Archive

Posts Tagged ‘jazz’

Dave Douglas – Be Still

16th Jul 12 (Mon) Leave a comment

My favorite living trumpet player is most definitely, without a doubt, the wonderful and talented melodic-lyricist Dave Douglas.  Next on the docket for him is Be Still, a collection of “deeply personal hymns and originals” with his new quintet featuring Americana vocalist Aoife O’Donovan.  It comes out on September 25, 2012, on Dave’s label – Greenleaf Music.

With Dave and (special guest) Aoife, rounding out the quintet is Jon Irabagon, Matt Mitchell, Linda Oh, and Rudy Royston.  Dave will also go out on a 50-date U.S. Tour in 2013 to celebrate his 50th birthday.  I hope to catch it, as it’s been a while since I’ve seen him.

More press on Be Still below…

Dave Douglas describes the title of his new release, Be Still, as “aspirational.” The continually evolving trumpeter and composer settles down for a ballad-like set that presents a series of hymns and folk songs with an intensely personal connection. Be Still brings out the most lyrical side of Douglas, and introduces both a newly configured Quintet, and an important new collaborator, vocalist and guitarist Aoife O’Donovan.

“Evolving” could easily apply to most of Dave Douglas’ releases, each of which seems to venture fearlessly into unexplored territory. This time, the journey is inward rather than outward, resulting in the most starkly personal album of his notable career. The intensity of Douglas’ focus on the music of Be Still is understandable given the album’s origins.

Douglas’ mother passed away last year after a three-year battle with ovarian cancer, and the hymns on this album appeared on a list she prepared for him to play at her memorial service. Douglas performed the music with his brass group at the service and an accompanying benefit concert. “Be Still My Soul” was one of those hymns, and the verses she chose to be sung felt to Douglas like a powerful imperative to go deeper with these church hymns and their meanings.

In the months after the service he continued to work with arranging the music, though initially reluctant to include the lyrics. On meeting O’Donovan in January of this year Douglas decided he had found the right vocal expression for the arrangements he wanted to make. The pieces on Be Still present a true marriage of folk song, congregational hymnody, sophisticated harmonies and rich rhythmic underpinnings.

When Douglas calls the album aspirational, he’s also referring to its title and the deceptively simple message it contains. “It’s a reminder to myself,” he says. “We are all so busy these days, and it’s a reminder to step back and reflect on creativity and depth of communication in the music. There are deep human interactions that go on in improvised music like this and they take time and patience to develop. Sometimes that means stepping away from the clutter of Twitter, Facebook, texting and traveling to focus on the essence of music in an intense way.”

Be Still marks the recorded debut of the new incarnation of the Dave Douglas Quintet, completed by four remarkably diverse musicians: saxophonist Jon Irabagon, pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Linda Oh, and drummer Rudy Royston. They are joined on six songs by the expressive vocals of Aoife O’Donovan of the progressive bluegrass band Crooked Still. The repertoire mines the rich melodies of traditional hymns and folk tunes, which gain even greater depth through Douglas’ intricate arrangements.

While the material on Be Still comes from traditions that Douglas may not have explicitly evoked in the past, the album is hardly out of character. His work has always concentrated on direct communication, basic emotions couched in complex expression. “I’m always looking, even in my own composition, to find some way to make something that might be very sophisticated still have these roots in something very simple,” Douglas says. “Jazz, even at its most complex, always has its roots in the music of the people, in popular music. That’s one of the reasons that I connected with these songs.”

Folk music purists would undoubtedly be affected by the crystalline clarity of O’Donovan’s voice on the tender “Be Still My Soul” or the Appalachian stomp of “High on a Mountain.” But underlying that back porch folksiness are intriguing harmonies and clever soloing, embodied by Irabagon’s pitch-perfect countrypolitan sax solo on “High on a Mountain.”

In addition to the classic songs, Douglas penned three new compositions for the album in the same spirit. “Living Streams” is a completely new setting for a traditional Scottish hymn, while “Going Somewhere With You” is as lushly tuneful as the surrounding material. The quintet tour de force “Middle March” was written just after Douglas heard the news of the death of legendary drummer Paul Motian and possesses a free-floating lyricism familiar from Motian’s own compositions.

Be Still is merely the latest new direction in a career that has been full of them, all pointing forward. One of the most influential and inventive composers and trumpeters in modern jazz, Dave Douglas leads several creative ensembles: Keystone, which performs his music composed for and inspired by film; Brass Ecstasy, the eclectic brass band; and his latest, the Sound Prints Quintet with Joe Lovano, Lawrence Fields, Linda Oh, and Joey Baron. He has served as the artistic director of the Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music at The Banff Centre in Canada for ten seasons, an honor he recently handed over to pianist/composer Vijay Iyer. Dave Douglas is also co-founder and director of the Festival of New Trumpet Music, which celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2012.

