A weekly tally of memorable things Steve Smith has stuck in his ears.
Spotify jukebox does not correspond precisely with the selections listed, but maintains the playlist’s continuity and personality.
Rapoon – Seeds in the Tide, Vol. 5 (Zoharum; 2017)
The latest in a series of anthologies packing up odds and ends by the profound, prolific English artist Robin Storey, who made his initial mark as a core member of shadowy U.K. collective :Zoviet-France: His solo work comprises invented world musics, classical mutations, agit-prop sampling, spooky techno, and more—and it all sounds like no one but Storey.
Jakko – Kingdom of Dust (Resurgence; 1994)
The trawl through singer and guitarist Jakko Jakszyk’s pre-King Crimson output continues. This four-song EP features Jakszyk alongside former Japan members Mick Karn, Steve Jansen, and Richard Barbieri, shortly after the disbandment of Rain Tree Crow, a Japan reunion in all but name. Further down this list you’ll spot the self-titled album by Dizrhythmia, a jazz-rock outfit with world-music influences featuring Jakszyk and drummer Gavin Harrison, his longtime collaborator and current King Crimson bandmate.
Giacomo Puccini – Tosca – Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Tito Gobbi, Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala di Milano/Victor De Sabata (EMI Classics; 1953/2002)
Speculation about who might replace James Levine on the podium for the forthcoming Metropolitan Opera revival of Tosca led me to cue up this quintessential recording. (It doesn’t take much to coax me to listen to this thrilling account, honestly.)
Taylor Ho Bynum – THB Bootlegs, Vol. Two: Sextet Live at the Vision Festival 2008 (THB Music; 2017)
Anthony Braxton – Quartet (Warsaw) 2012 (ForTune; 2013)
Brass player Taylor Ho Bynum recently launched a Bandcamp page devoted to no-frills documentation of rare and/or unreleased recordings; the second installment in his THB Bootlegs series captures a wide-ranging but always on-target performance by his excellent sextet at the Vision Festival in 2008. This prompted me onward to an offbeat but absorbing 2012 quartet set by Anthony Braxton featuring Bynum, saxophonist James Fei, and violinist Erica Dicker… no idea why the embed function for that recording doesn’t work, but you’ll find it here.
A.F. Jones – El Huacal | Oaxaca | 05.22.15 (self-released; 2017)
A.F. Jones – The Saint of Grafton: Lament and Detritus (self-released; 2017)
A.F. Jones – Twice Now the Steps Have Worn (self-released; 2016)
A.F. Jones – SPAG Live at Bread & Salt | 08.18.15 (self-released; 2017)
A.F. Jones – rearward through forgottenness (Laminal; 2014)
Alan Jones is a sound artist and improviser with extraordinary ears; for proof, listen to anything he’s engineered or produced, or everything he’s issued on his Marginal Frequency label. Also a submarine electronics officer in the U.S. Navy, Jones recently has posted a handful of strong live sets to his Bandcamp page, all proceeds from which during December will be donated to the families of crewmen from the lost Argentine sub ARA San Juan.
Hafdís Bjarnadóttir – Já (self-released; 2017)
Is this contemporary classical music? Is it jazz? Rock? It’s all those things, and more. Já is the newest album by the wildly inventive Icelandic composer, guitarist, and bandleader Hafdís Bjarnadóttir, and it’s one of my favorite things released in 2017.
Èliane Radigue – Occam Ocean 1 – Rhodri Davies, Julia Eckhardt, Carol Robinson (Shiiin; 2017)
> Occam River I; Occam I; Occam III; Occam IV; Occam Delta II
Speaking of favorite things, this initial volume in what promises to be an authoritative cycle of electronic-music pioneer Èliane Radigue’s more recent all-acoustic music is a mesmerizing experience. Not easy to track down, but worth the search.
