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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Albums of the Year 2015

2015 was another exciting year for the Free Jazz Collective. We welcomed several new reviewers: Peter Gough, Eric McDowell, Joel Barela, Lee Rice Epstein and Derek Stone and had over 1600 albums on the review list to do ... oh, if we could only reviewed each and every one! Anyway, typical laments aside, here is our collective album of the year and then everyone's top 10 lists - please let us know what your picks are!

The Top 10

This year's top album of the year was a tough one. When all the votes were tallied, we were at tie for the top place, only after an unprecedented run off vote, we present the top album of 2015:

  1. Rodrigo Amado, Joe McPhee, Kent Kessler, Chris Corsano – This Is Our Language (Not Two Records)

    As Peter Gough stated in his review:

    This Is Our Language is a natural extension of the similarly titled This Is Our Music by the Ornette Coleman Quartet (Atlantic, 1961). Amado’s group enjoys the same clairvoyant chemistry as Coleman’s did, and are no less equipped to deliver their message. Amado et al. summarize and expound upon the fifty-odd years of achievements in free jazz that have passed since Coleman’s opus.

    From all of us here at the Free Jazz blog, thank you Rodrigo, et al., for the wonderful music - we expect more in the coming year!

  2. Stephen Haynes – Pomegranate (New Atlantis)

    This was a very very close second place, it was almost another tie. Stef, in his review, wrote: 
    When Haynes does release music, it is of the best possible kind : high quality, strong musical vision and always in the company of great musicians.

  3. Vox Arcana - Caro’s Song (Relay)
  4. Agustí Fernández – River Tiger Fire (Fundacja Słuchaj!)
  5. Barry Altschul's 3Dom Factor - Tales of the Unforeseen (TUM)
  6. Eve Risser - Des pas sur la neige (Clean Feed)
  7. Luís Vicente, Théo Ceccaldi, Valentin Ceccaldi, Marcelo dos Reis - Chamber 4 (FMR)
  8. Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Pt. 3: River Run Thee (Constellation)
  9. Joe McPhee and Paal Nilssen-Love - Candy (PNL)
  10. Pascal Niggenkemper – Look with Thine Ears (Clean Feed) 

And now, in no particular order, our reviewer's top 10s and more...

Stef Gijssels

  • Luís Vicente, Théo Ceccaldi, Valentin Ceccaldi, Marcelo dos Reis - Chamber 4
    An incredibly strong combination of avant-garde form with deep and soulful emotions, full of rich ideas, superb musicianship and interaction, unique in its musical vision, full of contrasts of light and darkness, tight interplay and incredible focus
  • Gush - The March
    Great trio with Mats Gustafsson, Sten Sandell and Raymond Strid giving themselves completely
  • Eve Risser - Des Pas Dans La Neige
    A great musical journey on pian by one of the most fascinating pianists of the moment
  • Larry Ochs - The Fictive Five
    Super star quintet lets music flow out of visual imagery, and vice versa
  • Stephen Haynes - Pomegranate
    Light-footed, innovative and sensitive open-textured music 
  • Deux Maisons - For Sale
    Unique musical vision
  • Joëlle Léandre, Delbecq, Houle - 14, Rue Paul Fort, Paris
    Beautiful album by three musical visionaries at the top of their skills
  • Joe Hertenstein, Pascal Niggenkemper & Thomas Heberer - HNH
    Fantastic trumpet, bass, drums trio redefining the format through inventive music
  • Baloni  – Ripples
    A wonderful and poetic trio of clarinet, viola and double bass
  • Earth Tongues - Rune
    Low density/high intensity music by a trio of trumpet, tuba and percussion, austere, disconcerting and pure

Paul Acquaro

  • Mette Rasmussen / Chris Corsano Duo - All The Ghosts At Once (Relative Pitch Records)
    Energetic duo with up and coming Norwegian saxophonist and the ever versatile American. Sonic blasts and self-restraint.
  • Tim Berne's Snakeoil - You've Been Watching Me (ECM)
    A new high from Berne. An accomplished group gains new depth with the inclusion of Ryan Ferreira's textural guitar work.
  • Pulverize the Sound - Pulverize the Sound (Relative Pitch)
    And they do! An uncompromising debut by an unusual power trio - drums, bass and trumpet.
  • Nicole Mitchell, Tomeka Reid & Mike Reed - Artifacts (482 Music)
    A beautiful and thoughtful album paying tribute to and extending into the now the work of the AACM.
  • Marcelo dos Reis & Angélica V. Salvi - Concentric Rinds‏ (Cipsela)
    Guitar and harp and voice. Who would of thunk? A hushed beauty of an album.
  • Cortex - Live (Clean Feed)
    This Norwegian quintet plays 'classic' free jazz with vim and vigor, and live they are just on fire.
  • Ken Vandermark & Nate Wooley - East by Northwest (Audiographic)
    Gorgeous duo album that rekindles the spirit of Bobby Bradford and John Carter, with all the thoughtfulness that these new masters bring.
  • Joe McPhee and Paal Nilssen-Love - Candy (PnL)
    A box set documenting a dozen years of collaboration and conflagration. A treasure.
  • Barry Altschul's 3Dom Factor - Tales of the Unforeseen (TUM)
    The veteran drummer ain't slowing down! The second release by this powerful trio with Jon Irabagon and Mark Helias plays free, Monk, Bley and more.
  • Ingrid Laubrock's Anti-House - Roulette of the Cradle (Intakt)
    Another great set from the saxophonist whose music taps deeper into the sweet spot between composed and the free each time.

