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Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Paint (Hot Cup)

The first release by the piano trio configuration of Mostly Other People Do the Killing and features bassist/composer Moppa Elliott, pianist Ron Stabinsky, and drummer Kevin Shea, with each composition named after a small town in Pennsylvania that contains a color, and the town of "Paint, PA" lent its name to the title, with one apt Duke Ellington cover. ... Click to View


Moppa Elliott : Still, Up In The Air (Hot Cup)

Solo double-bass improvisations from Mostly Other People Do the Killing bassist and leader Moppa Elliot, consisting of sequences of contrasting themes, or musical cubism in the spirit of Picasso and Braque, presenting 7 of 14 sequences where the improvisation is a series of disparate musical ideas that transition rapidly in an attempt to disrupt the linear progression of thematic development. ... Click to View


Leandre / Minton: Leandre / Minton (Fou Records)

Phil Minton started as a trumpeter and became one of free improv's most outside vocalists; Joelle Leandre is a double bassist who also performs free vocal improv; this is their first recorded collaboration, and it's an unusual and wonderful album of heavy tone improvisation, plucked and bowed, and a masterfully odd free association of vocalisation. ... Click to View


Talibam! : Endgame Of The Anthropocene [VINYL] (ESP)

Talibam!'s 1st cinematic album of through-composed ecogothic geosonics, the "soundtrack to 2048's despotic nationalism and crumbling international infrastructure, underscoring an eco-mercantilistic tragedy and the desperate plundering of the last pristine landscape on Earth" from NY's duo of Matt Mottel on mini moog and synths, and Kevin Shea on drums, and midi mallet percussion. ... Click to View


Talibam! / Matt Nelson / Ron Stabinsky: Hard Vibe [VINYL] (ESP)

Talibam! with Matt Mottel on sax, Kevin Shea on drums, Matt Mottel on Fender Rhodes and synth and Ron Stabinsky on organ take inspiration from Herbie Hancock's 70's electronics, Miles Davis' "On the Corner" and Albert Ayler's New grass in compositions that transforms aspects of rhythm changes into a disciplined sequence, a new take on psychedelic jazz. ... Click to View


Crys Cole / Oren Ambarchi: Hotel Record [VINYL 2 LPs] (Black Truffle)

A double LP and the second release from the duo of Crys Cole and Oren Ambarchi, also romantic partners, as they explore their relationship through sound and voice, each side presenting a unique approach to their collaboration while maintaining a certain somnambulist feeling over rich guitar and organ work, and other unfathomable sound. ... Click to View


Boneshaker (Mars Williams / Paal Nilssen-Love / Kent Kessler): Thinking Out Loud (Trost Records)

The third album from this international trio of powerful improvisers--Norwegian drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love, Chicago bassist Kent Kessler, and Chicago/NY saxophonist Mars William-- in four odysseys that take the listener from introspective playing to out and out blowing, using technique to serve their incredible dialog. ... Click to View


Sven-Ake Johansson / Alexander Von Schlippenbach : Schraubenlieder [VINYL] (Trost Records)

Drummer Sven-Ake Johansson is also a poet, writer and visual artist; here he joined forced with Alexander von Schlippenbach in 1988 to record these songs, never previously released, sung in German and English, for a set of 9 fascinating narrations that engage the listener independent of language, as von Schlippenbach improvises with prodigious technique. ... Click to View


Annette Peacock & Paul Bley: Dual Unity (Bamboo)

Reissuing the debut album by vocalist Annette Peacock and pianist Paul Bley recorded during their first European tour in 1970, in a quartet with compatriots Mario Pavone on bass and Laurence Cook on drums, Bley using an early Moog synthesizer; unique and original avant jazz. ... Click to View


Paul Bley Trio: Closer [VINYL] (ESP)

A vinyl reissue of Paul Bley's 2nd ESP album from 1966, a lyrical and lush trio setting with material mostly from Carla Bley, one Ornette Coleman number, and one from Annette Peacock, with Steve Swallow on bass and Barry Altschul on percussion, exploratory free jazz that uses melodic intention in assertive but not aggressive aways; a classic. ... Click to View


Pharoah Sanders : Quintet [VINYL] (ESP)

