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Magnus Granberg : Es Schwindelt Mir, Es Brennt Mein Eingweide (Another Timbre)

An hour-long work for an ensemble of six musicians by Swedish composer Magnus Granberg performed by Anna Lindal on baroque violin, d incise on vibraphonen electronics, Cyril Bondi on percussion, Anna Kaisa Meklin on viola da gamba, Christoph Schiller on spinet, and Magnus Granberg himself on prepared piano, transforming material from a song by Franz Schubert. ... Click to View


John Cage : Two2 (Another Timbre)

One of a handful of John Cage's number pieces, this work for two pianists follows the forms of Renga poetry, composed with 36 lines of music, each containing 5 measures, and each line having 31 events occuring in the sequence 5-7-5-7-7, with the pianists allowed their own tempo but waiting to synchronize each measure, as performed by Mark Knoop and Philip Thomas. ... Click to View


Bondi / Martel / Schiller: tse (Another Timbre)

With backgrounds in both improvisation and compositional music, the new trio of Cyril Bondi on harmonium, Pierre-Yves Martel on viola da gamba, and Christoph Schiller on spinet, agreed on a sequence of pitches for this 5 part improvisational work, allowing space for the players to explore pitch and melody within a contemplative and pensive framework. ... Click to View


Angles 3: Parede (Clean Feed)

Martin Kuchen's Angles band changes shape constantly, originally a trio and expanding as large as Angles 10, but this album, recorded live at SMUP, Parede, Portugal in 2016, returns the band to the original trio of Kuchen on sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on double bass, and Kjell Nordeson on drums & percussion, reworking Angles compositions to their essence. ... Click to View


Honest John w/ Ab Baars : Treem (Clean Feed)

The Norwegian quintet Honest John of Ole Henrik Moe on violin, Kim Johannesen on guitar & banjo, Ola Hoyer on double bass, Erik Nylander on drums & drum machine, on Klaus Ellerhusen sax and clarinet, are joined by multi-reedist and shakuhachi player Ab Baars at Nasjonal Jazzscene Victoria to capture this quirky, controlled, and incredibly knowledgeable concert. ... Click to View


Chris Pitsiokos / CP Unit: Silver Bullet In The Autumn Of Your Years (Clean Feed)

Pushing the envelope in genre-smashing collective improvisation, Brooklyn-based sax and synth player Chris Pitsiokos and his CP Unit with 2 electric bassists--Tim Dahl and Henry Fraser--2 drummers--Jason Nazary and Connor Baker--and guitarist Sam Lisabeth, take a twisted path through improv, rock, and electronics that always shows a fierce allegiance to free jazz. ... Click to View


Scott Clark: Tonow (Clean Feed)

Drummer Scott Clark continues to explore his Native American roots in this album dedicated to the protests at Standing Rock, North Dakota, each heartfelt piece titled for aspects of those demonstrations, performed with bassist Cameron Ralston, trumpeter Bob Miller, saxophonist Jason Scott, guitarist Alan Parker, and extended with Chicago guitarist Tobin Summerfield. ... Click to View


Lynn Cassiers : Imaginary Band (Clean Feed)

Composer, vocalist and electronics artist Lynn Cassiers' new septet with Sylvain Debaisieux (soprano and tenor saxophone), Ananta Roossens (violin), Niels Van Heertum (euphonium), Erik Vermeulen (piano), Manolo Cabras (double bass) and Marek Patrman (drums) in their adventurous debut album blending improv, pop aesthetics, electronics, dreamlike voice, and solid playing. ... Click to View


AMM: An Unintended Legacy [3 CDs] (Matchless)

A beautiful 3-CD set with a hardcover book presenting 3 full concerts from 2015 & 2016 of the AMM trio configuration of John Tilbury (piano), Keith Rowe (guitar) and Eddie Prevost (percussion). The 70 page book, dedicated to saxophonist Lou Gare, includes an AMM discography, plus photos, an essays by Paige Mitchell and Allen Fisher; Keith Rowe; Eddie Prevost; and Lou Gare. ... Click to View


Mary Halvorson : Code Girl [2 CDs] (Firehouse 12 Records)

Always open to new approaches, NY guitarist Mary Halvorson takes her trio with drummer Tomas Fujiwara and bassist Michael Formanek, adds trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and, in a twist of the thumbscrew, vocalist Amirtha Kidambi, for a mix of song and instrumental pieces that balance jazz and rock sensibilities with lyricism, intricate lines, and creative spirit. ... Click to View


Mary Halvorson : Code Girl [VINYL] (Firehouse 12 Records)

