Tag Archives: Evan Parker

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

Cologne’s Loft is a venue where very good things usually happen when improvising musicians perform. This stellar duet between sax maestros is no exception: recorded in 2007, it features Parker on soprano and Leimgruber on tenor, exchanging darts of creative thinking with a mixture of snappy commitment and no-nonsense technical facility, prowess made explicit in every minute of this CD. Three extended segments revealing a whole cosmos of nuances that will make the students of the instrument aware of a depressing perspective: in fact, they might never arrive to certain heights decades of practice notwithstanding, in a classic case of “some folks got it, some folks don’t”. However, the sheer act of listening – both for them and non-reedist audiences – remains a challenge that brings numerous moments of pure excitement. In 66 minutes I didn’t hear a phrase even distantly related with someone else’s style, despite the couple’s occasional resorting to quicksilver spurts of reciprocally echoic/imitative shapes in various parts of the set. Another attractive trait is given by the general comprehensibility of the contrapuntal components, regardless of a frequent trespassing of the overacute range. Articulate connectedness kept at full throttle, pushing the boundaries of fast-paced ability well beyond the average. As always, one would say, but still quite exhilaratingly for us, the lucky receivers of those swirling parallelisms.

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

PARKER / GUY / LYTTON + PETER EVANS – Scenes In The House Of Music (CF 196) 
This record – born in September 2009 at Casa Da Música (hence the title) – is permeated by a striking forthrightness parallelling the equally impressive dexterity and improvisational fantasy of each of the contributing musicians. Consisting of five “scenes” (plus an encore not indicated on the cover), it is initially a tough nut to crack – no concessions whatsoever, no winks to the audience – but once the essence of the interplay is finally visible, one almost gets a sense of invincibility, of being shielded by some kind of superior power. This feel is reinforced by the awareness of sounds generated by unbending characters who have no intention of giving up a strenuous fight against the “exhaustion by stereotype” syndrome. The way in which the augmented trio rotates extreme collective intensity and large spaces for the actions of single components is pure delight for these ears.

There is a deceptive prevalence in the mix by the duo of forwards. Parker on the left, tenor and soprano saxes achieving a perfect balance of bulkiness and bright-minded quarrelsomeness, Evans on the right, alternating solitary quacks and hysteric shrieks to the everlasting research for unusual combinations and successions of peculiar physical events. Yet an expert listener immediately realizes that without the remaining factors the music wouldn’t be at the same level of acoustic heftiness and unequivocal originality. Guy’s absolute domination of the low-frequency area through a wooden beast manipulated like a painter’s brush is a vision itself, his solo at the beginning of the fourth chapter a confirmation of a not enough sung magnitude. Lytton is precious and modest, never too much at the mix’s vanguard. Still, there’s no mistaking those incessant anti-rhythms and spastic fragments with negligence, an inalienable percussive creativity lying at the basis of an abnormal type of propulsion that benefits the entire group’s vibrancy.

The New York City Jazz Record review by Andrey Henkin

Alexander von Schlippenbach Trio – Bauhaus Dessau (Intakt)
Uwe Oberg/Evan Parker – Full Bloom (Jazzwerkstatt)
Evan Parker/Sten Sandell – Psalms (psi)
Evan Parker/Urs Leimgruber – Twine (Clean Feed)
Evan Parker  – Whitstable Solos (psi)
British saxophonist Evan Parker is just a few years away from his Jubilee Celebration as his country’s most celebrated jazz export. What has contributed to such remarkable longevity – particularly consideringhe inhabits the punishing avant garde sphere – is that he has been international in scope and omnivorous instyle since almost the very beginning. He’s a founding father or elder statesman in theory; in practice, he plays with the same curiosity as he did at the outset. His most stable outlet has been in a trio led by pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach with drummer Paul Lovens. Bauhaus Dessau, named for the German art center where this 2009 concert took place, is the latest in a mini-flurry of releases since 2003 by the group, which has existed for over 40 years, making itone of the longest-standing free-improvising ensembles in history. Few marriages last as long. And like a successful marriage, there is a delicate balance between knowing someone more than intimately and still being surprised by them. The three tracks, in descending lengths of 41, 12 and 9 minutes, featuring Parker solely on hefty tenor, both capture a particularly fine moment and represent a blip in their trajectory, a strange tension between history and ephemerality percolating with each moment. Three duos represent how Parker works in small groups of lesser pedigree than the Schlippenbach Trio. He maintains his personality but becomes magnanimous in how he applies himself. German pianist Uwe Oberg, 18 years Parker’s junior, firmly inhabits the world of European and international improvising Parker helped create. He is a far different player than Schlippenbach, often solemn and pastor also Parker’s tenor on Full Bloom sets aside some of its stridency for exultant beauty. Younger players looking for a sax tone to emulate should listen to this wonderfully recorded disc as a paragon. And since Oberg works in spacious, delicate movement, a kinder, gentler Parker emerges and details in his approach that might go unnoticed elsewhere are clearly audible.