This latest incarnation of the Dave Douglas Quintet fully lives up to its diverse and ground-breaking predecessors. Saxophonist Jon Irabagon’s unpredictable career has led him from the off-the-wall antics of Mostly Other People Do the Killing to his decidedly straightahead leader debut The Observer, released shortly after he won the 2008 Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition. Matt Mitchell’s piano work strays from classical to the avant-garde, and lately has found him collaborating with innovators like John Hollenbeck and Tim Berne.

Chinese-Malay-Aussie bassist Linda Oh grabbed the jazz world’s attention with her self-released debut Entry in 2009, and further cemented her place as one of the music’s rising stars with this year’s Initial Here on Douglas’ Greenleaf Music. She reteams with her drummer from that album, Rudy Royston, in the Douglas quintet. Royston is best known for his long association with guitarist Bill Frisell, but his credits also include Ravi Coltrane, Jenny Scheinman, Jason Moran and Don Byron.

In the hands of these five musicians, these tunes are undeniably spiritual – but that’s less a result of their origins than the quintet’s deeply personal collective approach. “Music, in the way that I practice it, is my spiritual life,” Douglas says.

“My mother was pretty specific about the verses that she wanted sung, and as I started looking at them I realized I felt right at home here. You search a lot of places in your life. Especially from knowing so many evolved musicians I feel I’ve been exposed to many different traditions and different ways of viewing our place in the world. It’s amazing how all of them seem to lead back to the same place of unity and oneness. After working on this music and being in my mother’s church it felt like a return to the spiritual outlook I started out with, but with a deeper understanding and meaning for me. And now I don’t know, maybe that’s what she was really after!”

~Dan – np: Levi WeaverThe Letters of Dr. Kurt Gödel

Advertisements

PHOTOS: Skerik’s Bandalabra @ Cozmic (Eugene, OR – 3/20/12)

23rd Mar 12 (Fri) Leave a comment

Seattle-based jazz/groove saxophonist Skerik brought his new band Bandalabra through Eugene’s Cozmic Pizza on their debut tour / West Coast CD release.  The quartet made up of Skerik (sax), Dvonne Lewis (drums), Evan Flory-Barnes (bass), and Andy Coe (guitar) played two sets (over two hours) full of loops, noises, experimentation, funk, jazz and groove.  Their debut CD, Live at the Royal Room, can be purchased at shows and probably soon via Skerik’s website.

SKERIK’S BANDALABRA PHOTOS
all pictures (cc) 2012 Daniel Temmesfeld,
you may use freely under a creative commons attribution

(click for larger)

The Appropriate Linkage:

Check out more tour dates below.

Next show for me… Ani DiFranco at the Roseland (Portland) on 3/31.

~Dan – np: Silver Mt. ZionBorn Into Trouble As the Sparks Fly Upward

Skerik’s Bandalabra Spring 2012 Tour Dates

  • Thursday March 15 – Conway, WA @ Conway Muse
  • Friday March 16 – Olympia, WA @ Olympia Ballroom
  • Saturday March 17 – Seattle @ Nectar
  • Sunday March 18 – Bend @ Players
  • Monday March 19 – Welches @ Skyway
  • Tuesday March 20 – Eugene, OR @ Cozmic
  • Wednesday March 21 – Applegate @ Applegate Lodge
  • Thursday March 22 – Arcata @ Jambalaya
  • Friday March 23 – Sacramento @ Harlow’s
  • Saturday March 24 – San Francisco @ Boom Boom Room
  • Sunday March 25 – Los Angeles @ Bacchanal
  • Monday March 26 – Los Angeles @ The Mint
  • Tuesday March 27 – San Diego @ Winstons
  • Thursday March 29 – Portland, OR @ Goodfoot

REVIEW: Seun Kuti & the Egypt 80 @ WOW Hall (Eugene, OR – 3/18/12)

21st Mar 12 (Wed) 4 comments

FYI… PHOTOS of the SHOW at the BOTTOM

I have to be honest, part of me loves afrobeat due to it originating from my country of birth – Fela Kuti brought it to the forefront in Nigeria in the 1970s (I was born in Jos, Nigeria in the mid-70s as well).  Another part of me loves afrobeat due to how straight-up awesome that it is… blending and stirring folk, jazz, funk, rock, and world music into a brilliant, bubbling, oozing-through-your-pores musical and political form of expression.  It represents the struggle alongside the joy… and it’s got a funky beat I can dance to

Sadly, I missed Femi Kuti (elder son of Fela) when he came through a few years back.  But I love the music, and didn’t want to miss that opportunity again.  I got into the style via NYC-based Antibalas.  When I saw that Seun Anikulapo Kuti was coming to Eugene, I had to go…

had. to.