Always open to new approaches, NY guitarist Mary Halvorson takes her trio with drummer Tomas Fujiwara and bassist Michael Formanek, adds trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and, in a twist of the thumbscrew, vocalist Amirtha Kidambi, for a mix of song and instrumental pieces that balance jazz and rock sensibilities with lyricism, intricate lines, and creative spirit. ... Click to View


The Thing (Gustafsson / Haker Flaten / Nilssen-Love + McPhee): Again (The Thing Records)

The Thing "again" as Gustafsson on saxophones, Haker Flaten on electric and acoustic bass, and Nilssen-Love on drums & percussion present 3 extended blues-based, Ayler-inflected free jazz pieces, with Gustafsson's powerfully emotional playing over Haker-Flaten and Nilssen-Love's powerful polyrhythmic foundations; Joe McPhee joins for one track taking on a Frank Lowe piece. ... Click to View


The Thing (Gustafsson / Haker Flaten / Nilssen-Love + McPhee): Again [VINYL] (The Thing Records)

The Thing "again" as Gustafsson on saxophones, Haker Flaten on electric and acoustic bass, and Nilssen-Love on drums & percussion present 3 extended blues-based, Ayler-inflected free jazz pieces, with Gustafsson's powerfully emotional playing over Haker-Flaten and Nilssen-Love's powerful polyrhythmic foundations; Joe McPhee joins for one track taking on a Frank Lowe piece. ... Click to View


Moholo-Moholo's, Louis Five Blokes: Uplift The People (Ogun)

Drummer Moholo-Moholo, a member of Blue Notes, Elton Dean's Ninesene, Foxes Fox, London Improvisers Orchestra, a sideman for Brotzmann, Keith Tippets sideman and drummer and most importantly, band leader in a rich, lyrical and spiritual album recorded live at Cafe Oto in 2017 with Alexander Hawkins (piano), John Edwards (bass), Shabaka Hutchings (sax) and Jason Yard (sax). ... Click to View


Daniel Carter / William Parker / Matthew Shipp: Seraphic Light (Live At Tufts University) (Aum Fidelity)

A long-form 3-part work of collective improvisation from 3 masterful New York free jazz legends--Daniel Carter on flute, trumpet, clarinet, and saxophones, William Parker on bass, and Matthew Shipp on piano--performing live at Tufts University in 2017 in a beautifully thoughtful and lyrical concert presented after a screening of the '59 film "The Cry of Jazz". ... Click to View


Ceramic Dog (Ribot / Ches Smith / Shahzad Ismaily): Y R U Still Here? [VINYL] (Northern Spy)

... Click to View


The Ex: 27 Passports (Ex Records)

After several years of Brass Unbound, Getatchew Mekuria, festivals and countless side projects, The Ex return to The Ex, a 4-piece led by the trio of guitars from Andy Moor, Terrie Hessels and Arnold de Boer driven by drummer Katherina Bornefeld, de Boer acerbic and insightful on this seriously great rock record; plus a 36-page photo book from Andy Moor. ... Click to View


The Ex: 27 Passports [VINYL] (Ex Records)

After several years of Brass Unbound, Getatchew Mekuria, festivals and countless side projects, The Ex return to The Ex, a 4-piece led by the trio of guitars from Andy Moor, Terrie Hessels and Arnold de Boer driven by drummer Katherina Bornefeld, de Boer acerbic and insightful on this seriously great rock record; plus a 36-page photo book from Andy Moor. ... Click to View


Mette Rasmussen / Tashi Dorji: (Feeding Tube Records)

Captured live, the excitingly assertive improvisation of Danish saxophonist Mette Rasmussen and Bhutan electric guitarist Tashi Dorji on the stage at Hotel2Tango in Montreal, Quebec in 2016, and at La Sala Rosa, each pushing the limits on their instruments while retaining control of their conversation, a taught balancing act of extraordinary playing. ... Click to View


Elisabeth Harnik / Joelle Leandre: Tender Music (Trost Records)

Two like-minded musicians with a history in compositional and improvised music, pianist and prepared pianist Elisabeth Harnik and double bassist and vocalist Joelle Leandre met at WIST, in Graz, Austria in 2016 to perform and record this live album of insightful and compelling dialog between two masterful musicians full of creativity and virtuosic skill. ... Click to View


Zu / Mats Gustafsson: How To Raise An Ox [VINYL] (Trost Records)