Another pianist with whom Parker has worked with some frequency within the past decade is Swede Sten Sandell. He’s joined Parker’s trio with Barry Guy and Paul Lytton and both appear in drummer Paal Nilssen-Love’s Townhouse Orchestra. For the aptly-titled Psalms, recorded in the North Sea-side town of Whitstable, Sandell is behind the St. Peter’s organ matched against Parker’s tenor. Sandell is to becommended for even being able to improvise on such an unwieldy instrument. The combination of floating organ and rich saxophone is an unusual one, often sounding alien or fit for piping into a Surrealist art exhibition. One would require a very progressive congregation to hear the piety in these searching, slow-moving pieces.

Twine is an odd entry into Parker’s discography. Not because it is a saxophone duo, a format he has visited intermittently, but because his partner is Swiss tenor and soprano saxist Urs Leimgruber. To the untrained ear and perhaps even the trained one, Parker and Leimgruber’s approach to their shared instrumentsis very similar: overtones, circular breathing, plangents quawks. Leimgruber’s career started about a decade after Parker’s and one imagines the older player was a great influence. As such, we have a very different interaction than Parker’s previous meetings with, say, Steve Lacy or Joe McPhee. Instead of two distinct voices or sharp color contrast, the pair explore almost 67 minutes of grey, tones and breaths floating by, over, under, through each other, less a conversation than a series of oblique echoes.

Parker is back in Whitstable for his 13th solo saxophone disc since he began exploring the format inthe late ‘70s. It has been remarked that Parker’s solo playing, especially on soprano as is found here, is one long improvisation across the decades. Certainly it is a connecting thread as Parker moves from blustery trio to large ensemble to duos to recent interest in electronics. His solo playing is like a chef’s signature dish, minutely altered and transmogrified over the years, a dash more spice here, a longer broil there. What makes this particular serving special is the acoustic profile Parker gets from the rural church, the partner with which he duets. Whitstable Solos is not adefining statement but another footprint in Parker’s long and fascinating journey.

Improjazz reviews by Luc Bouquet and Gary May

SoJazz review by Thierry Lepin

JazzWord review by Kan Waxman

Urs Leimgruber/Evan Parker – Twine (CF 194)
The International Nothing – Less Action, Less Excitement, Less Everything (Ftarri 219)
Setting up some of the most difficult interface imaginable here – two unaccompanied reed duos – are two veteran improvisers and two younger players all of whom manage to extract panoramic timbres from their respective instruments. One common strategy is to avoid harmonic unison in favor of broken octaves or double counterpoint tropes. The side-by-side variants revealed are particularly fascinating when both musicians are play saxophones in one case, or clarinets in the other.

Nonetheless sonic supremacy shouldn’t surprise in the case of British saxophonist Evan Parker and his Swiss counterpart Urs Leimgruber on Twine. Present at the birth of Euro Improv in the mid-1960s, Parker has maintained impeccable standards since then, working with other first generation players such as bassist Barry Guy and pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach as well as a clutch of increasingly younger experimenters. A little short of a decade younger, Leimgruber was initially a members of the Fusion band OM, graduating in the 1980s to more abstract improvisations which he now specializes in, working with confreres ranging from French bassist Joëlle Léandre to German synthesizer player Thomas Lehn.

A generation removed from the saxophonists, the members of The International Nothing, German clarinetists Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke, are committed to pure abstraction, as well as more melody-based projects. Thieke, for instance, is a member of Dok Wallach, a Charles Mingus tribute band, and both play with singer Margareth Kammerer and electronic manipulator/vocalist Christof Kurzmann. Fagaschinski’s flirtation with restrained lap-top sounds also ally him with reductionist sounds. In fact while the Twine duo appears preoccupied with the energetic output of high-pitched, fortissimo and staccato timbres, the improvising on Less Action, Less Excitement, Less Everything – true to its title – slides and sluices around enervated tones, with the doubled tessitura sometimes masked by extended silences.

Occasionally reflecting the clarinets’ wooden properties, most of Fagaschinski’s and Thieke’s layered reed tones are solid and almost unbreakable. While chromatic and undulating, the double counterpoint is more moderato than agitato and except for bursts of forte shrilling, deftly expressed in mid-range tones. Polytonality abounds, with pitch vibrations occasionally taking on pipe-organ-like cohesion, and on every track, diminishing into near-inaudibility for a short period before a final variant bubbles to the sonic surface. Only rarely as well do the two lines separate either, with one becoming nearly mellow and the other sharply staccato.

“Crystal Clear Fog” is a fine example of this approach. Not only do the initial lines undulate in unison as they move infinitesimally up the scale, but one clarinetist manages to sound a grace note with almost trumpet-like in construction and another as if woodwind trills are refracting back from a piano’s innards. Eventually it appears as if the pressurized tones are constantly spilling outwards until they reach an almost lighter-than-air stasis. Following a short interlude of air being forced through two body tubes, harmonized reed chirping is mutated into strident chromaticism as the finale.

Despite this instance, the vast majority of the dual clarinetists’ timbres are gentle undulations compared to the extruded shrieks, peeps and jagged false-register runs that characterize the Parker-Leimgruber interface. Over the course of three lengthy selections, the two shift effortlessly from tenor to soprano saxophones, although it’s never clear which alternative is in use at any one time. Occasionally operating in lockstep, but more frequently like yelping dogs chasing one another, their circling timbres encompass an army of extended techniques. There are staccatissimo cries and reed bites, verbalized squeaks, lip smacks, flutter tones and tongue slaps, splayed textures and vector movements. If one player strays towards lyricism, the other’s response is splintered and staccato. And circular breathing is used to mark timbral shifts.

