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Saturday, January 1, 2022

Free Jazz Blog's Album of the Year 2021

We are pleased to bring you the Free Jazz Blog's top album(s) of 2021. Last week we presented our top recordings of 2021, which was drawn from the top 10 lists of the writers and then held a vote for the top album.

In first place, we have "Pan-European" group أحمد [Ahmed] with Nights on Saturn (Communication)

أحمد [Ahmed] - Nights on Saturn (Communication) (Astral Spirits, 2021)

In his review, Lee Epstein wrote:
"Beginning about 7 years ago, pianist Pat Thomas, bassist Joel Grip, and drummer Antonin Gerbal began playing and recording together as اسم [Ism], a name that represents something of a state of being that the group transforms into a richly layered, complex mix of forms and gestures. While the trio continues to explore new concepts—furthering the language of conventional Western concepts of a quote-unquote traditional jazz piano trio—shortly after this first album, they added altoist Seymour Wright and formed the flawless jazz quartet أحمد [Ahmed]. And, make no mistake, every single album they’ve recorded has been absolutely flawless ...
The music isn’t pried apart in the Western deconstructive context, it’s luxuriated in, realized anew, and expanded upon like a wave receding from a shore and echoing back through countless incoming breakers. Astonishingly, أحمد doesn’t really let the listener rest for a full 40 minutes, even on revisits I’ve been at the edge of my seat. Wright is remarkable on alto, his performance like a snarling, squealing fury buzzing in and around the group."
Every word of this rang true during the groups Jazzfest Berlin show this year as well!

Coming in second place is Nate Wooley's Mutual Aid Music. The American trumpeter has become a mainstay in this poll. Last year, his Seven Storey Mountain VI took first place, and in 2019, Columbia Icefield was in third place. Welcome back, Nate!

Nate Wooley - Mutual Aid Music (Pleasure of the Text Records, 2021) 

Paul Acquaro and Keith Prosk reviewed the album, writing the following:
"It is easy to get a little intimidated by a new Nate Wooley recording. There is usually a concept that tries to answer a question about the process of creation and creativity that he presents eloquently and humbly, but as a listener you may be inclined to wonder, as I sometimes find myself doing, 'will I get it?' 
It's easy to let this happen, but let me say right now, 'don't let it!', especially with Mutual Aid Music, there is no professional development needed to enjoy the music that pours forth from this generous recording. You can just as easily forget discussion of battle pieces and mutual aid, and realize that what the composer and trumpeter has done is entrusted a group of top-notch musicians to co-develop his musical vision by relying on - and sometimes questioning - their musical intuitions. The result, as I have already more than hinted at, is a marvel."

Tied for third place this year are:

As always, a hearty congratulations to everyone who did and did not appear in the lists. The amount of recordings, and their quality, released in 2021 was staggering. We realize that only a sampling of this reality came our way, and from this amount, we can only feasibly take in a small portion. However, 'take in' we do, as much as possible. Obviously there is a lot to listen to, and we can only write about what we know. We also set a rule this year that the end of the year lists could only contain recordings that were reviewed on the blog, or the nominator had reviewed in another publication. 

Thank you to the hard working collective. Without your donation of time and mental sweat, the Free Jazz Blog could not do what it does (and there is always more to do).

And finally, thank you to our readers. Much appreciated for your continued interest. 

Happy New (y)Ears, and we hope that 2022 starts resembling normal, if you can even remember what that means.


Richard said...

I can't argue with the choice, although I put his other masterpiece "Pat Thomas And The Locals Play the Music of Anthony Braxton". on my list. No doubt Ahmed Abdul-Malik would be very proud to have his name on this album. What a year Pat Thomas had.

Gennaro said...

I completely agree about Pat Thomas, he had an incredible year.
There is another amazing album: “Some Good News” (Otoroku)
by Black Top (Pat Thomas & Orphy Robinson + Hamid Drake & William Parker)
A great recording that deserves to be mentioned among the top albums of 2021.

Lee said...

Agree, Richard and Gennaro, both albums were exceptional. There is also a fantastic session with Thurston Moore, Dave Tucker, and Mark Sanders, another [Ism] album and a really wild live album from Cafe Oto with Orphy, Tim Hill, Michael Thieke, and Mike Cooper (who leads the group). 2021 was Pat's year in such a big way.

rod j said...

Great choice, listened to it again now - only problem is every time it puts me in such a trance state it's hard to recall what i just listened too!