Click here to [close]

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Albums of the Year - 2014

So another year and another 1500 albums considered for review (and that's just the ones we actually added to the list!). Taking a quick look back: this year Julian, Matthew, Chris, Ed, Antonio, Stefan, Josh, and Hugo joined the review team and we recently welcomed Eyal and Alfonso - you'll be seeing more of them soon. 2014 also saw Martin Schray bringing the Free Jazz Blog to the air on SWR2, public radio in southern Germany. His next show is on the 9th of January (stay tuned for more info on that!). Finally, thanks to all of you, we're seeing upwards of 75,000 page views a month and have a growing subscriber base ... all we can (and should) say is thank you everyone and keep listening!

And now here it is ... our hotly anticipated top ten list of albums of the year, tallied and calculated from the collective's personal top 10 album choices (listed below):

The Free Jazz Collective Top-10 albums of 2014
  1. Steve Lehman Octet - Mise en Abîme 
  2. Akira Sakata, Johan Berthling, Paal Nilssen-Love - Arashi
  3. Jemeel Moondoc - The Zookeeper's House
  4. Angles 9 - Injuries
  5. Audio One - An International Report
  6. Farmers By Nature - Love and Ghosts
  7. Ken Vandermark/Paal Nilssen-Love Duo - Lightning Over Water
  8. Marc Ribot Trio - Live at the Village Vanguard
  9. Wadada Leo Smith - The Great Lakes Suites
  10. Jeremiah Cymerman - Pale Horse / Lotte Anker & Jakob Riis - Squid Police

Happy holidays to everyone and we look forward to hearing your top choices of the year!

Stef Gijssels:
  1. Daunik Lazro & Joëlle Léandre - Hasparren
  2. Lotte Anker & Jakob Riis - Squid Police
  3. Jeremiah Cymerman - Pale Horse
  4. East-West Collective - Humeurs
  5. Ernst Reijseger - Crystal Palace
  6. Hugues Vincent & Yasumune Morishige - Fragment
  7. Luis Vicente, Pinheiro, Faustino & Franco - Clocks & Clouds 
  8. Skogen - Despairs Had Governed Me Too Long 
  9. Mikolaj Trzaska, Devin Hoff & Michael Zerang - Sleepless In Chicago 
  10. Magda Mayas, Damon Smith & Tony Buck - Spill Plus

Paul Acquaro:
  1. Marc Ribot Trio - Live at the Village Vanguard
  2. Nels Cline & Julian Lage - Room
  3. Mary Halvorson, Michael Formanek, Tomas Fujiwara-  Thumbscrew
  4. Ingrid Laubrock & Tom Rainey - And Other Desert Towns
  5. Raoul Bjorkenheim - eCsTaSy
  6. Max Johnson - The Invisible Trio
  7. Ken Vandermark / Paal Nilssen-Love – Lightning over Water 
  8. Ross Hammond - Humanity Suite
  9. Ideal Bread - Beating the Teens: The Songs of Steve Lacy
  10. Ana Weber - Simple

Tom Burris:
  1. Jemeel Moondoc – The Zookeeper's House
  2. Steve Lehman Octet – Mise En Abime
  3. Dave Rempis / Tim Daisy Duo – Second Spring
  4. Matthew Shipp Trio – Root of Things
  5. Wadada Leo Smith – The Great Lakes Suites
  6. Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble – Intergalactic Beings
  7. John Hebert Trio – Floodstage
  8. Colin Webster & Mark Holub – Viscera
  9. Akira Sakata / Johan Berthling / Paal Nilssen-Love – Arashi
  10. William Hooker & Liudas Mockunas – Live at Vilnius Jazz Festival

Josh Campell:
  1. Tyshawn Sorey - Alloy
  2. Roscoe Mitchell/Craig Taborn/Kikanju Baku - Conversations II
  3. Ivo Perelman - The Other Edge
  4. Bobby Bradford - Silver Cornet
  5. Jemeel Moondoc - The Zookeepers House
  6. Roscoe Mitchell/Craig Taborn/Kikanju Baku - Conversations I
  7. Darius Jones/Matthew Shipp - Darkseid Recital
  8. Wadada Leo Smith - Great Lakes Suite
  9. Matthew Shipp - Been To Many Places
  10. Nate Wooley/Hugo Antunes/Chris Corsano - Malus

