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The Free Jazz Collective Top 101 Recordings Of The 2010s


For better or worse, cultures surrounding recorded music tend to like lists: for all-time, decades, and years; for genres, labels, and scenes; for musician discographies; for instruments; for track length; for best side As and side Bs. Any way you cut it, there’s a list to be made. But without dwelling on the implications of lists, they’re ultimately fun, for whatever reasons, and the Free Jazz Collective decided to make their own top recordings of the decade list.

We asked the Free Jazz Collective to submit up to 100 of their favorite recordings originally released between 2010 and 2019, so long as the recordings fit the spirit of the blog. Contributors were encouraged to weight the recordings by ranking them, to result in a more impactful, ranked list. We compiled their individual lists to only include recordings submitted by more than one contributor, in the spirit of collective consensus, resulting in 101 entries. There was no deliberation. No agenda. The weighting method and simple addition determined where each recording fell. Most of the placements are very close to each other except for the top 3, which each had a commanding lead over the previous entry. I think I speak for all contributors when I say this is not intended to be definitive in any way, and would look different if done on another day. But that should surely not diminish the distinction of being fondly remembered when this group was asked “what are the recordings that had the greatest impact on you this decade?”

15 contributors submitted a total of 772 entries, with about 80% of those entries being unique. The nature of this music, in which a musician might release multiple recordings each year, makes converging on 101 recordings for a decade an almost surprising feat. Musicians and groups particularly plagued by several entries yet no match on a single recording include Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, the various Angles ensembles, and Brötzmann/Swell/Nilssen-Love, though each musician in the latter is featured in other ensembles. Similarly, though they made it to the final list, John Butcher and Joe McPhee had many more recordings floating around the individual lists.

If I tallied correctly, the musician with the most representation on the compiled list is Chris Corsano, followed by Peter Brötzmann, Mary Halvorson, and Evan Parker, and then Okkyung Lee, Tyshawn Sorey, and Ken Vandermark. Intakt, Not Two, Pi, and Trost are all tied for most representation among the labels. About 75% of the list was released between 2015 and 2019. I’ve pondered whether this is related to the exponential growth of DIY release-methods like bandcamp in the last half of the decade, trickle down from Kamasi Washington’s success in 2015, or some other combination of factors.

Four of our top 10 are led by women. About 45% of the recordings in the final list include women. But the number of recordings led by women and the total number of female musicians featured is still heavily imbalanced. About twice as many American musicians than European musicians are represented; few entries feature non-American or non-European musicians. While there are many musicians featured that made their debut as leader in the 2010s, I believe Kate Gentile is the only musician to both lead a recording and begin recording in the 2010s on the list. It’s not exactly chained to the old guard but certainly not brimming with new blood either.

Going through the old Free Jazz Collective reviews for these albums unearths deep listening week, guitar week, one-off features, and the days when it was just Stef reviewing albums. We hope you have as much fun reading, revisiting, listening, and discovering through this list as we did compiling it - we’ve included streaming links when possible and a few new words for some of our top recordings. We encourage you to check out the individual lists here as well, which are surely as exciting a resource as the compiled one. And as always, thank you so much for reading!

101. Schlippenbach Trio - Warsaw Concert (Intakt, 2016)
Submitted by Nick Metzger and Nick Ostrum.

Read our original review here.

100. Alexander Hawkins - Unit[e] (self-released, 2017)
Submitted by Nick Metzger and Keith Prosk. 

Read our original review here


99. The Vandermark 5 - The Horse Jumps And The Ship Is Gone (Not Two, 2010)
Submitted by Antonio Poscic and Keith Prosk. 

Read our original review here

98. Chris Corsano, Bill Orcutt - Brace Up! (Palilalia, 2018)
Submitted by Kian Banihashemi and Keith Prosk.

Read our original review here.

97. Ivo Perelman & Matthew Shipp – The Art of Perelman/Shipp Vol. 1-10 (Leo, 2017)
Submitted by Antonio Poscic and Martin Schray. 

Read our original reviews here and here.

96. Fire! - She Sleeps, She Sleeps (Rune Grammofon, 2016)
Submitted by Spencer Friedman, Nick Metzger, and Martin Schray. 

Read our original review here.

95. Rob Mazurek - Calma Gente (Submarine/Catune, 2010)
Submitted by Stef Gijssels and Antonio Poscic. 

Read our original review here

94. William Parker's In Order To Survive - Live/Shapeshifter (Aum Fidelity, 2019)
Submitted by Nick Metzger and Sammy Stein. 

Read our original review here.

93. Vijay Iyer Sextet – Far From Over (ECM, 2017)
Submitted by Antonio Poscic and Martin Schray. 

Read our original review here.

