Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Best Recordings of 2008


I worked with and listened to A LOT of music this year - probably more than ever before in my life. I finally started making enough bread that I could begin buying music once again (which I have to say is a joy and an addiction). I feel very strongly about buying music and encourage others who work in the music industry to do so more often (not only to support the artists, but the labels and almost more importantly, the record stores that allow us a place to go and shop). There are too many hands out these days (especially among industry, "press" and "radio"). It seems like everyone who loves this music wants a free copy. For the actual amount of music being sold today, that's a travesty.

Lemme tell you, I don't do publicity for the money. I do it because I genuinely care about getting the word out on musicians and bands whose music I really believe in. People have so many options of what to buy today, and so much of the media is exclusively focused on mainstream pop, indie rock (on popular labels), electronic/dance music and hip-hop. Much of this music has a lot of merit and is immensely enjoyable, but I strongly believe that music that can loosely be defined by the word "jazz," has just as much merit and can bring just as much joy and thought to the listening public.

I've also decided that it's OK to have some clients in my Top 10 this year because many of them formed a significant portion of my personal soundtrack to 2008 (by far my top 2 were Todd Sickafoose's Tiny Resistors and Aaron Parks' Invisible Cinema, two albums which show that this music is very much alive and going places beyond what we previously conceived as jazz). There has been a lot of talk about how 2008 was an unremarkable year for music, and I really have to strongly disagree. I think the number of albums being produced and publicized is ever-increasing and media consolidation, layoffs and shrinking column inches for the arts in general are quickly driving more and more music criticism out of the public eye, and onto the internet (which often makes it harder to find for those only casually looking). Much of music criticism is disappearing as qualified professional writers with years of experience rightly refuse to work for free. Others blog as a means of putting their names out there in the mix, hoping more work will come with that online visibility.

With regard to the topic of 10 albums, this year more than ever, I felt that just 10 was way too few for the amount of music I heard and the amount of music produced. One of my favorite critics, Peter Margasak of The Chicago Reader and Down Beat, who is easily one of the best music critics in the country, chose 40 top records for his list at his Chicago Reader blog, Post No Bills ( Pitchfork chose 50. Rolling Stone chose 50. JazzTimes chose 50. All these recordings I've chosen show a a strong vision for present and future of jazz - including the 25 Honorable Mentions.

I have created a separate non-jazz list because I made a concerted effort this year to listen to/buy a lot of music beyond "jazz" that was getting either immense critical acclaim or appealed to me melodically, harmonically or rhythmically. Also, Fleet Foxes and Juana Molina don't need another vote from me, someone who has dedicated his life to advancing improvised music.

1. Todd Sickafoose - Tiny Resistors (Cryptogramophone)
2. Aaron Parks - Invisible Cinema (Blue Note)
3. Rudresh Mahanthappa feat. Kadri Gopalnath - Kinsmen (Pi)
4. Charles Lloyd - Rabo de Nube (ECM)
5. Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures - Dream Garden (Justin Time)
6. Uri Caine - The Othello Syndrome (Winter & Winter)
7. John Ellis - Dance Like There's No Tomorrow (Hyena)
8. Guillermo Klein - Filtros (Sunnyside)
9. Anthony Braxton/William Parker/Milford Graves - Beyond Quantum (Tzadik)
10. Esbjorn Svensson Trio - Leucocyte (Decca)

Honorable Mention "Jazz":
11. William Parker Quartet - Petit Oiseau (AUM Fidelity)
12. Will Vinson - Promises (Nineteen-Eight) - debut
13. Carla Bley Big Band - Appearing Nightly (ECM/WATT)
14. Donny McCaslin - Recommended Tools (Greenleaf Music)
15. Adam Kolker - Flag Day (Sunnyside)
16. Kurt Rosenwinkel - The Remedy (self-released via ArtistShare)
17. Bennie Maupin - Early Reflections (Cryptogramophone)
18. Fieldwork - Door (Pi)
19. Mike Reed's Loose Assembly - The Speed of Change (482 Music)
20. Bad Touch - Like a Magical Kiss (self-released) - debut
21. Steven Bernstein's Millenial Territory Orchestra - We Are MTO (Mowo)
22. Bill Frisell - History, Mystery (Nonesuch)
23. Dafnis Prieto - Taking the Soul for a Walk (Dafnison Music)
24. Bebo Valdes & Javier Colina - Live at the Village Vanguard (Calle 54)
25. Jeff Gauthier Goatette - House of Return (Cryptogramophone)

1. Fleet Foxes - s/t (Sub Pop)
2. Shearwater - Rook (Matador)
3. Dungen - 4 (Kemado)
4. Juana Molina - Un Dia (Domino)
5. Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog - Party Intellectuals (Pi)
6. Shugo Tokumaru - Exit (Sony)
7. Aterciopelados - Rio (Nacional)
8. David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (Todomundo)
9. Blitzen Trapper - Furr (Sub Pop)
10. Marnie Stern - This Is It And I Am It And You Are It And So Is That And He Is It And She Is It And It Is It And That Is That (Kill Rock Stars)

Happy Holidays and BUY SOME OF THIS MUSIC! If you're going to download, I highly recommend eMusic both for the higher quality files and DRM-free downloads (the only drawback is that several majors and certain indies are not on there). Otherwise, iTunes has pretty much everything.