A vinyl reissue of Pharoah Sanders' 1965 debut release on ESP, in a quinet with Jane Getz on piano, William Bennett on bass, Stan Foster on trumpet and Mavin Pattillo on percussion, decidedly a jazz album from this outside player known for his association with John Coltrane in his freeist moments, here bridging lyrical and avant worlds with powerful playing. ... Click to View


Wadada Smith Leo: Najwa (Tum)

Paying tribute to musicians whose vision paved the way for modern creative players to use new approaches, language and philosophy in improvisation, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith's band with four guitarists, electric bass, drums and percussion dedicates five incredible compositions to Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Ronald Shannon Jackson, and Billie Holiday. ... Click to View


Wadada Smith Leo: Solo - Reflections And Meditations On Monk (Tum)

An intimate album of solo trumpet from Wadada Leo Smith, performing compositions by Thelonious Monk, Smith professing in an essay in the accompanying booklet that he was motivated to become a composer by Monk above other contemporaries for his ideas of composition and bands; his admiration and love of Monk's work is clear in this beautifully lyrical album. ... Click to View


Aki Takase / Alexander von Schlippenbach: So Long, Eric! Homage to Eric Dolphy (Intakt)

Alexander von Schlippenbach and Aki Takase assembled an ensemble of Dolphy interpreters that includes bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall, saxophonist Tobias Delius, vibraphonist Karl Berger, trumpeter Axel Dorner, trombonist Nils Wogram, &c, for a fresh take on compositions from one of free jazz's most iconic composers, Eric Dolphy, captured live in Berlin, 2014. ... Click to View


Steve Noble / Yoni Silver: Home (Aural Terrains)

The two-headed snake on the cover of this album aptly describes the sublimely sinuous and dark interplay between London free jazz drummer Steve Noble and bass clarinetist Yoni Silver, their 4-part improvisation taking on sinister elements of exceptional cymbal techniques, unusual drum tones, and extended lower register tones and high harmonics; excellent. ... Click to View


Various Artists: Asian Meeting Recordings #1 (Doubtmusic)

Otomo Yoshihide started The Asian Meeting Festival in 2005 to foster creative interaction between Japanese and other Asian musicians, since 2014 curated by DJ Sniff, and here in the 2017 edition at GOK Sound, in Tokyo, Japan with a who's-who of players including Yoshihide, Ryoko Ono, Ko Ishikawa, Son X, KEITO, Yuji Ishihara, Yuen Chee Wai, &c. &c. ... Click to View


Jim Black Trio: The Constant (Intakt)

A beautiful example of the modern piano trio, led by in-demand drummer, Jim Black, with Elias Stemeseder the pianist and Thomas Morgan on bass, in a lyrical album that uses Black's compelling and elusive drumming on 9 original Black compositions and one unexpected standard, as all three deliver complex playing that sounds accessible and engaging, a true achievement. ... Click to View


Fred Frith / Barry Guy: Backscatter Bright Blue (Intakt)

Both bassist Barry Guy and guitarist Fred Frith are key artists of Switzerland's Intakt label catalog, but surprisingly the two have never shared a stage together; Intakt had a feeling about their pairing and brought them into the studio, this superb duo album being the result in 10 brilliant tracks intertwining acoustic double bass and electric guitar. ... Click to View


Fred Frith Trio: Another Day in Fucking Paradise (Intakt)

Proclaiming that he nothing more in mind then getting together with a couple of formidable musicians, guitarist Fred Frith and Mills College alumni Jordan Glenn on drums and Jason Hoopes on electric and double bass take their listeners through 13 connected pieces that reference rock, jazz and ea-soundscape in an impressive album from a remarkable new group. ... Click to View


Lotte Anker / Fred Frith: Edge Of The Light (Intakt)

An intimate dialog between frequent collaborators, UK guitarist Fred Frith and Copenhagen saxophonist Lotte Anker, both players listening carefully as they interact in a fragile dialog of profound technique and inventive approach, using texture and nuance to create unusual and captivating interchanges that demonstrate how compatible these two very different instruments can be. ... Click to View


Schlippenbach Trio (Schlippenbach / Evan Parker / Lovens): Features (Intakt)

