BEST OF 2017
As always, we offer suggestions about our currently
favorite recordings and give praise to the most memorable
performances, as best we can; we can’t hear every CD,
attend every show, nor be everywhere in the world, and yet
we do a lot. For better or worse. Here’s to our Best
CANADIAN COMPOSERS SERIES. Linda Catlin
Smith, Drifter; Martin Arnold, The Spjit
Veleta; Isaiah Ceccarelli, Bow; Chiyoko
Szlavnics, During a Lifetime; Marc Sabat, Harmony.
Another Timbre at105-109. Five albums on six discs
available separately, and 120-page book. Published 2017. anothertimbre.com/index.html
CLARINET. West Meets East.
Clarinet music by western composers influenced by Chinese
culture. Composers Justin Merritt, Matthias Mueller,
Patrick Lenz, Edward J.F. Taylor, Paul Sanchez, Jun
Quia/Jian Bing Hu, Scott Steele. With sheng and guzheng.
Albany Records TR-1681. MP3/16Bit FLAC/ALAC, PDF.
Published 2017. chandos.net/
DONAUESCHINGER MUSIKTAGE 2016. Rebecca
Saunders, Bernhard Gander, Martin Smolka, James Dillon,
Franck Bedrossian, Martin Jaggi, Georg Friedrich Haas.
NEOS 11716-17. SACDx2. Published 2017. neos-music.com/
ETHIOPIA. Ethiopian Urban and Tribal
Music-Mindanoo Mistiru / Gold from Wax.
Reissue of field recordings, originally on Lyrichord. Sub
Rosa SR434. Digipack 2CD + 20-page booklet; 2LP black
vinyl + insert. Published 2017. subrosa.net
GOMBERT, Nicolas (1495-1560). Motets II. Beauty
Farm. Fra Bernardo FB-1612457. CDx2. Published 2016. frabernardo.com
HAAS, Georg Friedrich; Jani CHRISTOU; Evan JOHNSON.
Stille. Edition Musikfabrik 12. Haas: “Ich suchte,
aber ich fand ihn nicht,” “… Wie stille brannte das
Licht”; Johnson: “Die Bewegung der Augen”; Christou:
“Anaparastasis III, The Pianist.” Wergo WER-68652. CD.
Published 2017. en.schott-music.com/wergo/
HUELGAS ENSEMBLE, Paul van Nevel. The Ear of
the Huguenots. Works by Goudimel, Le Jeune, Maudit,
Anonymous, Animuccia, Palestrina, de l’Estocart, Servin,
and Costeley. Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 88985411762. CD.
Published 2017. No website.
LUCIER, Alvin. Illuminated by the Moon. “I
am sitting in a room” (1970); “Music for Solo Performer”
(1965); “Charles Curtis” (2002); “Double Rainbow” (2016);
“Nothing is Real (Strawberry Fields Forever)” (1990);
“Braid” (2012); “Two Circles” (2012); “Hanover” (2015);
“Step, Slide and Sustain” (2014). “One Arm Bandits”
(2016). Limited edition (4 x LP, 1 CD, 120-page book).
ZHdK Zürcher Hochschule der Künste 978-3-9906489-16-2.
Published 2017. zhdk.ch/en/lucier
MONGOLIA. An Anthology of Mongolian Khöömii.
Buda Musique CDx2. Published 2017. budamusique.com/
NØRGÅRD, Per. Early Piano Works. Niklas
Sivelov, piano. DaCapo DK-0590. MP3, FLAC/ALAC. Published
OCKEGHEM, Johannes (c. 1420-1497). Masses.
L’homme arme; Quinti toni. Beauty Farm. Fra Bernardo
FB-1701743. CD. Published 2017. frabernardo.com
OEHRING, Helmut. Angelus Novus II. NEOS
11700. CD. Published 2017. neos-music.com/
SCELSI, Giacinto (1905-1988). Scelsi Collection
Vol. 7. Anna D'errico-piano, Marco
Fusi-violino. “Suite n.6, I capricci di Ty,” Divertimento
n.1 per violino e piano (First recording), “L'Ame
ailée/L'Ame ouverte,” “Xnoybis.” Stradivarius STR-33807.
CD. Published 2017. stradivarius.it
SCELSI, Giacinto (1905-1988). Music for Cello
Solo. Marco Simonacci, cello. Good liner notes.
Brilliant Classics BT-1225. CD, MP3, 16Bit-FLAC/ALAC, PDF.