The two stretch their tessitura as early as “Twine”, and continue spluttering and squeaking with advanced circular tones and partially illuminated tinctures all the way to the final “Twist”. Sluicing and side-slipping into double counterpoint, with spaced puffs, honks and bell-muting tones definitely attributable to one nor the other, neither overshadows the other. Jagged reed bites taken fortissimo sometimes expose metal friction, while linear rows of ghost notes, key percussion and spetrofluctuation mirror, without copying, each other’s lines. Exhibiting the rhythmic power available from two reeds blowing at full force on “Twine”, the dissonance created by this furious overtone interplay implies additional lines then those from two sound sources. Eventually the vocalized and vibrating reed tones reach a peak of strangled cries and tongue slaps before slipping away to silence.

Meeting the doubled reed challenge in their own fashion, appreciation for each – or both – of these CDs depends only on the listeners’ preferences for pacing and dissonance.

Publico Best of 2010 List by Rodrigo Amado and Nuno Catarino

Melhores Ano Público – 2010 – Escolhas de Rodrigo Amado e Nuno Catarino

1 Sara Serpa / Ran Blake “Camera Obscura” (Inner Circle)
Longe da previsibilidade e artifício da maioria das cantoras jazz actuais, Sara Serpa dá um enorme salto artístico e afirma-se como uma das mais interessantes cantoras da actualidade. Em duo com Ran Blake, um enorme pianista que é um dos segredos mais bem guardados do jazz, assina um registo poderoso, mágico e vibrante, que evoca os grandes criadores do jazz vocal. Disco revelação do jazz nacional 2010. RA

2 Vandermark 5 “The Horse Jumps and The Shipp is Gone” (Not Two) Gravado ao vivo no clube Green Mill de Chicago, este novo registo do saxofonista Ken Vandermark é uma bomba! O saxofonista pega na sua mais celebrada formação, os Vandermark 5, e junta-lhes dois convidados de excepção; o trompetista Magnus Broo e o pianista Havard Wiik. Um equilíbrio notável entre forma e improvisação e uma atitude “take-no-prisoners” dá origem a uma música orgânica, visceral e urgente. Registo internacional do ano. RA

3 Fight the Big Bull – All is Gladness in the Kingdom (Clean Feed)
O decateto americano conta aqui com a participação do trompetista Steven Bernstein e elabora um dos mais originais discos dos últimos anos. Assente numa forte vertente composicional, a música do grupo abre alas à inspiração dos instrumentistas, sempre direccionados por um permanente sentido colectivo. Com o auxílio de Bernstein o colectivo dá mais um grande passo em frente. NC

4 Mike Pride’s From Bacteria to Boys “Betweenwhile” (Aum Fidelity) Mike Pride é, há muito, um subversivo agitador do jazz nova-iorquino. Em “Betweenwhile” reúne um quarteto explosivo que opera entre o passado e o futuro do jazz, como se de um jogo se tratasse. A seu lado, Peter Bitenc, Alexis Marcelo e o saxofonista Darius Jones, uma das grandes revelações dos últimos anos. Fogo, elegância e contenção, num registo descrito com jazz de vanguarda soul. RA

5 Red Trio – Red Trio (Clean Feed)
Revelaram-se em disco, mas não só. Para o Red Trio – Rodrigo Pinheiro (piano), Hernâni Faustino (contrabaixo) e Gabriel Ferrandini (bateria) – este 2010 foi um ano imparável: aclamação internacional, concertos em grandes salas (nacionais e internacionais) e colaborações com convidados de peso (como John Butcher ou Nate Wooley). Improvisando na constante busca de formas sonoras imprevisíveis, o trio encarnado desenvolve uma música única. Que o futuro seja deles. NC

6 Little Women “Throat” (Aum Fidelity)
Jazz com espírito punk, free com disciplina prog. Os Little Women – quarteto de Darius Jones, Travis Laplante, Andrew Smiley e Jason Nazary – apresentam um dos mais inclassificáveis discos que o ano viu nascer, um disco que vira o jazz de pernas para o ar, que mostra uma música barulhenta e irresistível, que explora os limites, que se materializa em múltiplas explosões de energia. NC

7 The Bad Plus – Never Stop (E1)
O irreverente trio de Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson e David King confirma finalmente aquilo que já muitos desconfiavam: estes moços não são apenas capazes de boas (e divertidas) versões de temas rock/pop, são também capazes de fazer uma música intensíssima, enérgica e original, que não deve nada a ninguém. Este é o primeiro disco que não inclui temas alheios e ao que parece estes já não fazem falta nenhuma. NC

8 Rudresh Mahanthappa and Steve Lehman “Dual Identity” (Clean Feed) Dois saxofonistas, virtuosos e inovadores, tentam desvendar os códigos do futuro do jazz. Com uma abordagem altamente pessoal e acompanhados por três grandes músicos – Liberty Ellman, Matt Brewer e Damion Reid – destilam um jazz intenso, angular e complexo, e constroem uma entidade musical abstracta que se apresenta como o paradigma do jazz moderno. RA