The first vinyl edition of the 2004 collaboration of Italian power trio Zu of Luca Tommaso Mai on baritone sax, Massimo Pupillo on bass, and Jacopo Battaglia on drums, with Swedish baritone sax phenomenon Mats Gustafsson, what Atavistic calls a "hypno-skronk implosion" of dueling baritones sax over wonderfully intense and skronky free improvisation; a classic! ... Click to View


Marty Ehrlich: Trio Exaltation (Clean Feed)

With a history of playing together in the Andrew Hill Sextet, Marty Ehrlich immediately chose bassist John Hebert and drummer Nasheet Waits to join Ehrlich in his new trio endeavor, the multi-wind & reed player on alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet and wooden flutes as they perform 9 lyrical and sophisticated Ehrlich compositions, plus one by Andrew Hill. ... Click to View


Chrome Hill: The Explorer (Clean Feed)

The Norwegian quartet formerly known as "Damp" with baritone guitarist Asbjorn Lerheim, tenor saxophonist Atle Nymo, drummer Torstein Lofthus, and double bassist Roger Arntzen, blend expressive forms of jazz with blues and rock in an expansive and rich set of tunes that both pay homage and look to new and inclusive formations of emotional and effusive music. ... Click to View


Lana Trio w/ Sofia Jernberg: Lana Trio w/ Sofia Jernberg (Clean Feed)

The Norwegian experimental collective improvising group of Henrik Munkeby Norstebo on trombone, Kjetil Jerve on piano, and Andreas Wildhagen on drums & percussion are the core trio here, presenting their third release by adding free improvising vocalist Sofia Jernberg, bringing a sense of unpredictability to a finely controlled chaos of technical mastery. ... Click to View


Rafael Toral / Hugo Antunes / Joao Pais Filipe / Ricardo Webbens: Space Quartet (Clean Feed)

Composer, engineer and electronic artist Rafael Toral has completed his Space Program series and now launches his "Space Quartet" with double bassist Hugo Antunes, drummer/percussionist Joao Pais Filipe, synth player Ricardo Webbens, and Toral himself on modular feedback, blending solid acoustic rhythms with interstellar and abstract sound; singular. ... Click to View


Kirk Knuffke / Ben Goldberg: Uncompahgre (Relative Pitch)

Two extraordinary players from two coasts--clarinetist Ben Goldberg from the West and cornetist Kirk Knuffke from the East--in an exuberant duo of lyrical and virtuosic free jazz that astonishes the listener with the ease of their interactions in both parallel and contrasting lines, supporting the other as they express themselves uniquely; an impressive achievement! ... Click to View


Tomeka Reid / Kyoko Kitamura / Taylor Ho Bynum / Joe Morris: Geometry of Caves (Relative Pitch)

Bringing New York and Chicago performers together, the quartet of cellist Tomeka Reid, guitarist Joe Morris, cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum and free vocalist Kyoko Kitamura present an album of expressive and creative collective improvisation, bridging chamber forms and free jazz with a captivatingly eccentric appeal from Kitamura's wordless vocalese. ... Click to View


Tatakai Trio (Kuchen / Lindsjo / Strid): HappI (Relative Pitch)

A trio of well-versed Swedish free improvisers--Martin Kuchen on soprano & sopranino saxophones, Raymond Strid on drums, and Anders Lijndsjo on guitar--in 8 studio improvisations of unusual and highly rhythmic and upbeat interplay, titled with happy adjectives, an apt description of the joy these three find in unconventional approaches to improvisation. ... Click to View


Stephanie Richards : Full Moon (Relative Pitch)

An extremely interesting experimental record of free improvisation and electronics from the duo of Dino J.A. Deane and trumpeter Stephanie Richards, whose work with Henry Threadgill and Butch Morris is felt in these pieces where Richards explores resonance in brass and percussion as Deane samples and manipulates her playing live; an inventive and effusive album. ... Click to View


Fujii / Fonda / Mimmo: Triad (Long Song Records)

An album recorded on the 59th birthday of pianist-composer Satoko Fujii, the second recorded with bassist Joe Fonda on the Long Song imprint, this time in a trio with soprano saxophonist Gianni Mimmo, the focus of the album the 42 minute monumental improvisation "Birthday Girl", a sophisticated and engaging dialog of lyrical playing and great beauty. ... Click to View


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  The Tyranny of the Tens  

A Belated Look Back at 2003

It must be hard to be a year. You have to come up with ten great movies, ten great records, ten great books - anymore than that and you're just spinning your wheels. History is written in decasets, or - with sufficient hindsight - in groups of 100.