Published 2017. chandos.net/
SHEPPARD, John (c. 1515-1558). Media Vita.
New recordings of the three pinnacles of Sheppard’s
oeuvre: “Media vita,” “Gaude, gaude, gaude Maria,” and
“Missa Cantate.” Westminster Cathedral Choir, Martin
Baker, conductor. Hyperion CDA68187. CD with liner notes
by Jeremy Summerly, with English, French, and German.
Published 2017. hyperion-records.co.uk/
TIBETAN. Men of Dharamsala. Yarlung Records
YA-0902. MP3, FLAC/ALAC, PDF. Published 2017. chandos.net/
WOLMAN, Amnon, and Neil LEONARD. Security
Vehicles Only. Live electronics, saxophone, poem by
John Ashbery. XI Records. CD, Download. Published
WORLD. The Photographs of Charles Duvelle.
Ethnomusicologist Charles Duvelle made field recordings in
Africa, the Indian Ocean, Pacific Islands, and Southeast
Asia. 296-page fine-art photography book with two CDs. 246
photographs, transcribed interview, Duvelle discography,
Duvelle essay “Eastern Music in Black Africa.” Sublime
Frequencies SF110. Published 2017. sublimefrequencies.com/
XENAKIS, Iannis. Orchestral Works, Xenakis
Edition 15. ”Metastaseis A” (first recording);
“Terretektorh”; “Nomos Gamma.” Residentie Orkest The
Hague, Arturo Tamayo, conductor. CD or Bluray. BLURAY
version includes interview with Tamayo and Xenakis scholar
Sharon Kanach. Mode Records, Mode-299. Published 2017. moderecords.com/
ZEITKRATZER. Serbian War Songs. With
Svetlana Spajić, Dragana Tomić, and Obrad Milić.
LPx2+Download. Published 2017. karlrecords.net/.
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BEST OF 2017
As it is every year, recordings
are a trove of riches. It's always next to
impossible to narrow it down...the first draft gets it
down to about 100 recordings. In addition,
choosing the best really implies you've heard all the
rest. Lifelong record nerd that I am, that was
pretty much true in years past, not as much any
longer. Of the dizzying myriad choices, these are
20 that particularly moved me this year.
Rodrigo Amado - The Attic (No
Michaël Attias Quartet - Nerve Dance
Tim Berne's Snakeoil - Incidentals
David Binney - The Time Verses (Criss
Jaimie Branch - Fly Or Die
(International Anthem) intlanthem.bandcamp.com/album/fly-or-die
Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse - Morphogenesis
(Pi Recordings) stevecoleman.bandcamp.com/album/morphogenesis
John Esposito Quintet - Lyra
Joe Fiedler – Like, Strange
Satoko Fujii, Wadada Leo Smith, Natsuki Tamura, Ikue
Mori - Aspiration (Libra)
Vijay Iyer Sextet - Far From Over
Joe McPhee, Pascal Niggenkemper, Stale Liavik Solberg
- Imaginary Numbers (Clean Feed)
Simon Nabatov, Max Johnson, Michael Sarin - Free
Reservoir (Leo) leorecords.com/?m=select&id=CD_LR_800
Miles Okazaki – Trickster (Pi
Chris Potter - The Dreamer Is The Dream
Kevin Ripley - For The Next
Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures - Glare Of The
Tiger (M.O.D. Technologies)
Jamie Saft-Steve Swallow-Bobby Previte with Iggy Pop
- Loneliness Road (Rare Noise)
Matthew Shipp Quartet - Not Bound
Alex Sipiagin - Moments Captured (Criss
* * * * * * * * *
BEST RECORDINGS OF 2017
C.P.E. Bach. Tangere:
Fantasies, Sonatas, Rondos, Solfèges. Alexei
Lubimov, tangent piano (tangentenflügel). Puts the
“Harp” back in harpsichord, although this isn’t a
harpsichord. The liners explain the unusual sound:
“When the keys are depressed, the strings are acted upon
by narrow wooden slips. Several different stops
fuse the qualities of harpsichords, clavichords,
pianofortes, and harps.” Each individual work here
is as delicious in its own way as a Scarlatti
sonata. ECM New Series 2112. ecmrecords.com
Anouar Brahem. Blue Maqams.