Philip Glass – Music in Twelve Parts – Philip Glass Ensemble (Nonesuch; 1996)
While preparing the interview with composer, violinist, and instrument building Pauchi Sasaki that we ran last week, I returned to the piece and performance that had so beguiled me in a first encounter at the Kitchen in 2016. And from there, onward to an early watershed work by Sasaki’s present mentor, with whom she shared an American Composers Orchestra program last week.
Laura Ortman – Gringo Trails (Original Soundtrack) (self-released; 2014)
I was disappointed to miss Ortman, a Brooklyn-based, White Mountain Apache composer and performer, when she played National Sawdust last week as part of the Winterreise Nights festival…and even more so when I listened to the rich, haunting score she created for Pegi Vail’s documentary about the complex questions posed by global tourism.
Dizrhythmia – Dizrhythmia (Antilles; 1988)
King Crimson – Palazzo dello Sport, Rome, Italy, Nov 13, 1973 (DGMLive; 2017)
A fiery concert tape of the high-flying King Crimson of 1973, restored through digital alchemy to a condition still less than audiophile, but considerably better than any of the unauthorized releases that came before it. A fierce performance featuring some genuinely offbeat repertoire.
Joda Clément – TIME + PLACE (Glistening Examples; 2017)
The subject of a forthcoming new column on National Sawdust Log, so I’ll refrain from saying much here. Clément’s Sea Songs, further down this list, was among my favorite discs of 2016, an album I listened to obsessively some days, and it still holds up.
Craig Taborn & Ikue Mori – Highsmith (Tzadik; 2017)
Ikue Mori – Obelisk (Tzadik; 2017)
Two recent discs by the ceaselessly beguiling Ikue Mori, a musical category unto herself. We’ll publish an interview with Mori this week in advance of her two-night stand in the Stone series at the New School, on Dec. 15 & 16—the latter reuniting Mori with pianist Taborn, her Highsmith disc mate, and a mystery guitarist (hint: he just completed a week at the Village Vanguard). Obelisk features the superb quartet of Mori, pianist Sylvie Courvoisier, cellist Okkyung Lee, and drummer Jim Black.
Joda Clément – Sea Songs (Caduc.; 2016)
Anthony Braxton – Sextet (Parker) 1993, discs 1 & 2 (New Braxton House; 1993/2018)
Braxton’s hard-swinging Charlie Parker Project, recorded in 1993 with a brilliant band including two geniuses since deceased—trumpeter Paul Smoker and pianist Misha Mengelberg—expands beyond its original two-CD form into a 11-CD box on New Braxton House, the imprint operated by Braxton’s Tri-Centric Foundation. The notion of listening to everything in sequence, including numerous versions of the same tunes, admittedly is daunting, but this is a set that you can drop into literally anywhere and be swept away instantly.
Jimmy Lyons & Sunny Murray Trio – Jump Up (hatOLOGY; 1981/2012)
“Speaking as a drummer,” my friend and colleague Hank Shteamer wrote in a lucid appreciation of James Marcellus Arthur “Sunny” Murray, “it’s hard to even say what he did behind the kit.” Murray, who essentially invented free-jazz drumming as we know it in bands led by Albert Ayler and Cecil Taylor during the mid-’60s, died on Dec. 8. This trio date with the late saxophonist Jimmy Lyons (another Taylor alum) and bassist John Lindberg is among Murray’s strongest post-’60s sessions.
Sonny Clark – Sonny Clark Trio (Time; 1960)
A satisfying session from an unjustly forgotten pianist, composer, and bandleader active during the hard-bop era. An expanded version of this session was reissued by Tompkins Square for Record Store Day 2017, sparking some well-deserved buzz.
Various artists – The Record of Singing, Volume Three: 1926-1939, discs 1-3 (EMI/Testament; 1999)
This 10-CD box of gloriously restored vintage opera and song recordings from not quite a century ago includes some of the greatest vocalists of all time… and when a certain melancholy mood strikes, there’s nothing like dipping in and getting lost for a while. (The edition sampled above is not the Testament version, but a subsequent EMI and then Warner Classics anthology compiling selections from Vols. 1-4.)