What am I hoping Creepy Claus has in his bag this year? He’s going to need a big bag ‘cuz I got a big list . . .
Music – Now that the DVDs are out of the way, let’s move on to the realm of sound:
Michael Manring & David Cullen – Equilibre: Bassist Manring is easily one of my favorite bassists. He takes the instrument far beyond simply being a rhythmic instrument, making it sing in high registers that most people may not recognize as bass. Here he pairs up with an acoustic guitarist to create, as usual, intriging and inventive textures. GOT
Brian Bromberg – Metal: Another bassist doing unusual things on the instrument. I’ve heard this dude in other settings and really didn’t care for him, but this album has him doing something so outside of his norm that it’s really cool stuff. Instead of the smooth jazz he’s typically known for (blech) he’s doing some weird rock-tinged fusion, and it’s good.
The Bad Plus – Prog: I put off buying this over and over again and now it’s Christmas, so why not just add it onto the list? I really enjoyed their first album, but found that they seemed to get a little unfocused on the last two for some reason, and this one sounds a little more back on track, with some unusual material choices like Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” David Bowie’s “Life on Mars,” Burt Bacharach’s “This Guy’s In Love With You,” and Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.” You know I have to hear it just for the last one alone. GOT
Tord Gustavsen Trio – Changing Places & The Ground: Son of a bitch. I knew it would happen. I kept putting off buying this group’s latest, Being There, for one reason or another, and then “Christmas list time” came. I swore I put this on my list, and so I never bought it. It turns out I didn’t – I left it off because I was just certain I was going to have to buy Being There well before Christmas. Well, it’s Christmas now and I don’t have it.
You can pretty much hear the cold of the northern European regions these guys come from in this music, but it’s not that alienating, bitter cold – it’s the kind of stuff that makes snow and ice look beautiful and serene instead of painfully, frightfully cold. Label ECM is good at that, but some artists on that label are better at it than others . . .
Arild Andersen with Vassilis Tsabropoulos and John Marshall – The Triangle: I can’t hardly pronounce two of these three dudes’ names, and spoken together it sounds like I’m eating cheese and talking at the same time, but like that Tord guy above, it’s good, quiet jazz in a particular mood that seems to suit my needs lately.
Oregon – 1000 Kilometers: One of my final downloads from Emusic before I gave up in favor of actual CDs for good was two “discs” by Oregon, a band I knew only by name, and slightly by reputation as a bit of a lite-jazz outfit. Turns out that classification was partially wrong – they’re more a chamber-jazz group that went astray in the 80s, only to come back to their roots in the later 90s, releasing this album to pretty much universal acclaim this year.
Eno-related – Discreet Music GOT, Cluster & Eno and After The Heat: I know, I know – I’m a pretty decent sized Eno fan and I don’t own Discreet Music? I’m looking to correct that soon. I’m also including two discs from the dudes in Cluster that he worked with with that are considered “ambient classics,” if such a term exists. I’ve been wanting these a long, long time, but I can wait even longer – it’s just part of being a fan of ambient music.
Erik Friedlander – Block Ice And Propane: You know he has to be a fantastic cellist when both rock and jazz fans are interested in his solo works. Cellists just don’t tend to draw big fan bases who get excited about their new works, but when they’re as daring and unusual as Friedlander is, it is warranted.
Rob Crow – Living Well: While I’m not quite sure that Crow’s band Pinback’s latest album quite makes it onto my best-o-07 list, I did find that what I heard from his solo album piqued my interest quite a bit. I honestly can’t tell you much more than that. GOT
Larry Coryell – Spaces Revisited: I’m not at all familiar with jazz guitarist Coryell. I only knew of him by reputation, and strangely Spaces, what little of it could be made out in clips, didn’t do much for me but this sounded intriguing as hell. Tight band – hard, driving guitar work with the right twists and turns that made me go “whoa” when I first heard it. GOT
Dave Liebman – Back On The Corner: Saxophonist Liebman revisits territory covered by his former employer, Miles Davis, taking a very different approach. In fact, had there been no mention of On the Corner or Miles, I might not have picked up on the connection (besides knowing Liebman’s involvement). GOT
Joe Zawinul – Brown Street: Zawinul passed away this year leaving behind quite a musical legacy – tenures with Cannonball Adderly, Miles Davis, and, of course, Weather Report – as well as a solo career that might not have gotten quite as much notice as it deserved. It appears he went out on top, as this album started getting rave reviews when it came out, months before his death, and from what I’ve heard they are well deserved. Backed by the WDR Big Band, Zawinul runs through a good selection of his entire career with his own very strong band, and it’s a great way to summarize his career.
Next up, a small selection of books . . .