The Tunisian oud player is joined by Dave Holland, Jack
DeJohnette and Django Bates. Anyone who’s ever
liked a Rabih Abou-Khalil disc will need to have this
blend of ECM-style jazz with Arab traditional. ECM
Elliott Carter. Late Works.
32-page booklet in English. These world-famous
musicians, some known only as mainstream classical
artists, all have these works in their blood. Each
piece is played with panache and understanding. A
must-have. Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano: all
except Instances); Colin Currie (percussion: Controversies);
Isabelle Faust (violin: Epigrams); Jean-Guihen
Queyras (cello: Epigrams); Birmingham
Contemporary Music Group; BBC Symphony Orchestra/Oliver
Knussen (Dialogues, Dialogues II, Controversies).
32-page booklet in English. Ondine ODE
Club d’Elf. Live At Club Helsinki.
The promo material described this group as a
“Boston-based, Moroccan-dosed dub-jazz collective” which
includes John Medeski. They cover all those bases
very well. By the way, Club Helsinki is in upstate
New York. Face Pelt 5003, 2CDs. clubdelf.com
Dover Quartet. Voices of Defiance.
Simon Laks: SQ3; Shostakovich SQ2; Viktor Ullman:
SQ3. 73:06. Çedille CDR 90000 173. Laks is
the one new to most people. In their excellent
PSCNY concert this season, Laks was the highlight.
cedillerecords.org, doverquartet.com, naxos.com
Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan.
Small Town. The double bassist partners the
guitarist in Frisell-style Americana (with a lagniappe
of “Goldfinger”) live at the Village Vanguard.
Their performance of these works at Roulette was a
highlight of the year. ECM 2525. ecmrecords.com
Satoko Fujii. Invisible
Hand. The “pure” Fujii, two discs of solo
works that have the intensity and focus (but not the
sound) of Keith Jarrett at his finest, plus I don’t
think he ever plays inside the piano, harp-like or
pizzicato. Some of these pieces have appeared on
her various ensemble albums. Very different from
her first solo album, Something About Water,
twenty years ago, which was mostly pastels. Cortez
Sound CSJ0001/0002, 2CDs. satokofujii.com
Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York. Fukushima.
Fujii puts out so many records, at least five in 2017
alone, that it’s hard to keep track of them.
(That’s what I used to say about Evan Parker and Paul
Dunmall.) This composition, motivated by the
nuclear accident at Fukushima as a result of an
earthquake and tsunami in 2011, starts out with soft
whistling and whooshing sounds, probably through
mouthpieces. As the piece slowly builds (there are
five sections) it takes on a dirge-like sound and
movement, making me think of Bengt Berger’s classic Bitter
Funeral Beer (ECM). The orchestra is
composed entirely of heavy-hitters. I’ll list them
just by last name, the last one just by his first:
Noriega, Eskelin, Malaby, Laster, Ballou, Robertson,
Tamura, Sellers, Fiedler, Hasselbring, (N.) Cline,
Takeishi, and Ches. Again, I think Fujii’s NYO is
my favorite of her several orchestras, but that’s only
until I hear a different one. Fukushima is an
instant classic. Luckily for us, if not for our
wallets, Fujii will be celebrating her 60th birthday by
releasing a new album each month of 2018. Libra
214-044. satokofujii.com, librarecords.com
J Hacha de Zola. Antipatico.
Hacha de Zola’s voice is given echo the way they did for
Jim Morrison, and he often phrases that way too, but
exaggerated. Yearning rock ballads, rock cumbia,
bits of prog and Zep make a tasty cazuela. The
press release says it’s his third album; Discogs lists
only one CD-r. There’s a fun “biography” on
YouTube, and a few tracks. Co-conspirators include
Ralph Carney, Frank London, Stefan Zaniuk’s Gato Loco
and other in/outsiders. Caballo Negro (no catalog
Rich Halley and Carson Halley. The Wild.
Intense sax/drums duo free improvisations. Don’t
overlook this one. First audition it on Spotify,
then buy. Pine Eagle 010. richhalley.com
Barbara Hannigan. Crazy Girl Crazy.
