung (born 1975). Dahl-Tah-Ghi. One track of solo cello, recorded at the Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum, Oslo in 2013. Norway: Pica Disk PICA-043. Released 2018.

LEIMGRUBER, Urs (born 1952). Broken Silence. Solo soprano and tenor saxophone. Recorded 2017. Root, Switzerland: Creative Works Records CW-1063. Released 2018.

McNEELY, Big Jay (1927-2018). King of the Honkers – Selected Singles 1948-1952. London, England: Jasmine Records JASMCD 3112. Released 2018.

NONO, Luigi (1924-1990), Paulo DE ASSIS (born 1969). Nono: Como una ola de fuerza y luz for soprano, piano, orchestra and tape; “..... sofferte onde serene ...” for piano and magnetic tape. De Assis: “unfolding waves… con luigi nono” for orchestra and three instrumental groups. Vienna, Austria: Kairos 0015022KAI. Recorded 2012, released 2018.

OBRECHT, Jacob (1457/58-1505). Missa Grecorum & Motets. Brabant Ensemble, conducted by Stephen Rice, with excellent liner notes by Rice. London: Hyperion Records CDA-68216. Released 2018.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA. Crying Bamboos: Ceremonial Flute Music from New Guinea Madang [sic]. Recorded by Ragnar Johnson in 1979. Previously unreleased. Vienna, Austria: Editions Mego SOMA-030, 2CD or 2LP. Released 2018.

RADULESCU, Horatiu (1942-2008). Hommage à Horațiu Rădulescu: Complete Works for Piano. Ortwin Stürmer, piano; Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Lothar Zagrosek, conductor. Live recording. Munich, Germany: NEOS Music NEOS-11805-07, 3SACD. Released 2018.

RWANDA. Rwanda II - Musique Vocale - Vokale Muziek. Includes a recording of the astonishing vocal technique called ubuhuha. Recordings and documentation by Jos Gansemans. Recorded 1973-1975. Brussels, Belgium: Alpha 5024. Released on vinyl LP 1977 [Out of print].

SCHNEBEL, Dieter (1930-2018). Schnebel: Andante con moto--A Portrait. A film by Susanne Elgeti. DVD. Mainz, Germany: Wergo. MV-8125. Released 2015.

TAYLOR, Cecil (1929-2018). Poschiavo. Solo piano, recorded in concert in Poschiavo, Switzerland, 1999-05-14. Tucson, AZ: Black Sun Music 15046-2. Released 2018.

TENNEY, James (1934-2006). Harmonium. “Harmonium #1,” “For 12 Strings (rising),” “Two Koans and a Canon: I-III,” “Voice(s),” “Blues for Annie.” Brooklyn: New World Records 80803. Released 2018.

TULEV, Toivo (born 1958). Magnificat. “Magnificat,” “Summer Rain,” “Legatissimo,” “Tanto gentile,” “I Said, Who Are You-He Said, You,” “Flow, My Tears.” Latvian Radio Choir, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, Putniņš. Hong Kong: Naxos 8.573735. Released 2018.

WESTON, Randy (1926-2018). Mosaic Select- Randy Weston. Recorded 1957-1963. Five reissued albums plus a previously unissued set. Original liner-note essays by Langston Hughes. Includes the album Uhuru Afrika (Freedom Africa).. Stamford, CT: Mosaic Records. B2-82413, 3CD. Released 2003 [out of print].

WINTER, Michael (born 1980). Lower limit. Brooklyn: New World Records. 80798. Released 2018.

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New York


JOHN ABERCROMBIE: Timeless: A Tribute To His Life And Music.Joey Baron, Nels Cline, Marc Copland, Jack DeJohnette, Mark Feldman, Bill Frisell, Drew Gress, Marc Johnson, Joe Lovano, Thomas Morgan, Adam Nussbaum, John Scofield, Randy Brecker, Peter Erskine, Eliane Elias, David Liebman. March 26. Roulette, Brooklyn.

BEETHOVEN. Complete String Quartets. The Orion String Quartet. Some were merely excellent, most were emotionally and intellectually riveting. Very smart of them to both begin and end the series with Quartet 13 alternately with and without the Grosse Fugue. April-May. Mannes College The New School of Music, NY.,

BRAHMS. Sextet Op. 18, Sextet Op. 36. Pamela Frank, violin; Jaime Laredo, violin; Nokuthula Ngwenyama, viola; Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola; Keith Robinson, cello. Sharon Robinson, cello. May 12, 2018. People’s Symphony Concerts, New York.

