The Jazz.com Blog
December 29, 2008 · 2 comments
Few music critics listen to more CDs than Mark Saleski, or are so vigilant in hunting out exciting sounds in new and unexpected places. I've been looking forward to reading his comments on the jazz highlights of 2008. But I was concerned when I learned that a very lengthy power shortage at his house—which lasted almost as long as the administration of William Henry Harrison—had put a halt to CD-listening, emailing and sundry other activities at chez Saleski. But our resourceful reviewer overcame all obstacles, and somehow managed to deliver his end-of-year picks for the jazz highlights of 2008. You will find them below. T.G.
Recent events in the Northeastern United States have made me pause to consider just how much technology is involved in the chain of happenstance that connects the artist's muse chamber with the listener's ear canal. Due to a vicious ice storm, I have spent the better part of the past couple of weeks without power at my house. No power. No heat. No water. No Internet. Our saving grace was a propane-fueled 'woodstove' located in the center of the house. By strategic placement of blankets in doorways, that one room rose to almost 70 degrees, a number we would repeat as a mantra when using the 35-degree bathroom.
So here we are at the end of jazz.com's first year. We're simultaneously moving forward (content delivery via the Internet) and glancing back at the past—reviewing single tracks instead of full discs, the mp3 being the "45 of the future."
Or maybe the future is now. It has been an interesting year in the area of jazz/improvised music. While the delivery mechanism seems headed in the direction of the Internet (something debated hotly in this space not long ago), what's very clear is that there is a ton of new music to be found out there. My mailbox was positively bursting with review material. Beyond that, one easy step into the land of MySpace or YouTube will often yield an enormous wealth of fresh music.
There was so much great stuff out there that it was tough to compress the list to a manageable length. What follows are my picks for more memorable tracks/artists. Despite jazz.com's use of its proprietary rating system, the selections are in no particular order. Heck, it was tough enough to make the selections!
I've carved out a few (very) broad categories: "traditional" (about as mainstream as I get), "It's Own Thing" (Described as sui generis by snooty reviewers. I have a very low snoot factor), and "Out There." A perfect term for this, coined by jazz.com writer S. Victor Aaron, is "Whack Jazz."
Traditional: Carla Bley continues to amaze, and this year was no exception. Appearing Nightly was a stunning blast of organized horn madness. Hat's off to Waxpoetics records for unearthing the remarkable Melvyn Price record Rhythm and Blues. The track ”Voodoo Love Dance” just knocked me out! Southside Johnny, king (or is it 'prince'?) of Asbury Park-inflected rock, got together with trombonist and bandleader Richie "La Bamba" Rosenberg, to give the music of Tom Waits the big band treatment. ”Walk Away,” a duet with Waits, is just one of the tremendous results. Can a mashup of West African music and jazz be considered traditional? Give the song ”Domain Domain” a listen. The song comes from my favorite album of the year: Sira by Ablaye Cissoko and Volker Goetze.
Its Own Thing: From Nik Bärtsch's Ronin, we have ”Modul 39_8,” which takes jazz out into the realms of both funk and minimalism. James Brown by way of Steve Reich? Nico Muhly is a New York-based composer who creates music that's nearly impossible to categorize. Skip the labels and check out Mothertongue, Part 1: Archive.
Out There. Ah, music that can help you clear your living room of unwanted guests! Guitarist Marc Ribot and his Ceramic Dog outfit kick things off with ”When We Were Young And We Were Freaks,” a track that runs an ambient vibe through the skronkilator. For sheer scary volume and brutality, Totem's ”Blooming Ore” is your best bet. Tony Malaby's Cello Trio takes a different angle on odd, with the intricate interplay of ”Anemone.” And what "out there" music list would be complete without an entry from Erik Friedlander? ”Jim Zipper,” from his "Broken Arm Trio," is about the most fun you can have in only 68 seconds. Finally, there's the one track that has raised a lot of eyebrows this year, at least among those who have been adventurous enough to listen to my recommendations. Ted Gioia seems to think that there's a transgressive quality to ”In Me Canoe.” He does have a point. I did, after all, write that the track "sounds like the 1972 disco hit ”Soul Makossa” as if sung by Kate Bush in duet with Captain Beefheart."
This blog article posted by Mark Saleski.