Lee Epstein

  • Matana Roberts - Coin Coin Chapter Three : River Run Thee (Constellation)
    This new chapter of Robert's Coin Coin epic is revelatory, a wildly innovative soundscape with piercing focus.
  • Amir ElSaffar - Crisis (Pi)
    This album has become vital to 2015. Urgent, passionate, mournful, and glorious. 
  • Susana Santos Silva - Impermanence (Susana Santos Silva)
    THIS LOVE floored me, but IMPERMANENCE has captivated me. I listen to it daily. "Oblivious Trees" may be my #1 track of the year.
  • Vijay Iyer - Break Stuff (ECM)
    I still strongly prefer Iyer's originals to the covers, but his trio's interplay is flawless, both technically and creatively. 
  • Dave Douglas Quintet - Braze n Heart (Greenleaf)
    The record I was waiting for from this quintet; nothing here disappointed. Oh shines, especially her interactions with Mitchell (my vote for 2015's MVP). 
  • Nate Wooley - Battle Pieces (Relative Pitch) / Nate Wooley Quintet (Dance To) The Early Music (Clean Feed)
    I am absolutely cheating here, though I don't think either of these records can exist without the other. Both find Wooley and his respective groups fully committing to his unique vision. 
  • Eve Risser - Des Pas Sur La Neige (Clean Feed)
    Some albums, you can't really be prepared for. Even the marketing material didn't aptly describe Risser's patient, challenging, and ever-shifting prepared piano. 
  • Nicole Mitchell, Tomeka Reid, Mike Reed - 
  • Artifacts (482 Music)
    Exactly the AACM tribute needed to show both the deep history and fresh voices that still exist. I want so many more albums with this trio. 
  • Henry Threadgill Zooid - In For A Penny, In For A Pound (Pi)
    An expansive album that showcases, more than anything, Threadgill's democratic approach. 
  • Jacob Garchik - Ye Olde
    My first review for the blog, how could I not include it? Seriously, though, this is a fantastic, intricately composed concept album. 

Dan Sorrells

  • Quatuor Machaut – Quatuor Machaut (Ayler) 
    Quentin Biardeau’s powerful saxophone quartet—inspired by Guillaume de Machaut’s 14th century polyphonic mass—in a gorgeous set that blends Machaut’s score, Biardeau’s compositions, and spectral improvisation.
  • Stephen Haynes – Pomegranate (New Atlantis) 
    A student of Bill Dixon pays tribute by internalizing Dixon’s philosophy rather than his sound, resulting in a profoundly inspired, completely immersive soundworld.
  • Variable Geometry Orchestra - Lulu auf dem Berg (Creative Sources )
    Ernesto Rodrigues’ haunting freeform orchestra returns with a massive, reverberating slab of sound. A great example of how a deft conductor can overcome the problems of large-scale improvisation.
  • Áine O'Dwyer - Music for Church Cleaners, Vol. I + II (MIE)
    Recordings on a large pipe organ that blur the lines between solo improvisation, performance art, and field recording.
  • Desert Sweets – A Place Meant for Birds (Balance Point Acoustics)
    The trio of Damon Smith, Biggi Vinkeloe, and Mark Weaver return more than a decade after their last meeting. Varied—and at times almost spiritual—free improvisation.
  • Agustí Fernández – River Tiger Fire (Fundacja Słuchaj!)
    A 4-CD collection of Fernández’s 60th birthday celebration concerts at the Ad Libitum Festival. Widely ranges from cutting edge electroacoustic improv to beautiful piano ballads.

  • The Pitch - Frozen Orchestra (Amsterdam) (SOFA)
    The Berlin-based quartet--augmented by six additional players, including Lucio Capece, Okkyung Lee, and Robin Hayward--executing one long drone, but with a level of shifting detail that is intoxicating and damn near time-warping.
  • Daniel Levin & Juan Pablo Carletti - Illusion of Truth (OutNow)
    A well-established cello and drums duo that serves as an improvisational lightning rod. Overflowing with energy and ideas.
  • Luís Vicente, Théo Ceccaldi, Valentin Ceccaldi, Marcelo dos Reis - Chamber 4 (FMR)
    Gorgeous “chamber improvisation” from young French and Portuguese players. This is the next generation of European improv, and they mean business.
  • Ingrid Laubrock – Ubatuba (Firehouse 12)
    A wind quintet from one of NYC’s hardest-working saxophonists! Complex music that further extends Laubrock’s already impressive compositional chops.

