Philz Top 35 albums for 2023, a funny number but better than the 80 albums he originally selected for the finest of the year!
Ackerley / Uesaka / Hinton: Petting Zoo (Waveform Alphabet)
The NY trio of Jessica Ackerley (SSWAN) on electric guitar, Yuma Uesaka on saxophone & reeds and Colin Hinton on drums & percussion, associated with improvisers including Tyshawn Sorey, Patrick Shiroshi, Ingrid Laubrock, &c., in a collective trio of exceptionally attuned and implicitly melodic dialog promoting energetic interplay balanced with periods of explorative reflection.
AMM (Rowe / Prevost + Tilbury): Last Calls (Matchless)
To celebrate drummer/percussionist Eddie Prévost's 80th birthday, Café Oto hosted four concerts once a week in June, 2022, each a differing configuration from Prévost's history; this final concert reconvened for an extended improvisation between Prévost & guitarist Keith Rowe, with a "Postscript" from pianist John Tilbury recorded at his home in January, 2023.
Ballister (Rempis / Lonberg-Holm / Nilssen-Love): Smash And Grab (Aerophonic)
"Smash", "Even More Smashing" and "Grab" sums up the intense energy that the Ballister trio brought to their 2022 performance at Elastic Arts in Chicago as part of the Catalytic Sound Festival, impelled by Paul Nilssen-Love's powerful drumming and Fred Lonberg-Holm's demanding cello work, with Dave Rempis roaring on alto, tenor and baritone saxophones; wow!
Bi Ba Doom (Pitsiokos / Stewart / Nazary): Graceful Collision [VINYL w/ DOWNLOAD] (Astral Spirits)
A New York trio of musical friends from Chris Pitsiokos on alto saxophone, Luke Stewart on electric & acoustic basses and Jason Nazary on drums, an elegantly impactful album of organic free jazz expanded through electronic textures from all three members as they enthusiastically explore new approaches to energetic, creative, contemporary improvisation; extraordinary!
Butcher, John: The Very Fabric (Ftarri / Hitorri)
Impeccably recorded inside the Brřnshřj Water Tower, in Copenhagen, Denmark, a highly resonant space built 100 years ago, where UK tenor and soprano saxophonist John Butcher continues his investigations into spaces with natural delay and decay, through 11 improvisations of discriminating pacing as he finds incredible beauty in floating and shifting tones and instrument errata; exquisite.
Butcher, John / Pat Thomas / Dominic Lash / Steve Noble: Fathom (577 Records)
The debut for UK saxophonist John Butcher on 577 Records is this exemplary 2021 live recording at Cafe OTO in London by the quartet of Butcher on tenor and soprano saxophones, Pat Thomas on piano, Dominic Lash on double bass and Steve Noble on drums, four of the UK's leading free improvisers demonstrating their prodigious abilities in concentrated conversation.
Ceccaldi, Valentin (w/ Ziemniak / Ottervanger / Lopes): Bonbon Flamme (Clean Feed)
A wild, fun, inventive and musically impressive ride from French cellist Valentin Ceccaldi quartet with Etienne Ziemniak on drums, Fulco Ottervanger on piano & keyboards and Luis Lopes on guitar, a unique set of jazz, psychedelic and almost circus music, where the listener is never quite certain what's around the corner but constantly amazed at what they hear.
Chrysakis, Thanos: Manifold Vista (Auf Abwegen)
Aural Terrains label-leader, composer and sound artist Thanos Chrysakis presents six new pieces merging electronic composition with field recordings and other electro-acoustic sources, in five rich and beautifully paced works of a diverse nature, evolving a consistent sound world where each piece draws the listener into the composer's detailed and engaging concepts.
Cochrane, Chris / John Thayer: Excavation [VINYL] (Astral Editions)
The core duo of guitarist & bassist Chris Cochrane (No Safety) and drummer & electronics artist John Thayer dig deep into a bag of aural tricks in eight compelling tracks that blur rock, jazz and experimental approaches to upbeat rhythmic music, assisted on various pieces by an excellent cast including Zeena Parkins, Graham Haynes, Gelsey Bell, and Kato Hideki.
Darge, Moniek / Vanessa Rossetto: Dream Soundies (erstwhile)
Bringing together two generations of sound artists and field recording specialists--Belgian composer Moniek Darge, known for her ethnomusicologist "soundies" from global locations; and American sound composer Vanessa Rossetto transforming everyday occurrence--for a meeting at Lincoln Center in NYC to record the city and reshape its sound into four impressionistic sonic reveries.
Davies, Rhodri: Trem (Amgen Records)
Reissuing his 2003 album on the Confront label, Rhodri Davies' first solo album is a captivating set of uniquely voiced free improvisation, using a pedal harp, radio and tape recorders and percussive devices, and recorded in the natural resonance of All Angels, St Michael and All Angels Church in London, creating narrative and drama through Davie's intuitive sense of timing.