9 Parker/Guy/Lytton + Peter Evans – Scenes in the House of Music (Clean Feed) Constituindo um dos mais celebrados trios do jazz improvisado europeu, Evan Parker, Barry Guy e Paul Lytton são três gigantes que garantiram há muito um lugar de destaque na história do jazz moderno. Neste disco, registo de um concerto memorável na Casa da Música, convidam o extraordinário trompetista Peter Evans e formam um quadrado perfeito, impressionista e caleidoscópico. Aquilo que mais se aproxima de uma pura magia sonora. RA

10 Henry Threadgill Zooid “This Brings Us To Vol.2” (Pi)
A aventura criativa de Threadgill continua. Com Zooid, o seu notável projecto para o novo século, realiza explorações de timbre, estrutura e instrumentação. No seu universo, o de um verdadeiro músico dos músicos, nada é o que parece. Em múltiplos planos de percepção, cruzam-se jazz de vanguarda, blues, música contemporânea, jazz latino e muita improvisação, estruturada e consistente como poucas. RA

11 Paul Motian Trio “Lost in a Dream” (ECM)
Mais do que a enorme vitalidade de Motian, mestre absoluto do drumming mundial, a grande surpresa de “Lost in a Dream” vem de Jason Moran – mais contido, com um toque europeu que lhe assenta como uma luva – e acima de tudo, de Chris Potter, que aqui utiliza uma subtileza e suavidade tímbrica que raramente lhe é ouvida. Um trio clássico num registo poético e lírico. RA

12 LUME – Lisbon Underground Music Ensemble (JACC)
A “big band” dirigida por Marco Barroso chega finalmente ao disco e confirma aquilo que muitos já conheciam das actuações ao vivo da banda: jazz multi-referencial, temas que atravessam décadas da história em poucos minutos, de Ellington a Sun Ra à velocidade da luz. Um brilhante projecto nacional que não pára de surpreender e merecerá todo o reconhecimento (aqui e lá fora). NC

13 Vijay Iyer – Solo (Act)
O pianista aventura-se a solo e o resultado já não surpreende ninguém. Trabalhando uma selecção de standards como “Darn That Dream” e clássicos de Monk (“Epistrophy”) e Ellington (“Fleurette Africaine”), Vijay passa também por “Human Nature” (belíssimo tema de Michael Jackson). Em qualquer desses ambientes, o pianista nunca abandona o seu típico registo, sóbrio e metódico, inteligente no desenvolvimento dos temas, criativo e elegante. NC

14 Steve Swell Slammin’ The Infinite “5000 Poems” (Not Two)
Nome incontornável do jazz de vanguarda norte-americano e um dos maiores trombonistas da actualidade, Steve Swell já não gravava um disco assim há muito tempo. Em “5000 Poems”, com um quinteto bem calibrado, surpreende tudo e todos com um registo vibrante, pleno de inspiração e poder, na linha dos grandes clássicos free dos anos 60 e 70. Composições brilhantes e discursos solistas de cortar a respiração. RA

15 Mário Laginha Trio “Mongrel” (ONC)
Cada vez mais focado no seu próprio universo, Mário Laginha continua a seguir a sua estrela aventurando-se em projectos de alto risco. Em “Mongrel” aborda a obra de um dos seus compositores favoritos, Frédéric Chopin, e recusando soluções fáceis, opera uma transformação profunda das suas composições, alterando compassos, tempos, melodias e harmonias. Raramente uma fusão ou “mestiçagem” de estilos musicais deu origem a uma música tão pura e orgânica. RA

The Village Voice Jazz Best of 2010 List (texts by Francis Davis)

Jason Moran Tops Himself
The adventurous Ten headlines the Voice’s Fifth Annual Jazz Critics’ Poll

It wouldn’t be exaggerating much to say that Jason Moran’s only competition in the Fifth Annual Village Voice Jazz Critics’ Poll was Jason Moran. Ten, his first trio album in seven years, won Album of the Year in a landslide, but that’s not all. The pianist figured prominently on the runner-up, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Bunky Green’s Apex, and Charles Lloyd’s Mirror, which finished fourth—only a surprise No. 3 showing from rising guitarist Mary Halvorson kept him from a hat trick. Add Paul Motian’s Lost in a Dream, on which Moran and saxophonist Chris Potter are virtually the veteran drummer’s co-leaders, and that gives the 2010 MacArthur Fellow four appearances in the Top 10—a fete unprecedented in this poll’s short history and unlikely to be equaled anytime soon.
Mary HalvorsonVijay IyerPaul MotianArts, Entertainment, and MediaI wanted this year’s poll to do the impossible, to go some way toward restoring my faith in the democratic process following November’s dismal midterm elections. And in its modest way, it did. With Moran and drummer Nasheet Waits varying the dynamics and dancing around the beat while bassist Tarus Mateen holds fast to it, Ten easily passes the most crucial test facing any piano-trio album: You never find yourself wishing for horns. It’s an extremely worthy winner, and listening to it again as I write, not only do I feel guilty about its absence on my own ballot, I find myself applauding my colleagues for showing smarts I evidently lack.

