“What happens when such creative, dynamic musicians meet? Light the fuse and listen to the fireworks”
Dave Douglas Quintet – Be Still
“Dave Douglas’ ‘Be Still’ must be one of the most honest, and unashamedly beautiful albums of 2012”
BABs – Diving Bells
“Fun and unusual, with a great sound”
“The best thing that can happen is for the listener simply to become immersed in his delicate, hypnotic and meditative sound-world.”
“Farroukh is a fine saxophonist and also an accomplished builder of convincing narratives as a composer”
Don Fagen – Sunken Condos
“Chosen for the distillation of jazz sensibilities within an an album which is primarily not improvised.”
Avishai Cohen with Nitai Hershkovits – Duende
“A gem of an album I keep going back to again and again. The perfectly balanced acoustic duo seamlessly combine jazz, classical and folk genres…Avishai is forever discovering amazing young talent and this album introduces piano prodigy Nitai Hershkovits (who can be heard playing with Avishai at the Barbican on 7th May 2013.)”
Laura Jurd – Landing Ground
“This debut album deserves -at least!- an honourable mention”
Henry Threadgill – Tomorrow Sunny/The Revelry
“just listen to the SOUND the guy makes on alto.”
Blue Notes – Before the Wind Changes
“a newly discovered album from one of the greatest groups in the history of our music…how could it not be in my list?!?”
Alexander Hawkins also picked Wadada Leo Smith’s Ten Freedom Summers, see below in Dan Paton’s selection.
Alexa Von Hirschberg:
The Bad Plus – Made Possible
“The Bad Plus can’t put a pedal wrong”
George Crowley Quartet – Paper Universe
“Paper Universe deserves attention for Crowley’s engaging compositions and exceptional storytelling.”
“The ultimate shout-out this year is to Troyka who, for me, encapsulate everything that is exciting about the London jazz scene. Their second album Moxxy is contemporary fusion to die for; dynamic, absorbing, vigorous and sexxy as hell.”
Jack Davis Big Band (self titled album)
“This big band debut plays host to some superb writing combining a host of moods, colours and fantastic instrumental performance.
Tom Gibbs – Fear of Flying
“An album with a personal touch, real flair and a true sense of beauty.”
trioVD – Maze
“Chris, Chris and Chris combine for another installment of raw energy, distorted beats, and dense soundscapes in this inspiringly creative record”
Phronesis – Walking Dark
“Breathtaking interaction without the dominance of any one player, those brilliant, memorable spidery bass lines that seem to act as so much more than foundations, the relentless activity through which subtle melodies are interwoven.”
Wadada Leo Smith – Ten Freedom Summers
“This is not merely an album – but the summation of an entire life’s aspirations, a composition cycle that merges radical arranging with liberated improvising to stirring, moving effect, incorporating the triumph and the frustrations of the Civil Rights movement.”
Brigitte Beraha – Babelfish
“A quietly irresistible CD, which gives the almost certain prospect that in two or three years, Brigitte Beraha is going to make a truly classic album.”
Daniel Humair – Sweet and Sour
“This lineup was a definite highlight of the Jazzdor festival in Berlin. The legendary Swiss drummer is supported by some much younger associates all of whom coalesce into a unit capable of going in all directions and capture and define any mood. A richly varied album.”
Herbie Tsoaeli – African Time
“Bassist Herbie Tsoaeli and his young band from Johannesburg showcased the tracks from this remarkable and addictive album at the Cape Town Festival in March.Tsoaeli has spent decades as sideman, but he also has a voice of great resonance, in all senses, which seems to speak from deep in the bass clef and from deep in the soul.”
The big one is Scott Walker’s Bish Bosch (4AD). Operatic in ambition, resolutely individual, esoteric and raw, this highly uncomfortable mirror of the times has been constructed with an awesome attention to detail. Walker’s acutely controlled, melodic voice finds a platform within a flow of precisely defined acoustic spaces that encompass electronics, micro-acoustics, roughly cast guitar, brass, squealing violins and studio-recorded effects, including the well-reported clashing of machete blades.
There’s even a tiny snatch of the Take Five rhythm. Walker’s lyrics take on the mantle of true poetry, and pull no punches – ‘take that accidentally in the bollocks for a start’. Complex, disturbing, they articulate the darkest aspects of humanity – alienation, warfare, torture, brutality, suffering, cruelty – but with the decaying beauty of a Pasolini or Fellini epic. ‘I looked high and low for you. I guess I didn’t look low enough.’ The use of silence is rivetting, notably in the extended SDSS1416+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter). The drama and the imagination are tense, unpredictable – you never know what is around the next corner. It is a stunning album, unmatched, unique.
The one that caught me by surprise is Battles Dross Glop (Warp). The trio, Battles, invited 12 artists each to remix a track of their Gloss Drop album – originally on 12 inch singles, now compiled on a CD bursting with freshness. Each interpretation is imbued with a unique, inspired footprint. On some tracks the links are tenuous, others amplify the essence; raw material is rewoven to parallel designs. Silent Servant’s remix of Inchworm flies off with a hefty dance undercarriage with engulfing atmospherics; EYE’s remix of Sundome picks off its massive dub reggae root in a collage of crazy acoustic paving; Qluster’s Dominican Fade has a gentle, dreamy nonchalance and Hudson Mohawke gets right to the point with an electro-hurdy-gurdy recasting of the catchy theme of Rose Bayce. Every track is a winner – frisky, fresh and intelligent all the way through.
In more conventional format, Gerd Dudek’s Day and Night (psi records) struck a chord in the light of his masterly performance at the Vortex on the January night before the recording, where he demonstrated what a virtuosic sax player he is – connected, authoritative, with a wealth of experience in ‘free’ and conventional jazz – and what a great rapport he struck up with this quartet – Hans Koller, Oli Hayhurst and Gene Calderazzo – in their careful interpretations of ‘favourite tunes’, from Herbie Nichols to Bach, via Mingus, Ornette and Kenny Wheeler – all brimming with personality and flair. Lovely, because it wasn’t trying to be ‘record of the year’!