Check the Document, Not Yer Memory

I have to correct an error I made on this list, by not doing what the title of this post says.

The clear high point for the Swedish rocker Gasolin’ was Gasolin’ 3, not the much milder and more tentative debut.


EDIT: Correcting the Correction —


No wonder I got confused … there were two versions of their third release. One in Swedish, one in English. Baker produced both. The one that zammed me so much was Gasolin’ (period), the version with lyrics I understand.

The Air Is Still and the Light Is Cool #24

Various, Pop Royale (2011)

This is (ahem) a mixdisc assembled by me. When I was giving a guest lecture at an Arts Criticism class a couple weeks ago, I was caught more off-guard than I expected by the question “What is your taste?” And I gave a lamer-than-optimal answer. Something on the order of:  I’m very eclectic (do everything but childrens’ and straight classical). Have a few styles like trad Celtic and Flamenco vocals that I cannot bear, but that’s me not a judgement on the musics. Lyrics matter to me all the time — dippy words can drag down even excellent playing — but the most outstanding international songs work even if you don’t know the language. I’m more interested in what’s emerging than mulling over or even celebrating the past.

Then, a couple days ago, I ran across this disc, which I’m going to present as a compact incarnation of my taste. With some caveats, of course. In this same year-end sequence I had discs devoted to international and hip-hop, but those are represented here and if I could do a dream radio sequence it would be like this — all the transitions work, whether standouts from fine albums, best tracks on flawed releases, or long shots that nail the bullseye. Only one complaint (“Air Is Still” recommendations get to have one flaw): the last track ends too abruptly.

The final note is that around 2010 is when I felt I was hearing close to all the releases that I needed to hear. That I could stitch together a program like this with confidence. These days, the pens have to be a lot tighter — and I know there’s more things running around outside them.

  1. Poly Styrene, “I Luv Ur Sneakers”
  2. Paul Simon, “The Afterlife”
  3. Bombino. “Tar Hani” (My Love)
  4. Shabazz Palaces, “An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum”
  5. Serengeti, “Long Ears”
  6. Kiran Ahluwalia, “Mustt Mustt”
  7. Steve Cropper/Buddy Miller, “The Slummer the Slum”
  8. Pistol Annies, “Lemon Drop”
  9. Vijay Iyer, “Duality”
  10. Banquet of the Spirits, “Briel”
  11. Tom Waits, “Hell Broke Luce”
  12. Blaqstarr, “Wonder Woman”
  13. Wynton Marsalis/Eric Clapton, “Ice Cream”
  14. The Vivs, “Are You Coming Around?”
  15. James Vincent McMorrow, “Sparrow & the Wolf”
  16. Younger Brother, “Shine”
  17. Battles, “Africastle”
  18. Oneohtrix Point Never, “Andro”

Improvise Through the Mess: Jazz 2017 Compilation

  1. Jaimie Branch, “Jump Off”
  2.                           “Theme 101”
  3. Jonas Fujiwara, “Diving for Quarters”
  4. Camille, “Sous le Sable”
  5. Anouar Brahem, “Persopolis’s Mirage”
  6. Paul Jones, “Clean”
  7. Ran Blake/Dominique Eade, “It’s Alright, Ma”
  8. Ron Miles, “I Am a Man”
  9. Alma Micic, “Cry Me a River”
  10. Mary Halvorson Quartet, “Rachmiah” (John Zorn)
  11. Alice Coltrane, “Rama Rama”
  12. Wadada Leo Smith, “Adagio: Monkishness — A Cinematic Vision of Monk Playing Solo Piano”

Five Slow Burners

What these records have in common is that I checked them out more than twice during 2017 and they finally snapped into place as pretty damn good after the year was over. (I mean, Top 40 maybes.)