AARON BURNETTE AND THE BIG MACHINE: New Spectrums in Electronic Acoustics. Burnett tenor, soprano; Carlos Homs, piano; Nick Jozwiak, bass; Kush Abadey, drums. Many YT videos. March 14, Roulette.

G. LUCAS CRANE. “Time Boiler.” As fascinating to listen to as well as watch as Crane played with a giant spread of audiocassettes, and manipulates them with some processing. Video by Ryan Soper and Matthew Mann. June 19, Roulette, Brooklyn.

LISE DE LA SALLE, piano.Bach: Italian Concerto; Roussel: Prelude et Fugue, Op. 46; Liszt: Fantasy and Fugue on the Theme B.A.C.H; Bach/Liszt: A minor; Bach/Kempff: Sicilienne; Poulenc: Valse Improvisation on B-A-C-H; Bach/Busoni: Chaconne. Brilliant concept which was performed to a T. There’s also a CD with a very similar program, Bach Unlimited, on Naïve. March 4, Town Hall.,

MARC-ANDRÉ HAMELIN, piano.Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13 in A minor. Liszt: Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude from Harmonies poétiques et religieuses; Liszt: Fantasy and Fugue on B.A.C.H.; Debussy: Images, Book I; Samuel Feinberg: Sonata no.3, op.3 (1917). February 10, 2018. People’s Symphony Concerts.,

PAUL LEWIS, piano.Brahms: Seven Fantasies, Op.116; Haydn: Sonata in C minor, Hob.XVI/20; Beethoven: Seven Bagatelles, Op. 33; Haydn: Sonata in E-flat Major, Hob XVI/52; Encore: Beethoven: Bagatelles, Op. 119, No. 6. My favorite classical concert this year. Lewis’ sly wit and willingness to invest each piece with individuality is magnificent. It made me buy his Haydn sonatas (Harmonia Mundi) which move me as much as my preferred set by Rudolf Buchbinder (Teldec/Warner). People’s Symphony Concerts.,

BRANDON LOPEZ: The Lamentations, with pianist Sam Yulson + Ben Bennett/Michael Foster/Nate Wooley/Brandon Lopez. June 21. I like the way his website phrases it: he works “in the field of far left musics.”

BRANDON LOPEZ + STEVE BACZOWSKI. Bassist Lopez plays inside and outside his instrument in an almost erotic way, becoming one with his bass. Baczowski is a saxophonist totally in sync with Lopez. July 12.,

GARY LUCAS. The Films of Curtis Harrington. The guitarist plays along with some truly special avant-garde films, from the 1940s and ‘50s; some surreal, one of The Fall Of The House Of Usher.There’s a DVD of many of Harrington’s short films from Flicker Alley/Drag City/Academy Film Archive Collection on BD-R disc I intend to acquire. Some are on Vimeo and YT. February 22, Roulette, Brooklyn.,

Mixoogy FestivalMIXOLOGY FESTIVAL 2018: Circuit Breakers: Jantar and GAIAMAMOO. One of the very rare times the video is as interesting as the music. See and watch for yourself on Gaiamamoo’s website or YT. February 16, Roulette, Brooklyn.,

RESONANT BODIES FESTIVAL 2018: Sarah Maria Sun with International Contemporary Ensemble; Pamela Z; Gelsey Bell. Sept. 13.

BRANDON SEABROOK TRIO.Seabrook, guitar/compositions; Henry Fraser, bass; Daniel Levin, cello.,,,

ELLIOTT SHARP.IrRational Music. Release concert for his book of the same name, a memoir with discussion of music and art, unavailable at press time (Terra Nova Books with Found Sound Nation). Set One- solo electric guitar from his series Octal plus Mare Undarum, a graphic score. Set Two- Sharp’s ensemble SysOrk dedicated to performing algorithmic scores and graphic notations, with the Slovakian ensemble Veni Academy, to perform three of the pieces included his new Mode album: The Hidden Variable, Dispersion of Seeds, and FlexagonNovember 1. Roulette, Brooklyn.,,

String Orchestra of Brooklyn: String Theories II: THE RHYTHM METHOD (String Quartet).Marina Kifferstein: An Alien With Extraordinary Abilities; Lewis Nielson: Le journal du corps; Meaghan Burke: Song selections; Leah Asher: Hollux Rey, Shoulder to Shoulder. Roulette, Brooklyn.,

THINGNY and VARISPEED.Kenneth Gaburo:Maledetto; Rick Burkhardt: Passover. “Voices Around A Table” is the name of the program; these brilliantly acted/spoken/instrumental pieces couldn’t be topped. Listen to the Gaburo on YT and keep an ear out for future works by Burkhardt. You can buy Ken Gaburo’s MaledettoCD from Pogus Records, May 30, Roulette, Brooklyn.,,

VISION FESTIVAL 21.See for full lineup and instrumentation.
5/23: Dave Burrell with Darius Jones, Steve Swell, Harrison Bankhead and Andrew Cyrille; Dave Burrell Quintet with James Brandon Lewis, Kidd Jordan, William Parker and Andrew Cyrille.