  • Favorite Concert: Battle Trance (Travis Laplante, Matt Nelson, Jeremy Viner, Patrick Breiner) at SPACE Gallery, Portland, ME

Martin Schray

  • Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Pt. 3: River Run Thee (Constellation)
    Still the most interesting project in modern jazz, ambitious and fascinating
  • Kammerflimmer Kollektief: Désarroi (Staubgold) 
    A wonderful combination of alternative pop, sampling and free jazz; a band at the peak of their creativity
  • Pascal Niggenkemper – Look with Thine Ears (Clean Feed) 
    It’s hard to believe that Niggenkemper creates these various sounds without any electronics

  • Peter Brötzmann: Münster Bern (Cubus Records)
    At the age of 74 Brötzmann is a league of his own, a true masterpiece indeed
  • Nate Wooley Quintet: (Dance to) the Early Music
    Wooley plays the music of Wynton Marsalis - unusual, fresh, and extremely well-played
  • Switchback: Switchback (Multikulti)
    I could listen to the bass clarinet/saxophone battles of Zimpel and Williams for ever, and ever … and ever
  • Gush: The March (Konvoj Records)
    No top ten list without the great Gustafsson; Sandell and Strid bring out new facets in his playing
  • Baloni: Ripples (Clean Feed)
    Clarinets/saxophones, viola and bass produce magical sound colors between improv and new classical music
  • Nick Mazzarella/Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten/Avreeayl Ra: Azimuth (Astral Spirits)
    Mazzarella has a great sound, intense and moving; it reminds of the great Coltrane
  • Jeff Henderson/Tom Callwood/Anthony Donaldson: The Voice of an Angle (iii Records)
    I am in love with the relentless tribal grooves in front of which Henderson shines in a very Brötzmann-ish style

  • Musician of the Year: Evan Parker (at the age of 71 Parker has released several great albums and he played incredible concerts, e.g. with his quartet and his Electro-Acoustic Band in Mulhouse, his tribute to Butch Morris with his Large Ensemble in Sant’Anna Arresi or the Schlippenbach Trio; Parker seems to seethe with ideas and creativity)

Colin Green:

  • Peter Brötzmann ‎– Münster Bern (Cubus Records)
    Brötzmann at his best:  uplifting, profound and probably a masterpiece.
  • Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø, Raymond Strid, Nina de Heney – Oslo Wien (Va Fongool) 
    Exceptional talents weaving their magic.
  • Bobby Bradford / Frode Gjerstad Quartet – The Delaware River (NoBusiness Records) 
    So much going on I could listen to this band all day.
  • Ivo Perelman, Mat Maneri, Joe Morris – Counterpoint (Leo Records)
    Music to tie yourself in knots to (in a good way).
  • Agustí Fernández – River Tiger Fire (Fundacja Słuchaj!)
    A glorious celebration of a multitalented pianist.
  • John Tchicai, Tony Marsh, John Edwards – 27 September 2010 (Otoroku)
    A fitting memorial to one of the greats, to launch Cafe OTO’s new digital download service.
  • Evan Parker, John Edwards, Eddie Prévost, Christof Thewes , Alexander v. Schlippenbach – 3 Nights at Cafe Oto (Matchless Recordings)
    Now an established trio with two  guests: group playing at the speed of thought.
  • Roscoe Mitchell Quartet – Celebrating Fred Anderson (Nessa Records)
    A tribute by one master to another in the AACM’s fiftieth year.
  • John Dikeman, William Parker, Hamid Drake – Live at La Resistenza (El Negocito Records)
    In the tradition of Albert Ayler and Charles Gayle: intense and moving.
  • Rodrigo Amado, Joe McPhee, Kent Kessler, Chris Corsano ‎– This Is Our Language (Not Two Records)
    Recorded before Ornette’s passing, but his spirit lives on.

Troy Dostert:

  • Matt Mitchell - Vista Accumulation (Pi)
    One of the finest pianists on the scene today creates a splendid dual-disc release filled with complex interplay and a mind-bending mixture of composed and improvised music.
  • Rudresh Mahanthappa - Bird Calls (ACT)
    Superb addition to Mahanthappa’s formidable catalogue: keeping the spirit of Bird alive by going in his own unique direction, and with a top-notch band as well.
  • Amir ElSaffar and the Two Rivers Ensemble - Crisis (Pi)
    A totally infectious exploration of multiple musical currents: Iraqi maqam meets jazz, with an irrepressible groove at the heart of it all.
  • Barry Altschul’s 3Dom Factor - Tales of the Unforeseen (TUM)
    A stellar group at the top of its game. Jon Irabagon is in especially fine form on these six group improvisations.
  • Maria Schneider Orchestra - Thompson Fields (Artistshare)
    For sheer lyrical beauty, Schneider really has no peer. With her long-established group of seasoned veterans, a stunning recording with orchestral sweep.
  • Vijay Iyer Trio - Break Stuff (ECM)
    A stellar piano trio record, Iyer once again challenges expectations and rewards dedicated listening.
  • Potsa Lotsa Plus - Plays Love Suite by Eric Dolphy (jazzwerkstadt)
    Silke Eberhard continues to offer valuable insights into Dolphy’s legacy, this time by exploring one of his unfinished compositions. Both challenging and lyrical, very much in keeping with Dolphy’s own spirit.
  • Kris Davis Infrasound - Save Your Breath (Clean Feed)
    Charting new paths in composing for medium-sized groups, Davis continues to impress and dazzle. A moody, mysterious, and bewitching record.
  • Lama and Joachim Badenhorst - The Elephant’s Journey (Clean Feed)
    A highly creative ensemble, with adept use of electronics and particularly fine trumpet work from Susana Santos Silva.
  • James Falzone’s Renga Ensemble - The Room Is (Allos Musica)
    Intriguing and subtle group interplay with an excellent line-up of horn players. Along with Kris Davis’s Infrasound, another triumph for the clarinets in 2015!