The opener was California based instrumental afrobeat band Afromassive.  The crowd was sparse at first, but near the middle of the set, the WOW Hall was beginning to fill out…

They played a 45 minute set of instrumental afrobeat songs and a James Brown cover… definitely fun and danceable.  They were an 8-piece band on this tour – lighter on the horns than what was to come, but definitely a horn-centered funky vibe.

They were a perfect warm-up for Sean Kuti and the Egypt 80 The Egypt 80 was Fela Kuti’s band that Seun started singing in as a young boy.  After his father died in 1997, Seun took over the band when he was only 14!  Many of the members in this 15-piece (!) touring band were active in the band when Fela was alive and kicking.

The set kicked off with singer / trumpeter Muyiwa Kunnuji (in purple below) getting things going on vocals for “Giant of Africa.”  During this song, each member of the horn section got a chance to come out and show off their chops with a solo…

Sean came out during the 2nd song with backup singers/dancers and his sax in tow.  He took over the bulk of the lead vocals duties, but most of the band pitched in for the shouts and choruses…

The band played a spirited set of anthems with large swaths of stunning musicianship.  The band, presumably the same from the album’s liner notes (as the album photo appears to be the same people), was made up of the aforementioned Seun on sax & vocals, Muyiwa on vocals and trumpet, Bidemi Adekunle on baritone sax, Gdabe Okunade and Lekan Animashaun on trumpets, Oyinade Adeniran on tenor sax, David Obayendo and Gbenga Alade on guitars, Kunle Justice on bass, Ajayi Raimi on drums, Kola Onasanya on percussion, Okon Iyamba on shekere, Wale Toriola on keyboards, and Iyabo Adeniran and Yetunde Ademiluyi on backing vocals and dancing.

Setlist: 90+ mins

  • Giant of Africa
  • African Soldier
  • Kalakuta Show [Fela Kuti]
  • Zombie [Fela Kuti]
  • African Problems
  • Rise
  • Mr. Big Thief
  • The Good Leaf
  • You Can Run
    No Encore (despite “Mosquito Song” listed)

Seun was drinking hot tea during part of the set… which couldn’t have helped with the heat on the packed stage.  His voice had been giving him troubles; so they ended their set without the listed “Mosquito” encore, despite the many cheers for an encore from the nearly-danced out crowd.  This was only the band’s fourth show on a 2-month long tour (full tour dates at the bottom).  I wish Seun rest and many large mugs of tea!

I picked up their most recent record, From Africa With Fury: Rise.  I dig it.  It’s available in CD or 12″ double-vinyl at the show… or over on the Amazons.  And next time a Kuti or other afrobeat band comes to town… get there.  You won’t be disappointed.

many more photos below

The Appropriate Linkage:

Check out more tour dates below.

Next show for me… well, as I write this, it’s in a few hours… Skerik’s Bandalabra @ Cozmic Pizza (3/20).  After that, it’s Dan Bern @ Cozmic (3/27) and Ani DiFranco @ Roseland (3/31).

~Dan – np: Seun Kuti and the Egypt 80From Africa With Fury: Rise

SEUN KUTI & THE EGYPT 80 PHOTOS
all pictures (cc) 2012 Daniel Temmesfeld,
you may use freely under a creative commons attribution

(click for larger)

Seun Kuti & the Egypt 80 – Spring 2012 U.S. Tour Dates
3/15 – SXSW – Austin, TX
3/16 – Neumo’s – Seattle, WA
3/17 – Mt. Tabor Theater – Portland, OR
3/18 – W.O.W. Hall – Eugene, OR
3/21 – Center for the Arts – Grass Valley, CA
3/23 – Moe’s – Santa Cruz, CA
3/24 – Mateel Cultural Center – Redway, CA
3/28 – Belly Up – Aspen, CO
3/29 – Boulder Theater – Boulder, CO
3/30 – Granada Theater – Lawrence, KS
3/31 – Englert Theater – Iowa City, IA
4/1 – House of Blues – Chicago, IL
4/4 – Variety – Atlanta, GA
4/5 – Duke Performances – Durham, NC
4/6- Soundstage – Baltimore, MD
4/7 – Club Helsinki – Hudson, NY
4/8 – Highline Ballroom – New York, NY
4/12 – UW Madison – Madison, WI
4/13 – Rhythm Foundation – Miami, FL
4/14 – The Cedar – Minneapolis, MN
4/15 – Coachella – Indio, CA
4/16 – Campbell Hall – Santa Barbara, CA
4/18 – UC San Diego – San Diego, CA
4/19 – Zellerbach Hall – Berkeley, CA
4/20 – UCLA Royce Hall – Los Angeles, CA
4/22 – Coachella – Indio, CA
4/24 – KTAOS Solar Center – Taos, NM
4/25 – Albuquerque Museum Amphitheater – Albuquerque, NM
4/27 – New Orleans Jazz Festival – New Orleans, LA
4/29 – Houston International Festival – Houston, TX
5/2 – House of Blues – New Orleans, LA
5/13 – Lake Eden Arts Festival – Black Mountain, NC

