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Saturday, December 31, 2016

The year in review

By Stef

Some personal reflections on 2016 and on the music of the year. What we have seen on the political scene is a global trend towards the particular, the personal interests, the conviction of one's own truth, protectionism, the exclusion of the 'other', intolerance, nationalism with political leaders propagating these vices based on populist post-truth claims ... and in its extreme forms racism, violence, terror, institutionalised or organised by fanatics ... and the millions suffering from all this. By all measures 2016 was a bad year.

And when I browse the list of albums we reviewed this year, you get a wonderful view of a different world, a world that is creative, global in the best sense of the world, open to possibilities, universal in its language, inclusive of other ideas and thoughts, even welcoming them to challenge and to expand one's own thinking. We had a wonderful album of Satoko Fujii (Japan) and Joe Fonda (US), crossing styles and continents, or Ståle Liavik Solberg (Norway), with saxophonist John Butcher (UK), we had many records by Joëlle Léandre (France) exploring her art beyond boundaries of geography, age, gender and style, we listened to Rodrigo Amado (Portugal) releasing an album with Paal Nilssen-Love (Norway) and Kent Kessler (US), Raymond Boni (France) with Jean-Marc Foussat (France) and Joe McPhee (US), we had an album with Sabir Mateen (US), Conny Bauer (Germany), Mark Tokar (Ukraine), Klaus Kugel (Germany), Carate Urio Orchestra with Joachim Badenhorst (Belgium), Sam Kulik (US), Frantz Loriot (French Japanese), Pascal Niggenkemper (French German), Sean Carpio (US), Brice Soniano (France), Nico Roig (Spain), the Porta Palace Collective with Italians, Americans, Japanese members, Mats Gustafsson's great Fire! Orchestra.... Need I go on? True creativity starts when different perspectives meet. New sonic experiences come to life. Is there anything more fun than to see this happen? Is there anything more rewarding than listening to these collaborative efforts without any other agendas than to create something significant, to contribute to an expansion of the world's aesthetics, to build something new without preconceived notions? I want to thank all the artists for their work and their attitude of openness and welcoming inclusion. You are showing the way. Thanks for that. 

Musicians of the year

As mentioned in the previous years, the personal nomination for this highly subjective "Musician Of The Year" category can only be given once. Some musicians keep leading the way, such as Joëlle Léandre, Ken Vandermark, Joe McPhee, Wadada Leo Smith, Angharad Davies, Eve Risser, Mats Gustafsson, Nate Wooley, Mary Halvorson ... but they got the credits before.

These musicians were selected because they "marked" the year, they were exceptional in quality and often also in quantity of output.

Susana Santos Silva

The person omnipresent this year (and last) is Portuguese trumpeter Susana Santos Silva, who kept releasing albums and performing and touring with various bands. Her "Life And Other Transient Storms" got kudos on this blog and elsewhere. She also released "Rasengan!", "Buku", and she performed on "Roji", not to mention her membership of Fire! Orchestra's "Ritual"

Anna Högberg

Young and Swedish, she already managed to deliver the "Album Of The Year" by the revierwers of our blog, for her "Anna Högberg's Attack", the Swedish all-women sextet. She also performed on MG50, the Mats Gustafsson 50th Birthday box, and in Fire! Orchestra's "Ritual". She already released a memorable album last year with "Dog Life", and we can only expect more from her in the coming years.

Ivo Perelman

Brazilian New York-based saxophonist Ivo Perelman gets more prolific with the years, but at the same time perfecting his art, and getting increasing and deserved recognition. In 2016, he released no less than 11 CDs, and I can recommend Colin Green's introduction to our "Ivo Perelman Week" as a start. He released a bunch of duo albums : The Hitchhiker (with Karl Berger), "Corpo" (with Matt Shipp), "Blue" (with Joe Morris); quartets with "Breaking Point" and "Soul", together with his series on Leo called the Art Of The Improv. Here are the links to reviews for "Vol. 1 & 2"; "Vol. 3 & 4", and "Vol. 5 & 6". And then just for the record: we started the year with three Ivo Perelman albums from 2015. That makes 14 album reviews in a year!