92. Evan Parker, Okkyung Lee, Peter Evans - The Bleeding Edge (psi, 2011)
Submitted by Nick Metzger and Keith Prosk. 

Read our original review here

91. Pascal Niggenkemper - Look with Thine Ears (Clean Feed, 2015)
Submitted by Antonio Poscic and Martin Schray. 

Read our original review here

90. Joe McPhee, Damon Smith, Alvin Fielder - Six Situations (Not Two, 2017)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro and Kian Banihashemi.

Read our original review here.

89. Konstrukt & Alexander Hawkins ‎– Live At Cafe Oto (AKA: 10.08.15) (Otoroku, 2016)
Submitted by Colin Green and Sammy Stein. 

Read our original review here

88. Peter Brötzmann, Jason Adasiewicz, John Edwards & Steve Noble - Mental Shake (Otoroku, 2014)
Submitted by Nick Metzger and Sammy Stein.

Read our original review here

87. Kuzu - Hiljaisuus (Astral Spirits, 2018)
Submitted by Antonio Poscic and Martin Schray.

Read our original review here.

86. Steve Lehman Octet - Mise en Abîme (Pi, 2014)
Submitted by Lee Rice Epstein and Antonio Poscic. 

Read our original review here.

85. The Heat Death - The Glenn Miller Sessions (Clean Feed, 2018)
Submitted by Lee Rice Epstein and Nick Metzger. 

Read our original review here

84. Wadada Leo Smith - The Great Lakes Suites (TUM, 2014)
Submitted by Nick Ostrum, Antonio Poscic, and Keith Prosk. 

Read our original review here

83. Undivided (feat. Waclaw Zimpel) - The Passion (Multikulti, 2010)
Submitted by Nick Metzger and Martin Schray. 

Read our original review here

82. Made To Break ‎– Trebuchet (Trost, 2017)
Submitted by Eyal Hareuveni and Keith Prosk. 

Read our original review here.

81. Bobby Bradford-Frode Gjerstad Quartet - The Delaware River (NoBusiness, 2015)
Submitted by Lee Rice Epstein and Colin Green. 

Read our original review here


80. Fred Van Hove & Roger Turner - The Corner (Relative Pitch, 2017)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro and Keith Prosk. 

Read our original review here

79. Barre Phillips - End To End (ECM, 2018)
Submitted by Stef Gijssels and Keith Prosk. 

Read our original review here


78. Paul G. Smyth, Chris Corsano - Psychic Armour (Weekertoft, 2016)
Submitted by Lee Rice Epstein and Sammy Stein.

Read our original review here


77. Mary Halvorson, Michael Formanek, Tomas Fujiwara - Thumbscrew (Cuneiform, 2014)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro and Antonio Poscic. 

Read our original review here


76. Made to Break - Before the Code (Trost, 2015)
Submitted by Lee Rice Epstein and Antonio Poscic. 

Read our original review here


75. Agustí Fernández ‎– River Tiger Fire (Fundacja Słuchaj!, 2015)
Submitted by Colin Green and Antonio Poscic. 

Read our original review here


74. ROVA Channeling Coltrane - Electric Ascension + Cleaning The Mirror (RogueArt, 2016)
Submitted by Stef Gijssels and Paul Acquaro. 

Read our original review here

73. Evan Parker, Peter Evans, Craig Taborn, Sam Pluta - Rocket Science (More Is More, 2013)
Submitted by Stuart Broomer and Nick Metzger.

72. Myra Melford - Snowy Egret (Yellowbird, 2015)
Submitted by Lee Rice Epstein and Antonio Poscic. 

Read our original review here

71. Bill Dixon - Envoi (Victo, 2011)
Submitted by Stef Gijssels and Antonio Poscic. 

Read our original review here

70. Akira Sakata, Chikamorachi, Masahiko Sato - Proton Pump (Family Vineyard, 2018)
Submitted by Kian Banihashemi and Nick Metzger. 

Read our original review here


69. Ken Vandermark - Momentum 1: Stone (Audiographic, 2016)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro and Keith Prosk.

Read our original review here


68. Andrew Cyrille, Wadada Leo Smith, Bill Frisell - Lebroba (ECM, 2018)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro and Kian Banihashemi. 

Read our original review here


67. Jemeel Moondoc - The Zookeeper's House (Relative Pitch, 2014)
Submitted by Tom Burris and Antonio Poscic.

Read our original review here

66. Angelika Niescier, Christopher Tordini, Tyshawn Sorey - The Berlin Concert (Intakt, 2018)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro and Lee Rice Epstein. 

Read our original review here


65. Fire! Orchestra – Arrival (Rune Grammofon, 2019)
Submitted by Colin Green and Sammy Stein. 

Read our original review here


64. Kris Davis Infrasound - Save Your Breath (Clean Feed, 2015)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro and Antonio Poscic. 

Read our original review here

63. Nels Cline & Julian Lage - Room (Mack Avenue, 2014)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro and Spencer Friedman. 