REVIEW: Nellie McKay’s ‘I Want To Live!’ in Oregon @ the Shedd & Alberta Rose Theatre (Eugene 3/2/12 & Portland 3/4/12)

6th Mar 12 (Tue) 2 comments

FYI… PHOTOS of the SHOWs at the BOTTOM

I’ve seen Nellie McKay quite a bit since moving to Oregon.  She plays two-week residencies in New York on occasion (lucky!!), but she rarely hit the Midwest when I lived there.  Now that I’m here in the Northwest, I’m glad that she tried to swing by at least annually.  This time was for her new project, yet to be released officially in any form… I Want To Live! – a story of Barbara Graham, the third woman to be executed in the State of California (via the gas chamber at San Quentin).  It’s loosely based on the 1958 film of the same name.

This death row theme shouldn’t be a shock for fans of McKay.  She’s never been afraid to push boundaries – hitting political hot-button issues right out of the gate with her debut album, Get Away From Me (“Sari,” “It’s a Pose,” “Won’t U Please B Nice,” et cetera), and some of her non-jazz-standard followups Pretty Little Head (“Cupcake” and “The Big One”) and Obligatory Villagers (“Mother of Pearl”).

In person, though, she’s as lovable and jovial as some of her adorable, campy press photos suggest.  She’s also a great thinker, great interpreter of classics & standards, and a great artist in her own right.  She may have been “born in the wrong era” (her words), but she’s doing the best with her love of the classics by making a great mark and not giving in to the current trends in what a jazz/pop “woman and a piano” should sound or act.

The first hour of the I Want To Live! tour makes up the story of a woman who falls in with the wrong people, gets caught up in a crime, and – whether innocent or not – is found guilty of murder.  Nellie plays all of the emotions perfectly.  Love, mystery, joy, pain, frustration – all while weaving in standards and her own tunes to tell Barbara Graham’s story.  While she hints at Graham’s fervor for being innocent, Nellie leaves her opinion about guilt or innocence out of the musical.  She also leaves her opinion of the death penalty out of it, which – quite honestly – was shocking that she didn’t add some of her thoughts on it, specifically due to her past as being very politically opinionated.  Perhaps that will show up in the liner notes if this gets released as an CD or DVD some day…

 

I Want To Live! setlist: about an hour (both nights)

  • Billie’s Bounce [Charlie Parker]
  • Purple Haze [Jimi Hendrix]
  • Swingin’ On The Reservation [Ella Fitzgerald]
  • Please
  • Pity The Downtrodden Landlord [Woolf/Clayton]
  • April Showers [DeSylva/Silvers]
  • Isn’t It A Lovely Day [Irving Berlin]
  • They Say It’s Spring [Blossom Dearie]
  • Some Other Spring [Billie Holiday]
  • I Only Have Eyes For You [Warren/Dubin]
  • Don’t Worry Be Happy [Bobby McFerrin]
  • The Down Low
  • Call The Police [Nat King Cole]
  • Twinkle In Your Eye [Burl Ives]
  • Song For Troy Davis
  • I’m So Tired [The Beatles]
  • There You Are In Me
  • Small Day Tomorrow [Landesman/Dorough]
  • Chelsea Bridge [Billy Strayhorn]
  • Genius Of Love [Tom Tom Club]
  • Ah! The Sweet Mystery Of Life [from Naughty Marietta operetta by Young/Herbert] (gorgeous operatic chops on Nellie for this one)
  • Straight To The Top [Tom Waits]
    I think I got all of the cover tunes identified, if not, please comment& I’ll correct.