Peter Evans

American trumpeter Peter Evans is not prolific. But when he does release albums, they get noticed. His solo trumpet album, "Lifeblood" gets a 5-star rating on our blog, as well as his quintet album "Genesis". Evans is a searcher, someone who wants to keep reinventing himself while discovering new sounds and music in the process, reshaping what exists and creating where new sounds are needed. He also played on Ingrid Laubrock's "Serpentine" and released an excellent duo album with Nate Wooley on the not yet reviewed "Polychoral".

Henry Threadgill

American saxophonist Henry Threadgill figured in two consecutive years in many of our reviewers' lists of albums of the year. In 2015 with "In For A Penny, In For A Pound", and this year with "Old Locks and Irregular Verbs". Apart from being a great musician, Threadgill has proved himself a great "conductor" with his Ensembles, also re-inventing his art and even his own role within the bands he's leading, resulting in high quality work and welcoming musical surprises.

In memory of ...

At the same time, some excellent free improvisation and avant-garde jazz musicians have also left us, too early, too soon. The names we mention here are people with very different horizons, but they all shared the same aspiration to go beyond the status quo, to find some deeper and universal language in music and sounds. We will miss them yet we also cherish the fact that their music is still there for all of us.

Connie Crothers 

Dominic Duval 

Paul Smoker

Gato Barbieri

 Nana Vasconcelos

Getachew Mekurya

Pauline Oliveros

Ken Aldcroft

Marco Eneidi

Paul Bley

Wolfgang Fuchs


Anonymous said...

I agree. Thank you so much to the many creative musicians who show again & again that the situation is not impossible.

2016 was a bad year for politics, but it was a great year for music. When the politicians say "there is no alternative" to yet another fascist impulse, we can all think of creative music & know, *absolutely know*, that there are many alternatives.

Dan said...

I just wanted to add that we also lost this year:

Paul Bley
Wolfgang Fuchs
Marco Eneidi
Alphonse Mouzon

May we also continue to remember them through the great music they have left behind.

Troy D said...

Must also add Bobby Hutcherson: one who will be dearly missed.

Martin Schray said...

The musician I miss the most is Johannes Bauer.

My musician of the year is the British bassist John Edwards. Very often we focus on artists who release albums as leaders however, I've seen Edwards in different groups as "sideman" and he's always been possible to lift an already very good performance to an extraordinary level - especially with Mark Sanders on drums, e.g. with Foils Quartet (with Frank Paul Schubert and Matthias Müller) or in a mindblowing performance with Roscoe Mitchell at the Mulhouse Métèo Festival. But also at the Donaueschingen New Music Festival in a very interesting project organized by Okkyung Lee.
Another musician I'd like to mention is drummer Ches Smith (for similar reasons). I was lucky to see him in New York at Ikue Mori's beautiful Stone residency, with Satoko Fujii's New York Orchestra, Tim Berne's Snakeoil and the above-mentioned Okkyung Lee project.

I'm looking forward to the new music of 2017.

Richard said...

I love all the proposals for Musician of the Year, but my choice would be Lisa Ullen.
She released 3 fantastic albums, including Quarrtsiluni with Nina de Heney & Charlotte Hug, which was my favorite album of the year.

MJG said...

Stef, thank you.
Your review of 2016 may indeed be personal but it, like much of the music we listen to, also speaks more widely and wisely to express thoughts and sentiments that I will guess are shared by very many who read this blog and beyond. It is for those of us to make the stand, in whichever way we are able to, against the seemingly prevalent forces of individualism and exclusionism. As you point out, the music heralded on this blog is inherently cast against such forces.
May 2017 bring more great, innovative and creative music and may the Free Jazz Collective continue to provide some of the best writing about it. Thank you to all reviewers and contributors!