5/24: Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl (Adam O’Farrill, Amirtha Kidambi, Michael Formanek, Tomas Fujiwara); Space (Thomas Buckner, Roscoe Mitchell, Scott Robinson).

5/25: Irreversible Entanglements, an ensemble totally new to me (Camae Ayewa, Keir Neuringer, Aquiles Navarro, Luke Stewart, Tcheser Holmes).

5/26: Mutations for Justice (Fay Victor, Jaimie Branch, Luke Stewart, Michael Vatcher); Afrohorn Fellow (Francisco Mora Catlett, Ahmed Abdullah, Alex Harding, Bob Stewart, Sam Newsome, Aruan Ortiz, Rashaan Carter, Roman Diaz).

5/27: Frode Gjerstad Trio (Paal Nilssen-Love, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten plus Steve Swell; Gerald Cleaver with Brandon Lopez, Chris Potter and David Virelles; Craig Harris’ Brown Butterfly (Eddie Allen, Jay Rodriguez, Adam Klipple, Calvin Jones, Tony Lewis, Kahlil Kwame Bell and film by Jonas Goldstein).

5/28: Jaimie Branch’s Fly Or Die (Anton Hatwich, Lester St. Louis, Chad Taylor), Jemeel Moondoc’s New World Pygmies (William Parker, Hamid Drake).


ANGELS IN AMERICA: Gay Fantasia on National Themes by Tony Kushner. Marianna Elliott, director. The entire cast was top-notch, but special kudos to Andrew Garfield as Prior, and Nathan Lane doing an unexpectedly brilliant Roy Cohn. Neil Simon Theatre, NY.

BLUE by Dominique Morriseau. Ruben Santiago-Hudson, director. Gentrification in 1940s Detroit.

Glace Chase

GLACE CHASE’S Neurotica.
Brilliant, sly. In drag, but not a queen, Chases dresses as a real woman, with torch songs and interaction with the audience and a lot of humor. Dixon Place, NY.,
(Chase conducts walking tours in drag, for a general audience, of NYC.)

DAYS TO COME by Lillian Hellman. J. R. Sullivan, director. Hellman’s second play, about labor strife in small-town America. The Beckett Theatre, NY.

DEAD END by Sidney Kingsley. Randy Sharp, director. The 1935 Broadway show, later a great film with Bogart and some of the later “Dead End Kids,” about rough tenement streets in NYC. Axis uses a small black box theater to present classic plays with brilliant results, even with a large cast. Axis Theater Company, NY.

HIGH NOON. Randy Sharp, director. I’d never seen the film but this endeavor, “an adaptation devised by the ensemble,” was riveting. I did catch the film, which was indeed great, but this production was even better. Axis Theater Company, NY.

OUR LADY OF 121st STREET by Stephen Adly Guirgis. Phylicia Rashad, director. Friend and acquaintances come back for a funeral. Lots of “drama” emerges, especially enjoyable in Quincy Tyler’s simultaneously subtle and over-the-top performance. Last year’s production of Guirgis’ Jesus Hopped The A Train was another brilliant score for the Signature. Signature Theatre, NY.

PEACE FOR MARY FRANCESby Lily Thorne. Lila Neugebauer, director. Lois Smith, a National Treasure, as an elderly woman about to die as her children fight over how to deal with it and her.

TORCH SONG by Harvey Fierstein. Moisés Kaufman. If you didn’t know the Trilogyby heart you would never notice the smooth cuts HF made. Michael Urie, to his and the director’s credit, didn’t try to be a Harvey clone. Each actor was perfect, and even if Jack DiFalco as David didn’t look a teenager, his acting shortly made you unaware of it. The Helen Hayes Theater, NY.

WARS OF THE ROSES: HENRY VI, Part 3 & RICHARD III. Perfect blending of the two Shakespeare historical dramas. Austin Pendleton, director. 124 Bank Street Theater, NY.

YOU AND I by Philip Barry. Michael Hardart, director. The first play by the author of Holidayand The Philadelphia Story, both of them among my very favorite films. What a treat to see this cleverly played early play. Metropolitan Playhouse, NY.