Troy Dostert:
  1. Steve Lehman Octet, Mise en Abîme
  2. Marty Ehrlich Large Ensemble - Trumpet in the Morning 
  3. Franco D’Andrea Sextet - Monk and the Time Machine 
  4. Kris Davis Trio - Waiting for You to Grow
  5. Ivo Perelman - The Other Edge 
  6. Ken Vandermark/Paal Nilssen-Love Duo - Lightning Over Water
  7. Peter Van Huffel - Boom Crane
  8. Angles 9 - Injuries
  9. Max Johnson - Invisible Trio
  10. Audio One - An International Report 

Julian Eidenberger:
  1. Akira Sakata, Johan Berthling, Paal Nilssen-Love – Arashi 
  2. Kyle Bruckmann’s Wrack – … Awaits Silent Tristero’s Empire
  3. Steve Lehman Octet – Mise en Abîme
  4. Anthony Braxton, Tom Rainey, Tomas Fujiwara - Trio New Haven 2013
  5. Audio One – An International Report
  6. Many Arms with Colin Fisher – Suspended Definition
  7. Lean Left – Live at Area Sismica
  8. Joe Morris Quartet – Balance 
  9. Yoni Kretzmer, Pascal Niggenkemper, Weasel Walter – Protest Music
  10. Wadada Leo Smith, Jamie Saft, Joe Morris, Balázs Pándi – Red Hill

Colin Green:
  1. Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio & Peter Evans - The Freedom Principle 
  2. Konstruct & Joe McPhee - Babylon
  3. Paul Flaherty & Chris Corsano - Low Cost Space Flights
  4. Fail Better - Zero Sum
  5. Mats Gustafsson NU Ensemble - Hidros 6 - Knockin'
  6. Barry Guy New Orchestra - Mad Dogs on the Loose
  7. Ken Vandermark - Nine Ways to Read a Bridge
  8. Peter Brotzmann, Jason Adasaiwicz, John Edwards, Steve Noble - Mental Shakes
  9. Paal Nilssen-Love Large Unit - Etra Ale
  10. Farmers by Nature - Love and Ghosts

Matthew Grigg:
  1. Pharoah & the Underground - Spiral Mercury/Primative Jupiter
  2. Audio One - An International Report/The Midwest School
  3. Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble - Xenogenesis II: Intergalactic Beings
  4. Nate Wooley, Hugo Antunes, Chris Corsano - Malus
  5. Thurston Moore, Gabriel Ferrandini, Pedro Sousa - Live at ZDB
  6. Peter Evans Quintet - Destination:Void
  7. Broetzmann, Adasiewicz, Edwards, Noble - Mental Shake
  8. Roscoe Mitchell/Mike Reed - In Pursuit of Magic
  9. Jason Ajemain, Tony Malaby, Rob Mazurek, Chad Taylor - A Way A Land of Life
  10. Marc Ribot Trio - Live at the Village Vanguard

Chris Haines:
  1. Joe Morris Quartet - Balance
  2. Sei Miguel - Salvation Modes
  3. Eric Revis - In Memory of Things Yet Seen
  4. Jakob Thorkild Trio - Art Sleaze
  5. Tisziji Munoz - Star Worlds
  6. Ken Aldcroft - Threads 10/09/11
  7. Marc Ribot - Live at the Village Vanguard
  8. Andymusic - Heavydance
  9. Tomas Fujiwara Trio - Variable Bets
  10. Tellef Ogrim & Anders Berg - November

Joe Higham:
  1. Alexander Hawkins Ensemble - Step Wide, Step Deep 
  2. Marc Ducret - Tower-Bridge
  3. Oblik - Order Disorder
  4. N.E.W - Motion
  5. Cory Wright Outfit - Apples + Oranges
  6. Olie Brice Quintet - Immune to Clockwork
  7. Tim Daisy - October Music (Vol 1) 7 Compositions For Duet
  8. Antunes, Wooley and Corsano - Malus
  9. Alexandra Grimal and Giovanni Dominico - Chergui