Eugene setlist, post-IWTL! (3/2): about 30 mins

  • One’s On the Way [Shel Silverstein]
  • Midnight Sun [Ella Fitzgerald]
  • ¡Bodega!
  • Clonie (audience request)
  • Sari (audience request)
  • Encore: A Wonderful Guy [Doris Day]
  • The Dog Song

Portland setlist, post-IWTL! (3/4): about 30 mins

  • The Dog Song
  • In a Sentimental Mood [Duke Ellington] (with false start)
  • Caribbean Time
  • I Will Always Love You [Whitney Houston] (snippet)
  • Encore: One’s On the Way [Shel Silverstein] (dedicated to Rick Santorum)
  • Mother of Pearl (with Michele Bachmann tagline at end)
  • I Wanna Get Married

Two wonderfully entertaining nights in Oregon.  Nellie and her band are excellent performers and entertainers.  Through wardrobe changes, police chases, drug addiction, and working in different musical genres – the band was on point.  At one point, the saxophonist mimics a crying baby simply with his mouth as the instrument, and it drives you mad how amazing he pulls it off without a talkbox or effects.

many more photos below

The Appropriate Linkage:

Check out more tour dates below.

Next show for me… Adam Carolla @ the Newmark (3/11) and Puscifer @ the Schnitzer (3/14).

~Dan – np: Steven WilsonCatalogue / Preserve / Amass (live in Europe)

NELLIE McKAY PHOTOS
Eugene (53 pics) then Portland (32 pics)
all pictures (cc) 2012 Daniel Temmesfeld,
you may use freely under a creative commons attribution

(click for larger)

Nellie’s 2012 Winter/Spring Tour Dates (so far)

  • 1/25 & 1/26 – Minneapolis, MN Dakota
  • 2/9 – Lafayette, IN Duncan Hall
  • 2/10 & 2/11 – Elgin, IL Elgin Community College Arts Center
  • 2/12 – Louisville, KY Bomhard Theater
  • 2/25 – Park City, UT Eccles Center
  • 2/28 & 2/29 – San Francisco, CA Rrazz Room
  • 3/2 – Eugene, OR Shedd Institute
  • 3/3 – Kirkland, WA Kirkland Performing Arts Center
  • 3/4 – Portland, OR Alberta Rose Theatre
  • 3/7 – Chico, CA Laxson Auditorium
  • 3/8 – Santa Cruz, CA Kuumbwa Jazz Center
  • 3/9 – Hollywood, CA Catalina Jazz Club
  • 3/20 to 3/31 – New York, NY Feinstein’s at Loews Regency
    ^^^^ “SILENT SPRING – It’s Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature”
  • 4/26 – Alexandria, VA The Birchmere Music Hall
  • 5/19 – Denver, CO Swallow Hill

Nellie McKay in Oregon *this* weekend

29th Feb 12 (Wed) Leave a comment

Nellie McKay plays the Shedd in Eugene on Friday, March 2nd and the Alberta Rose Theatre in Portland on Sunday, March 4th.  Tickets are still available for both Oregon shows… so, get on it.  You won’t be disappointed!  I’ll have a review with setlists and photos of both shows posted early next week (likely by Tuesday).

I Want to Live!  a musical death row revue, conjures the life story of “a woman of dubious moral standards often a guest in seedy bars.”

New York Times’ Stephen Holden writes, “Inspired by the 1958 movie of the same name, I Want to Live! combines Nellie McKay’s virtually unlimited gifts as a singer, songwriter, actress, pianist, ukulele player, mimic, satirist and comedian into a show that is much deeper than its surface might suggest.  In the most lighthearted way they evoke a heartless environment of social injustice in which people who fall through the cracks are invisible to everyone else.”

“Pretty darned unique,” adds Michael Musto of the Village Voice.

“The McKay voice is a knife edged with honey. Which is good, because the words she writes are razor sharp beneath a homespun mantle.”Tony Gieske

It’s a rare treat to have Nellie in our neck of the woods; so I’ll be at both the Eugene and Portland shows. :)

~Dan – np: TW WalshSongs of Pain and Leisure

REVIEW: Trevor Dunn & Travis Laplante @ Wandering Goat (Eugene, OR – 1/31/12)

2nd Feb 12 (Thu) 8 comments

PHOTOS FROM THE SHOW AT THE BOTTOM

I’ve been a fan of Mr Bungle/Fantômas/John Zorn collaborative bass player Trevor Dunn for a while.  When I get a chance to see him, especially within biking distance, I go.  From Trevor Dunn’s website, the “Double Solo” tour was noted as a “West Coast spit-roasting agenda. I’ll be playing a 30 min solo bass piece & Travis [Laplante] will play a set for solo tenor saxophone.”  Ah, a night of avant-garde jazz… yum!

