AMN Best of 2009

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society
Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society (Photo credit: ClockworkGrue)

I don’t take “best of” lists too seriously, nor should you. However, the virtually infinite number of such lists floating around this month can serve to sum up the year’s major releases, and to give you an idea of releases you might have missed.

The AMN “best of” is set out in two lists below. The first is my subjective top five, followed by an equally subjective set of honorable mentions (in no particular order). The second is a somewhat less subjective list of what I actually listened to the most, according to Last.fm.

Aside from all of the nonsense associated with these lists, I would like to point out that my two clear favorites this year were the new releases from Magma and Darcy James Argue. Both are truly excellent, very different from one another, and highly recommended.

AMN Top 5 of 2009 and honorable mentions

1) Magma Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré
2) Argue, Darcy James / Secret Society Infernal Machines
3) Anker, Lotte / Craig Taborn / Gerald Cleaver Floating Islands
4) Hollenbeck, John Eternal Interlude
5) Maguire, Carl Sided Silver Solid

Honorable mentions:
Adams, John Luther The Place We Began
Balmorhea All Is Wild, All Is Silent
Bates, Michael / Outside Sources Live in New York
Blackshaw, James The Glass Bead Game
Blast 4tet Sift
Car de Thon, Le Nos Meilleurs Stockhausen
Cline, Nels Coward
Contemporary Noise Sextet Unaffected Thought Flow
Diablo Swing Orchestra Sing Along Songs for the Damned and Delirious
Flatlands Collective, The Maatjes
Frith, Fred Still Urban
Fully Celebrated Orchestra, The Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones
Hardedge / Graham Haynes Burned to the Water’s Edge
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey Winterwood
Land of Kush Against the Day
Lucky 7’s Pluto Junkyard
Moreau, Benoit Audiogrammes II
Musillami, Michael From Seeds
Neo Water Resistance
Nobuyasu, Furuya Bendowa
Quartet Offensive Carnivore
Sunn0))) Monoliths and Dimensions
Trespass …Was There to Illuminate the Night Sky
Trinity Breaking the Mold Var
Zu Carboniferous

AMN Top Ten 2009 Releases according to Last.fm:

1) Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society – Infernal Machines
2) Magma – Ëmëhntëtt-Ré
3) Balmorhea – All Is Wild, All Is Silent
4) Nels Cline – Coward
5) Blast4Tet – Sift
6) Fred Frith – Still Urban
7) Sunn O))) – Monoliths and dimensions
8) James Carney Group – Ways & Means
9) John Hébert – Byzantine Monkey
10) Neo – Water Resistance

Jazz Listings From The NY Times

From NYTimes.com:

GRAY-ESKELIN-BALLOU-FORMANEK (Saturday) In the early set of this left-of-center performance, at 8 p.m., the pianist Frank Carlberg engages with the rhythm section of Michael Formanek on bass and Devin Gray on drums. Then at 9, the same rhythm section backs a front line consisting of the saxophonist Ellery Eskelin and the trumpeter Dave Ballou. Douglass Street Music Collective, 295 Douglass Street, near Third Avenue, Gowanus, Brooklyn , myspace.com/295douglass; $10 suggested donation. (Chinen)20090730

? ETHAN IVERSON, REID ANDERSON, PAUL MOTIAN (Friday through Sunday) Mr. Iverson, an acutely contemporary pianist, and Mr. Anderson, a warmly decisive bassist, make up two-thirds of the Bad Plus. Their output here — with the master drummer Paul Motian, a slippery influence on both — should suggest a similar full-tilt musical engagement, but perhaps with less steely certainty and more unanswerable questions. At 9 and 11 p.m., Village Vanguard, 178 Seventh Avenue South, at 11th Street, West Village , (212) 255-4037, villagevanguard.com; cover, $25, with a $10 minimum. (Chinen)20090730

DONNY MCCASLIN GROUP (Thursday) On his recent albums Donny McCaslin has applied his assertive tenor saxophone style to Latin American-inspired fusions. He does that here, in a free lunchtime concert, with expert help: the guitarist Lage Lund, the bassist Hans Glawischnig and the drummer Adam Cruz. From 12:30 to 1:45 p.m., Plaza at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Lexington Avenue at 54th Street , (212) 935-2200, saintpeters.org/jazz; free. (Chinen)20090730