Ed Pettersen:
  1. Zion 80- Adramelech, The Book of Angels vol. 22 
  2. Martin Kuchen - ...And Everything Inside Came Down As Dust
  3. Michael Francis Duch - Tomba Emmanuelle
  4. Frode Gjerstad - Hasselt
  5. Zeitkratzer - Metal Machine Music
  6. Wadada Leo Smith, Joe Morris, Jamie Saft and Balacz Pandi - Red Hill
  7. Thollem/Robair - Music Minus One (For Dennis Palmer)
  8. Joe Morris and Cris Cretella - Storms
  9. Stephan Meidell - Cascades (definitely taking the guitar forward)
  10. Ken Aldcroft - Threads

Antonio Poscic:
  1. Wadada Leo Smith - The Great Lakes Suites
  2. Steve Lehman Octet - Mise en Abîme
  3. DKV Trio - Sound in Motion in Sound
  4. Farmers By Nature - Love and Ghosts
  5. Lotte Anker & Jakob Riis - Squid Police
  6. Jeremiah Cymerman - Pale Horse
  7. Angles 9 - Injuries
  8. Tyshawn Sorey Trio - Alloy
  9. Zion 80 - Adramelech: Book of Angels, Vol. 22
  10. Jemeel Moondoc - The Zookeeper's House

Martin Schray:
  1. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead
  2. Frank Lowe Quartet - Outloud
  3. L’Étau – Chose Clandestines
  4. Ken Vandermark / Paal Nilssen-Love – Lightning over Water
  5. Ken Vandermark – Nine Ways to Build a Bridge
  6. Skein – self-titled
  7. Ballister – Both Ends
  8. Akira Sakata, Johan Berthling, Paal Nilssen-Love – Arashi
  9. Marshall Allen Presents Sun Ra and his Arkestra: In the Orbit of Ra
  10. William Hooker & Liudas Mockūnas - Live At Vilnius Jazz Festival

Dan Sorrells:
  1. Daunik Lazro, Benjamin Duboc, Didier Lassere - Sens Radiants (Dark Tree)
  2. Wacław Zimpel To Tu Orchestra - Nature Moves (For Tune)
  3. Benjamin Duboc - St. James Infirmary (Improvising Beings)
  4. Zanussi Five - Live in Coimbra (Clean Feed)
  5. Angles 9 - Injuries (Clean Feed)
  6. Max Johnson, Ingrid Laubrock, Mat Maneri, Tomas Fujiwara - The Prisoner (NoBusiness)
  7. Keir Neuringer - Ceremonies Out of the Air (New Atlantis)
  8. Jeremiah Cymerman, Evan Parker, Nate Wooley - World of Objects (5049 Records)
  9. RED Trio & Mattias Ståhl - North and the Red Stream (NoBusiness)
  10. Michael Francis Duch - Tomba Emmanuelle (Sofa)

Hugo Truyens:
  1. De Beren Gieren & Susana Santos Silva  - The Detour Fish 
  2. 1000 + 1 - Butterfly Garden 
  3. East of the Sun -  ICP Orchestra 
  4. Os Meus Shorts -  Os Meus Shorts II
  5. Sylvain Rifflet & Jon Irabagon  - Perpetual Motion (A Celebration of Moondog)
  6. Baloni  -  Belleke   
  7. Ideal Bread  Beating The Teens - Songs Of Steve Lacy 
  8. Franco D’Andrea Sextet - Monk and the Time Machine
  9. Marc Ribot Trio - Live at the Village Vanguard
  10. Sylvie Courvoisier - Mark Feldman Quartet Birdies for Lulu 

Stefan Wood:
  1. The Syrinx Effect
  2. Ethnic Heritage Ensemble - Black is Back
  3. Steve Lehman - Mise En Abime
  4. Akira Sakata - Arashi
  5. Farmers By Nature
  6. OOIOO - Gamelan
  7. The Swans - To Be Kind
  8. Thurston Moore - The Best Day
  9. Rodrigo Amado - Freedom Principle
  10. The Empty Sound - Case Study 1


Colin Green said...

What strikes me is how completely different each list is. Perhaps not surprising with 1,500 plus albums to choose from, and not even Stef and Paul can have listened to them all.

Sometimes I think there's too much music - how often this year did anyone listen to their top ten from last year, or the year before that? There's a depth in repeated listening which can be lost living in the perpetual present.

It also seems odd that free jazz has such a high audience/new recordings ratio, possibly because by the nature of improvised music, the same peice is never performed twice.