Problem is, of course, there are good years and there are bad years. So rather than asking our writers to scrap for or limit themselves to ten, we gave them the sky as the limit for their end-of-the-year wrap-ups: a more democratic process, we feel. Those who had a better listening year get more votes because they want them, a vague sort of proportional representation.

A common complaint among avid listeners about the digital age is that there are just too many records these days. There have always been talented people, of course, but we fanatics have never been so saddled with knowing about them. Perhaps that's why only five records were named more than once, and perhaps this is how we might name the best records of 2003. And if anything can be gleaned from that half-a-ten, perhaps it's that we had a fairly melancholy year.



Sylvie Courvoisier - Abaton (ECM)The two surprises on Sylvie Courvoisier's two cd set are almost the same. The pianist proves herself to be a fine composer, and her trio with violinist Mark Feldman and cellist Erik Friedlander make a strong enough improvising unit that they nearly emulate the composer's voice even when playing without charts. The first disc contains four striking compositions and the second, recorded immediately after the first, captures three of New York's strongest improvisors in duo and trio settings. Abaton is a remarkable achievement, one that might bring the talented Courvoisier to many more ears.



Peter Kowald/William Parker - The Victoriaville Tapes (Victo) - Death, of course, brings immortality to the greats, and the German bassist Peter Kowald was no doubt one of the greats. He died in 2002 at the home of his longtime friend and fellow bassist William Parker, and this set from that year's Victoriaville Festival captured the two in a beautiful duet.



The Necks - Drive By (Fish of Milk) - The Australian piano trio The Necks are no doubt the least known of our Fab Four, which is a shame because they're as enjoyable as they are accessible. Landing somewhere between Miles Davis' In a Silent Way and Bernard Herrmann's film soundtracks, their music is slow, dramatic and engaging. Here they add Hammond organ to the piano/bass/drum line-up to a softly psychedelic effect.



Keith Rowe/John Tilbury - Duos for Doris (Erstwhile) - Two-thirds of slowsound forebearers AMM met in January, 2003, in Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy, France, for a session that almost didn't happen but turned out to be one of Erstwhile's biggest sellers. The mood of the musicians was no doubt hampered by the fact that Tilbury's mother died at age 95 three days before the recording was to take place. The two-cd set is a worthy addition to AMM's nearly 40 years of exploring.



John Zorn - Masada Guitars (Tzadik) - A strange criticism surrounds the proliferous John Zorn. While he cut his first working band, Naked City, too short, his second long-term project has gone on too long. Plenty of cds have been released under the Masada name, and the plethora has pushed away some old-school fans. From the core quartet, with Joey Baron, Greg Cohen and Dave Douglas, to the string trio, chamber groups, and "cover" albums, the Masada songbook has become lovingly dogeared. Those who jumped ship somewhere around the fourth DIW record or the fifth live album, though, would be advised to return to the fold for this solo guitar recital. The well familiar pieces are given new breath by Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot and Tim Sparks and the album, from beginning to end, is a work of beauty.



That said, here's the list, alphabetically and with apologies to believers in the decimal system.