WAVERLY GALLERYby Kenneth Lonergan. Mike Nichols, director. A play which makes you think and feel so much and so deeply that you’re not the same afterwards. In a role so meticulously constructed, Elaine May moves your very core as a woman with Alzheimer’s. The rest of the cast are no slouches either: Joan Allen, Lucas Hedges, and Michael Cera. John Golden Theater, NY.


CHEN CHEN. When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, poems. Take a few delicious minutes by browsing through his work via and then look for more via your favorite search engine. BOA Editions (A. Poulin, Jr. New Poets of America series). ISBN: 978-1-942683-33-9.

Robert Christgau

ROBERT CHRISTGAU. Is It Still Good to Ya?: Fifty Years of Rock Criticism 1967-2017. The dean of rock criticism looks ahead and looks back. Worth it just for the Billie Holiday piece and the short “Ten-Step Program For Growing Better Ears.” I love #9: “You’re your fvorite teenager’s favorite album three times while doing something else. Pit it away. Play it again two days later and notice what you remember.” Christgau’s new book covers everything from Punk to (John) Prine, from hip-hop, Bowie and Aretha to M.I.A. and Willie Nelson in 444 pages. Duke University Press. ISBN: 978-1-4780-0022-8.

CACONRAD. While Standing In Line For Death. Wave Books. ISBN: 978-1-940696-55-3. These samples of CAConrad’s poems should give you the flavor:;;

FRED HERSCH. I highly recommend Fred’s autobiography Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In And Out Of Jazz, in which he talks honestly and without ego, of his coming up with notables (Art Farmer, Joe Henderson, et al.) in the jazz world, his coming out in stages, being openly gay in the jazz community, some difficult times living with HIV, and being a musical survivor. Crown Archetype Books. ISBN: 9781101904343.,


LEAVE NO TRACE. Directed by Debra Granik. Screenplay by Granik and Anne Rosellini. Actors: Tom - Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie; Will - Ben Foster. A veteran and his young teen daughter try to live off the grid. It takes its time, which is not to say is seems slow, and shows you rather than tells you. Thought-provoking and emotional too. Received a 100% Professional Critic’s Rating on Universal Pictures DVD/Blu


Anthology: BURNING BRITAIN: A Story Of Independent UK Punk 1980-1983.Superb set. You probably know the Cockney Rejects and the UK Subs, but how many of us knew The Epileptics, Drongos for Europe, The Newtown Neurotics, or The Septic Psychos? Cherry Red CRCDBOX53, 4CDs, bookstyle DVDigipak with 66-page bound-in book with essays and chock-filled with photos.

Anthology: TO THE OUTSIDE OF EVERYTHING: A Story of UK Post Punk 1977-1981. Another superb set, similar to the above but with Post Punk from well-knowns such as The Psych Furs, Wire, and PiL, but I’d not heard of The Deep Freeze Mice, Sad Lovers And Giants, Family Fodder!, and The Laughing Apple. Cherry Red CRCDBOX44, 5CDs in a book/folio.

MARK APPLEBAUM. Speed Dating. The hilarious “Three Unlikely Corporate Sponsorships” would make a good pairing with some of Paul Lansky’s works. Other tracks cover the avant-chamber world, an extended percussion piece, and what I like to call electronic-squiggle music. Innova 996.,

AURICULAB: SOUND ART LABORATORY. Another great Spanish free-improv label with free streaming and free downloads. Try Troya en Llamasby José Guillén and Atilio Doreste. Thank you, Auriculab!

GELSEY BELL. This Is Not A Land Of Kings. This three-song EP (Gold Bolus 037) is one you’ll play over and over. Haunting yet beautiful a cappella (all voices done live, not overdubbed) with clicks and other spare mouth-music. This will appeal to fans of avant-vocals as well as Sweet Honey In The Rock. Listen, especially, to "She's Gonna Breathe Now,” plus the other tracks and you’ll see:,,

GEORGE BENJAMIN. Lessons in Love and Violence. Opera with text by Martin Crimp telling the story of Edward II. Features Barbara Hannigan. Opus Arte OA BD7199D, Blu (also available on DVD and CD).,,

BEN BENNETT, MICHAEL FOSTER, JACOB WICK. Glove Issues. Percussion, saxophones and trumpet, respectively. Sometimes lower-case sound, sometimes full-blown, but always bouncing off each other the way good improvisers do, live at Brooklyn’s Issue Project Room, 2017. Palliative Records (no catalog no. given), CD-r.,