Martin Schray said...

Yes, the lists are very different, Colin. Then again, I was surprised that there were so many coincidences. Since I am also interested in pop/rock/hiphop etc. I also checked the Top 50 lists of the usual German and American magazines and I was surprised that almost all of them included the same 10 - 15 albums. Free jazz is definitely different, it's true. I remember two years ago when Eve Risser was our favorite and really many agreed on her album (okay, Paolo and me were a bit hard to persuade), while hardly any of the other magazines or blogs even noticed her.
And yes, I do listen to the lists of the past years - just to check if I would make the same choice again. As you might have imagined I wouldn't
:-). These lists are just snap-shots. But it's interesting to look at them.

Antonio said...

I was speaking to a friend recently and we came to the conclusion that these lists might as well be randomized.

Music is so subjective and difficult to quantify. How can I "rank" albums when I find so many of them wonderful?

In the end, I think these should be viewed as curiosities, something that the readers expect and, as Stef said once, a way to point some listeners in the right direction. Lots of great, great albums on these lists!

BTW, Colin, there can NEVER be too much music! I enjoy immensely this new era in which everyone can be heard and everyone can find an audience, no matter how small.

Stef said...

Exactly my point. It is hard to compare. Like Martin and Paolo two years ago disagreed on the Eve Risser album, I violently disagree on the Steve Lehman album as a "best of the year". I will substantiate my viewpoint in a real post. I invite you too to write about the subject.

Paul said...

The amount of music is overwhelming - but I'm not complaining. However, I was a bit surprised at how much my personal top albums changed from a list I compiled last month to the one posted here. As for compiling 10 - it's a cold hearted endeavor really, I have so many albums I'd like to list - and even change my choices now. As I look these over, I'm thinking: I'll make another list and post it somewhere! Anyway, happy record hunting everyone. 

baba said...

nice to see you introducing new artists and albums for the guests like me. thanks, great blog both for participating and learning...

Gennaro said...

Just to add 5 albums not mentioned previously in the collective's personal top 10 album choices:
Made to Break - Cherchez la femme
Audio One - The Midwest School
Fire! Orchestra - Enter
Adam Lane Full Throttle Orch. - Live in Ljubljana
Gianni Lenoci Trio - Plaything

Paul said...

Wonderful additions Gennaro, thanks.

joesh said...


I think that the numbers on the lists are just 'pointers', not orders. I at least didn't have an order. I just put some albums down I've been listening to in this 'genre' of music. There were also many, many more from other areas, but naturally lists have to have a beginning and an end.

Thanks for following us.

Richard said...

Ultimately, it's true that lists are rather silly. Something like the mood you were in the the first time you listened to an album can have an effect on where you rank an album. But I have a great time reading them and thinking about my own list. I spent a ridiculous amount of time comparing one album to another. But that's time I spent listening to great music so I can't complain.

Thanks again to everyone at the Free Jazz Blog for a fantastic year of reviews.

For what it's worth, here's my list:


1- Luis Vicente-Clocks and Clouds
2-Anna Webber-Simple
3-Francois Carrier-Russian Concerts V1
5-John Zorn/Wadada Leo Smith/George Lewis-Sonic Rivers
7-Wadada Leo Smith-Red Hill
8-Matthias Muller - Tam
9-Joelle Leandre & Pascal Contet -3
10-Rodrigo Amado-The Freedom Principle

Richard said...

Hi Martin,

What's "Skein"? The only band I can find with that name is a "Finnish alternative metal band". I'm guessing that's not who you meant.

Stef said...

Hi Richard,
It's a band led by Frank Gratkowski, and out on Leo. To be reviewed soon.

Phil Freeman said...

Glad to see a few other people citing the Jemeel Moondoc album. Terrific work from a too infrequently recorded master.

Martin Schray said...

Stef already said it, Richard. A great band (six musicians), the review is already written. Unfortunately, there seem to be no videos. If you can't wait, the nuclues of Skein is the Kaufmann/Gratkowski/DeJoode trio. There are some videos on youtube.

Richard said...

Thanks Stef and Martin,

That's a fantastic lineup. I'll keep an eye out for the review. But I was kind of hoping that Martin had slipped a Finnish alternative metal band into his list.