  • Abdullah Ibrahim - African Magic (enja)
  • Absolute Zero - Crashing Icons (Recommended Records)
  • Adam Lane - Fo(u)r Being(s) (CIMP)
  • Ahmad Jamal - In Search Of: Momentum (1–10) (Birdology/Dreyfus)
  • Albert Ayler - The Copenhagen Tapes (Ayler)
  • Andrew Drury - A Momentary Lapse (Innova)
  • Anthony Braxton - Four Compositions (GTM) 2000 (Delmark)
  • Art Ensemble of Chicago - Tribute to Lester (ECM)
  • Bob Drake - 13 Songs and a Thing (Crumbling Tones/Recommended Records)
  • Carla Kihlstedt - 2 Foot Yard (Tzadik)
  • Charles Hayward - Abracadabra Information (Locus Solus)
  • Christian Fennesz – Live in Japan (Headz)
  • Cooper Moore and Assif Tsahar – America (Hopscotch)
  • Dave Douglas- Freak In (Bluebird)
  • David Budbill/ William Parker/ Hamid Drake- Songs for a Suffering World (Boxholder)
  • David Sylvian - Blemish (Samadhi Sound)
  • Dingobats - Pöck (Bergland Productions)
  • DJ Wally - nothing stays the same (Thirsty Ear)
  • Elliot Sharp - Velocity of Hue (Emanem)
  • Evan Parker and Joe McPhee - Chicago Tenor Duets (Okkadisk)
  • Fred Anderson – Back at the Velvet Lounge (Delmark)
  • Fred Frith - Keep the Dog: That House We Lived In (Recommended Records)
  • Fredi Luescher, Cécile Olshausen, Nathanael Su, Dear C. – The Music of Carla Bley (Altrisuoni)
  • Geof Bradfield - Rule of Three (Liberated Zone)
  • Giorgio Pacorig - My Mind Is on the Table (Splasc(h))
  • Globe Unity Orchestra 2002 (Intakt)
  • Gordon Beck - Gyroscope (Art of Life)
  • Grand Mal - Perfect Fit (Unsounds)
  • Gunther Muller - Eight Landscapes (For 4 Ears)
  • Hiroaki Katayama - Quatre (Studio Wee)
  • Hoahio - Peek-Ara-Boo (Tzadik)
  • John Butcher - Invisible Ear (Fringes)
  • John Fahey - Red Cross (Revenant)
  • John Lindberg- Ruminations upon Ives and Gottschalk (between the lines)
  • John Surman - Free and Equal (ECM)
  • John Wall – Hylic (Utterpsalm)
  • John Zorn - Masada Guitars (Tzadik)
  • Jon Rose - The People's Music (Recommended Records)
  • Jon Rose and Hollis Taylor - Great Fences of Australia (Dynamo House)
  • Josh Abrams - Cipher (Delmark)
  • Josh Abrams Quartet - Ciper (Delmark)
  • Julien Ottavi – Nervure Magnetique (Sigma Editions)
  • Julius Hemphill - One Atmosphere (Tzadik)
  • Keith Rowe – 29 October 2001 (Sound)
  • Keith Rowe/John Tilbury - Duos for Doris (Erstwhile)
  • Kevin Norton/Joelle Leandre/Tomas Ulrich - Ocean of Earth (Barking Hoop)
  • Larry Coryell - The Power Trio: Live in Chicago (HighNote)
  • Le Quan Ninh - Le Ventre Negatif (Meniscus)
  • Limescale - Limescale (Incus)
  • Lisbon Improvisation Players - live_lx meskla (Clean Feed)
  • Lutz Glandien - Lost Rooms (Recommended Records)
  • Markus Eichenberger - Domino Concept for Orchestra (Emanem)
  • Martin Siewert/Martin Brandlmayr – Too Beautiful to Burn (Erstwhile)
  • Marty Ehrlich - Line on Love (Palmetto)
  • Morton Feldman – Early Piano Works (Stefan Schliermacher)
  • Oren Ambarchi/Gunther Muller/Philip Samartzis -Strange Love (For 4 Ears 1448)
  • Paul Rogers - Listen (Emanem)
  • Peter Brötzmann - More Nipples (Atavistic UMS)
  • Peter Kowald/William Parker - The Victoriaville Tapes (Victo)
  • Phil Minton and Roger Turner - drainage (Emanem)
  • Philip Samartzis – Mort Aux Vaches (Staalplaat)
  • Rahsaan Roland Kirk - Compliments of the Mysterious Phantom (Hyena)
  • Repeat – Pool (Cut)
  • Rhodri Davies - Trem (Confront)
  • Robert Marcel Lapage - La machine ŕ exploRecommended Records le tempo (Ambiances Magnetiques)
  • Sachiko M/Sean Meehan – [untitled] (upsidedownbowl)
  • Satoko Fujii and Tatsuya Yoshida- Toh-Kichi (Victo)
  • Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Live (Sickroom)
  • Spring Heel Jack - Live (Thirsty Ear)
  • Staffan William-Olsson - Pop! (Real Records)
  • Supersilent- 6 (Rune Grammofon)   
  • Sylvie Courvoisier/Mark Feldman/Erik Friedlander- Abaton (ECM)
  • The Necks - Drive By (Fish of Milk)
  • The Vandermark 5 - Airports for Light (Atavistic)
  • Tim Berne's Science Friction - The Sublime and. (Thirsty Ear)
  • Trio-X - Journey (CIMP)
  • Vijay Iyer - Blood Sutra (Artists House)
  • Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd- In What Language? (Pi)
  • VRIL [Bob Drake, Lukas Simonis, Chris Cutler] (Recommended Records)
  • Whit Dickey - Prophet Moon (Riti)
  • William Parker Trio - Scrapbook (Thirsty Ear)
  • William Parker/Joe Morris/Hamid Drake - Eloping with the Sun (riti)

The Nominating Committee: Nate Dorward, Kurt Gottschalk, Eyal Hareuveni, Andrey Henkin, Brian Olewnick, Phil Zampino



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