JOHN CAGE. “Klang der Wandlungen.” A box of Cage recorded, beautifully, by German radio (SWR, WDR, Deutschlandradio). The box contains the orchestral works Seventy-Four(cond. Jonathan Stockhammer) and the ninety-minute 103 (cond. Arturo Tamayo); Postcard From Heaven and In A Landscapefor harp(s), and the hour-long organ piece Some Of The Harmony Of Maine. Excellent booklet with many photos and notes by Jakob Ullman about Cage’s time in and influence on German musicians around the time of Cage’s attendance at the Summer Courses at Darmstadt, 1990. Even if you think you have too many Cage discs, you still need this ever-so-musical set. ed. RZ 1-33-35, 3CDs in individual photo gatefolds.,

JOHN COLTRANE. Okay, here’s the deal. Both Directions At Once (Impulse! B0028228-02, 2CD if Deluxe) is a must-have of previously unreleased tracks (except one) for those who love Coltrane post-“My Favorite Things” and pre-Pharoah Sanders. The subtitle, “The Lost Album” isn’t quite true since it wasn’t planned as an album. No matter. May I herewith express my disdain for albums available in both “regular” and “deluxe” editions? At least this one has a full second disc for a few buck more; so many other releases simply add a few short tracks. Those who already love JC will have no need for the three-disc ’63: New Directions (Impulse! B002916002) because you will already have everything on it. Those who don’t however, have a most excellent starter-package to treat yourself or give as a gift.,

SYLVIE COURVOISIER TRIO. d’agala. Sylvie Courvoisier, piano; Drew Gress, bass; Kenny Wollensen, drums. Thick booklet with notes by Kevin Whitehead. Intakt CD 300.,

ALMA DEUTSCHER. Cinderella. Jane Glover, cond. Delightful, accessible but not slight, full-length opera you never would know was written by a pre-teen. Cinderella is a composer and Prince Charming is looking for someone to set his poems. Enjoyable for anyone, but would make a great first opera intro too. Sony 19075895049 2 DVDs or Blu.,

BOB DYLAN. More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Vol. 14. Fans will have no trouble listening to all the many takes and demos, all from the Blood On The Tracks sessions. He sounds more like Dylan and less like a caricature of Dylan as in so many of his albums. It’s also available as a double-disc. Columbia/Sony Legacy 19075858962, 6 CDs.,

MARTY EHRLICH. Trio Exaltation.Said trio being bassist John Hébert and drummer Nasheet Waits joining the sax, clarinet, and flute-playing leader. 55 minutes of music as easy to swallow yet as enriching as any Blue Note or Atlantic jazz records were. Clean Feed CF475.,,,

TILL FELLNER. In Concert. Beethoven: Sonata 32. Liszt: Années de pélerinage- Première anée- Suisse. The Beethoven is marvelous, visceral, exciting. The part of Movement II that I call the boogie-woogie is more wiggle-your-hips than boogie, but it does have an irresistible swing. The Liszt also has as much passion as I’ve heard in these works. ECM New Series 2511 (481 6837).,

BRYAN FERRY and his ORCHESTRA. Bitter-Sweet. Ferry with a Weimar-style/Dixieland orchestra seems so fitting and charming one totally forgets that his vocals have often been arch. Here they are smooth and fit in perfectly. Some tracks are instrumental, including takes on his own “Sign Of The Times” and “Dance Away.” I agree with Tosh Berman that in its own way, this as good as Roxy Music’s first albums. BMG 538448222.,

ANTOINE FORQUERAY, JEAN-BAPTISTE-FORQUERAY. Complete Works. I’m no partisan of the French baroque, but these performances spoke to me the way any good music would. Michèle Dévérité, harpsichord; Kaori Uemara, viola de gamba; Ryo Terakado, violin; Ricardo Rodriguez, viola de gamba continuo; Robert Kohnen, harpsichord. Harmonia Mundi HMM 905286.89, 4 CD + CD of texts read in French.

MICHAEL FOSTER. Choke On Love/ Spit It Out. A pair of eleven-minute noise/major-case-sound tracks, “Learn To Love The Rope” and Double Column,” consistently involving. “For Prepared Tenor/ Soprano Saxophones, Tapes, Electronics. No Edits," states the liner. Jouissance du rien #7, cassette, also available as download. Lots to listen to and watch on his,

MICHAEL FOSTER & BEN BENNETT. In It. Excellent free improv. Astral Spirits AS 051/ Monofonus Press MF148, audiocassette.,,,

SATOKO FUJII. Mahobin: Live At Big Apple In Kobe. A 43-minute piece plus encore with Fujii, Tamura, saxophonist Lotte Anker, and Ikue Mori using electronics. I’ve always loved Anker; it took me a very long time to like Mori (for many years, I found her sound sample palette to be very limited). Here all four emerge as a single entity, every strand an intrinsic part of the quartet, strong and musical. Libra 204-050.,,,,

SATOKO FUJII. Weave. The wonderful year-long once-a-month CD series celebrating Satoko Fujii’s 60th birthday year. Out of all, the most unusual is Weave, a collaboration with trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, percussionist Takashi Itani, and percussive dancer Mizuki Wildenhahn. It’s on a CD/DVD (NTSC) package; what a visual treat! Libra 204-051/052.,,

YUKO FUJIYAMA. Night Wave. The pianist, who releases way too few records, is joined by violinist Jennifer Choi, trumpet/cornetist Graham Haynes, and drummer/percussionist Susie Ibarra. Innova 995.