This crazy soprano, singing and conducting, has made a
brilliant, crazy sequence of Berio’s Sequenza II (for
solo voice), Berg’s Lulu Suite, and a suite of several
Gershwin tunes, cleverly arranged with Bergian
sonorities by Hannigan and Bill Elliott. The DVD
is useless except for visually answering my question of
where the male vocal choir comes in during the Gershwin;
they’re members of the orchestra, each musician listed
by name in the credits. The thick booklet contains
complete texts for all three works. Alpha 293, CD
Matty Harris Double Septet. A thirty-five
minute composition (or is it a suite, or are they four
separate compositions?) with improvisation, by reedman
Harris. Vinny Golia in in the ensemble.
pfMENTUM PFMCD093. Also available in vinyl. pfmentum.com,
Eric Hofbauer Quintet. Reminiscing In
Tempo (Prehistoric Jazz, Volume 4). A
striking arrangement for quintet of Duke Ellington’s
extended masterpiece, with some spaces for
improvisation, in gorgeous sound. Guitarist
Hofbauer had to transcribe the unpublished work.
About his arrangement, he writes, “My basic blueprint
was: trumpet is the trumpet section, clarinet is the
saxes, cello is the trombone, and then guitar and drums
is the rhythm section.” I’ve played this disc more
frequently than any other I’ve acquired this year.
Previous releases in the series, all of which I’m
excitedly anticipating audition include Ives’ Three
Places In New England, Messiaen’s Quatuor pour
le fin du temps, and Igor’s The Rite Of Spring.
Live excerpts of these can be seen and heard on
Youtube. A marvelous EP in a beautiful art deco
letterpress folio and insert. Creative Nation
Music cnm030. erichofbauer.com
Charles Ives. Three Places In New
England, Orchestral Set No.2, New England Holidays.
Seattle SO, Ludovic Morlot, cond. Seattle Symphony
Media SSM1015. I’ve been in love with Ives my
whole adult life, and I bought the Stokowski Phase 4 LP
of Orchestral Set No.2 at Papyrus Books near Columbia
University, and have been transfixed ever since.
Some critics say Morlot smoothes out Ives’ edges, others
say he brings clarity of line. They’re both right,
and whether you like Ives or don’t know his orchestral
work, these performances are must-haves. It’s a
shame their Ives symphonies are each coupled with works
by other composers. seattlesymphony.org
Philippe Jarrousky. La Storia di Orfeo.
My favorite countertenor comes up with another excellent
project, telling the story of Orpheus using a mash-up of
work by Monteverdi, Sartorio and Rossi. It flows
beautifully, is co-sung with soprano Emőke Baráth, and
comes with Italian lyrics facing English
translations. Erato 0190295851903. philippejarrousky.fr,
Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton
Marsalis. Handful of Keys. The
orchestra swings, of course, but the title refers to
individual solo turns by each pianist: Dick Hyman, Myra
Melford, Joey Alexander, Dan Nimmer, Isaiah J. Thompson
and the wonderful, underknown Helen Sung. Blue
Engine B#0010. jazz.org,
Billy Jones. Three’s A Crowd.
Drummer Billy Jones, previously unknown to me, strikes a
hit with an all-duo album, each track solid and
tasty. Excellent sound, as befits a label of an
audio engineering company. Acoustical
György Kurtág. Complete Works for
Ensemble and Choir. 42 tracks of savory work
by the great contemporary Hungarian miniaturist,
including Messages of the Late Miss R. Troussova
for soprano and chamber ensemble which I first heard and
made me fall for Kurtág when I bought a Supraphon LP on
a whim in a store in Madrid circa 1982. The two
longer works (around 17 minutes each) are the 2010 Colindá
Baladá for tenor solo, chorus and chamber
ensemble; and Samuel Beckett: What is the Word
for alto solo, voices and chamber ensembles dispersed in
space from 1991. Poets include Anna Akhmatova,
Osip Mandelstam, and Rimma Dalos. Performers
include cellist Jean_Guihen Queyras, Asko/Schónberg
Ensemble and the Netherlands Radio Choir conducted by
the venerable Reinbert de Leeuw. ECM New Series
2505-07, 3 CDs with a 92-page booklet including notes by
Paul Griffith, texts with English translations, and an
interview with de Leeuw.
George Li. Live At
The Mariinsky. Haydn: Sonata in B minor,
Hob.XVI:32; Chopin: Sonata 2; Rachmaninov: Variations
on a Theme of Corelli; Liszt, Consolation No.
3; Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. 68:56.
Warner 0190295812942. Great programming played
with spirit. georgelipianist.com,
Gustav Mahler. Symphonies 1-9.
Lorin Maazel, Philharmonia Orchestra. I was in the
minority opinion in my greatly enjoying Maazel’s Vienna
Phil CBS/Sony set. This new one has received mixed
reviews. I especially enjoy the first three.