  1. Reina del Cid, Rerun City (self-released). Unadorned music and careful songwriting that works on all but a couple tracks. Observations about love and behavior as well as fantasy and portraits. This is one do-it-yourself I’m more than glad came to be. “Beverly” (which contains the title phrase) is the best song about the redemptive power of movies in quite a while.
  2. The Domestics, Little Darkness (tktktktktk). The vigorous two voices and scattered strong lines became a more solid program in the last few days. Informed by personal anguish and hard times, no question. Then I found out they were victims of one of the most unbelievable promotional muck-ups ever. When this finds a home, seek it out.
  3. Jolie Holland & Samathan Parton, Wildflower Blues (Cinquefoil). The only Be Good Tanyas album that got to me was the debut, which features contributions by Jolie Holland even though she had already left the group. This reunites her with another ex-Be Good. Let’s start with three brilliantly realized covers: Townes Van Zandt’s “You Are Not Needed Now,” Michael Hurley’s “Jocko’s Lament” and Boob Dylan’s “Minstrel Boy” (with added lyrics by Holland). Then add that while the Van Zandt leads off the program, the original title number makes a perfect pairing. And the new-song writing doesn’t let up. Damn, this might be a Top 20.
  4. Roscoe Mitchell, Before There Was Sound (Nessa, 2011). This just sat (idiotically) on a listen-to-again shelf for five years or so. Includes Fred Berry, trumpet and flugelhorn, Malachi Favors, bass and Alvin Fiedler, drums. Recorded in mid-’65 and of course the parts are not in place, but a rich pleasure for me over the years is to follow the growth and flowering of the Art-Ensemble related Chicago soniverse. A must for fans. And who wouldn’t want the earliest version (I think) of Favors’s “Akhenaten”?
  5. Nick Photinos, Petits Artefacts (New Amsterdam). Not surprised this took a while to come into focus. Pretty eccentric. This saves me an all-too-wordy explanation. Let’s just say that after enough exposure, all the little pieces fit together.



First 2017 Year-End Disc — “Related Internationals”


  1. David Lopato, “Ladrang”
  2. Joyce/Dori Caymmi, “Joaozinho Boa Pinta”
  3. Hermeto Pascoal, “Mavumvavumpefoco”
  4. Pandang Food Tigers, “Barely a Breath In Your Parenthesis”
  5. Sabrina Malheiros, “Em Paz”
  6. Miguel Zenon, “Academia”
  7. Lila Downs, “Urge”
  8. Anat Cohen/Marcello Goncalves,“Otra Coisa”
  9. Rudesh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition, “Alap”/”Snap”
  10. Amjad Ali Khan/Amaan Ali Bangash/AyaanAli Bangash/Elmira Darvarova, “Gentle Sunset” (Raga Marwa)

The Soundtrack That Was Supposed To Have Sustained Me in NYC

  1. Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet, Landfall (Nonesuch — coming out Feb. 16)
  2. Courtney Barnett/Kurt Vile, Lotta Sea Lice (Matador, etc.)
  3. Kit Downes, Obsidian (ECM — coming out January 19)
  4. Vijay Iyer Sextet, Far From Over (ECM) — which I didn’t put on my Top Jazz lists only because I figured everybody else would.
  5. Jaguares, [45] (BIKO/EMI, 2008) — these guys gave one of the most overwhelming shows D & I ever saw (saying something), and I happened to find out we did not have this, their last record to date.
  6. Khruangbin, Con Todo El Mundo (Night Time Stories). Poised, transcendent peace centered on voices.
  7. Populous, Night Safari (Bad Panda). See the Dean’s comments.
  8.  Steven Wilson, To The Bone (Caroline). Porcupine Tree guy mixes pop and progressive brilliantly. Prize winner in UK, strong cult figure in US. Hey, he had me with a song called “People Who Eat Darkness,” after the unbeatable, nonfiction murder mystery set in Japan.


NPR Jazz Critics Poll 2017

The results are in.

My selections were a lot closer to the second 10 choices …

Best New Releases

Various, Celebrate Ornette (Song X)
Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, Incidentals (ECM)
Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan, Small Town (ECM)
Wadada Leo Smith, Najwa (TUM)
Paul Jones, Clean (Outside Music)
J.D. Allen, Radio Flyer (Savant)
Wadada Leo Smith, Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk (TUM)
Ron Miles, I Am a Man (Yellowbird)
Kirk Knuffke, Cherryco (SteepleChase)
Greg Abate, Road To Forever (Whaling City Sound)
Reissues or Historical
The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane: Turiyasangitananda (Luaka Bop)
Thelonious Monk Quintet, Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 (soundtrack) (Sam/Saga)
Best Vocal
Dominique Eade/Ran Blake, Town and Country (Sunnyside)
Best Debut
Jaime Branch, Fly or Die (International Anthem)
Best Latin
Miguel Zenon, Tipico (Miel Music)