Read our original review here

62. Okkyung Lee - Cheol-Kkot-Sae (Steel.Flower.Bird) (Tzadik, 2018)
Submitted by Antonio Poscic and Keith Prosk. 

Read our original review here

61. Anthony Braxton - Sextet (Parker) 1993 (New Braxton House, 2018)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro and Antonio Poscic. 

Read our original reviews here, here, and here


60. Neneh Cherry & The Thing - The Cherry Thing (Smalltown Supersound, 2012)
Submitted by Eyal Hareuveni and Antonio Poscic.

Read our original review here.  


59. Michael Bisio, Kirk Knuffke, Fred Lonberg-Holm - Requiem for a New York Slice (Iluso, 2019)
Submitted by Nick Metzger and Keith Prosk.

Read our original review here


58. Eve Risser White Desert Orchestra - Les deux versants se regardent (Clean Feed, 2016)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro and Antonio Poscic. 

Read our original review here


57. Kate Gentile - Mannequins (Skirl, 2017)
Submitted by Colin Green and Antonio Poscic. 

Read our original review here


56. Evan Parker, John Edwards, Eddie Prévost - 3 Nights at Café Oto (Matchless, 2013)
Submitted by Lee Rice Epstein and Colin Green. 

55. Full Blast - Rio (Trost, 2018)
Submitted by Nick Metzger and Sammy Stein. 

Read our original review here

54. Marker - Roadwork 1 / Roadwork 2 / Homework 1 (Audiographic, 2018)
Submitted by Nick Metzger and Keith Prosk. 

Read our original review here


53. Bill Dixon & Cecil Taylor - Duets 1992 (Triple Point, 2019)
Submitted by Stef Gijssels and Keith Prosk.

Read our original review here

52. Satoko Fujii Min-Yoh Ensemble - Watershed (Libra, 2011)
Submitted by Stef Gijssels and Antonio Poscic. 

Read our original review here. 

51. Dave Holland, Evan Parker, Craig Taborn, Ches Smith - Uncharted Territories (Dare2 Records, 2018)
Submitted by Kian Banihashemi, Nick Ostrum, and Antonio Poscic. 

Read our original review here

50. Daunik Lazro, Joëlle Léandre - Hasparren (NoBusiness, 2013)
Submitted by Stef Gijssels and Keith Prosk. 

Read our original review here. 


49. The Necks - Unfold (Ideologic Organ, 2017)
Submitted by Spencer Friedman and Nick Metzger. 

Read our original review here


48. Ingrid Laubrock Anti House - Strong Place (Intakt, 2013)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro and Spencer Friedman. 

Read our original review here


47. Makaya McCraven - Universal Beings (International Anthem, 2018)
Submitted by Kian Banihashemi, Spencer Friedman, and Nick Metzger. 

Read our original review here


46. Anthony Braxton - 3 Compositions (EEMHM) 2011 (Firehouse 12, 2016)
Submitted by Stuart Broomer and Keith Prosk. 


45. Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd - Holding It Down: The Veterans’ Dreams Project (Pi, 2013)
Submitted by Eyal Hareuveni and Antonio Poscic. 


44. Ben LaMar Gay - Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun (International Anthem, 2018)
Submitted by Kian Banihashemi, Lee Rice Epstein, and Nick Metzger. 

Read our original review here


43. Tashi Dorji & Tyler Damon - Both Will Escape (Family Vineyard, 2016)
Submitted by Tom Burris, Lee Rice Epstein, Nick Metzger, and Keith Prosk. 

Read our original review here


42. Vijay Iyer, Wadada Leo Smith - A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke (ECM, 2016)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro and Antonio Poscic. 

Read our original review here


41. Peter Brötzmann, Heather Leigh - Ears Are Filled With Wonder (Not Two, 2016)
Submitted by Lee Rice Epstein, Keith Prosk, and Sammy Stein. 

Read our original review here


40. Biliana Voutchkova, Michael Thieke - Blurred Music (Elsewhere, 2018)
Submitted by Antonio Poscic and Keith Prosk. 

Read our original review here


39. Irreversible Entanglements - Irreversible Entanglements (International Anthem, 2017)
Submitted by Antonio Poscic and Martin Schray. 

Read our original review here


38. Tomeka Reid Quartet - Tomeka Reid Quartet (Thirsty Ear, 2015)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro, Tom Burris, Spencer Friedman, and Keith Prosk. 

Read our original review here

37. Barry Guy - The Blue Shroud (Intakt, 2016)
Submitted by Stuart Broomer, Colin Green, Eyal Hareuveni, and Nick Metzger. 


36. Skogen - Ist Gefallen In Den Schnee (Another Timbre, 2012)
Submitted by Stef Gijssels and Nick Ostrum. 

Read our original review here.

35. Mette Rasmussen, Chris Corsano - All The Ghosts At Once (Relative Pitch, 2015)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro and Antonio Poscic. 

