Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Top of 2012

Here, roughly in order, is my list of the top releases of 2012. I should say that my current listening is mainly centered around 1) artists who are combining composition with improvisation in interesting ways, and 2) Anthony Braxton, so there are undoubtedly some free improv records that got by me. And if you’re looking for eai or lower case stuff, you’ll be disappointed. But with that being said, here goes: 

Michael Formanek - Small Places (ECM)
A brilliant combination of edgy and emotive writing and playing, it creates a complete environment.

Michael Attias - Spun Tree (Clean Feed)
Attias thrives in a compositionally-based setting versus his recent free improv bent.

Simon Nabatov - Spinning Songs of Herbie Nichols (Leo)
Inspired meeting of iconoclastic composer and iconoclastic interpreter.

Tomas Fujiwara – The Air is Different (482 Music)
A great follow up to Actionspeak. When is he going to get more attention?

Harris Eisenstadt - Canada Day Octet (482 Music)
A broader palette enhances an already great concept.

Nils Wogram - Complete Soul (nwog)
A big step forward for Wogram the composer.

Angelica Sanchez - Wires & Moss (Clean Feed)
This one sneaks up on you, and then you want to hear it again and again.

Eric Revis – Parallax (Clean Feed)
Goes inside, outside, to the tradition and back to today. Some of Vandermark’s best tenor playing that I’ve ever heard.

Vijay Iyer - Accelerando (ACT)
Has found the blend between the intellectual and emotional sides of his music.

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):

9Volt with Tim Berne – Open Circuit (OutNow)
Just a fun, gnarly, fusion-y (in a good sense) record.

Tim Berne – Snakeoil (ECM)
A maturation of his approach, without losing his essence.

Catatumbo – Catatumbo (Babel Label)
Rumbly, meaty free improv.

Harris Eisenstadt - Canada Day III (Songlines)
One of the best composers out there.

Devin Gray - Dirigo Rataplan (Skirl)
Quirky, interesting, with a great supporting cast.

Mary Halvorson - Bending Bridges (Firehouse 12)
Maybe not quite the level of Saturn Sings, but still worthy.

Steve Lehman – Dialect Fluorescent (Pi)
A butt-kicking trio takes on some standards.

Living by Lanterns – New Myth/Old Science (Cuneiform)
Great blend of inside and outside sensibilities.

Tom Rainey - Camino Cielo Echo (Intakt)
Just when you thought Mary Halvorson couldn’t wring any new textures out of her guitar...

Leo Smith - Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform)
Could have used some editing (gasp!), but engrossing.

Weston/Laubrock/Marshall – Haste (Emanem)
Three people with something to say who find a way to say it together.

Promising, but arrived too recently to potentially make either list:

Paul Giallorenzo Trio – PG3 (NotTwo)

Roscoe Mitchell, Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble – Three Compositions (RogueArt)

Watershed (Dennis Fournier) – Watershed (RogueArt)


  1. Good pointers - I had no idea about the 9Volt Berne collab...

    1. Thanks Vince, glad I could be a resource - I know you're a big Berne fan, as am I.