FRODE GJERSTAD TRIO + STEVE SWELL. Bop Stop. Gjerstad, sax; Swell, trombone; Jon Rune Strøm, bass; Paal Nilssen-Love, drums, percussion. Rich playing by these masters from Norway plus Swell. Clean Feed CF470.,,,

VINNY GOLIA NEW MUSIC ORCHESTRA. Live at Redcat, Los Angeles. A quite large orchestra, with many young players, bring these Golia compositions to life. Two full sets recorded in L.A. with excellent audio spread and clarity. Excellence keeps flowing from these two left coast labels, and for this combined release we can only be grateful. Detailed videography, showing the full ensemble wide-screen, but many close-ups of band sections and some of individual players, smoothly edited so as to not make you dizzy. On-screen musician credits after each set. pfMENTUM PFMdvd123/NWDVD400. DVD.,

DEVIN GRAY. Dirigo Rataplan II. The drummer’s joined by tenor Ellery Eskelin , bassist Michael Formanek and trumpeter Dave Ballou. Gray’s compositions are very intricate, yet the stellar players make them sound fluid and fun. Rataplan Records.,,,

BARBARA HANNIGAN, soprano; REINBERT De Leeuw, piano. “Vienna: Fin de Siècle.” Wolf(Mignon Lieder), Schoenberg(Vier Lieder op.2), Webern(Fünf Lieder nach Gedichten von R. Dehmel), Zemlinsky (selected lieder), Alma Mahler (Die stille Nacht, etc.) and Berg(Sieben frühe Lieder). Last year we had high praise for her album Crazy Girl Crazy where she sang and conducted Berg, Berio and Gershwin. Here’s a duo of settings with subtler, because of the music, but just as strong musicality. Removable perfect-bound booklet with notes plus full texts in English and French. Alpha 393.,

EMILY HAY and STEUART LEIBIG. Nomads. The flute and vocals from Hay interact perfectly with the bassist; both use electronics but sparingly. Recorded in concert at several venues. Especially impressive and moving are the 10-inute VU Symposium (UT) work and the 20-minute piece from the NorCal Noise Festival. Fans of Shelley Hirsch and Diamanda G. should want this, More fine improv from the little-west-coast-label-that-could.,,

FRED HERSCH. Live In Europe. At once witty, emotional, clever, enjoyable; a superb set live in Brussels, 2017. John Hébert, bass; Eric McPherson, drums. There’s also a brand-new Hersch/Gress/Rainey Live At The Village Vanguard on Palmetto that I haven’t heard yet. I have great expectations. [Also see the Books section above.],

MICHAEL HERSCH. Images From A Closed Ward. Flux Quartet. Intricate yet easy to listen to. New Focus FCR199.,

AH YOUNG HONG, soprano. Babbitt: Philomel. Michael Hersch: a breath upwards. Innova 986.,, and Babbitt talks about Philomel:

ANTHONY DAVID. Hello Like Before: The Songs of Bill Withers. A tender-hearted album in which Anthony David’s voice doesn’t stray too far from Withers’ own, but it’s far from imitative. Shanachie 5845.,

MIKE JONES and PENN JILLETTE. The Show Before The Show. I didn’t realize this piano/bass duo were from the magician duo Penn and Teller. Jones is an excellent mainstream jazz player and the music director of their show. This CD is a truly delightful set of standards, and it “got that swing.” Good Stuff. Capri 74143-2.