Read our original review here

34. Fire! Orchestra - Exit! (Rune Grammofon, 2013)
Submitted by Eyal Hareuveni, Antonio Poscic, and Martin Schray. 

Read our original review here

33. Mary Halvorson Octet - Away With You (Firehouse 12, 2016)
Submitted by Spencer Friedman and Keith Prosk. 

Read our original review here


32. Marcelo dos Reis | Luís Vicente | Théo Ceccaldi | Valentin Ceccaldi - Chamber 4 (FMR, 2015)
Submitted by Stef Gijssels and Antonio Poscic. 

Read our original review here.

31. Nate Wooley - Seven Storey Mountain V (Pleasures of the Text, 2016)
Submitted by Stuart Broomer, Nick Ostrum, Antonio Poscic, and Martin Schray.

Read our original review here


30. Nate Wooley - Seven Storey Mountain III And IV (Pleasure of the Text, 2013)
Submitted by Stuart Broomer and Nick Ostrum.


29. Keith Rowe - The Room Extended (Erstwhile, 2016)
Submitted by Kian Banihashemi and Nick Metzger. 


28. Evan Parker - Seven ElectroAcoustic Septet (Victo, 2014)
Submitted by Stuart Broomer and Keith Prosk. 

Read our original review here

27. Joshua Abrams - Magnetoception (Eremite, 2015)
Submitted by Lee Rice Epstein and Spencer Friedman. 

Read our original review here


26. Okkyung Lee - Ghil (Ideologic Organ, 2013)
Submitted by Lee Rice Epstein and Nick Metzger. 

Read our original review here


25. Henry Threadgill Zooid - In for a Penny, In for a Pound (Pi, 2015)
Submitted by Lee Rice Epstein, Antonio Poscic, and Keith Prosk. 

Read our original review here


24. Wadada Leo Smith - America’s National Parks (Cuneiform, 2016)
Submitted by Stef Gijssels and Nick Ostrum. 

Read our original review here


23. Jeremiah Cymerman - Pale Horse (5049, 2014)
Submitted by Stef Gijssels and Antonio Poscic. 

Read our original review here


22. Nate Wooley - The Complete Syllables Music (Pleasure of the Text, 2017)
Submitted by Lee Rice Epstein, Nick Ostrum, and Keith Prosk. 

Read our original review here


21. Assif Tsahar, William Parker, Hamid Drake – In Between the Tumbling a Stillness (Hopscotch, 2018)
Submitted by Colin Green, Nick Metzger, and Nick Ostrum. 

Read our original review here

20. Joëlle Léandre - A Woman's Work (Not Two, 2016)
Submitted by Lee Rice Epstein and Antonio Poscic. 

Read our original reviews here, here, and here

19. Matana Roberts - COIN COIN Chapter Four: Memphis (Constellation, 2019)
Submitted by Antonio Poscic and Martin Schray. 

Read our original review here

18. Pulverize the Sound - Pulverize the Sound (Relative Pitch, 2015)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro, Lee Rice Epstein, and Antonio Poscic.

Read our original review here.  

17. Áine O'Dwyer - Music for Church Cleaners, Vol. 1 and 2 (MIE, 2015)
Submitted by Lee Rice Epstein and Keith Prosk. 

Read our original review here


16. Henry Threadgill 14 or 15 Kestra: Agg - Dirt... And More Dirt (Pi Recordings, 2018)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro, Antonio Poscic, and Keith Prosk. 

Read our original review here


15. Peter Brötzmann, Heather Leigh - Sparrow Nights (Trost, 2018)
Submitted by Nick Ostrum, Antonio Poscic, and Sammy Stein. 

Read our original review here


14. Rodrigo Amado, Joe McPhee, Kent Kessler, Chris Corsano - A History of Nothing (Trost, 2018)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro, Tom Burris, and Antonio Poscic. 

Read our original reviews here and here


13. Nicole Mitchell - Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds (FPE, 2017)
Submitted by Kian Banihashemi, Lee Rice Epstein, and Antonio Poscic.


Nicole Mitchell is one of the foremost creative artists, combining visual arts with music in radical and thought-provoking ways. Overstatement? Hype? Most assuredly not, in particular not when viewed through the lens of her 2017 album Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds, a magnum opus of sorts, the culmination of a years’ long development of a rich audio-visual storyline. Commissioned by Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Mandorla Awakening II coincided with the 50th anniversary of the AACM, and Mitchell brought her full artistic range to the table. For this recording, Mitchell again assembled a variation of her Black Earth Ensemble, this time featuring vocalist avery r young, shakuhachi player Kojiro Umezaki, Renée Baker on violin, Tomeka Reid on cello and banjo, guitarist and oud player Alex Wing, Tatsu Aoki on bass, shamisen and taiko, and percussionist Jovia Armstrong. The music—inspired by Mitchell’s probing inquiry, “What would a world look like that is truly egalitarian, with advanced technology that is in tune with nature?”—is tense with inner struggle, bright with shifting timbres, and ultimately hopeful in its musical intertwining of a diversity of global antecedents, instrumentation, and communal improvisation.

