I notice many blogs, music and otherwise, engage in a year end retrospective. For some reason this didn't occur to me as something to do until I visited destination-out's "Top Downloads" and Mwanji's couple of posts of what grabbed him last year and the *unbelievable* list of live shows he attended.
On the playing side, the year began with Bing's work with Circus Luminous, followed by The Miles Davis Electric Project, followed by the Live Music/Silent Film Festival, followed by work with Chris Jonas in Rrake. As predicted, things came to a sudden halt after Rrake. There is no lack of interesting projects here in Santa Fe, but the issue is sustainability. The usual pattern is a high speed ramp up involving short(ish) notice, lots of rehearsals (when possible) and a high profile appearance or two followed by months of deafening silence and zero dollars. The lack of venues, the busy lives of all of us struggling to survive, the utter lack of funds for ongoing and remunerative initiatives all contribute to this vexing pattern.
In the offing: perhaps more silent film work? Perhaps another Miles Electric configuration? Perhaps a duets concert of improvisations? Who knows.
Listening has taken many fascinating twists and turns this year, spurred largely by the radio show and the imperative of developing a library. Rediscoveries abound with many thanks to destination-out and other bloggers. Huge swaths of music that were firmly in the center of where my ears were at various times in the past, but that I somehow missed, mix with constant revisiting of work that I am hearing with new ears.
Here's a top ten list for the past year:
1. Duke. Anything and everything. I never gave Ellington's music the comprehensive hearing it deserves. In fact, the only Ellington I owned for many years was Ellington '55, an attempt by Capitol Records to position Ellington as a more commercially viable option by having him revisit great compositions. The goal this year is to continue on the quest for anything and everything Ellington did.
2. Brotherhood of Breath/Chris MacGregor. I somehow missed MacGregor's work entirely. Destination-out posted a couple of pieces from the first album. I was already somewhat familiar with Dudu Pukwana and Mongezi Feza, but I look forward to hearing more.
3. Evan Parker. In general, the Euro free scene was only represented for me by a few FMP's of the Brotzmann/Van Hove/Bennink trio and the Globe Unity Orchestra. I am glad to get closer to Parker as well as Breuker/Schlippenbach/et al.
4. Andrew Hill. This seems to be Hill's year, what with the praise for his new recording and so on. I have long had Point of Departure but it's been great hearing much more of his other work.
5. Elmo Hope. The Blue Note reissue that includes dozens of tracks is definitely head turning.
6. Cecil Taylor/Bill Dixon/Tony Oxley. This great trio recording is perhaps not warmly received by Cecil Taylor fans, but I am impressed by it. In general, rediscovering Bill Dixon has been a splendid adventure.
7. 1960s Blue Note and Capitol funky jazz. In my callow youth I always wrote this form off as "less than." In fact there is some great arranging, soloing, and a wonderful groove on much of it: Blue Mitchell, Stanley Turrentine, Cannonball, etc. Much of what passes for "contemporary jazz" is a pale and insipid imitation of this period.
8. Art Ensemble of Chicago's pre-Paris stuff. Again thanks to destination-out, Carefree, Tatas-matoes, etc. Great, funny, vital and groundbreaking.
9. Mal Waldron. A renewed appreciation for his architectural deliberateness, his note placement, his direct honesty. The duets with Steve Lacy are remarkable.
10. Randy Weston. The only exposure I had to Weston previously was African Cookbook. As is the case with many other musicians lately, the question is: How did I go so long without tons of Weston in my life?
A pattern: this seems to have been at least partly the year of the piano. Duke, Cecil, Hill, Weston, Hope, Waldron. Part of the fascination of the mid-60s Blue Notes is the pre-fusion appearances of Hancock, Corea, Zawinul.
Anyway I could list a top 100, given how much has opened up for me in music this year. I could also revisit the year's favorite rants (the jazz culture wars, for example). But I have to do the dishes.