Since the poll’s 2006 inception, I’ve come to think of my wrap-up as akin to a State of the Union. Starting with that first year’s overwhelming evidence of the mainstream widening to accommodate Ornette Coleman without him so much as meeting it halfway, the results of each subsequent poll have revealed an encouraging new trend: in ’07, something approaching equality for jazz women behind winner Maria Schneider; in ’08, how this country’s changing ethnic demographics are letting jazz go global without leaving home; last year, signs of a long-needed infusion of young blood. This year? Well, Ten is the second consecutive piano-trio winner, following Vijay Iyer’s Historicity, and joining it in the Top 10 are Keith Jarrett’s duets with bassist Charlie Haden, and solo efforts by Iyer and Geri Allen. But a list dominated by pianists strikes me as coincidence rather than as a harbinger of anything in particular.

What might be more significant is that with the majors having all but abandoned jazz until further notice, independents are enjoying a boom, albeit one probably more aesthetic than financial. Pi Recordings claimed four spots in the Top 20, as many as Blue Note and Nonesuch combined placed in the Top 50, the only majors to appear there. ECM enjoyed its usual good showing, although this year’s overall winner might be Clean Feed, a relatively new Portuguese label fast becoming this era’s Soul Note/Black Saint in terms of both quality and prolificacy—a staggering two dozen of its 2010 releases received votes, led by Chris Lightcap’s Big Mouth at No. 12 and Bay Area bassist Lisa Mezzacappa, who tied singer/songwriter Gregory Porter for Best Debut. But along with the perseverance of these indie labors of love, the logical takeway from a Top 10 featuring two women, as well as four musicians under 40 (including Mahanthappa and Iyer, both native-born Americans of Indian descent), is that the trends suggested by previous years’ results genuinely were trends, not just blips. Which I’d say confirms this annual survey’s worth beyond providing readers and participants alike with a catch-up shopping list.

The 2010 Voice Jazz Critics’ Poll: The Results

Jazz Album of the Year
1. Jason Moran Ten (Blue Note)
2. Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green Apex(Pi)
3. Mary Halvorson Quintet Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12)
4. Charles Lloyd Quartet Mirror (ECM)
5. Henry Threadgill’s Zooid This Brings Us to, Vol. 2 (Pi)
6. Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden Jasmine(ECM)
7. Steve Coleman & Five Elements Harvesting Semblances and Affinities(Pi)
8. Vijay Iyer Solo (ACT)
9. Geri Allen Flying Toward the Sound (Motéma)
10. Paul Motian Lost in a Dream (ECM)
11. Dave Holland Octet Pathways (Dare2)
12. Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth Deluxe(Clean Feed)
13. Brad Mehldau Highway Rider(Nonesuch)
14. Myra Melford’s Be Bread The Whole Tree Gone(Firehouse 12)
15. James Moody4B(IPO)
16. Randy Weston & His African Rhythms Sextet The Storyteller (Motéma)
17. Mostly Other People Do the Killing Forty Fort (Hot Cup)
18. Marc Ribot Silent Movies (Pi)
19. Fred Hersch Trio Whirl(Palmetto)
20. Regina Carter Reverse Thread (E1)
21. Claudia Quintet Royal Toast(Cuneiform)
22. Danilo PerezProvidencia(Mack Avenue)
23. Christian Scott Yesterday You Said Tomorrow (Concord)
24. Nels Cline Singers Initiate(Cryptogramophone)
25. Microscopic Septet Friday The Thirteenth: The Micros Play Monk(Cuneiform Records)
26. Tomasz Stanko Quintet Dark Eyes(ECM)
27. Michael Formanek The Rub and Spare Change (ECM)
28. Rudresh Mahanthappa & Steve Lehman Dual Identity(Clean Feed) “My preference for this stand-off with a fellow altoist near Mahanthappa’s own age comes down to their shared belief in the value of stridency (the legacy of Jackie McLean) and the sharper edge that Liberty Ellman’s guitar lends the rhythm section.”- Francis Davis
29. Mike Reed’s People, Places & Things Stories and Negotiations(482 Music)
30. Tom Harrell Roman Nights(High Note)
31. Irene Kral Second Chance (Jazzed Media)
32. Bill Charlap & Renee Rosnes Double Portrait (Blue Note)
33. Steve Lacy November (Intakt)
34. William Parker Organ Quartet Uncle Joe’s Spirit House (Centering)
35. Ideal BreadTransmit: Volume 2 of the Music of Steve Lacy(Cuneiform)
36. Billy BangPrayer for Peace(TUM)
37. John Escreet Don’t Fight the Inevitable(Mythology)
38. Parker/Guy/Lytton + Peter Evans Scenes in the House of Music (Clean Feed)
39. Jason Adasiewicz Sun Rooms (Delmark)
39. Kris Davis-Ingrid Laubrock-Tyshawn Sorey Paradoxical Frog (Clean Feed)
41. William ParkerI Plan to Stay a Believer: The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield(AUM Fidelity)
42. Guillermo KleinDomador de Huellas: Music of “Cuchi” Leguizamon (Sunnyside)
43. Lee Konitz New Quartet Live at the Village Vanguard (Enja)
44. Nels Cline Dirty Baby (Cryptogramophone)
45. Wadada Leo Smith & Ed BlackwellThe Blue Mountain’s Sun Drummer(Kabell)
46. Esperanza Spalding Chamber Music Society (Heads Up)
47. Either/Orchestra Mood Music for Time Travellers (Accurate)
48. Bad Plus Never Stop (E1)
49. Chucho Valdes & the Afro.Cuban Messengers Chucho’s Steps (Four Quarters)
50. Pat Metheny Orchestrion27
Critics were asked to list 10 albums in descending order, with 10 points awarded for their #1, 9 for #2, etc. (On ballots where choices were listed alphabetically, each received 5.5 points.) The first bold number indicates total points; the number in parentheses is the tally of ballots on which a CD appeared, which was used as a tiebreaker.