Kidd Jordan

KIDD JORDAN, ALVIN FIEDLER, JOEL FUTTERMAN, STEVE SWELL. Masters of Improvisation: Recorded Live In New Orleans. Valid VR-1016.,,,

CHARLES LLOYD & THE MARVELS feat. Lucinda Williams. Vanished Gardens.Absolutely delicious album, well-filled with seamless jazz/Americana feel, but true jazz nonetheless. William’s vocals have this catch in her throat that nearly brings tears. Frisell on pedal steels guitar. The ten tracks average about eight minutes each. A tender Frisell/Lloyd duet of “Monk’s Mood” leads to the conclusion, an aching version of Hendrix’ “Angel.” Blue Note B002843502.,,

MAHLER. Symphony 6.MusicAeterna, Teodor Currentzis, cond. This first movement march is cheery with dark undertones. Throughout there is an inexorable momentum, though with many stops along the way. Sony G010003865622Q.,

MARC MASTERS ENSEMBLE. Our Métíer.Wickedly clever and satisfying band arrangements by trumpeter Masters of compositions which seem like classics and aren’t yet but might become. The opener, “Borne Towards The Stars” is a kaleidoscope of Monkisms, and features Oliver Lake and Tim Hagans. Others in the ensemble include Andrew Cyrille, Mark Turner, Gary Foster,and Dave Woodley. Please try to audition this one on your favorite streaming sites. Savory! Capri 74150.

KATE McGARRY. The Subject Tonight Is Love. Quirky phrasing with an often quavering voice (which might be a problem with my download) of mostly standard songs about, natch, love- enough to keep your interest throughout, but not so ‘out’ as to be deliberately weird. Delicious and adorable. Keith Ganz: acoustic and electric guitar, acoustic bass guitar, drums; Gary Versace: piano, keyboard, organ, accordion. The producer is no less than pianist Art Lande. Binxtown Records, no catalog number.

CHARLES MINGUS. Jazz In Detroit/Strata Concert Gallery/46 Selden.A clearly recorded set taken from a five-day residency at the Strata Gallery in Detroit, 1973. The cast: Mr. Mingus, drummer Roy Brooks, tenor John Stubblefield, trumpeter Joe Gardner, and the always amazing pianist, Don Pullen. Includes audio interviews and two takes of a previously unrecorded Mingus composition, “Dizzy Profiles.” BBE/180Proof/Strata BBE453ACD, 5cd box with poster, five different picture labels and sleeves, and thick booklet.,,

JEMEEL MOONDOC. The Astral Revelations. Live at the Bimhuis. Matthew Shipp, p; Hilliard Greene, b; Newman Taylor Baker, dr. RogueArt ROG-0881.,

MOSTLY OTHER PEOPLE DO THE KILLING. Paint. We welcome MOPDtK back to the list, this time as a piano trio. Eight tracks of playful and jaunty music by bassist, bandleader, and composer Moppa Elliott, pianist Ron Stabinsky, and drummer Kevin Shea. Hot Cup 171.,

CARLI MUÑOZ. Follow Me.Wonderful vocalist, evocative of Leon Russell and (!) Marla Glen at times, and deep-voiced reciter. Timeless soul/mainstream jazz combination. A nice surprise; I must check out his many previous albums. Tabono Records.

NEW JERSEY PERCUSSION ENSEMBLE, dir. Peter Jarvis. “New Jersey Percussion Ensemble at 50: Volume 1.”Eight concertos for horn, accordion, frame drum or vibraphone, one of each instrument plus percussion sextet by Peter Jarvis and three more by Payton MacDonald. William Schimmel, accordion; Glen Velez, frame drum; Payton MacDonald or John Ferrari, vibraphone; John Clark, horn. Stands up to multiple listenings. Shame that the wonderfully thin picture sleeve doesn’t have a printed spine; guess I’ll just have to file it on my shelf under “percussion.” Composers Concordance comcon0045. ,

NOTUS. Of Radiance & Refraction.Directed by Dominick DiOrio.
This choral album is my happiest surprise of the year, coming seemingly out of nowhere. Although ensembles named with ALL CAPS irk me (there are several on this list), Notus is nothing but a treat. Five composers related to Indiana University’s Jacobs School Of Music: Claude Baker, DiOrio, John Gibson, Aaron Travers, and even the great Swedish composer Sven-David Sandström. Igor Stravinsky finds himself in this company because of DiOrio’s marvelous Stravinsky Refracted, which takes a poem by Amy Lowell’s poem about Igor’s Trois pièces pour quatuor á cordes and in turn sets the poem to DiOrio’s own composition, which is itself prefaced here by the Zorá String Quartet’s performance of the Stravinsky piece. Excellent booklet with useful notes and texts (ranging from Michelangelo to Whitman and W. C. Williams) plus all singers and musicians listed for each individual piece. All this can also be found on Innova’s website. However did it get number 002 given Innova’s vast catalog? Innova 002.,

OTOMO Yoshihide and PAAL NILSSEN-LOVE. 19th of May 2016.Two extended improvs live in Moscow. Otomo on electric guitar, PNL on percussion and drums. PNL 039.