I’ve returned to this album at least a dozen times since its release. There are the obvious highlights, like the ecstatic “Dance of Many Hands,” and the two extended pieces, “Listening Embrace” and “Mandorla Island,” which provide ample opportunity for meditation and exploration. But mostly, I put the album on in its entirety and allow myself to be transported to… somewhere else. My personal destination, and yours, may not necessarily be the one Mitchell and the Black Earth Ensemble seek to conjure and evoke, but certainly Mitchell’s music is a jumping off point. The album is also a reminder that creative music is often in a constant conversation with the art and culture surrounding it, with global politics, with big questions about the nature and purpose of society. Coming as it did in 2017, Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble grapples with difficult questions and ultimately lifts her vision to delirious new heights. - Lee Rice Epstein


Read our original review here


12. Matana Roberts - COIN COIN Chapter One: Gens de couleur libres (Constellation, 2011)
Submitted by Kian Banihashemi, Lee Rice Epstein, Keith Prosk, and Martin Schray.


Before the release of COIN COIN Chapter One: Gens de couleur libres, Matana Roberts was only known to a few insiders. When she announced that her next album would be the beginning of a ten-part monumental piece of work with which she wanted to represent the history of African-Americans in the USA artistically, many were rather sceptical because of this very ambitious approach. To date, four parts have been released and it is still the most interesting and ambitious jazz project of the decade - both musically and (auto-)ethnographically. Roberts acts not only as a saxophonist and singer but also as a classic big band leader. On COIN COIN Chapter One, ritualistic monotony and heavy grooves overlap and child-like simplicity merges into huge, exuberant big band scores. Roberts deals with the legacies of her ancestors and traces their testimonies, especially into the francophone Louisiana of the 19th century, reconstructing the unfixed continuity of Afro-American history on the basis of oral traditions and family artifacts. The sound of the music varies enormously in this context, from lullabies to small everyday scenes to large big band soundscapes with vocals reminiscent of models such as the thematic suites by Max Roach and Charles Mingus from the times of the civil rights movement. The cool musicality of certain instrumental passages meets expressive emotionality here. Hardly anyone but Roberts succeeds in unfolding the connection between jazz and African-American history so fundamentally and from so many different perspectives. COIN COIN Chapter One transforms the traditions of jazz, especially those of the 1960s, into a contemporary, expansive language and combines them with compositional techniques from new classical music and performance art. COIN COIN is a work that will linger on. - Martin Schray


Read our original review here.


11. John Coltrane Quartet - Both Directions At Once (Impulse!, 2018)
Submitted by Kian Banihashemi, Tom Burris, Nick Metzger, Nick Ostrum, and Sammy Stein.


Why is a Coltrane recording from ‘63 so high on a list that presumably intends to showcase the music of the past decade? Does canonization have so much gravity? Is there a spirit and a fire absent in modern playing found here? Browsing the critical response to this album upon release reveals a focus on the commercial packages of the physical media, the sales, and its place in the history of Coltrane. Most reviewers found previously released versions of these tracks to be better, and those tracks with previously released versions to be the highlights. And, more to this site’s focus, Coltrane is still as inside as he is outside here: he returns to the refrain frequently, like Sisyphus returns to the rock at the bottom of the hill; the rhythm is trapped by time as tightly as a mosquito in amber; and the bop structures are perhaps more prescribed and predictable than most things we would review today. But here it is. This music is not forgotten.

Maybe it’s the indisputably infectious groove Jones and Garrison lay down on “11386,” summoning the sultry, sportive latin rhythms that make tracks like Branch’s “Theme 002” (one of the most memorable tracks of the 2010s) and Brown’s “Capricorn Moon” (with Coltrane’s future drummer Ali) stick in the mind. Maybe it’s because we’re treated to a rare, exciting arco solo from Garrison on “11383,” which also displays the most impassioned playing from every member of the quartet on the record - a view a year or two into their future. Or maybe it’s because we get a glimpse of takes from a single day, rather than across months or years, to contemplate. Whatever the reason, it must surely include that Coltrane sounds like a fire spitting when water’s thrown at it, spiritedly striking out against form. And for that, despite all its outdated, commercial trappings, the heart of the music is not dissimilar to the best things we review today. - Keith Prosk

Read our original reviews here, here, and here.

10. Wadada Leo Smith - Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform, 2012)
Submitted by Stuart Broomer, Lee Rice Epstein, Stef Gijssels, and Antonio Poscic.