? MOSTLY OTHER PEOPLE DO THE KILLING (Sunday) Led by the bassist Moppa Elliott, this prankishly named free-bop quartet has a fairly serious recent record called “This Is Our Moosic” (Hot Cup), featuring impressive contributions from the trumpeter Peter Evans and the alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon. The group appears here as part of the Freestyle Music Series; its 8:30 p.m. set arrives sandwiched between an equally boisterous free-jazz collective (at 7) and a band called Attention Screen (at 10). Local 269, 269 East Houston Street, at Suffolk Street, Lower East Side , (212) 228-9874, myspace.com/deepopnyc; $5. (Chinen)20090730

? NED ROTHENBERG’S SYNC/HARRIS EISENSTADT’S WOODBLOCK PRINTS (Friday) Ned Rothenberg is a saxophonist, clarinetist, flutist and composer with a penchant for insistent frictions. He appears here with Sync, his East-Asian-inspired ensemble with Jerome Harris on acoustic bass guitar and Samir Chatterjee on hand percussion. Sharing the bill is a chamberlike group called Woodblock Prints, a nonet led by the drummer Harris Eisenstadt that also includes Mr. Rothenberg and Mr. Harris. At 8 p.m., Drom, 85 Avenue A, at Fifth Street, East Village , (212) 777-1157, dromnyc.com; $10 in advance; $12 at the door. (Chinen)20090730

? JENNY SCHEINMAN’S MISCHIEF AND MAYHEM (Tuesday) Ms. Scheinman often goes for rustic charm as a violinist, but she never ceases to be an adventurous improviser. Her partners in this enticingly named band, first formed a couple of years ago, are the engagingly prickly guitarist Nels Cline, the stalwart bassist Matt Penman and the polymorphically propulsive drummer Jim Black. At 7 p.m., Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker Street, near Thompson Street, Greenwich Village , (212) 505-3474, lepoissonrouge.com; $15 in advance; $17 at the door. (Chinen)20090730

SIM FACULTY CONCERT (Wednesday) The School for Improvised Music is a nonprofit enterprise in which the instructors are adventurous and communicative musicians. Among them are this concert’s featured guests: the saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, the trumpeter Ralph Alessi, the pianist Andy Milne, the bassist Drew Gress and the drummer Gerald Cleaver. At 9 and 10:30 p.m., Jazz Gallery, 290 Hudson Street, at Spring Street, South Village , (212) 242-1063, jazzgallery.org; $15; $10 for members and students. (Chinen)20090730

SKM TRIO (Friday) With an acronym derived from the first names of its members, this collective features smart musicians comfortable with free improvisation: the saxophonist Stephen Gauci, the pianist Kris Davis and the bassist Michael Bisio. At 8 p.m., 5C Cultural Center, 68 Avenue C, at East Fifth Street, East Village , (212) 477-5993, 5ccc.com; cover, $10, with a $5 minimum. (Chinen)20090730

? TRIO 3 WITH GERI ALLEN (Wednesday and Thursday) Never mind the redundancy in the title, or the fact that this avant-garde collective actually works here as a quartet. The alto saxophonist Oliver Lake, the bassist Reggie Workman and the drummer Andrew Cyrille are battle-ready teammates; they stand only to gain from the addition of the pianist Geri Allen, as they recently proved on an album called “At This Time” (Intakt). (Through Aug. 8.) At 8:30 and 11 p.m., Birdland, 315 West 44th Street, Clinton , (212) 581-3080, birdlandjazz.com; $30 for general admission; $40 for premium seating; and a $10 minimum. (Chinen)

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All About Jazz Reviews

From All About Jazz:

30-Jun-09 Jerry Granelli V16
Vancouver ’08 (Songlines Recordings)
Reviewed by Matt Marshall

29-Jun-09 Masada Quintet Featuring Joe Lovano
Stolas: Book of Angels, Volume 12 (Tzadik)
Reviewed by Troy Collins

28-Jun-09 Andy Milne and Benoit Delbecq
Where is Pannonica? (Songlines Recordings)
Reviewed by Matt Marshall