Day & Taxi (Gallio / Jeger / Hemmingway): Live in Baden (Clean Feed)
For 35 years saxophonist & composer Christoph Gallio has directed the exemplary Swiss jazz group Day & Taxi, here in a trio format with bassist Silvan Jeger and drummer Gerry Hemingway, Gallio on soprano, alto & C melody saxophones, heard in this 2021 live performance at Stadtbistro Isebahnli, in Baden, Germany for nine diverse, creative and delightfully quirky pieces.
Day, Bryan / Dereck Higgins: Woven Territories (Public Eyesore)
San Francisco East Bay sonic artist and Public Eyesore/Eh? label-leader Bryan Day meets Omaha bass player and sound artist Dereck Higgins for four enveloping works of sound, sonically rich and epic journeys through terrains of identifiable musical elements and acousmatic curiosity, all with an ear to story-telling as the duo weave passages of fantastic elements.
Ducret, Marc (w/ Martinez / Helary / Bopp / Ducret): Palm Sweat: Marc Ducret Plays the Music of Tim Berne (Out Of Your Head Records)
A frequent collaborator with NY saxophonist and composer Tim Berne, French guitarist Marc Ducret takes on Berne's compositions, at times in multiple interpretations of the same work or by merging pieces together, performed with the superb support of trumpeter Fabrice Martinez, flutist Sylvaine Helary, trombonist Christiane Bopp and Ducret's son, cellist Bruno Ducret.
Duplant, Bruno / Seth Nehil: The Memory Of Things (Sublime Retreat)
An immersive and often explosive set of dark compositions from Seth Nehil & Bruno Duplant, blending field recordings, electronics, percussion and percussive objects into a controlled chaos of inexplicably murky and uncategorizable sounds, at times like a surreal firework display, or inserted into a complex machine on the verge of collapse, all imbued with a consistent resonant hue.
Ensemble Dedalus + eRikm: Fata Morgana (Relative Pitch)
Composed by erikM and performed with the Dedalus Ensemble, these pieces started through acousmographe recording of sounds outside of human hearing, transposed into notes and scored to be interpreted by musicians while immersed via headphone to mimic the sounds of cetaceans, then rearranged in the studio to create the annotated compositions heard on these carefully recorded compositions.
Festen (Hedtjarn / Ullen / Bergman / Carlsson): Festen (Clean Feed)
A remarkable album of free improvisation from the Scandinavian quartet of Isak Hedtjarn on clarinet, Lisa Ullen on piano, Elsa Bergman on double bass, and Erik Carlsson on drums, captivating the listener with active and detailed interplay of strong intention and technical skill.
Foussat, Jean-Marc / Guy-Frank Pellerin: Les Beaux Jours (Fou Records)
The title translating to
The Good Days, Fou label leader and synth player Jean-Marc Foussat joins with soprano & tenor saxophonist Guy-Frank Pellerin (Dieci Ensemble) for three extended electroacoustic improvisations and a shorter coda, employing piano, toys, field recordings, a whispered poem from Tristan Tzara, and a sense of limitless creativity and imagination.
Frith, Fred And Ensemble Musiques Nouvelles: Something About This Landscape For Ensemble (Sub Rosa)
Commissioned by and recorded during the 2018 Ars Musical Festival, Fred Frith composed this work while under the inspiration of his residency at Lou Harrison's straw-bale house in the desert at Joshua Tree, CA, then performed with the Ensemble Musiques Nouvelles, along with two very unique improvisations, one recorded during the dress rehearsal and then again in concert.
Ghost, The Michael Foster's (Foster / Radichel / Sullivan): Vanished Pleasures (Relative Pitch)
Following NY saxophonist Michael Foster's interest in free jazz, noise and the pre-AIDS era of sexual freedom in the gay community, expressed in a sax-bass-drums trio with Philadelphia double bassist Jared Radichel and drummer Joey Sullivan, drawing on pre-composed structures, melodies, samples, and improvisation to reflect both the joy and anxiety of the queer experience.
Hemingway, Gerry: Afterlife (Auricle)
Taking what he describes as a road he's never been on, percussionist and improviser Gerry Hemingway turns in an astute album of original songs, Hemingway's voice expressive on work he explains was originally influenced by Dylan, Geeshie Wiley, Lou Reed or Monroe Brothers, the album developed over four years with a cast of collaborators including Ralph Alessi, Earl Howard, Michael Moore, &c.
Koch / Loriot / Kocher: Stranger Becoming (Bruit Editions + Neither / Nor Records)
Singular but not strange improvisational intersections from this Swiss trio of open-minded and masterful musicians--Hans Koch on clarinet, Frantz Loriot on viola and Jonas Kocher on accordion--highly compatible collaborators who have developed a unique language of chamber-oriented free improvisation that experiments at the convergence of compositional and chamber jazz forms.
La Casa, Eric: Barrieres Mobiles [CD + 40pg BOOKLET] (Swarming)
A series of sound impressions and an audio documentary of metal barriers placed at entrances to public buildings after the coordinated 2015 Paris attacks by ISIS; 29 compositions recorded and mixed between 2018-2023 by Eric La Casa, wondering what the barriers protected Parisians from, and answering the question of what Paris sounds like to the barriers themselves.