Ryan A. Miller from Portland was up first… he played about 30-40 minutes on solo acoustic guitar.  A lot of loops, noises, and a little bit of what might seem like “futzing around,” but I dug it.  There were definitely some odd parts, but I definitely thought his set was more interesting than not.  You could tell he had skills, just couldn’t tell how they were going to evolve and manifest.  Update 2/8/12: Ryan’s band (U SCO) was the opener for the Secret Chiefs 3 show in Portland the very next week.  U SCO is a wicked, rad schizophrenic proggy, jazzy rock trio.  Excellent stuff!

Travis Laplante (Battle Trance) took his spot on the floor just off stage and gave us an initial onslaught of loud, raucous alto sax.  His first piece reminded me of Peter Evans solo trumpet show from 2008.  Ballistic, unfocused melodically, intense… what avant-garde jazz is meant to be.  His second piece was gentler and more melodic at first.  It was contained but not necessarily restrained before he finally let loose at the end.  His third and final piece was a dronier delight.

Trevor Dunn played last and gave us the 30-minute piece that he’s tentatively calling “The Pentagram.”  He dedicated it to Pisces.  It definitely had a “composed” feel to it (later confirmed with Trevor), but it was open and free enough to let him explore where it could go.  He plucked, he scraped, he bowed, he played below the bridge, he played with clothespins on the strings.  To sum it up in a word: fascinating.  You’ve gotta love it when he makes a few of his other bands (Mr Bungle/Fantômas) seem “too mainstream.”

Update 2/7/12: Check out this East Bay Express write-up of the Oakland show by Rachel Swan… waaaaaay better write-up (she’s a journalist and rightfully gets paid for it).  Gives you a better feel for the Dunn piece as a whole.

Trevor and Travis are wrapping up this tour this coming weekend… tonight in San Francisco, then Friday in Oakland, Saturday in Los Angeles and Sunday in Santa Cruz.  Check his Tour Page for more info.

The Appropriate Linkage:

Next show for me… Thee Silver Mt. Zion (splinter group from Godspeed You! Black Emperor) at Mississippi Studios on 2/4.

~Dan – np: Frank ZappaThem Or Us

TREVOR DUNN & TRAVIS LAPLANTE PHOTOS
all pictures (cc) 2012 Daniel Temmesfeld,
you may use freely under a creative commons attribution

(click for larger)

* Favorite Instrumental Albums of 2011 *

31st Dec 11 (Sat) Leave a comment

As I start this post, I will say that this is all very subjective and really put together for my own purposes.  I’ll also state that, yes, some of the music below does have some vocals (i.e.- the Goddamn Electric Bill & Mike Patton CDs).  For the most part, it’s sequestered to a track or two on a long CD of mostly instrumental goodness.  My list, my rules, and/or my breaking of the rules.  With that being said, all of the artists below tend to be in the jazz and instrumental frame of reference anyway.

As said before… I’ve been buying less music… or, at least a lot less mainstream (major label) music. This is also my fourth year now that I bought more instrumental CDs than vocal CDs. I think as I get older, I am drawn more towards jazz and other instrumental forms of expression. Hopefully my spilling out of music that I like finds interest with someone else. But if not, thanks for stopping by… check out the artists’ webpages, Facebox pages, yadda yadda yadda. Some of these also made it on to my 2011 Mix CD (free streaming/download).

OK, now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year…

Product Details Cyro Baptista’s Banquet of Spirits plays John Zorn’s Masada Book Two: Book of Angels, Vol. 17 (Caym) :: The Masada Book two series is some of my favorite music coming out of Tzadik.  Banquet of the Spirits is the touring band of Latin percussionist Cyro Baptista, a long time Zorn collaborator.  Each track touches upon a different world tradition, steeped in Zorn’s klez-jazz score.  Lyrical and moving and fun!

Artichaut OrkestraT For Teresa :: Featuring four young musicians  from Toulouse, Artichaut Orkestra mix jazz, klezmer and classical music, blending rock energy with improv.  This is their debut record, and I’m definitely looking forward to more coming from them in the near future.
Curtis MacdonaldCommunity Immunity :: To be honest, this was an impulse purchase.  One of my favorite record labels is Greenleaf Music – founded by my favorite living trumpet-player Dave Douglas.  I was picking up some new music from DD and figured, “eh, what the hell!”  I was impressed with Curtis’ melodic compositions and emotive alto sax playing.
MogwaiHardcore Will Never Die, But You Will :: Stunning double-disc set from post-rock’s Scottish kings.  I’ll still probably forgo seeing them live again (too loud, beyond their needs), but they put out some amazingly beautiful music.