Jazz Reissue of the Year
1. Henry Threadgill/Air The Complete Novus and Columbia Recordings(Mosaic)
2. Miles Davis Bitches Brew: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (Columbia/Legacy)
3. Stan Getz & Kenny Barron People Time: The Complete Recordings (Sunnyside)
4. Ahmad Jamal Trio The Complete Argo Sessions 1956–62 (Mosaic)
5. John Carter & Bobby Bradford The Complete Revelation Sessions (Mosaic Select)
6. Philly Joe Jones & Dameronia Look, Stop and Listen (Uptown)
7. Duke Ellington The Complete 1932–1940 Brunswick, Columbia, and Master Recordings (Mosaic)
8. Sun Ra Heliocentric Worlds (ESP-Disk)
9. Nat King Cole Riffin’ (Hip-O-Select)
9. Jemeel Moondoc The Muntu Recordings (No Business)
Critics were asked to list three reissues in descending order, with three points awarded for #1, 2 for #2, and 1 for #3. The first bold number indicates total points; the number in parentheses tallies ballots on which a CD appeared, which was used as a tiebreaker.

Best Vocal Album
1. Cassandra Wilson Silver Pony (Blue Note)
2. Irene Kral Second Chance (Jazzed Media)
2. Esperanza Spalding Chamber Music Society (Heads Up)
4. Theo Bleckman I Dwell in Possibility (Winter & Winter)
5. Dee Dee Bridgewater Eleanora Fagan (1915–1959): To Billie with Love from Dee Dee (Emarcy)
6. Rebecca MartinWhen I Was Long Ago (Sunnyside)
7. Catherine Russell Inside This Heart of Mine (World Village)
8. Norma Winstone Stories Yet to Tell (ECM)

Best Debut
1. Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait & Switch What Is Known (Clean Feed)
1. Gregory Porter Water(Motema)
3. Eric HarlandVoyager, Live by Night (Space Time)

Best Latin

1. Chucho Valdes & the Afro-Cuban Messengers Chucho’s Steps (Four Quarters)
2. Guillermo Klein Domador de Huellas: Musica del Cuchi Leguizamon(Sunnyside)
3. Conrad Herwig The Latin Side of Herbie Hancock(Half Note)
4. Danilo Perez Providencia (Mack Avenue)
5. Paquito D’Rivera Panamericana Suite (MCG)
For Best Vocal, Debut, and Latin albums, critics were asked to name one album apiece, with no point system.

This poll has become my labor of love—my equivalent of social networking, and, for a couple weeks once the ballots start filling my inbox, just about my only social life. Along the way this year, in addition to a hundred or so albums I might otherwise not ever have known existed, I also got word of layoffs and cutbacks, a corneal abrasion, a nagging heel injury, the death of a mother, the birth of a daughter, and the loss of James Moody to pancreatic cancer. Thanks to this year’s 120 participants for keeping me up to date: David R. Adler, Scott Albin, Clifford Allen, A.D. Amorosi, Larry Applebaum, Chris Barton, Nick Bewsey, Larry Birmbaum, Paul Blair, Larry Blumenfeld, Philip Booth, Michael Bourne, Shaun Brady, Marcia Breton, Christian Broecking, Stuart Broomer, Brent Burton, John Chacona, Nate Chinen, Fred Cisterna, Troy Collins, Thomas Conrad, J.D. Considine, Owen Cordle, Lawrence Cosentino, Michael Coyle, Francis Davis, Steve Dollar, Laurence Donohue-Greene, Alain Drout, Ken Dryden, Donald Elfman, Steve Feeney, Colin Fleming, Ken Franckling, Phil Freeman, David Fricke, Richard Gehr, Andrew Gilbert, Ted Gioia, Lars Gotrich, Kurt Gottschalk, Steve Greenlee, George Grella, James Hale, Ed Hazell, Don Heckman, Tad Hendrickson, Andrey Henkin, W. Kim Heron, Geoffrey Himes, Eugene Holley, Lyn Horton, Tom Hull, Peter Hum, Robert Iannapollo, Josh Jackson, Patrick Jarenwattananon, Willard Jenkins, Martin Johnson, George Kanzler, Fred Kaplan, Larry Kart, Mark Keresman, Bill King, Elzy Kolb, Art Lange, Will Layman, Devin Leonard, Aidan Levy, John Litweiler, Martin Longley, Suzanne Lorge, Kevin Lynch, John McDonough, Shaunna Morrison Machosky, Jim Macnie, Howard Mandel, Peter Margasak, Bill Milkowski, Dan Morgenstern, John Murph, Russ Musto, Marc Myers, Michael G. Nastos, Dan Ouellette, Ted Panken, Thierry Peremarti, Bob Porter, Doug Ramsey, Derk Richardson, Joel Roberts, Chris Robinson, Britt Robson, Jim Roberts, Michael Rosenstein, Lloyd Sachs, Gene Seymour, Mike Shanley, Bill Shoemaker, Hank Shteamer, Slim, Chip Stern, Zan Stewart, Jeff Stockton, W, Royal Stokes, Mark Stryker, John F. Szwed, Jeff Tamarkin, Neil Tesser, Ludwig Van Trikt, George Varga, Andrew Velez, Seth Colter Walls, Jason Weiss, Michael J. West, Kevin Whitehead, K. Leander Williams, Josef Woodard, Ron Wynn, and Scott Yanow.