Peter Gough

  • Evan Parker, John Edwards, Eddie Prévost, Christof Thewes, Alexander von Schlippenbach - 3 Nights at Cafe Oto (Matchless Recordings)
  • Rodrigo Amado, Joe McPhee, Kent Kessler, Chris Corsano - This Is Our Language (Not Two Records)
  • Paal Nilssen-Love - Cut and Bleed (Ideal)
  • Nick Fraser, Tony Malaby, Kris Davis - Too Many Continents (Clean Feed)
  • Dead Neanderthals - Worship The Sun (Relative Pitch)
  • John Dikeman, Dirk Serries, Steve Noble - Obscure Fluctuations (Trost)
  • Stephen Haynes - Pomegranate (New Atlantis)
  • Vox Arcana - Caro’s Song (Relay)
  • Pascal Niggenkemper - Look With Thine Ears (Clean Feed)
  • Michael Zerang and The Blue Lights - Songs from the Big Book of Love (Pink Palace)

Eyal Hareuveni

  • Jakob Buchanan –  Requiem (Buchanan)
    Danish trumpeter beautiful, monumental homage to “our deceased - and to life itself”, with his quartet, vocalist Indra Rios-Moore, Aarhus Jazz Orchestra and Aarhus Cathedral Choir
  • Agustí Fernández – River Tiger Fire (Fundacja Słuchaj!)
    4-discs celebration of the great Catalan pianist 60th birthday. Check his new trio with cellist Frances Marie Uitti and electronics player Joel Ryan
  • Jakob Bro - Hymnotic / Salmodisk (Self Produced)
    Danish guitarist unique tentet (3 saxes, 3 double bass players, 2 drummers and keyboards player) imaginative collaboration with poet Peter Laugesen
  • The Thing - Shake! (The Thing /Trost)
    No group sound like The Thing and The Thing sound universe becomes even more bigger and more beautiful
  • Rodrigo Amado, Joe McPhee, Kent Kessler & Chris Corsano ‎– This Is Our Language (Not Two)
    Great free music, great musicians and another great release by Portuguese sax player Amado.
  • Nuiversum - Ballads on Now and When (Repeat Until Death)
    The trio of free highly creative Swedish musicians - pianist Lisa Ullén, double bass player Nina De Heney and vocalist Mariam Wallentin.
  • Amir ElSaffar’s Two Rivers Ensemble - Crisis (Pi)
    Moving, complex music that merges organically jazz with Middle-Eastern scales.
  • Made to Break - Before the Code (Trost)
    One of Ken Vandermark’s most interesting and most ambitious group, sound-wise, blending elements of free improvisation, electronics and composed-contemporary music.
  • Susan Alcorn - Soledad (Relative Pitch)
    The compositions of Ástor Piazzolla sound more beautiful and profound in the ascetic arrangements of pedal steel guitarist Alcorn.
  • Mats Gustafsson & Nu Ensemble: Hidros 6: Knockin' (Not Two)
    Wild and playful tribute to the songs of Little Richard by an energetic 12-musicians ensemble (including Fernández and The Thing).

  • Best performance: Fire! Orchestra, Jazzhouse, Copenhagen, Denmark, July 10-11, 2015
  • Best DVD: Voice - Sculpting Sound with Maja S.K. Ratkje, a film by IJ. Biermann & Kai Miededorp (Myrland Films)
  • Best book: Philip Glass - Words Without Music: A Memoir (Liveright)

Joe Higham

  • David Sylvian - There's A Light That Enters Houses With No Other House In Sight (Samadhisound)
    I liked the great mixture of poetry and electro-acoustics, very daring I found for a 60 minute piece.
  • Philip Jeck -  Cardinal (Touch)
    A new discovery for me, a really interesting way of working with sound using vinyl and other instruments. I'm busy trying to find his back catalogue.
  • Going - Machinery II (Silent Water)
    I found this record very organic and the use of electronics mixed with acoustic instruments made for an exiting, progressive and listenable modern music.
  • Sylvaine Hélary - Spring Roll - Printemps (Ayler)
    A very musical album which is brimming over with ideas both improvised and composed. Great compositional planning.
  • Erik Honoré - Heliographs (Hubro)
    Honoré somehow manages to dodge under the limelight. However, his way of reworking sound into music is quite exceptional. I think this might have been released at the end of 2014.
  • Oneohtrix Point Seven - Garden of Delete (Warp)
    An excellent, and very different, follow up to his "R Plus Seven". Very approachable!
  • Di Domenico, O'Rourke and Yamamoto "Delivery Health" (Silent Water)
    A late addition to the list. A strange organic trio which crosses several musical boundaries. Very intense music which challenges the listener.
  • Eve Risser - Des pas sur la neige (Clean Feed)
    One of the highlights of 'traditional' improvised piano music this year. Following in the footsteps of pianists like Keith Tippett or Matthew Shipp.
  • Dave Douglas - High Risk (Greenleaf)
    Dave Doulgas always comes up with very listenable and progressive jazz. Here he dabbles in electronics with Shigeto, along with modern groove musicians Jonathan Maron and Mark Guiliana.
  • Shigeto - Intermission (Ghostly International)
    Another late choice which was inspired after listening to "High Risk" from Dave Douglas. Shigeto/Zach Saginaw mixes jazz and electronics in a very inspiring way

