Music of 2012

4 Jan

If I made a universal list of the best movies, music, books, bagels, coffee mugs, two-ply toilet paper and artificial field turf of 2012, then the solo Cecil Taylor show at the Harlem Gatehouse would take the top spot (my Allegany State Park mug would take #2). The man, now 83 years of age, wore billowy Persian pants, read numerological poetry, and played the piano with the intense focus and abandon of a cranky Sufi mystic. Transporting! Anyway. Here are my favorite albums and live shows of 2012:


1. Jesse Davis Quintet – Live at Smalls


“his playing bounces off the walls, arguing and winning its own case. His phrasing is loose, his tone individual, immediate, raucous; it sounds alive, almost electrified. This is jazz with bop, blues and gospel elements, oriented around standards and common-practice harmony, casual but wide awake.”
-Ben Ratliff, NY Times


2. Swans – The Seer

Title track


3. Steve Lehman Trio – Dialect Fluorescence


4. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange


5. Iris DeMent – Sing the Delta


6. Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind


7. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music


8. Bob Dylan – Tempest

The disturbing video for “Duquesne Whistle”:


9. Vijay Iyer Trio – Accelerando


10. Ka – Grief Pedigree


11. Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Americana

12. Henry Threadgill  – Tomorrow Sunny/The Revelry, Spp

13. Wadada Leo Smith – Ten Freedom Summers

14. Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill

15. Taylor Swift – Red

16. Branford Marsalis Quartet – Four MFs Playin’ Tunes

17. ZZ Top – La Futura

18. Guillermo Klein – Carrera

19. Roc Marciano – Reloaded

20. Jamey Johnson – Living For a Song

21. Jacob Garchik – The Heavens: The Atheist Gospel Trombone Choir

22. Dwight Yoakam – Three Pears

23. Pallbearer – Sorrow and Extinction

24. Tim Berne – Snakeoil

25. Earth – Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II


Live shows:

1. Cecil Taylor, solo at the Harlem Gatehouse

2. Swans at Bowery Ballroom

3. Craig Taborn Trio at Village Vanguard

4. Mastodon, Opeth and Ghost at Roseland Ballroom

5. Wussy at Mercury Lounge

Into the Void

18 Oct

So. I attended a Jazz Journalists Association discussion this past Thursday evening, regarding the best albums of 2010. I am not a jazz journalist, but with this blog I’m going to pretend to be one. So I sauntered my way up to the fifth floor of a gently lived-in New School building, past lounging music students and a security guard with sympathetic eyes. The theater was well-appointed and lightly worn, with an enveloping sound system.

I sat down in a middle row, one of 6 or 7 people attending in a room that could hold 50. The moderator of the event was Howard Mandel, a gravel voiced charmer who asked us to move closer to the front. Only one brave soul took up the challenge. I remained immobile. The panel included Jim Macnie, Nate Chinen, David Adler and Josh Jackson. I read the first three, and should (but don’t) listen to Jackson’s THE CHECKOUT on WBGO. The determining reason for attending was to learn the language of jazz criticism. I’m an occasional film critic, and am tied up in that discipline’s particular argot. Since I never want to describe a tune as “cinematic”, which is meaningless, I went to see how professionals go about verbalizing the non-verbal. So, from now on I’ll be using the words “space” and “texture” often. Get ready.

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The Beginning of the Beginning

11 Sep

I have interests. One of them includes the indeterminate music grouped under the term “jazz”. Follow this space for unremarkable musings on recordings, shows and taunts.