28-Jun-09 Gerry Hemingway Quintet
Demon Chaser (Hatology)
Reviewed by Troy Collins

28-Jun-09 Tom Abbs & Frequency Response
Lost + Found (ESP Disk)
Reviewed by Glenn Astarita

28-Jun-09 Myra Melford
Myra Melford: Under The Water (Piano Solo and Duo), Continuation & My Fingers Will Be Your Tears
Reviewed by Kurt Gottschalk

28-Jun-09 Paul Motian
Paul Motian: Zen Brushstrokes
Reviewed by Tom Greenland

28-Jun-09 Nels Cline
Nels Cline: Acoustic Guitar Trio & Gauci/Cline/Filiano/Pride
Reviewed by Clifford Allen

26-Jun-09 Lucky 7’s
Pluto Junkyard (Clean Feed Records)
Reviewed by Troy Collins

26-Jun-09 Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble
The Moment’s Energy (ECM Records)
Reviewed by John Kelman

26-Jun-09 Ami Yoshida / Toshimaru Nakamura
Soba to Bara (Erstwhile Records)
Reviewed by John Eyles

26-Jun-09 Scientific Map
Power to the Babies (Imaginary Chicago Records)
Reviewed by Matthew Warnock

25-Jun-09 Carl Maguire’s Floriculture
Sided Silver Solid (Firehouse 12 Records)
Reviewed by Nic Jones

25-Jun-09 Peter Evans
Nature/Culture (Psi)
Reviewed by John Eyles

24-Jun-09 Fred Anderson
Staying in the Game (Engine Studios)
Reviewed by Henry Smith

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2009 So Far

As opposed to our picks of the week post, the data below was gathered from logs at http://www.last.fm. I’ve culled through them to determine the albums released so far in 2009 that have garnered the most listens. Thus, this list is fairly representative of not just what is appreciated here at AMN Central, but also what we keep listening to. I’m somewhat surprised by the results, as a lot of releases that I liked quite a bit at first blush have received relatively few listens. Need to work on that…

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society – Infernal Machines
Henry Cow – Vol. 1: Beginnings
Nels Cline – Coward
Univers Zero – Relaps: Archives 1984-1986
Quartet Offensive – Carnivore
John Zorn – Filmworks XXII The Last Supper
John Hébert – Byzantine Monkey
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey – Winterwood
Land Of Kush – Against the Day
Maurizo Bianchi – A M.B. Lehn Tale
Michaël Attias – Credo
James Blackshaw – The Glass Bead Game
Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone – Thin Air
Gerald Cleaver, William Parker, Craig Taborn – Farmers by Nature
Kayo Dot – Blue Lambency Downward
Alex Cline – Continuation

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Jazz Listings From The New York Times

From the Times:

A BODY WITHOUT ORGANS (Sunday) This metaphysically named series, held every other Sunday in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, reflects the rugged ideals of its organizer, the drummer Mike Pride. In the later sets here, at 10 and 11 p.m., he leads a quartet called From Bacteria to Boys; an earlier set, at 9, features a trio led by the guitarist Jonathan Goldberger, with Briggan Krauss on saxophones and Andrew Drury on drums. CoCo 66, 66 Greenpoint Avenue, (718) 389-7392, coco66.com; cover, $6. (Chinen)20090402

TREVOR DUNN’S PROOF READERS (Thursday) Trevor Dunn, a bassist with one foot planted in experimental rock, takes a repertory approach with Proof Readers, his quartet with the trumpeter Nate Wooley, the saxophonist Darius Jones and the drummer Ryan Sawyer. The band takes a look at music by the free-jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman — with the closest of scrutiny, of course. At 8 p.m., Barbès, 376 Ninth Street, at Sixth Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn, (718) 965-9177, barbesbrooklyn.com; cover, $10. 20090402

? JUXTAPOSITIONS IN JAZZ (Saturday) This promising double bill, presented in the name of juxtaposition, finds the flutist Jamie Baum leading her septet in a performance of “Ives’ Suite,” which she wrote under the influence of Charles Ives. The other half of the ticket features the Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, working with a dynamic American rhythm section: Craig Taborn on keyboards, Thomas Morgan on bass and Jim Black on drums. At 8 p.m., Merkin Concert Hall, 129 West 67th Street, Manhattan, (212) 501-3340, kaufman-center.org; $30. (Chinen)20090402

