The basic questions are
- how can you compare apples and oranges?
- is it even fair to rank art in stupid lists, since it is all so very subjective?
- isn't this creating a competition where there is none (or is there?)
- we all love lists
- it highlights great albums and artists again for the great music they offered us in the course of the year
- it enables fans to compare lists and discuss the music and share ideas
Anyway, here is my list, in inverse order of review, but no ranking in terms of preference :
- Wacław Zimpel, Paweł Posteremczak, Ksawery Wójciński, Paweł Szpura - Hera
- The Vandermark 5 - The Horse Jumps/The Ship Is Gone
- Wadada Leo Smith & Ed Blackwell - The Blue Mountain's Sun Drummer
- Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra - Ashcan Rantings
- Jason Ajemian & Daydream Full Lifestyles - Protest Heaven
- AMM - Sounding Music
- Harris Eisenstadt - Woodblock Prints
- Jean-Marc Foltz, Matt Turner & Bill Carrothers - To The Moon
- Angles - Epileptical West/Live In Coimbra
- Nobu Stowe - Confusion Bleue
- Ken Vandermark & Paal Nilssen-Love - Milwaukee Volume
- Kirk Knuffke - Amnesia Brown
- Mural - Nectars Of Emergence
- Andreas Schmidt, Samuel Rohrer, Thomas Heberer - Pieces For A Husky Puzzle
This is not a big surprise, since these are the albums that received a 5-star rating this year. Yet, looking at it now, it is quite balanced, with musicians from all over the world, with various approaches to music, some very strongly based in the jazz tradition, others more in free improv and beyond, some very innovative listening experiences (see the Happy New Ears Award), some more romantic, others quite abstract.
The real question is then, to which albums did I listen most?
Without a doubt that was Elliptical West, possibly on the same level as The Blue Mountain's Sun Drummer, with Hera coming close to that. You may wonder when I did all this, but I listened to those albums at least thirty times.
In terms of labels, Clean Feed, No Business and Not Two are again among the best in the free and avant jazz genre.
The best re-issues of the year are without a doubt Amalgam - A Prayer For Peace and Irene Schweizer Trio & Dewan Motihar Trio - Jazz Meets India and of coures Mark Charig's Pipedream.
The year will also be remembered for the sad passing away of several jazz greats : Bill Dixon, Fred Anderson, Marion Brown, Harry Beckett and Noah Howard. We will remember them and their legacy.
Despite this sad news, it was again a fantastic year for free music. May creativity be even stronger next year, and hopefully we will hear many new voices or new and captivating "sound stories" from the old voices.