While I'm at it, I was happy to see Swans on one of the lists. There were some fantastic albums in the industrial/noise/punk/whatever genre this year.

Aside from Swans, there were amazing albums by Pharmakon, Sunn O))) & Scott Walker, Thou, White Suns, Pallbearer, Kevin Drumm & Jason Lescalleet, and on a much more mellow note, Grouper.

Dan said...

Nice to see Thou and Pallbearer mentioned. (though we're getting way off topic!) Though I spend most of my time with improvised music, my other small obsession is doom/sludge/stoner metal. Another killer from that category if you haven't checked it out yet is YOB's Clearing the Path to Ascend.

Martin Schray said...

The Swans' "To Be Kind" is definitely one of the best albums this year. If I hadn't confined myself to free jazz/improv it would have been on my list. And - hey - a Finnish alternative metal band sounds interesting.
Finally, YOB is excellent, Dan.
An interesting post might be our albums of the year outside free jazz/improv.
Here are some of my favorites:

Shellac: Dude Incredible
Die Nerven: Fun
Sleaford Mods: Divide and Exit
Motorpsycho: Behind the Sun
Sunn O))) & Ulver: Terrestrials
Aphex Twin: Syro

Antonio said...

Richard, Dan & Martin, those are great choices!

I too had to confine myself to only free jazz and improv since I usually have a rather eclectic taste and listen to all kinds of music. There were some incredible metal & electronic releases this year.

But, as Dan said, we're a bit off topic. :-)

Dan* said...

I agree the lack of convergence in lists is very interesting. This isn't specific to this particular blog community (not that anyone said it was). Consider the NPR Annual Jazz Critics Poll. This is a ranking of 500 albums, based on a poll of 140 critics.The highest ranked album only appeared on 28% of the critics' lists; the third highest ranked album on 21% of the lists; and the tenth ranked album on 10.7% of the lists. From around position 150 to position 500 in the ranking, the albums have only appeared on 1 or 2 lists (of course, there are also great albums that weren't ranked at all). This seems to demonstrate a significant lack of convergence in aesthetic judgments (the results in the 2012 and 2013 polls are similar, in this respect). The NPR blog, uses the word "consensus", and I haven't seen anybody there warning people to take the ranking with a pinch of salt, due to the limited amount of convergence on display there -- a warning of this kind seems like a good idea. One might expect to see much more convergence if the critics had (also) been asked to come up with a ranking based on which albums they predict will appear in the final top ten ranking. Perhaps critics should be asked to do this as well in the future. ... But, really, when I consider the lack of convergence, I find it strangely liberating. I think it's wonderful that there is so much interesting new music out there just waiting to be further appreciated. And, as a daily reader of the Free Jazz Blog (count me as a fan!), I'm very glad you guys produce your reviews and lists, because they are really helpful for pointing me towards a wide variety of great music. Like many people, I used to misunderstand and scorn free jazz; your blog really helped broaden my listening tastes.

Joona said...

I'll allow my nationalistic inclinations to take over for a moment and note that it's great to see some Finnish representation! (Raoul Björkenheim - eCsTaSy)

Anonymous said...

Uh....why is the album cover image for this post from an album that's not even in the top 10?

Paul said...

Not sure I get the last comment.

C Alexander Gonzalez said...

Great and diverse lists here - love to see that! I do agree that this year seemed to be near impossible to keep up with, nonetheless, here is my top five:

1. Eivind Opsvik & Michelle Arcila - "A Thousand Ancestors"

2. Sam Amidon - "O-Lily"

3. Ken Thomson & Slow/Fast - "Settle"

4. Julia Wolfe - "Steel Hammer"

5. Jeremiah Cymerman - "Pale Horse"

Anonymous said...

Always look forward to your lists, but always find it strange the amount of non-reviewed recordings that make the cut.

Paul said...

When contributers were asked to provide their top ten lists, directions did not specify that it had to contain only recordings that were reviewed on the blog. On the other hand, for the New Ears list, only recordings that were reviewed made the final list.

Hagop said...

Whaoh, that's a great listening list !
First time I hear about half of the bands listed there !

Anyway, Marc Ribot was my personal fave of 2014, glad he made it in some of the top tens...

David said...

Joe Higham is a wonderful saxophoniste.