Sunday, December 31, 2023

12.31.23, FTW

I generally dislike end of year listicles, although I'm using Max Kutner's to catch me up on releases  I missed this year. Looking back, I was surprised to note that I heard more new music that resonated with me in 2023 than I had in awhile -- possibly because I heard more live music I dig this year than most, and I try to buy stuff from artists when I see them. 

The real high points of my musical year were hearing the Dennis Gonzalez Legacy Band play my friend's music with energy and love; attending the Molten Plains Fest and feeling a sense of community centered around love of creative music; and sitting in with some youngsters from Southwest High School and remembering how much I love playing loud, standing up, with drums. But these days my life revolves more around things like sampling the recipes from Midnight Diner, being a cat bed, and walking the same streets every day (and seeing new stuff there all the time). Trying to make of my life a meditation. But yes, a lot of releases...not all of which I've reviewed previously. And not all included here because I'm lazy.

Joe McPhee, Tashi Dorji, Bill Orcutt -- A Mouth at Both Ends; Dave Dove, Joe McPhee -- Where's the Wine? McPhee is a direct link to '60s free jazz. After studying with Pauline Oliveros -- touchstone of the Houston free improv scene -- he was the first touring artist booked by Dave Dove, way back in 1998, and so was present at the creation of Nameless Sound. The first of these teams McPhee with a pair of exploratory guitarists. The second juxtaposes a rowdy house party session with a virtual trio of McPhee and a recording of Oliveros and himself from 1986. We were fortunate to have him visit our area in August and December, playing three sets -- all great, each different. Here's hoping he returns again in 2024.

Zoh Amba, Chris Corsano, Bill Orcutt -- The Flower School; Bill Orcutt -- Jump On It. Orcutt's a guitarist whose approach (on a four string guitar) recalls John Fahey's "American primitive" style, but with a foot in noise rock. I only caught up with him on last year's Music for Four Guitars and regrettably missed him at Rubber Gloves early this year. The first here teams him with his regular duo partner, drummer Chris Corsano, and Zoh Amba, the 23-year-old tenor sax phenom who's inspired wonder from the likes of John Zorn, William Parker, Tyshawn Sorey, Ra Kalam Bob Moses, and McPhee (who dueted with her at Molten Plains), and envy from a number of musos (like Ornette did when he hit NYC) as she works out who she's going to be. Second is an acoustic solo session of originals, a nice companion to 2017's eponymous electric collection of standards.

Jaap Blonk, Damon Smith, Ra Kalam Bob Moses -- Rune Kitchen; Wendy Eisenberg, Damon Smith, Stefan Gonzalez -- Balloon of Ruin. Now based in St. Louis, the estimable bassist Smith was once a linchpin in the Houston improv scene. He's seemingly played with everyone, although he has regular collaborators (the trios with guitarist Sandy Ewen and drummer Weasel Walter, and percussionist Lisa Cameron and violinist Alex Cunningham, being particularly noteworthy). On the first, he's joined by the Dutch sound artist Blonk and American drummer Moses (best known for his early association with Pat Metheny and a couple of outstanding Gramophone LPs as leader). The second documents the explosive trio with Eisenberg (my new favorite guitarist) and Gonzalez (who has a new co-op trio of his own as well as driving the Legacy Band) that opened Molten Plains Fest.

Sarah Ruth Alexander, Monte Espina -- Cuatro Estaciones; Sarah Ruth Alexander, Fellowship of the Arid Plain -- Alexander and Monte Espina's Ernesto Montiel curate the monthly Molten Plains concert series and the annual festival. As DJs on KUZU-FM, they carry the banner for creative music. Together, they released a double album's worth of pandemic lockdown electroacoustic improvisations in nature. On her own, Alexander released my favorite recording of hers since 2015's Words On the Wind: a collection of field recordings from the Panhandle farm that formed her consciousness. Plus, she and her partner Stephen Lucas -- who's recorded hundreds of shows, an impressive archive of North Texas creative music -- started their own label, Joan of Bark Productions, with the release of the aforementioned Eisenberg/Smith/Gonzalez cassette. With McPhee, she's my musician of the year.

Susan Alcorn Septeto del Sur, Canto -- A politically themed song cycle from the innovative pedal steel guitarist, combing Chilean folk and Nueva cancion with free improv, classical, and rock elements.

akaKatboy, Arga Warga -- Poppy punk from an old comrade, recorded in his home office while his family sleeps. "Dad rock" doesn't have to suck.

Kris Davis Diatom Ribbons -- Live at the Village Vanguard ; Angelica Sanchez Nonet -- Nighttime Creatures -- The Canadian pianist-composer releases her most fully realized statement yet, while her Pyroclastic label continues to release some of the finest new jazz and adjacent music of the day, including the first outing from her fellow ivory tickler's all star large ensemble. Toward the end of the year, Pyroclastic rolled out the website, where the audio and video documents of six concerts by master improvisers interacting with Harry Bertoia's sounding sculptures are available to stream for free.

Satoko Fujii, Taiko Saito, Yuko Oshima -- Hibiki; Satoko Fujii, Torrent; Satoko Fujii, Otomo Yoshidide - Perpetual Motion -- Fujii's a pianist-composer known for her work with large ensembles, but equally effective in more intimate contexts, as heard in this triptych of releases: solo piano, duo with guitar, and trio with vibraphone and drums. A prolific artist, always satisfying. Just pick an instrumentation you like and dive in.

Patrick Shiroishi - i was too young to hear silence -- Japanese-American saxophonist I heard for the first time at Molten Plains. Has released an incredible 32 recordings in a year (making up for starting late?); I find this one -- solo saxophone in a resonant space -- a good introduction, but plan to hear a lot more.

Robert Gerosa - Faraday Bag Drive -- Throwback axe-slinger, steeped in '70s prog and jazz rock, essays a double CD's worth of jams with Brand X bassist Percy Jones.

Oxbow - Love's Holiday -- Powerfully emotional rock with choral and orchestral adds that are anything but sweetening.

May 2024 be kind to you and yours, and may the coalition fighting for democracy here hold together in what promises to be a fraught election season. 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob Weber here saying "nice list! I'm going to have to check some of these out."

12:11 PM  

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