As I wrote in 2012: "One of the most memorable albums you will hear in years, if not decades. In the shallowness and mediocrity and superficial junk that surrounds us, it is a wonderful moment of relief to hear something so deep and significant." We are seven years later, and this quote still stands. Wadada Leo Smith has been one of the most important figures in jazz in the last decades, and he keeps surprising us with novelty and musical innovation. He will question the "jazz" label I just put on him, because he thinks - probably rightly so - that all categorisations narrow the perspectives and reduce the musical possibilities. And without question, Wadada Leo Smith is one of the most important figures in modern music.

With Ten Freedom Summers he composes chamber music with a classical ensemble, the Southwest Chamber Music. This was not his first album with them, but let's say the first one - Golden Oak Trees At Dawn, from 2000 - was a first try-out. Ten Freedom Summers is more ambitious, with four CDs of music performed by the classical ensemble and with Smith's own Golden Quartet/Quintet. Like its core theme of the historical struggle for human rights in the United States, the music is inclusive, merging genres without each of them losing their identity or nature.

It is by all means an exceptional album. Smith's grand work, the thing that's been in the making for many years, a cry for America, a cry for freedom and emancipation, for education and expression and representation, using the struggle of African Americans, but representing the struggle of all oppressed peoples at all times anywhere, a cry for what went wrong and still goes wrong, full of heartrending moments of sadness, of distress and powerlessness, and of rising above oneself, standing up and moving the unchangeable.

It is the combination of innovative music, its creativity combined with its deep soul and universality, with the humanistic approach and human rights appeal that lift this album to a level that few albums can achieve.

I am personally truly happy that it is on the list of "best of the decade". - Stef Gijssels

Read our original review here


9. Ingrid Laubrock - Contemporary Chaos Practices (Intakt, 2018)
Submitted by Colin Green, Nick Metzger, Antonio Poscic, and Keith Prosk.


Released just over a year ago, Ingrid Laubrock’s Contemporary Chaos Practices is a masterpiece in the grandest sense of the word. The ensemble on this album is huge, numbering at its peak well over forty members. The conductors are the eminent directors/composers/arrangers/musicians Eric Wubbels and Taylor Ho Bynum. The featured soloists, some of the who’s who of the New York scene right now: Mary Halvorson, Kris Davis, Nate Wooley, and Laubrock herself. The two pieces on this album – the four part “Contemporary Chaos Practices” and “Vogelfrei” – are intricate, powerful, and, in their vacillations between sprightly placidity and churning tempestuousness, deeply affecting. What is more, Laubrock does not seek to mask her influences (Braxton, Walter Thompson, Stravinsky, Schoenberg). Rather, she nods to her musical forebearers and fragments, splices, and expands on their work, in the process letting her own compositional and instrumental vision shine. And, having revisited it several times, now, I can report that this album still gets my heart pounding. - Nick Ostrum


Read our original review here


8. Peter Brötzmann - Münster Bern (Cubus, 2015)
Submitted by Colin Green, Nick Metzger, Antonio Poscic, Keith Prosk, and Martin Schray. 


Recorded in 2013 at the Minster Gothic cathedral in Bern, Switzerland, 2015's Münster Bern documents one of Peter Brötzmann's most brilliant solo performances. Still rooted in the power of his raw anarchic approach, there is a lyricism that creeps in among the overblown notes. Here, the elongated, gorgeous licks on tárogató, which seemed so foreign to younger Brötz, burn as bright as the punk force of his tenor saxophone. While the German maestro continued to explore these mellower moods since—the wonderful Sparrow Nights with Heather Leigh comes to mind—Münster Bern remains a thrilling and unique experience. - Antonio Poscic


Read our original review here

7. John Tchicai, Charlie Kohlhase, Garrison Fewell, Cecil McBee, Billy Hart - Tribal Ghost (NoBusiness, 2013)
Submitted by Kian Banihashemi, Tom Burris, Stef Gijssels, Antonio Poscic, and Keith Prosk. 


Listening back to this album, the simple basic joy of hearing top class jazz starts from the first notes of Garrison Fewell's guitar, and when the rest of the band - John Tchicai and Charlie Kohlhase on sax, Cecil McBee on bass and Billy Hart on drums - joins for one of the many magnificent themes, the goosebumps come. The band plays as if they're performing in front of you. Despite the complexities of some of the rhythms, the harmonic changes, shifts in arrangements and the improvisations, it all seems so easy, so fluent, so elegant and effortless. The entire band is excellent and Fewell stands out with his compelling compositions and precise guitar work.

This album somehow captures the essence of jazz: it is compelling, communal, with technical mastery brought with lots of coloring outside the lines, respectful for each other and focused on the common sound and the inclusion of the audience. It has soul, it creates something deeper than sound where every listener - I hope - can feel something that they share, a sense of beauty, a sense of sadness and joy, basic emotions that often escape the possibilities of our language but can only be communicated through music. Here and everywhere. Now and then. It says: we are the tribe, we are you, join us in our dance and celebration, share our sadness. And as a listener you can only concur, and say, yes, that's it. I feel the same. I feel the connectedness to these deeper levels, brought to life by this music. This is universal. This is our humanity.