Peter Margasak’s Best of 2010 list (Chicago Reader)

I don’t mind making year-end lists, and in some cases I even enjoy reading them—but anybody who bothers arguing about them is a fool. It’s impossible to hear everything released in a year, and the “consensus” picks—the albums that show up on list after list—say more about how widely available and heavily promoted a piece of music is than they do about its quality. On the day I wrote this, the ten records below stood out in my mind as the best of 2010. Ask me to choose again in a week, though, and I might come up with a different list.

10. Seu Jorge and Almaz Seu Jorge and Almaz (Now-Again/Stones Throw) A lot of people first heard Brazilian singer Seu Jorge thanks to his David Bowie homage in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, but even at the time I thought it was the least interesting thing he’d done—so I certainly didn’t expect this spontaneously recorded collection of covers to be the highlight of his career. Jorge and Almaz (a nimble trio featuring two members of Nacao Zumbi) reinterpret Brazilian classics by stars like Jorge Ben, Tim Maia, and Martinho da Vila, familiar English-language tunes from Kraftwerk, Roy Ayers, and Michael Jackson, and a heavy obscurity from a group called Tribo Massahi. The scrappy band borrows from dub, psychedelia, and rock to inject its loose, suave arrangements—whether of sambas, bossa novas, or R&B hits—with electric vitality.

9. Koboku Senju Selektiv Hogst (Sofa) This year my favorite album of free improvisation is by Japanese-Norwegian quintet Koboku Senju, which consists of Tetuzi Akiyama (guitar), Toshimaru Nakamura (no-input mixing board), Eivind Lonning (trumpet), Espen Reinertsen (saxophone and flute), and Martin Taxt (tuba). The familar vocabularies of the horns and guitar are nowhere in evidence, and the music trafficks in no identifiable genre—even the pieces that sprang from prompts like “death metal” or “funeral march” called out by band members sound nothing like those styles. Koboku Senju makes its own road, finding a calm through-line across the turbulence it creates and lending an austere and meditative beauty to a profusion of details and textures that easily could’ve been dizzying. It’s useless to try to identify foreground and background; the pleasure comes from how the parts fit together and morph en masse.

8. Ideal Bread Transmit: Vol. 2 of the Music of Steve Lacy (Cuneiform) Though soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy was one of the first jazz musicians to launch a repertory band—in the early 60s he played the music of Thelonious Monk with School Days—he’s hardly an easy subject for such a group. (Of course, the same thing could be said of Monk.) Lacy’s exploratory aesthetic and dry, austere tone—a huge departure from the soprano’s usual sweet sound—are so inextricably linked with his material that it’s hard to do anything that doesn’t sound either imitative or disrespectful. But Ideal Bread—baritone saxophonist Josh Sinton, trumpeter Kirk Knuffke, bassist Reuben Radding, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara—have done Lacy proud again. Whether synthesizing ideas from several different Lacy arrangements of the same tune or extrapolating solos from sections of the written score, they play the master’s music with a thoughtful, focused rigor that’s on par with his.

7. Atomic Theater Tilters Vols. 1 and 2 (Jazzland) This Scandinavian quintet seems to turn up in my top ten every time it makes a record. Atomic has evolved constantly since forming in 1999, and over the past few years they’ve pushed their bold postbop toward a much more open and spontaneous sound—making their music more exciting and challenging without losing a bit of its satisfying soulfulness. I’m cheating a little here, as these excellent 2009 live recordings are spread across two releases, but either one would’ve made my list alone.

6. Khaira Arby Timbuktu Tarab (Clermont Music) Malian singer Khaira Arby, a major figure in her homeland for more than a decade, released her first U.S. album this year and followed up with a stateside tour that included two knockout performances at Chicago’s World Music Festival. Ali Farka Toure was one of her cousins, and the kind of spindly, cyclical guitar licks he made famous turn up all over Timbuktu Tarab, interwoven with terse n’goni and fiddle parts; the music also has affinities with the so-called desert rock of bands like Tinariwen. What sets it apart is Arby’s searing, powerful voice, ironclad pitch control, and regal bearing. This is not only the best African record I heard in 2010 but one of the best I’ve heard in many years.