Joel Barela

  • In the Sea - Henry Crabapple Disappear
    Quartet led by Tristan Honsinger. Honsinger does his best Beefheart and the players play a fucked take on improvised chamber jazz (another Astral Spirits gem)
  • Swans - The Gate [Live]
    Recorded in Berlin. A rock lobotomy
  • Ghost Bath - Moonlover
    North Dakota Black Metal with field recordings and piano solos. Big and scary and beautiful
  • Krallice - Ygg Huur
    Insane modern classical unit (via black metal); album named for three-piece suite by Giancinto Scelsi
  • Laddio Bolocko - Live & Unreleased
    Badass prog quartet. Drums, guitar, bass & sax. Complex and heavy
  • Matthew Shipp Trio - To Duke
    As much as Our Lady of the Flowers (another from RogueARTS) got to me, I returned to this one more
  • Mario Diaz de Leon - The Soul Is the Arena
    Modern composer's latest album of crazy chamber music. Two duos and a massive I.C.E. piece
  • Peter Brotzmann, Keiji Haino & Jim O'Rourke - Two City Blues 1 & 2Just so awesome to hear Brotzmann's horn and Haino's pipes in the same freaked out tunes
  • Akira Sakata, Jim O'Rourke, Chikamorachi & Merzbow - Flying Basket
    A single 72-minute jam complete with a superhuman rhythm section, O'Rourke trying to bleed his guitar out and Sakata screaming
  • Kamasi Washington - The Epic
    I know this didn't get the "god" treatment on this blog that it got everywhere else (and it really shouldn't have), but it's still a damn good, damn FUN listen. Music to move to, drive to, etc. And sorry to the haters, but these fuckers can flat play

Stefan Wood

  • Common Objects - Whitewashed with Lines (Another Timbre)
    An excellent double cd set of abstract compositions and improvisations.
  • Bobby Bradford/Frode Gjerstad - The Delaware River (NoBusiness)
    A high mark of free improv, this live set features excellent playing of two veterans of the jazz scene.
  • Rodrigo Amado - This is Our Language (Not Two)
    Inspired by Ornette Coleman, Amado and his group expand and extend on the jazz master's work with a brilliant set that showcases their own unique voices.
  • Hu Vibrational - The Epic Botanical Beat Suite (Meta)
    Their best album to date, music that mixes jazz improvisations with abstract electronics in the vein of African Head Charge.
  • Barry Altschul's 3dom Factor (TUM)
    Their best album, charged with powerful playing and telepathic interactions, one of the finest trio albums in years.  
  • Oliver Lake and William Parker - To Roy (Intakt Records)
    A brilliant duet album commemorating fellow musician Roy Campbell.  Oliver Lake's best playing in years.
  • Paal Nilssen-Love - Cut & Bleed (Ideal)
    Outstanding solo playing that uses percussive elements to create textures and voices that transcend.
  • Luther Thomas - In Denmark (ILK)
    A double album commemorating the great jazz musician in two different concerts at the end of his life.  Beautiful music, spiritual and uplifting.  A late 2014 release.
  • Mark Helias - The Signal Maker (Intakt)
    The second best trio album this year, hard hitting, pulse pounding post free bop jazz.
  • Monash Art Ensemble - Helias (Jazzhead)
    A 2014 concert but released this year, an outstanding collaborative effort between AACM jazz musician George Lewis and  students of the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music of Monash University.

Chris Haines

  • Garrison Fewell / Alessio Alberghini – InVerso (Floating Forest)
    ...beautiful & serene duets released just before Mr. Fewell sadly left us…
  • Raoul Bjorkenheim Ecstasy – Out of the Blue (Cuneiform Records)
    …combining the power of the Scorch Trio with the diversity of Krakatau…
  • Liberty Ellman – Radiate (Pi Recordings)
    a Threadgill inspired group sound with plenty of creativity and great ensemble playing…
  • David Chevallier – Standards & Avatars (Cristal Records)
    ...a great balance between new material and standards…
  • Ross Hammond & Catherine Sikora – Perfect Plasiticity (Gold Lion Arts)
    …wonderful improvising which is free to choose it’s own path…
  • Otomo Yoshihide – Guitar Solo 2015 LEFT (Doubtmusic)
    …a brave and successful musical critique of Takayanagi’s ‘Lonely Woman’ LP…
  • Stephen Haynes – Pomegranate (New Atlantis Records)
    …Stephen Haynes has pulled together a creative improv collective that keeps it fresh and interesting…
  • Henry Threadgill Zooid – In for a Penny, In for a Pound (Pi Recordings)
    …an inspired set of cadenzas forged by Threadgill’s open compositional aesthetic…
  • Mary Halvorson – Meltframe (Firehouse 12 Records)
    …a set of covers for the guitarist’s first solo album - highly expressive and bold!
  • Jeff Platz – Sour Grapes (Glitch Records)
    …this one slipped under the radar, but it shouldn’t have…