Is it ground-breaking? No. Is it really adventurous? No. Is it significant in terms of influence? Possibly not. What is it then? It is more of a retrospective celebration than a prospective exploration. It is the culmination of decades of musical evolution and refinement, and this without pretense. It combines everything that's been done so far in jazz, with all the good parts put together. And that is a lot. And of course that's Tchicai's right to do, because he was at the cradle of free jazz from the early 60s, performing with Ayler and Coltrane. It's a statement: “Look what we've all achieved over the years. This is our gift to us all. Enjoy!” - Stef Gijssels

Read our original review here.

6. Eve Risser, Benjamin Duboc, Edward Perraud - En Corps (Dark Tree, 2012)
Submitted by Lee Rice Epstein, Stef Gijssels, Antonio Poscic, and Keith Prosk. 


The French label "Dark Tree" does not release many albums, but when they do, fireworks are guaranteed. And this was possibly the biggest bomb-shell, introducing French pianist Eve Risser from being unkwown to the front stage of improvised music. Since its release in 2012, Risser has continued with solo, duo and trio albums, producing eight albums which are all more than worth listening to. She confirmed her capabilities as a creative artist and as a visionary instrumentalist.
Her music is exceptional because of its single-focused energetic drive, its mesmerising rhythms and forward-moving lyrical ideas, dragging the listener into a musical roller-coaster full of speed, power and passion. The technique and the preparation of her piano are one thing, but the infectiousness of her music, its compelling and sweeping narrative is something else. "Something Else!!!!", especially in collaboration as here with Benjamin Duboc on bass and Edward Perraud on drums who propulse the music forward with ferocious intensity. As a listener, you get no time to breath, no time to think, you are carried along with this rare combination of an inevitable power to which you can only surrender, and the beautiful lyricism that goes with it.

Captivating. The kind of music that takes you as a real prisoner. - Stef Gijssels

Read our original review here.


5. Marc Ribot Trio - Live at the Village Vanguard (Pi, 2014)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro, Lee Rice Epstein, Spencer Friedman, Nick Metzger, and Antonio Poscic.


This album is essentially a document of a break in the space-time continuum. Guitarist Marc Ribot's unique voice had only appeared once before at the venerable Greenwich Village jazz club, backing Allan Toussaint. However, when Ribot's trio with drummer Chad Taylor and bassist Henry Grimes, an offshoot from the Albert Ayler inspired Spiritual Unity group from 2005, appeared for a pretty much sold out week, they bridged 45 years from when Grimes appeared with Ayler himself at the Vanguard. The record captures the music's snaps, crackles, and pops in fine order. - Paul Acquaro

Read our original review here.


4. Anna Högberg Attack - Anna Högberg Attack (Omlott, 2016)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro, Lee Rice Epstein, Eyal Hareuveni, Antonio Poscic, Keith Prosk, and Martin Schray.


Swedish sax player Anna Högberg sure knows how to keep us waiting. She did so for three years before releasing the debut album of her sextet Attack, holding us waiting anxiously with the promise of mentor Mats Gustafsson that this band “will melt your brain as we know it”. And Högberg does it again while we’re waiting for the long-overdue sophomore of Attack. The line of the sextet has changed recently and trumpeter Niklas Barnö replaced sax player Malin Wättring, but we trust Högberg’s wise leadership and sharp instincts, the irresistible passion and power. Attack, as Gustafsson promised, is really about freeing the jazz. - Eyal Hareuveni

Read our original review here.

3. Rodrigo Amado, Joe McPhee, Kent Kessler, Chris Corsano - This Is Our Language (Not Two, 2015)
Submitted by Stuart Broomer, Lee Rice Epstein, Colin Green, Eyal Hareuveni, Nick Metzger, Antonio Poscic, Keith Prosk, and Martin Schray.


This 2012 recording introduced a singular Lisbon musician’s idea of a dream group. Tenor saxophonist Rodrigo Amado assembled this multigenerational band with American musicians to play music rooted in values of honesty, vitality, collectivity and a hard-edged sense of nuance. It sets Amado and his rapid-fire, high energy lyricism in the midst of the wise and senior trumpeter/saxophonist Joe McPhee, one of improvised music’s great conversationalists; the eternally solid bassist Kent Kessler, a previous participant in Amado’s recordings who has played a foundational role in numerous Chicago-based and international bands of varied sizes as well; and the younger drummer Chris Corsano, who matches close listening with a rambunctious creativity.
With a title that extends Ornette Coleman’s This Is Our Music, the music goes to the origins of free jazz for its principles, eschewing rhetoric and bombast for a focused intensity that suggests a music founded on an oath, literally something like “I swear to play the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…” It’s a principle apparent throughout this recording, made at the end of an initial tour to get the best possible musical results. It’s led to a significant on-going life for the band, now known as This Is Our Language Quartet, that has included continuous development over another CD, A History of Nothing (Trost, 2018), and further tours. The latest and longest of them was just completed in November and included studio sessions for future release.