The long-standing Schlippenbach Trio with Evan Parker on saxophone and Paul Lovens on drums presents 15 concise "Features", improvisations of great depth and diversity, from the beautifully stark solo piano that opens the album to intense collective interactions, avoiding excess in deference to the profound expression of an inspiring group chemistry. ... Click to View


Mark Dresser : Modicana [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Double Bassist Mark Dresser, a mainstay of the Downtown NY scene as an improviser and composer, and also prominent on the US West Coast and as an international touring artist, releases a powerful album of distinctive solo playing, both technically and melodically, with 2 tracks caught live at the Umea Jazz Festival and others recorded at the University of California, San Diego. ... Click to View


Bobby Bradford / Hafez Modirzadeh / Ken Filiano / Royal Hartigan: Live at the Magic Triangle [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

A live concert at Amherst, Massachusetts in 2016 as part of the Magical Triangle Jazz Series from the quartet of legendary cornetist Bobby Bradford, Turkish saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh on tenor, in-demand New York bassist Ken Filiano, and percussionist/drummer Royal Hartigan, the band performing two Bradford compositions, with one each from Filiano, Modirzadeh and Hartigan. ... Click to View


Andrew Lamb / Warren Smith / Arkadijus Gotesmanas: The Sea of Modicum [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Captured live at the 2016 Vilnius Jazz Festival, the free jazz trio of saxophonist Andrew Lamb and percussionists Warren Smith and Arkadijus Gotesmanas provide a unique orchestration, with the percussionists building rhythmic structures over which AACM alumni Lamb's powerful saxophone work emerges; a great album of solid exploratory free jazz. ... Click to View


Yedo Gibson / Hernani Faustino / Vasco Trilla: CHAIN (NoBusiness)

A fiery and energetic album of masterful free jazz from Brazilian saxophonist Yedo Gibson, Portuguese-Brazilian drummer and percussionist Vasco Trilla, and Portuguese bass player Hernani Faustino (Red Trio, K4 Quadrado Azul), recording in the studio for 6 dynamic dialogs that uses a variety of approaches and references to free jazz and creative improv. ... Click to View


TON-KLAMI (Midori Takada / Kang Tae Hwan / Masahiko Satoh): Prophesy of Nue (NoBusiness)

Ton-Klami was an influential Japanese free improvising band active in the 90s, and leading to the solo careers of percussionist Midori Takada, pianist Masahiko Satoh, and saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan; here the band is heard in a 1995 live concert recorded at Design Plaza Hofu in Yamaguchi, Japan, recorded by Chap-Chap Records but never released. ... Click to View


Liudas Mockunas : Hydro [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Lithuanian reedist Liudas Mockunas in an unusual record of clarinet and saxophone improvisations, from solo work of powerful technique to pieces using water prepared instruments to create a wealth of bubbling and aberrant sound on the instrument, side A presenting the 7 part "Hydration Suite", Side B the 3 part "Rehydration", and "Dehydration". ... Click to View


James Ulmer Blood W/ The Thing: Baby Talk (The Thing Records)

The Thing with Mats Gustafsson on tenor and baritone sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on electric and double bass, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion, are joined by Downtown NY legend, guitarist James Blood Ulmer, for a live set at the Moldel International Jazz Festival in 2015 performing an exuberant and all-out impressive set of Ulmer composions. ... Click to View


James Ulmer Blood W/ The Thing: Baby Talk [VINYL] (The Thing Records)

The Thing with Mats Gustafsson on tenor and baritone sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on electric and double bass, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion, are joined by Downtown NY legend, guitarist James Blood Ulmer, for a live set at the Moldel International Jazz Festival in 2015 performing an exuberant and all-out impressive set of Ulmer composions. ... Click to View


Sun Ra & His Myth Science Solar Arkestra: The Lost Arkestra Series Vol 1 & 2 [2 10-INCH VINYL RECORDS] (Art Yard)

A double 10" featuring unreleased and rare Sun Ra recordings, including a live track from Paris in 1983, two unreleased cuts from the "Disco 3000" concert tapes, a quartet session with Sun Ra on the Crumar Mainman synth, and three selections from the Sub-Underground series of Saturn LPs, including a ballad and new material from "Live at Temple" and "What's New". ... 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 (110) (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 - Pck (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, Ccile 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 Brtzmann - 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 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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