Paolo Casertano

  • Paal Nilssen-Love - Cut and Bleed (iDeal Recordings)
    Dirty percussions and clanking in the fog, this record keeps haunting me at night
  • Roscoe Mitchell Quartet - Celebrating Fred Anderson (Nessa Records)
    This record just embodies my idea of heroism…blowing this way at 75…
  • Peter Evans Quintet - Destination: Void (More Is More Records)
    Great musicians, relentless composition architectures, balanced mix of innovation and tradition, a reasoned leadership. I enjoyed all the time I listened to it
  • Evan Parker, Joe Morris and Nate Wooley - Ninth Square (Clean Feed)
    My gratitude to some of my favourite musicians in general – each of them with so many great releases during this year - and to one of the labels with the highest quantity/quality ratio
  • John Butcher - Nigemizu (Uchimizu)
    It is always rewarding to listen a John Butcher solo work, and the sax has almost nothing to do with it
  • Brötzmann - Münster Bern (Cubus Records)
    I’m inhibited from compiling a list without Brötzmann, and this is a masterpiece
  • Stefan Keune, Dominic Lash, Steve Noble - Fractions (NoBusiness)
    The perfect example of a trio with no centre. This is free music and NoBusinees is so important
  • Bobby Bradford / Frode Gjerstad Quartet - The Delaware River (NoBusiness)
    Intense, sincere, intelligent brass dialogue between two veterans…I can just keep on listening. One of the rare examples of an artistic “journey” - along a river in this case - going really somewhere…
  • Pulverize the Sound - Pulverize the Sound (Relative Pitch)
    My cup of tea, please just give more and more distortion to the bass and I’m happy
  • Mats Gustafsson Nu Ensemble - Hidros6 Knockin' (NotTwo)
    A late 2014 release, but maybe the best overview on the group of musicians enlivening the free jazz scene in these years

Eric McDowell

  • Raphael Roginski, Plays John Coltrane and Langston Hughes - African Mystic Music (Bôłt)
    Breathtaking intimate interpretations of Coltrane classics and Hughes poems for solo guitar. 
  • John Butcher - Nigemizu (Uchimizu)
    Butcher manages to recruit a stunning range of sounds from his tenor and soprano saxes for these mesmerizing, well-built solo performances. 
  • Stephen Haynes - Pomegranate (New Atlantis)
    An album as deliciously jeweled as its eponymous fruit. Tastes better with each listen.
  • The Thing - Shake (The Thing Records/Trost)
    All the seismic power you'd expect from an album called Shake by The Thing--plus some quieter moments, too. 
  • Joelle Leandre & Serge Teyssot-Gay - Trans 2 (Intervalle Triton)
    Serge Teyssot-Gay's guitar makes a wonderful companion for Joelle Leandre's mix of intense pathos and wild fun. 
  • Vox Arcana - Caro's Song (Relay)
    Predictably superb results from an experienced and versatile trio. 
  • Andrew Drury - Content Provider (Soup and Sound Recordings)
    Complex and heavy but energizing music--the tight riffs are as good as the free-form explorations. 
  • Tomeka Reid - Tomeka Reid Quartet (Thirsty Ear)
    Profoundly lyrical sounds from a well-cast quartet. Halvorson sounds as good as ever without stealing the show.
  • Going - Going II (Machinery) (Silent Water)
    Two keyboardists and two drummers weave two slow-building, hypnotic jams. 
  • Will Mason Ensemble, Beams of the Huge Night (New Amsterdam)Complex, robust music from an exciting new drummer/composer.

Tom Burris

  • Tomeka Reid Quartet (Thrill Jockey)
    Not only my favorite album this year, this is one of the finest debuts of any jazz quartet in forever. The balance between improvisation & composition never wavers too far in either direction, but the real draw here is the feeling of pure unadulterated joy the players emit over the course of the entire recording. Stellar. 
  • Vox Arcana – Caro's Song (Relay)
    Tim Daisy's compositions reach new heights as the trio of Vox Arcana bring their telepathic powers to the point of group levitation. A major achievement for both Vox and Daisy. 
  • Matthew Shipp - To Duke (RougeArt)
    A gift to Duke - and to us. Matthew Shipp proves he knows his place in jazz history far better than those who attempt to paint him into a contrarian corner. Now you know what “Fuck Bird!” really means. 
  • Marcelo Dos Reis / Angelica V. Salvi – Concentric Rinds (Cipsela)
    Harp and acoustic guitar duets that are so disarming you'll stop in your tracks. The liner notes say the music is all completely improvised – but I'm still trying to wrap my head around that claim. 
  • Upsilon Acrux – Sun Square Dialect (New Atlantis)
    The sound of math rock gods calculating a mind being blown. From a world where Yes are capable of making Funhouse. 
  • Nate Wooley Quartet – (Dance to) The Early Music (Clean Feed)
    The farthest-out of modern trumpeters interprets.. Wynton Marsalis?!? It's very great. Shut my mouth. 
  • Daniel Levin Quartet – Friction (Clean Feed)Levin's music continues to progress as it becomes more approachable, making this his finest effort as a leader to date. 
  • Mary Halvorson – Meltframe (Firehouse 12)
    North America's greatest guitar hero finally makes her solo debut. It's all cover material of the highest caliber. Essential. 
  • Kaja Draksler & Susana Santos Silva – This Love (Clean Feed)
    Thoughtful trumpet and piano improvisations operating somewhere near intuitive genius. Both musicians are in peak form these days & this collaboration magnifies each of their respective gifts. 
  • Michael Bisio – Accortet (Relative Pitch)
    I'm a sucker for an accordion in a jazz setting and this is a really good disc. The album wanes a bit as it progresses, but the first half or so contains the type of joy one generally finds in the music of Monk – or the Tomeka Reid Quartet.