5. Marc Ribot Silent Movies (Pi) For this gorgeous solo album, mercurial guitarist Marc Ribot recorded music he’s scored for films both real and imaginary, abetted on a few tracks by subtle atmospheric noise from Keefus Ciancia (credited with “soundscapes” on the sleeve). As much as I’ve enjoyed the recent outpouring of technically dazzling fingerstyle guitar records, I like the rough-edged power of these electric-guitar pieces even more—they favor raw emotion and dark, harrowing beauty over hypnotizing intricacy. With his off-kilter style and jarring stabs of dissonance, Ribot has always been great at ugliness, but he’s never made it sound as graceful and vulnerable as he does here.

4. John McNeil and Bill McHenry Chill Morn He Climb Jenny (Sunnyside) On their second album together, trumpeter John McNeil and tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry carry on their convincing reappraisal of the “cool” west-coast jazz of the 1950s. Prodded by the spiky swing of drummer Jochen Rueckert and bassist Joe Martin, they resurrect tunes by overlooked pianist Russ Freeman and bring subversive humor to 40s pop tunes like “Moonlight in Vermont” and “Aren’t You Glad You’re You.” The classic west-coast sound isn’t particularly aggressive, but it’d be a mistake to write it off as lightweight or insubstantial because of that—and McNeil and McHenry demonstrate exactly why, bringing a stunning rapport to the exhilarating multilinear improvisations typical of the style.

3. Alasdair Roberts & Friends Too Long in This Condition (Drag City) Alasdair Roberts started his musical career in the mid-90s as leader of the Will Oldham-worshipping Appendix Out, but since then he’s committed himself to Scottish folk. On this powerful album, which consists of nine traditional tunes and one original instrumental, he brings contemporary vitality, parched soul, and spontaneous, unmannered beauty to his interpretations, distinguishing himself from just about everyone else I’ve heard sing this repertoire. He’s joined by a stellar support cast, including English folk singer Emily Portman on concertina and backing vocals and Trembling Bells guitarist Ben Reynolds on lap steel.

2. Parker/Guy/Lytton + Peter Evans Scenes in the House of Music (Clean Feed)
The trio of reedist Evan Parker, bassist Barry Guy, and percussionist Paul Lytton is a paragon of European free improvisation, carrying on the first-wave style of brutally intense radical abstraction. Every member has a profoundly individual vocabulary, deployed in the service of rigorous full-ensemble interaction—no soloing over changes here—and the group’s energy and inventiveness haven’t flagged after nearly 30 years. It’s a testament to the wizardry of young trumpeter Peter Evans that he can step into this lineup of titans and improve it—his sensitivity and musicality place him in the uppermost rank among improvisers the world over.

1. Jason Moran Ten (Blue Note)
Pianist Jason Moran, bassist Tarus Mateen, and drummer Nasheet Waits have played together as the Bandwagon for a decade, and the title of the trio’s latest album, Ten, is a tip of the hat to that fact. They’ve been one of the best bands in jazz for that entire stretch in part because of the allegiance the rhythm section shows Moran, which results in a rare kind of ensemble drive. Ten complements Moran’s sturdy, consistently surprising originals with pieces by fellow iconoclasts Thelonious Monk, Conlon Nancarrow, Leonard Bernstein, and Jaki Byard, but despite the pianist’s dominant role in determining the group’s repertoire, its roiling, cohesive performances are never less than collective creations.

Paris Transatlantic review by Jason Bivins

Evan Parker / Barry Guy / Paul Lytton + Peter Evans – SCENES FROM THE HOUSE OF MUSIC (CF 196)
When an improviser accepts an invitation to play with a combo of such long standing and immediate distinctiveness, is it better to try and fit in to a perceived aesthetic or to lob bombs in the hopes of destabilizing and redirecting things? In posing this question, I’m not suggesting that the PGL sound is in any way ossified, any more than the scads of other working groups that have so energized free improvisation over the decades. Just listen to the distance between, say, Atlanta and Zafiro as proof. Rather, there’s simply nothing else like the way they inhabit certain kinds of territories, and the peculiarity of their exchanges. On this fantastic festival date, Evans’ presence makes the music both more flinty and more burnished than before, in ways that recall George Lewis’ guest spot on Hook Drift & Shuffle. The trumpeter spits out fire, but also sails above the music and generates some wonderful counterpoint; he inserts himself into the dense foliage of the music but is also a quirky odd man out with his occasionally puckish, neo-freebop lines. And with the trio in such fine form, it’s a pleasure of a record. The grain of the music is subtle but it’s stitched together by that frisson we love in this band, its circulation of overtones, hints of melancholy, sudden dropoffs, and quicksilver pace. And while I want to keep raving about Evans, there are marvelous features for Guy (a wonderfully metallic solo to open the third “Scene”) and Parker (a frenzied skirl to open the fourth) throughout. Exploratory and intense as ever, this performance has an audible joy and humor to it that confirms the exuberance of the players.