DONNY MCCASLIN GROUP (Thursday) On his recent albums Donny McCaslin has applied his assertive tenor saxophone style to Latin American-inspired fusions. He does that here with expert help: the guitarist Ben Monder, the bassist Hans Glawischnig and the drummer Adam Cruz. At 10 p.m., 55 Bar, 55 Christopher Street, West Village, (212) 929-9883, 55bar.com; cover, $10. (Chinen)20090402

JOE MORRIS ENSEMBLE (Friday) Joe Morris, a guitarist who applies the clear tone of Jim Hall to darker and pricklier purposes, has close history with both of his band mates here: the pianist Steve Lantner and the drummer Luther Gray. At 8 p.m., the Stone, Avenue C and Second Street, East Village, thestonenyc.com; $10. (Chinen)20090402

EIVIND OPSVIK OVERSEAS (Monday) Eivind Opsvik is a bassist with an experimental streak but also a deep connection to melody, as he demonstrates with this working band, which includes Tony Malaby on tenor saxophone, Jacob Sacks on keyboards and Kenny Wollesen on drums. (The group will perform at Nublu every Monday in April.) From 9 to 11 p.m., Nublu, 62 Avenue C, between Fourth and Fifth Streets, East Village, nublu.net; free before 10 p.m.; $5 after. (Chinen)20090402

? RHYTHM IN THE KITCHEN MUSIC FESTIVAL (Friday and Saturday) The fourth annual edition of this avant-garde festival, presented by the Hell’s Kitchen Cultural Center, rolls along on Friday with sets by ok|ok, an improvising collective (at 8 p.m.); a quartet led by the pianist Connie Crothers (at 9); Duology, featuring Michael Marcus on reeds and Ted Daniel on trumpet (at 10); and Morcilla, led by the trumpeter Matt Lavelle (at 11). Among the highlights on Saturday’s lineup are the William Hooker Trio, with DJ Olive (at 10), and a trio with the pianist Angelica Sanchez, the saxophonist Tony Malaby and the drummer Tom Rainey (at 11). Church for All Nations, 417 West 57th Street, Clinton, (212) 333-5583, hkculturalcenter.org; $15; $35 for a full festival pass (Chinen)20090402

? OMAR SOSA/JENNY SCHEINMAN (Tuesday through Thursday) Mr. Sosa, a Cuban pianist, and Ms. Scheinman, a violinist from Northern California, suggest strikingly different varieties of jazz rusticity but share a commitment to clarity in their music. Mr. Sosa is celebrating the release of an ambitious concept album, “Across the Divide: A Tale of Rhythm & Ancestry” (Half Note), with a group that includes saxophone and banjo. Ms. Scheinman, playing and singing, leads a trio with two flinty guitarists, Nels Cline and Steve Cardenas. (Through April 12.) At 8 and 10:30 p.m., Blue Note, 131 West Third Street, Greenwich Village, (212) 475-8592, bluenote.net; cover, $30 at tables; $20 at the bar; with a $5 minimum. (Chinen)20090402

? TAMARINDO (Tuesday) Free improvisation, often strenuous and unbridled, is the chief methodology on “Tamarindo” (Clean Feed), a recent release by the tenor and soprano saxophonist Tony Malaby. The album features the same alert and inventive rhythm team that appears here: William Parker on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. At 8 and 10 p.m., the Stone, Avenue C and Second Street, East Village, thestonenyc.com; $10. (Chinen)20090402

SACO YASUMA’S YOIN’ — UNIT OF SEVEN (Wednesday) Ms. Yasuma, a saxophonist and composer, combines the folk melodies of her native Japan with elements of African music and the protocols of avant-garde jazz. Her ensemble includes the violist Jason Kao Hwang, the trombonist Steve Swell and the bassist Ken Filiano, as well as the flutist and taiko drummer Kaoru Watanabe. At 8:30 p.m., Roulette, 20 Greene Street, between Canal and Grand Streets, SoHo, (212) 219-8242, roulette.org; $15; $10 for students and under 30; free for members. (Chinen)

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Cryptonights in California

Cryptogramophone artists will be featured at Cryptonights in Oakland and LA.