Antonio Poscic

  • Matana Roberts - COIN COIN Chapter Three: river run thee 
    The third installment of the COIN COIN series sees Matana Roberts embrace a minimal, exploratory format that enables her to create her most spiritually and artistically inspired work, both intimate and universally powerful. 
  • Luís Vicente, Théo Ceccaldi, Valentin Ceccaldi, Marcelo dos Reis - Chamber 4
    Lush and nuanced collection of "chamber improvisation" pieces that flow with ease and grace, connecting the avant-garde with the beautiful. 
  • Pascal Niggenkemper - Look with Thine Ears
    An incredible solo album on which Niggenkemper guides us through a maze of impossible sounds extracted from his prepared bass. 
  • Kris Davis Infrasound - Save Your Breath
    Pianist Kris Davis and her octet comprised of some of the best musicians around embark on an adventure that is equal parts atmosphere, focused improvisation, and surprising subtleties. 
  • Peter Brötzmann - Münster Bern
    Brötzmann plays a solo set both raw and lyrical in a Gothic cathedral. Easily one of his greatest records. 
  • Pulverize the Sound - Pulverize the Sound
    Peter Evans (trumpet), Mike Pride (drums), and Tim Dahl (electric bass) in a anything-but-conventional improvisational trio that challenges and rewards whether pulverizing or playing softly. 
  • Vox Arcana - Caro's Song
    A new record of formidable quality by one of Tim Daisy's most accomplished and welcoming ensembles. 
  • Rodrigo Amado/Joe McPhee/Kent Kessler/Chris Corsano - This is Our Language
    An album dedicated, in spirit, to the great Ornette Coleman, that both pays respects and expands on his legacy. 
  • Benjamin Duboc & Alexandra Grimal - Le Retour D'Ulysse [Promenade]
    Duboc & Grimal find themselves fluent in a common but cryptic language, interacting joyously through its medium while weaving stories and revisiting legends. 
  • Rudresh Mahanthappa - Bird Calls
    Furious but controlled playing by one of the most recognizable and melodic saxophones in jazz. While dedicated to Charlie Parker, it's a record that feels 100% Mahanthappa.

Matthew Grigg

  • White Out w/Nels Cline - Accidental Sky (Northern Spy)
    Superset supremos in fine company and expansive mood
  • SSBT - 247 Main (Astral Spirits)
    What the?! free everything missive from subterranea 
  • Akira Sakata & Jim O'Rourke with Chikamorachi & Merzbow - Flying Basket (Family Vineyard)How do you top the last quartet platter? add Masami Akita
  • Thurston Moore + Mats Gustafsson - Live at Henie Onstad Kunstsenter (Prisma Records)
    Burning and bloody, their most complete duo statement to date
  • Exploding Star Orchestra - Galactic Parables Volume 1 (Cuneiform Records)
    Mapping new constellations past Saturn's rings
  • Tiger Hatchery with Paul Flaherty - Live In New Haven (Ergot Records)Spirits rejoice, omis vir tigris 
  • Bill Nace, Steve Backowski, Chris Corsano - Stolen Car (Golden Lab Records)
    Vampire Belt - Backowski sandwich, peppery 
  • Kid Millions & Jim Sauter - Bloom (Astral Spirits)
    Knock out blow in round 3
  • New Vocabulary - ST (System Dialing Records)
    Unsanctioned but as ever, Something Else 
  • Makaya McCraven - In the Moment (International Anthem)
    Beats, Rhythms & Live

Derek Stone

  • Schlippenbach Trio - Features
  • Rodrigo Amado, Joe McPhee, Kent Kessler & Chris Corsano - This Is Our Music
  • Tim Berne's Snakeoil - You've Been Watching Me
  • Bram de Looze - Septych
  • Ivo Perelman, Mat Maneri & Tanya Kalmanovitch - Villa Lobos Suite
  • Ivo Perelman & Matthew Shipp - Callas
  • Luis Vicente, Marcelo dos Reis, Valentin Ceccaldi, Theo Ceccaldi - Chamber 4
  • Matana Roberts - COIN COIN Ch. 3: River Run Thee
  • Mary Halvorson - Meltframe
  • Pulverize the Sound - Pulverize the Sound

More Polls

On a related note, Troy Dostert and Paul Acquaro participated in Francis Davis' NPR Jazz Critics Poll. You can see our selections (and our peers as well) here.


Unknown said...

Very well deserved number one I think, and very strong lists in general! Always nice to pick up some inspiration.

My personal top ten (with the note I'm always aware than I just can listen to a tiny part of all the wonderful music that is being released in a year. So this is just a very subjective pick from my own personal collection. Albums like the Leandre on Leo, Eve Risser and Baloni are still high on the wishlist, but I just hadn't had the opportunity to listen to them this year).

* Chamber 4 - s/t [FMR]
* Shofar - Gold of Malkinia [Kilogram Records]
* Rodrigo Amado / Joe McPhee / Kent Kessler / Cris Corsano - This is Our Language [Not Two]
* Sant'Anna Arresi Quintet By Evan Parker - Filu 'E Ferru [Not On Label]
* Augusti Fernandez - River Tiger Fire [Fundacja Słuchaj!]
* Benjamin Duboc / Alexandra Grimal - Le Retour D'Ulysse (Promenade) [Improvising Beings]
* RED Trio - Live in Munich [Astral Spirits]
* Matthew Shipp, Sabir Mateen, William Parker, Gerald Cleaver - Our Lady Of The Flowers [Rogueart]
* Olie Brice / Tobias Delius / Mark Sanders - Somersaults [Two Rivers Records]
* Switchback ‎– s/t [Multikulti Project]

Gennaro Z. said...