(3 CDs)
John ZornNova Express / At the Gates of Paradise / A Dreamer Christmas :: Three discs made the cut of the six Zorn releases in 2011.  Nova Express combines quirky atonal classical lyricism with a touch of the cut up techniques of Naked City and virtuosity of the Masada songbook. Zorn scored this for Joey Baron (drums), Trevor Dunn (bass), John Medeski (piano), and Kenny Wollesen (vibes).  Paradise features the same band as Nova Express, brings some Medeski organ into the mix and adds more of Zorn’s “mystical” ambiance.  The Dreamer Christmas album was an oddity for me.  Why would a Jewish jazz musician put out a Christmas album?  Because he can!  The Dreamers is one of my favorite Zorn-assembled ensembles: Joey Baron (drums), Cyro Baptista (percussion), Trevor Dunn (bass), Marc Ribot (guitars), Jamie Saft (keys), and Kenny Wollesen (vibes).  Very accessible, but not smooth jazz!  Adventurous!  Mike Patton joins them on the final track for a croon-y “chestnut roasting.”  The holiday album was also put out as a 12″ vinyl and a 7″ single – both with gorgeous artwork and design by Chippy.
yMusicBeautiful Mechanical :: The yMusic Ensemble had a kickstarter earlier this year for their debut album – with songs composed by Son Lux, Annie Clark, Shara Worden (aka My Brightest Diamond), Saraha Kirkland snider (who penned a favorite album Penelope last year), and Gabriel Kahane.  Their string-heavy, indie chamber rock approach excites me.  Being the musical backdrop for My Brightest Diamond’s All Things Will Unwind album (my #2 vocal album in 2011) doesn’t hurt.
Peter Mulvey & David GoodrichNine Days Wonder :: Peter Mulvey has toured all over the US and the world for about 2 decades.  Some of the first times I saw him in concert, he had “Goody” with him on backing guitar.  They don’t get a chance to tour together much lately, but they did find some time to hole-up inside a studio to write and record some instrumental guitar duets.  While I love Peter’s vocal storytelling, it’s nice to hear his and Goody’s instrumental interplay tell a different story.
Goddamn Electric BillJazz :: GdEB is the one-man brainchild of Jason Torbert.  He hits the spot for organic electronic meets post-rock for me.  Ambient at times, melodic other times.  His latest work has featured some vocals, but he’s primarily a groove-induced soundscape kind of guy.  Chirps and glitches, too.  Excellent stuff!
The Dead Kenny G’sOperation Long Leash :: The Dead Kenny Gs is a duo started by saxophonist Skerik and drummer/vibes Mike Dillon in 2004.  shortly thereafter, they started adding Brian Haas, keyboard genius, when he is able, as well as Brad Houser, bassist from another Skerik band – Critters Buggin.  They push through the jazz/rock minefield to fight “injustice, cheese, and dishonesty in music, and society.”
TalkdemonicRuins :: Portland-based chamber-indie-post-rock… goodness.  So much sound from two people.  If you’re in Portland, they’re playing a big NYE show tonight… if in Eugene, they’ll be through our way (at Sam Bond’s) on Feb 24th.  Not to be missed!
Mike PattonThe Solitude of Prime Numbers :: I had to put this album as #13.  This chiefly instrumental album is a tribute to the book (by Paolo Giordano) and film of the same name.  The score is 16 tunes spread out over a 53 tracks, with the only tracks with content being 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, and 53. *slow clap* Clever, Mr. Patton!  For people who bought the CD, you can thank me for entering in the info to CDDB (t’was a pain).  The score/album fits more with his prior score for A Perfect Place – more accessible when compared to Patton’s usual schizophrenic output.  The packaging design is also brilliant – a gorgeous die-cut leaf that fold outwards.  I’d always recommend getting physical releases from Ipecac versus the digital download version.

Garage A TroisAlways Be Happy, But Stay Evil :: Skerik, Stanton Moore, Marco Benevento (who replaced Charlie Hunter) and Mike Dillon make their way through Oregon quite a bit.  They are a sight to see – you don’t know exactly what kind of show you’ll get, but it’s definitely a fun time.  Fun, groove-oriented “new jazz.”
Explosions in the SkyTake Care, Take Care, Take Care :: If not jazz, this list is also overtaken by post-rock.  it’s a love of mine, and Explosions in the Sky are one of the best in that game.  Epic, sweeping guitars crashing over a hearty drum & bass end.  This is another album where I’d recommend the physical edition – the  case can be unfolded to form a model of a house, where if viewed from the inside, the view from the door of the house is overlooking a tornado across a plain.