March 25-26 at Yoshi’s in Oakland, CA
Wed March 25, 8PM & 10PM:
Alex Cline Continuation Quintet
Myra Melford and Be Bread
Thurs March 26, 8PM & 10PM:
The Jeff Gauthier Goatette
The Nels Cline Singers

March 27-28 at REDCAT in L.A., CA
Fri March 27 – 8:30 PM:
Alex Cline Continuation Quintet
Myra Melford and Be Bread
Sat March 28 – 8:30 PM:
The Jeff Gauthier Goatette
The Nels Cline Singers
Coward Continuation

Cryptonights 2009
Cryptogramophone Records presents four evenings of creative jazz featuring guitarist Nels Cline, violinist Jeff Gauthier, pianist Myra Melford, and drummer-percussionist Alex Cline, each leading their own ensembles.

WEDNESDAY MARCH 25 & FRIDAY MARCH 27
Drummer/percussionist Alex Cline celebrates the release of his new CD “Continuation” with his Continuation Quintet featuring Myra Melford on piano, Jeff Gauthier on violin, Maggie Parkins on cello, and Scott Walton on bass. Cline’s music combines subtle and breathtaking shifts in timbre, texture and mood to create compositions of transcendental beauty.

Myra Melford presents her band Be Bread, featuring trumpeter Cuong Vu, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, bassist Stomu Takeishi, and drummer Matt Wilson. Melford is one of the most influential women in jazz, and her colorful music reflects both years on the Downtown Scene, as well as extensive study in India.

THURSDAY MARCH 26 & SATURDAY MARCH 28
The evening opens with violinist Jeff Gauthier’s Goatette with Nels Cline on guitar, Alex Cline on drums, David Witham on piano, and Joel Hamilton on bass. BBCi says “Gauthier and his group show how it should be done, rooting themselves solidly in the jazz tradition while at the same time extending and revitalizing it.”

Guitarist Nels Cline who has worked with everyone from Charlie Haden and Thurston Moore to his current gig with Wilco, presents The Nels Cline Singers featuring Devin Hoff on bass and Scott Amendola on drums. Nels will be celebrating the release of his new solo CD “Coward.”

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Of Cowards and Continuations with Alex and Nels Cline

An interview with the Cline Brothers from Jambands.com:

The Cline Brothers spent close to three decades as the “first twins” of avant-garde music before Jeff Tweedy tapped Nels Cline as the lead guitarist in Wilco shortly after the release of 2004’s A Ghost is Born. Since then Nels has scored “guitar god” status in Rolling Stone, played marquee spots at mega-fests like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza and turned indie-hipsters and jam-aficionados alike onto his jazzy style of rock guitar playing. But, despite his late-blooming rock-star status, the 53-year old guitarist maintains a separate but equal life in the avant-garde and jazz worlds and recently released the experimental solo disc Coward. Meanwhile, his identical twin brother Alex has been balancing his work as an avant-garde drummer with a day job and, ironically, entered the studio to work on the solo album Continuation with a hand-picked ensemble the same week his brother began recording. On the eve of the Cline Brothers’ simultaneous releases, Jambands.com sat down with the twins to discuss their new projects, love of improvisational music and how they first bonded over Live/Dead.

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Coming from Long Song Records

Nels Cline of WILCO with Norton Wisdom
Image by Kurt Christensen via Flickr

From Long Song Records:

Acoustic Guitar Trio – Vignes

VIGNES, unreleased live album by the Acoustic Guitar Trio, coming soon. The Acoustic Guitar Trio was a beautiful improvising trio. They were guitar masters Nels Cline, Jim McAuley and the late Rod Poole. Rod Poole, an unsung and sadly quite unknown guitar player suddenly died last year under tragic circumstances. Nels Cline said about Rod: “He was a true artist, probably a genius. He had an amazing capacity as both music fan and autodidact musician visionary”.

Nels and Jim Mc Auley want this live album to be a tribute to Rod and the fantastic music they played together. Jim McAuley says of “Vignes”: “surging drones, sparkling arpeggios and noisy prepared guitars. I feel it’s our best work”. The only recorded work by the AG3 so far is the self-titled and critically acclaimed cd released by the English label Incus in 2002.

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