WOLFGANG RIHM. Music for Violin & Orchestra, Vol. 1 / Lichtzwang, the earliest of his concertos, draws on chorale-like sequences and piercing outbursts alike in its memorializing of the writer Paul Celan. Dritte Musikbegins almost imperceptibly before growing in intensity and eventually slipping beyond audibility. Gedicht des Malers is more deft and subtle than the preceding pieces. Tianwa Yang, violin; Christoph-Mathias Mueller, Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic. Naxos 8573812.

Jacob Sacks

JACOB SACKS. Fishes. Clean Feed CF497CD. Squiggly yet coherent lines mingle in these eleven savory tracks ranging from a minute and a half to eight. Sacks, piano; Ellery Eskelin, tenor; Tony Malaby, soprano & tenor; Michael Formanek, bass; Dan Weiss, drums.,,,

WAYNE SHORTER. Emanon.Shorter on soprano and tenor saxes, pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci on bass, and Brian Blade on drums, with and without the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra on the first half half of the package. The last two discs are live recordings. The suite of Pegasus, Prometheus Unbound, Lotus, and The Three Mariasappear both live and in-studio. Fair weather review: The quartet is always magnificent. The orchestral writing varies from intriguing to sweet. The package includes a 48-page graphic novel by Shorter and Monica Sly, illustrated by Randy DuBurke. Blue Note B00277680 2, 3 CDs plus book.

SIX ENSEMBLE.A wonderful collective of experimenters and improvisers from Spain who generously offer their albums free on Bandcamp. Explore at random and have a good time, but may I suggest starting with Diálogos Subcutáneos.

EDNA STERN, piano. “Fire Of Black And White.”Barber: Sonata. Lili Boulanger: Thème et Variation. Britten: Notturno. Gideon Klein: Sonata. Martinů: Bagatelle. Karel Reiner: Piano Sonata No. 2 “Victory.” I met Ms. Stern at the New York Audio Show in the Audio Note room, perhaps my favorite room of gear in both last year’s and this year’s shows. We were talking about music before I even found out that she was a musician, and after that, noticed she had a disc on the Audio Note label. The Reiner is significant; he studied with Alois Hába and Josef Suk, and survived three concentration camps, including Terezin. This is the first recording of this work. The Barber sonata is as good as anyone’s, and in visceral sound. She has previous discs of Bach, Chopin, Schumann and Beethoven on Naïve, Orchid, Zig Zag and other labels, none of which I’d heard. She has a batch of videos of her Scriabin, Bach and more, on YT, with even more on Spotify for those of us who like to audition before buying discs. Audio Note ANM1603CD.,

IGOR STRAVINSKY. “Music for Two Pianos Four Hands.” The Rite Of Spring, Concerto For Two Pianos, Madrid, Tango, Circus Polka. Marc-André Hamelin and Leif Ove Andsnes. Hyperion CDA68189.,

CECIL TAYLOR. Poschiavo.Solo recital at Poschiavo, Switzerland, Uncool Festival, 1999. Black Sun Music 15046-2.

CECIL TAYLOR and TONY OXLEY. Conversations With Tony Oxley. Recorded 2008 at the Berlin Philharmonie. Jazzwerkstatt jw198.

RICHARD THOMPSON. 13 Rivers.His best, and I love them all, since Mirror Blue, and with a similar style. Totally riveting. New West NW6446.,

TONALIENS. Amelia Cuni, voice; Werner Durand, invented wind instruments; Robin Hayward, microtonal tuba, tuning vine; Hilary Jeffery, Trombone; Rald Meinz, live sound, electronics. Edition Telemark 785.02 2LP.,

GLEN WHITEHEAD TRIO. Living Daylights. Frisky composed and free trio playing which moves the brain in tandem with, sometimes, adrenaline and yearning. The trumpeter is joined here by Scott Walton on bass and drummer Britton Ciampa. Sample some of Whitehead’s work at pfMENTUM PFMCD125.

JÖRG WIDMANN. Arche.Kent Nagano, conductor. “Ark” is an oratorio for soloists, choirs, organ and orchestra by clarinetist and composer Widmann. The texts come from various sources, from the Bible and Des Knaben Wunderhorn to Adensen and Michelangelo, and are sadly not included in the booklet, which does, however, have excellent and detailed notes. Musically there are flavors ranging from Berlioz to Bernstein. I highly recommend Widmann’s string quartets (Leipzig SQ on MDG 307 1531) as well. ECM also has another CD of Widmann compositions titled Elegie. ECM New Series 2605/06 (481 7007), 2CDs.

NEIL YOUNG. Song For Judy. Various solo gigs from November 1976. Yeah, you need this one too. Reprise/Shakey Pictures 574192-2/ Neil Young Archives Performance Series 07.

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