Lantskap Logic (Frith / Davis / Greenlief): Hidden Danger Lets Me In (Clean Feed)
Mixed, edited and re-organized by Fred Frith and mastered by Thomas Dimuzio, this album find the trio of Frith on electric guitar, Evelyn Davis on the Mills Chapel pipe organ and Phillip Greenlief on clarinet & alto saxophone, performing in the Mills College Chapel in Oakland, CA, the sophomore release on Clean Feed for this versatile trio of masterful improvisers.
Myers, David Lee: Ceremonial Fires (pulsewidth)
A journey through an uncharted jungle island from NY electronic composer David Lee Myers, aka Arcane Device, using field recordings in rhythmic environments with synthetic sounds buzzing and whirling around and electronic tones and textures rising and falling, composing detailed song structures that are embraceable and awe-inspiring at the same time.
Niggli, Lucas Sound of Serendipity Tentet: Play! (Intakt)
Surprises abound with Lucas Niggli's approach to improvised composition, using 40 playing cards that his ten-piece ensemble interpret, drawing on inspired performers from improvised, experimental and contemporary classical music, their game performed over three rounds, allowing an incredibly diverse set of approaches to reveal themselves on each unique track.
Rempis / Harnik / Lonberg-Holm / Daisy: Earscratcher (Aerophonic)
Formed in 2019, the quartet of Dave Rempis on alto sax, Elisabeth Harnik on piano, Fred Lonberg Holm on cello and Tim Daisy on drums celebrate Elisabeth Harnik's 50th birthday in 2020, originally planned as part of a European tour that year but prevented by pandemic, instead recording this well-balanced and often unbridled 2022 concert at Alte Gerberei, St. Johan in Tirol, Austria.
Rodrigues / Lonberg-Holm / Flak / Madeira / Oliveira: The Giving Tree Moving On (Creative Sources)
Adding Chicago cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm to their string-oriented improvisation, the Portuguese collaborative quartet of Ernesto Rodrigues on viola and crackle box, Joăo Madeira on double bass, Flak on electric guitar and percussionist Jose Oliveira perform an 8-part suite of entwined strings and subtle punctuation, a selfless blending of masterful skill.
Rothenberg, Ned (w / Courvoisier / Halvorson / Fujiwara): Crossings Four (Clean Feed)
Crossing styles, generations and approaches to improvisations, multi-reedist and composer Ned Rothenberg's quartet of Rothenberg on clarinets & alto sax, Sylvie Courvoisier on piano, Mary Halvorson on guitar & effects and Tomas Fujiwara on drums perform five Rothenberg compositions and one by Rothenberg & Courvoisier, of spectacular timbral, rhythmic and melodic intersections.
Sick Boss (JP Carter/ Zubot / Lee / Schmidt / Meger / Gaucher): Businessless (Drip Audio)
A wild improvising band from Vancouver in their 3rd release of episodic compositions based around instrumental rock forms, six "sick" and wide-ranging pieces that blend rock, jazz, chamber music and inventive forms in magnificent way, from JP Carter on trumpet, Joshua Zubot on violin, Peggy Lee on cello, Cole Schmidt on guitar, James Meger on bass, synths and Dan Gaucher on drums.
Sorey, Tyshawn Trio: Mesmerism (Pi Recordings)
An alluring album of piano trio music from the NY trio led by drummer Tyshawn Sorey with Aaron Diehl on piano and Matt Brewer on bass, allowing the excitement of a first meeting between the players as they perform compositions from the American Songbook, and some songs that Sorey feels should be included in the Songbook; lyrical, sophisticated, virtuosic, beautiful.
Threadgill, Henry Ensemble: The Other One (Pi Recordings)
Composed by Henry Threadgill based on his observations of the exodus of people from New York City during the Covid pandemic and the debris left behind, this work titled "Valence" and dedicated to percussionist Milford Graves, is a chamber jazz piece in three movements was taken from recordings at Roulette of the second of two performances entitled "One" and "The Other One".
von Orelli, Marco / Sheldon Suter: Draw From The Source (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)
A series of extraordinary sound painting from the Swiss duo of trumpeter Marco von Orelli and percussionist Sheldon Suter, von Orelli also performing on cornet, prepared slidetrumpet & little bells while Suter works with drums, cymbals, prepared zithers, gong & singing bowls, creating detailed aural environments that evoke bewitching twilight spaces.
Williams, Mars / Vasco Trilla: Critical Mass (Not Two)
The second release from the duo of Spanish percussionist Vasco Trilla and Chicago reedist Mars Williams, the latter performing both on reeds and on toy instruments, each using extraordinary and extended technique to create exotically energetic conversations and beautifully meditative environments, in five creative, playful and impressively informed dialogs.
Zorn, John Incerto (Marsella / Smith / Lage / Roeder): Full Fathom Five (Tzadik)
Zorn expands the canon for his lyrical jazz quartet Incerto of Brian Marsella on piano, Ches Smith on drums & Haitian Tanbou, Julian Lage on guitar and Jorge Roeder on bass, composing a suite of seven subtle and passionate nocturnes inspired by the night imagery of Shakespeare, merging jazz and chamber forms with a Downtown NY sensibility; gorgeous.