OK, so it’s not as extensive as Peter’s but here’s my 5 CDs of the year and 5 gigs of the year (both in no particular order) followed by reflections on a few of the sadder moments of 2011.
The CDs (/Vinyl…)
What Is The Beautiful? – Claudia Quintet (Cuneiform): Hollenbeck’s at it again with his own distinctive style of composition, this time based on the poetry of Kenneth Patchen. The more I read about where he gets his compositional ideas from, the more I love the music!
Graylen Epicenter – David Binney (Mythology): Another epic from Mr Binney. Who’d have thought pairing Brian Blade and Dan Weiss on drums together would work so well? Vocal feature Home (Gretschen Parlato) never fails to hit the spot, too.
Alive – Phronesis (Edition): Bass man of the year Jasper Hoiby’s trio lost eccentric showman drummer Anton Eger for this recording, but gained one of the world’s finest in Mark Guilliana. Exceptional playing all round.
Golden Explosion – Marius Neset (Edition): Once again, unfathomable technical ability from 2/3 Phronesis plus Django Bates and Bandleader/Composer Marius Neset. Technical yet musical. Full marks.
Things Will Be - Example Of Twelves (Impossible Ark): Sending this record to me on Vinyl was a very good move by bassist/bandleader Riaan Vosloo. That aside, the record is still probably the ‘hippest’ I heard all year with superb writing and performance throughout.
Django Bates & the TDEs – Cheltenham Jazz Festival (30/04/11): This seems to be on most people’s list (if they were there). Django’s subsequent gigs with Beloved Bird Trio at Cheltenham and Stratford Circus in November could also easily have made the list.
Steve Lehman Octet – CBSO Centre (21/01/11): This was genuinely the only gig of the year where I didn’t understand what was going on. Lehman’s study of Spectral music has led him to create a spell-binding set of compositions performed by the hippest guys on the New York scene.
Martin Speake Trio feat. Jakob Bro & John Hollenbeck – London Jazz Festival (13/11/11): Surreal surroundings in Greenwich Maritime Museum (including bright autumnal sunlight) plus three exceptional musicians playing highly improvised music = good times.
Jim Black (Solo) – Birmingham Conservatoire Recital Hall (01/02/11): Even the non-drummers in the audience came away astounded by the musicality and variation displayed by Jim Black, proving that the drum kit can be equally melodic as percussive. Music colleges can be a tricky place to play, with high levels of cynicism and close scrutiny, but Black’s world-class performance triumphed here.
Neon Quartet – The Forge (21/10/11): Two firsts for me, both of which were highly anticipated. One was to see Neon Quartet (comprising of four of my favourite musicians in the world, with three of those sharing composing duties), the other was to witness a gig at the beautiful new(ish) venue, The Forge. Suffice to say I wasn’t disappointed with either.
On the sad side of 2011
Losing Tony Levin, a man with unrivalled energy in performance, the hardest swing you’ve ever heard and a kind heart to match. Tony was a true inspiration and is sorely missed, but leaves us all with a legacy of a lifetime of great music and inspirational teaching (even if he didn’t realise he could teach!). “It either swings or it doesn’t.”
Westminster Council’s ongoing attempts to enforce night-time parking charges in the West End. This could severely affect already dwindling audience numbers at Jazz gigs in the capital, most of which struggle to survive already, let alone the thousands of other businesses that will be affected. Don’t be stupid, Councillors!
Finally, the sad news that the Yardbird have stripped the Cobweb Collective of their flagship Thursday night sessions at the venue. For a decade, the venue (including The Stage and other previous incarnations) has played host to some of the world’s finest bands/musicians thanks to the Collective’s networking capabilities. Surely a shot in the foot for Birmingham’s ‘Jazz’ bar?
Find out more about JJ Wheeler at his website here.