I admit to having written the original liner note, but my enthusiasm is clearly shared widely: The Free Jazz Blog named this the 2015 Album of the Year. - Stuart Broomer

Read our original review here.


2. Jaimie Branch - Fly Or Die (International Anthem, 2017)
Submitted by Paul Acquaro, Kian Banihashemi, Tom Burris, Lee Rice Epstein, Spencer Friedman, Nick Metzger, Nick Ostrum, Antonio Poscic, Keith Prosk, and Martin Schray.


Jaimie Branch's debut came almost out of nowhere, although she had been a well-known side woman in the Chicago scene for quite some time - e.g. for Ken Vandermark, Fred Lonberg-Holm and Matana Roberts. But the fact that the trumpeter was hardly known until then had many reasons - above all an existential crisis including heroin addiction. Finally Branch moved to New York and produced nothing less than a masterpiece. “Jump Off“, the first track on Fly Or Die, is 16 seconds long. You think you know what comes after this intro: even more extended techniques, wild sound explorations, free forms, etc. - the whole program of contemporary free improvisation. And then: straight 4/4 grooves, danceability including catchy bass lines and simple trumpet melodies with hookline character. Moreover, the mad style mix of noisy, free improvisations, alternative rock, free jazz, choral brass music and hiphop beats also displays street credibility, moments of surprise and first-class musicianship. Jaimie Branch obviously has a musical vision. In the end, the fact that her musical development has needed such a long time even proved to be an advantage on Fly Or Die. She didn’t present herself as a rookie, but as a mature musical personality. Fly or Die was also to be understood programmatically. Everything was at stake. But Branch - a technically versatile and flexible trumpeter with an almost magnetic tone - really made it. The follow-up album released this year has also shown that her debut was not a flash in the pan. She still flies on. - Martin Schray

Read our original review here.


1. Tyshawn Sorey - Pillars (Firehouse 12, 2018)
Submitted by Kian Banihashemi, Stuart Broomer, Lee Rice Epstein, Nick Metzger, Nick Ostrum, Antonio Poscic, and Keith Prosk. 


I didn’t find it surprising that the Collective’s 2018 Album of the Year was also voted our top album of the decade; I expected it would be, that’s how special it is. The nature of music (and nature in general as we understand it) demands inflection points; instances that cause a shift in existing perceptions and/or limitations and alters the potential trajectory. We’ve seen this throughout the history of music and for the sake of not starting an argument or making another list I won’t cite specifics, but you know what I’m talking about, the albums that serve as the markers of these shifts (the measuring sticks by which all that come after are gauged). I believe that Pillars represents such an inflection point, and though it’s too soon to say how dramatically the trajectory has been shifted, I've already found myself gauging new records against it. The packaging itself recalls (to me) the flat black Monoliths from Arthur C. Scott’s Space Odyssey series, whose appearances trigger a shift in human progress. But allegories aside, this is an essential album.

For me, what makes it great is the variety and talent of the musicians involved, the brilliantly contrasting sections, the unique selection of instruments, the vast shifts in atmosphere, and the superlative arrangement and conducting. The octet Sorey has assembled for Pillars is an amazing group of musicians that includes some of the best improvisers there are, and almost everyone plays multiple instruments on the album. You would think that this would make for an explosive or cacophonic listen, and it certainly can be at times, but the musicians almost always play in small subgroups over relatively short distinguished sections. And while these sections all differ vastly they retain the same undercurrent of solemn ritual and feed off-of and into each other. The dynamic range across the album is colossal and yet the attention to detail is as focused as you’ll ever hear; the recording, production, and mastering are perfection. The album is indeed a long listen, but you don't have listen to it intently all at once if that doesn’t suit you, as it’s almost vaudevillian in its construction. The artist himself recommends episodic listening and Lee Rice Epstein, who reviewed the album for the Collective, sums it up perfectly:

“Okay, yes, the album is massive, thick and heady, with ideas atomically colliding. But it’s also music to simply listen to, which is one aspect of Pillars that shouldn’t be ignored. You can dive headlong or simply dip in and out of the album, let the music filter in from wherever it’s playing, leave the room and come back at a wildly new section. Much like Max Richter’s similarly beautiful Sleep, perhaps you’ll never listen to the whole album straight through. But it’s not enough just to know it’s there when you need it, you have to start by letting it in.” - Nick Metzger

Read our original review here.

1 comments:

Obelvs said...

#33 all the way.
ok, i know, I'm no critic nor reviewer, but this decade clearly saw torches passing hands, fresh faces, young ideas pushing jazz altogether a few nudges. For me this decade highlight was the holy trinity of Mary Halvorson, Erich Hofbauer and Miles Okazaki.

Thanks for this list, i have a decade to catch up with it.