Great lists...
here is my top 10:

- Audio One "What Thomas Bernhard Saw" (Audiographic)
- Made to Break "Before the code" (Trost)
- Eve Risser "Des pas sur la neige" (Clean Feed)
- Stephen Haynes – Pomegranate (New Atlantis)
- Luís Vicente / T.Ceccaldi / V.Ceccaldi / Marcelo dos Reis "Chamber 4" (FMR)
- Raphael Rogiński ‎"plays J.Coltrane and L.Hughes African Mystic Music" (Bolt)
- Chicago Reed Quartet "Western Automatic" (Aerophonic)
- William Parker Raining on the Moon ‎"Great Spirit" (AUM)
- Roots Magic ‎"Hoodoo Blues" (Clean Feed)
- Switchback "Switchback" (Multikulti Project)

...and many other albums yet!!!

My best wishes for the new year,

prof. kien said...

All great albums but I can't believe that nobody has mentioned Irene Schweizer & Han Bennink duo album "Welcome Back" yet. One of the greatest surprise of the year. If you don't believe in me, you may also stream &listen it here on Intakt's bandcamp page :)

I wish happy new (y)ears to all...


Richard said...

What a great collection of lists. Thanks again to
everyone at FJB for introducing me to so much
great music, with great writing to boot. Here's my list:

1-Jamie Saft-Ticonderoga
2-Ozo-A Kind Of Zo
3-New Monuments (Yeh, Dietrich & Hall)-Long Pig
4-Satoko Fujii Berlin Orchestra-Ichigi Ichie
5-Nick Fraser-Too Many Continents
6-John Zorn-Inferno (John Medeski, Kenny Grohowski, and Matt Hollenberg)
7-Luis Vicente-Chamber 4
8-Yasunao Tone-Double Automatism
9-TOC (Ternoy-Orins-Cruz)-Haircut
10-Tomeka Reid Quartet
11-Thurston Moore & John Moloney-Caught on Tape-Full Bleed

And let me also echo Tom Burris's comments since the
album wasn't reviewed herethat the Tomeka Reid
Quartet album is terrific. She was on two 5-star albums
this year in my book.

Anonymous said...


Luther Thomas «In Denmark» (ILK)
John Carter / Bobby Bradford «Self Determination Music» (Ace)
Chico Freeman – Heiri Känzig «The Arrival» (Intakt)
Irène Schweizer – Han Bennink «Welcome Back» (Intakt)
Joëlle Léandre / Benoît Delbecq / François Houle «4, Rue Paul Fort, Paris» (Leo)
Rodrigo Amado «This is Our Language» (Not Two)
Mats Gustafsson & NU Ensemble «Hidros 6: Knockin'» (Not Two)
Eve Risser «Des pas sur la neige» (Clean Feed)
Frantz Loriot / Manuel Perovic Notebook Large Ensemble «Urban Furrow» (Clean Feed)
Scott Clark 4tet «Bury My Heart» (Clean Feed)
Marcelo dos Reis | Luís Vincente | Théo Ceccaldi | Valentin Ceccaldi «Chamber 4» (FMR)
Anthony de Mare «Liaisons: Re-Imagining Sondheim from the Piano» (ECM)
Sufjan Stevens «Carrie & Lowell» (Asthmatic Kitty)

Richard said...


The Philip Jeck album called 7 is really good.


Thanks for introducing me to Kammerflimmer Kollektief.
Even though Desarroi didn't make my 10, I've been
hitting their back catalogue quite a bit. I especially
like Jinx.


Excellent list. I love that Krallice album. I was going to
say that Ghost Bath was from China, not North Dakota,
but it seems that was a publicity stunt.

One of these years, I'm going to have my list be half
jazz and half punk/metal, which would be a more
accurate reflection of my listening habits. Some other
punk/metal albums I liked this year were by:

Total Abuse

Finally, I like your choice of the Mario Diaz de Leon album.
The album begins with a flute solo by Claire Chase, which
I think fans of Nicole Mitchell would like.

Stef said...

Thanks everybody for the suggestions and the great lists. Happy new year to you all, and lots of music!

Martin Schray said...

You're welcome, Richard.
Kammerflimmer have a new album in the pipeline, I'm looking forward to listening to it.
Thanks for the punk/metal recommendations, I only know Deafheaven but I will definitely check out the others.

Happy new year to everyone out there.

joesh said...

Hi Richard, thanks for the tip. I discovered Jeck completely by coincidence. Great stuff, I'll definitely check out your suggestion.

All the best for 2016 - Joe

Lee said...

One of the great things about these lists is, I always feel like there's more to discover. I only recently started digging into River Tiger Fire, and I'm certain it would have made my list if I'd heard it just a bit earlier in the year. I somehow missed that Mario Diaz de Leon released a new album. I'll have to check it out for sure.

HuraWatch said...

This album represents the quintet well. Live is better still, but isn't it always with this sort of music. Another step forward for Tim Berne. Musical Study