Usually available for a good price at Amazon
Marketplace. Signum SIGCD363, 15 CDs. signumrecords.com,
Björn Meyer. Provenance.
Meyer plays twelve solos on six-string electric bass
guitar and acoustic bass guitar. It has the
feeling and sound of the earliest, gorgeous ECM solo
guitar records. ECM 2566. ecmrecords.com
Roscoe Mitchell. Bells
For The South Side. Three trio ensembles,
all playing combinations of Mitchell’s powerful
lower-case sound and high energy music.
Roscoe Mitchell, James Fei, Hugh Ragin,Tyshawn Sorey,
Craig Taborn, Jaribu Shahid, William Winant, Kikanju
Baku anc Tani Tabbal. ECM 2594/95, 2 CDs. ecmrecords.com
André Navarra, cello. Prague
Recordings: The Complete Supraphon Recordings
1953-1966. Works by Brahms, Schumann, Bloch,
Prokofiev, Beethoven, Boccherini, Martinů , Honegger,
d’Hereloix, Ravel, Lalo, Kodály, Respighi. SU
4229-2, 5 CDs. supraphon.com
Yoko Ono. Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band and
Fly. Chimera Music/Secretly Canadian SC281
and SC282. Yoko’s two first solo albums retain the
power and magic every time I play them. These
sound slightly better than the Ryko CD reissues, and
have slightly less air but slightly tighter bass than
the original US LP pressings. Both cleverly come
with Grapefruit labels, a parody of the Apple
labels. (Yoko’s classic book is titled Grapefruit.)
Original inner sleeves and inserts in thick cardboard
sleeves. My Secretly Canadian vinyl copies had
silent surfaces. If you like these, also reissued
are the rockier/poppier Approximately Infinite
Universe and Feeling The Space.
(Caveat emptor: certain editions of Fly and Feeling The
Space are on white vinyl, others on black.) chimeramusic.com,
Ed Palermo Big Band. The Adventures of
Zodd Zundgren. Continues Palermo’s delving
into Zappa’s catalog, making it a living, breathing
thing not consigned only to the original Mothers
albums. Joyous and intriguing. As the title
alludes, the songs are equally from Zappa and Todd
Rundgren. Great fun. Cuneiform RUNE
Noah Preminger. Meditations on Freedom.
The saxophonist released this quartet performance on
Trump’s Inauguration Day and features a very wistful “A
Change Is Going To Come.” Dylan’s “Only a Pawn in
Their Game,” and George Harrison’s “Give Me Love (Give
Me Peace On Earth.” Dry Bridge Records 005. noahpreminger.com
Otis Redding. Live At The Whiskey A Go
Go: The Complete Recordings. Stax/Volt
recorded Otis at the Whiskey April 8-10, 1966, and only
now do we get to hear the tasty fruits. If you
like Otis at all, this is a must-have. Cool cover
and package design. Volt STX-39646-02, CDs in
The Seen. Archive, Volumes 1-V
2005-2009. Mostly subtle, lower-case sound
by ensembles including people like Dominic Lash, Phil
Durrant, John Butcher, David Toop, Rhodri Davies,
Wolfgang Fuchs, Bertrand Denzler, Burkhard Beins, et al.
on bassist and cellist Mark Wastell’s label Confront
Collectors Series cos 78. 5 CDs, 5 postcards with
liner notes, metal box. confrontrecordings.com
Jackie Shane. Any Other Way.
The ‘60s soul singer’s six 45s and a few unreleased
tracks, and a second CD of a live show. A
non-campy transgendered artist, openly so, way before
most people could deal with the concept, with Ms.
Shane’s story in her own words. Numero Group 067,
slipcase, hardbound book of 80-page with all-English
notes with plenty of photos, 2 short CDs. numerogroup.com
Bill Simenson Orchestra. Big Alpaca.
The website says he’s been performing with this ensemble
since 2012. A good reason to visit Minneapolis,
this band is tight, loose when it needs to be, and
Simenson’s writing ranges from film-noir to Stan Kenton
and beyond. billsimenson.com
David Virelles. Gnosis. With
Román Diaz and the Nosotros Ensemble. Afro-Cuban
chants, hypnotic songs, meditative solos. Not
diluted ‘world music,’ but fully-fused ethnic
jazz. ECM 2526. ecmrecords.com
* * * * * * * * *