Erik FriedlanderBonebridge :: I started 2011 seeing Erik perform his John Zorn-penned Volac album in its entirety… brilliant and moving.  Later in the year, he came out with Bonebridge – a new band/concept that takes his Broken Arm Trio (with Trevor Dunn & Mike Sarin) and adds slide guitar player Doug Wamble to the mix.  What you get is a perfect chamber-Americana-jazz album.  I hope there are more where this came from…
Kevin Moore – Shine (Küçük Kıyamet Soundtrack) :: Kevin Moore’s main projects are the trippy/sample-heavy Chroma Key & heavier prog collaboration band O.S.I. (with Jim Matheos). Shine is the soundtrack to the 2006 Turkish film Küçük Kiyamet (“Little Apocalypse“).  It came out in early 2011 after a successful Kickstarter in 2010.  The next album from O.S.I. comes out in February 2012 on Metal Blade.  I can almost guarantee it will be my Top album of 2012, and I haven’t heard a shred of it yet.
ReptetAt the Cabin :: This Seattle-based jazz sextet is fuuuuuuuuuun – both on record and in the live setting.  I wish the distance on I-5 between me and them wasn’t 5-6 hours, as I’d see them far more often if I could.

Matt Chamberlain, Viktor Krauss, Dan PhelpsModular: Sonic Explorations :: Gorgeous soundscapes from Matt Chamberlain, Viktor Krauss, and Dan Phelps.  The Modular Project is the collaboration of the aforementioned musicians working together to “discover what the spontaneous and organic manipulation of sound can yield. Inspired by the world around them, they set out to discover what it might sound like when continents shift, clouds form, and roots push through soil.”  The track, “Everest,” features one of my favorite cellists – Eyvind Kang (who has worked with Secret Chiefs 3, John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Mike Patton).  It’s a great mix of cello, vibes and soaring atmosphere.  The album is only available digitally or on vinyl (it’s a luscious triple-gatefold!)…

(3 CDs)
Dave Douglas – Three Views: GPS Series – Rare Metals, Orange Afternoons & Bad Mango :: Originally released as the “Greenleaf Portable Series” (download only), these three different releases in 2011 finally got a proper physical (boxset) release.  Dave’s prolific writing comes out with different bands on each record: Rare Metals features Dave’s most recent band Brass Ecstasy; Orange Afternoons features a specially put together quintet with Ravi Coltrane, Vijay Iyer, Linda Oh, and Marcus Gilmore; and Bad Mango paired Dave’s trumpet with So Percussion’s marimba, drumset, glockenspiel, musical saw, toy bells, shruti box, crotales, and more.  Three very different records tied together with Dave’s fantastic playing.

Tides From NebulaEarthshine :: This Polish post-rock group won my heart in 2009 with their debut, Aura (in 2009).  They continue to tease me with emails or news that says “tour” until I open and can’t pronounce the names of the cities that they’re hitting.  Drat!  At least their music will keep me company!  Earthshine is perfect for those fans of Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, and the like… and seeing as it beat out both those groups on my 2011 list, well, that should tell you something as well.

Michael KelseySubmerged :: Michael Kelsey is a HUGE amount of what I miss from the Midwest music scene.  He’s a musical genius – rarely paralleled on the frets.  Seeing him live (which I did any chance I could) was a site to behold.  His records do their best to capture his virtuosity, but they usually fail to capture his energy, too.  Catching fire in a bottle is tough.  Regardless, this one is a gem and also marks his first all instrumental affair.  Check him out, and if you live within a state or two from central Indiana, I count you a lucky one.  Go see him if he stops by your town.

Earth – Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1 :: More riff-oriented and melodic compared to the prior drone doom albums, Earth bring a cello into the mix for the first time and create an ominous soundscape that is both elegant and dreadful.  The follow-up, Angels & Demons 2, comes out in Feb 2012… and you can almost guarantee it’ll rise to the top of my list next year as well.

Note: Ric Hordinski’s Arthur’s Garden (which made it on my 2011 Mix) is technically a 2012 release, hence its absence above.

Where do I get most of these jazz and other instrumental releases?  My #1 favorite source for jazz is Downtown Music Gallery in New York.  Manny and Bruce and their great staff are superb… and being the official distributor for John Zorn’s Tzadik doesn’t hurt my affection for them.  I usually do a monthly Tzadik order (if the releases strike my fancy), and they have a ton of other non-Tzadik jazz and avant-garde releases as well.

And, no, I’m not affiliated, I don’t get a commission, and beyond my initial “big tax refund / gotta get caught up on Zorn order of 2005,” I haven’t gotten a discount with DMG.  I just love and support what they do.

Enjoy the New Years’ weekend!! Be safe! See you in 2012.

My Other Favorites of 2011 Recaps:

~Dan – np: Trent Reznor & Atticus RossThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

%d bloggers like this: