Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Antti / Christian

A privilege to spend time — virtually and in-person, respectively — with two musicians I greatly admire:

-Antti Boman, mastermind of Demilich, a longtime obsession of mine, for Bandcamp Daily 

-Christian McBride, bassist and jazz ambassador extraordinaire, for the New York Times

Sunday, January 08, 2023


Proud to present an in-depth look at Emergency! by the Tony Williams Lifetime, via Pitchfork's Sunday Review. This record means a lot to me. Lifetime looms large in my ongoing Heavy Metal Bebop research — it's come up again and again in the various conversations I've had on the topic of the jazz/metal intersection. In some ways, it represents the birth of that concept: There was no jazz-rock, and then suddenly, with Emergency!, there it was*. 

Beyond its historical significance, the record also just completely kicks ass. I think a lot about the whole "musical time machine" question, i.e., what bygone act would you go back and witness if you had your pick. For me, lately, the original Lifetime — maybe at the October 1969 Ungano's run recalled by Herbie Hancock in the review — tops that list.

For a bit more on Lifetime, check out this John McLaughlin interview from a few years back.

*This phrasing is a bit hyperbolic. There were of course plenty of precursors. One I need to delve into more is Gary Burton — I found an interview where Tony specifically cited him as a genre-blending pioneer, and I've often heard Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell do the same. I don't know this body of work well, but I intend to remedy that!

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

best of 2022

Things have been quiet here at DFSBP, but as always, I wanted to try and round up my favorite sounds of the year. To anyone tuning in, thank you, and I hope you find something you enjoy. 

Before I get to the picks — divided into an overall top 10, a metal-/rock-centric section, a jazz list and a rundown of my favorite live shows of the year — I just want to say, again, thanks for reading this and/or keeping up with my work in any way during this busy, transitional year. With Twitter on the rocks, it seems harder than ever to spread the word, so your attention means a lot.

Here goes!

P.S. All album-title links below go to Bandcamp.

P.P.S. The DFSBP year-end list archives have been updated to reflect the below: overall and jazz-only.

P.P.P.S. Here is a best-of-2022 playlist featuring 22 tracks drawn from the releases below. The inspiration was my old friend John's "50 Cuts of '22" opus.



Right up front, I want to say that my absolute favorite release of the year was:

Bleed, Somebody's Closer

I'm leaving this off the proper top 10 for a couple reasons: 1) It's a four-song EP rather than an album, lasting just shy of 14 minutes, and 2) it was originally self-released by the band in 2021 but got a much-deserved reissue this year via the respected metal label 20 Buck Spin. Anyway, I spun this thing dozens of times and also caught a great set by this Texas quartet in Brooklyn a few months back. 

Bleed are a great illustration of why I can never really invest in objective discussions about the "best" music — of a given year, of all time, etc. This is a band that pushes my particular buttons, namely tapping into my deep love of '90s alt-metal, and coming up with a heavy, atmospheric and extremely catchy sound that, as I wrote elsewhere, "plays like a fan-fic collab between Helmet circa Aftertaste and White Pony–era Deftones." 

Does that description intrigue you? If so, great! If not, this might not excite you as much as it does me. But Bleed also exemplify a loose trend in recent years, across various genres, where you see young bands zeroing in on these very specific bygone micro-eras, right down to the cover art and production aesthetic, with incredibly satisfying results. There's really no downside to pastiche when you do it this well. Bleed also put out a fine stand-alone single in October, and I can't wait to hear more. 

And with that shout-out behind us, here are my favorite albums of the year, arranged in an imprecise and somewhat arbitrary order. Also, there's not 10; there's 11. I really can't decide which of these to leave off, and since no one's forcing me to make that tough call, this is the list! Each selection includes a brief annotation and a link to prior coverage where applicable.

1. Gospel, The Loser [sci-fi screamo; track write-up @ Rolling Stone]
2. Fleshwater, We're Not Here to Be Loved
[crushing modern hardcore meets brooding melodic alt-rock]
3. Chat Pile, God's Country
[scorched-earth noise-rock tragicomedy; interview @ SPIN]
4. Meshuggah, Immutable
[that steel-plated sound you know and love; feature @ Rolling Stone]
5. Faetooth, Remnants of the Vessel
[transporting, ritualistic doom; year-end metal list @ SPIN, tied for #1]
6. The Bad Plus, The Bad Plus
[more indelible songs from the best beyond-jazz band on earth; year-end all-genre albums list @ SPIN, #3]
7. Messa, Close
[breathtakingly epic dark prog; year-end metal list @ SPIN, tied for #1]
8. Afghan Whigs, How Do You Burn? [a veteran band that still really means it; "Please, Baby, Please" please]
9. 40 Watt Sun, Perfect Light [exquisite chamber rock from an elite songwriter; track write-up @ Rolling Stone]
10. Zoh Amba, O, Sun
[delicacy and catharsis, masterfully intertwined; feature @ New York Times]
11. Hammered Hulls, Careening
[Dischord all-stars make a new Dischord classic]


As far as the heavy stuff, I love all the other records I cited in the SPIN metal round-up, including but not limited to:

-Sigh, Shiki [expert eclecticism; feature @ Bandcamp Daily]
-Voivod, Synchro Anarchy
[the renaissance continues]
-Undeath, Live… From the Grave
[instant mosh]
-Goatwhore, Angels Hung From the Arches of Heaven
[seething blasphemy]
-Anal Stabwound, Reality Drips Into the Mouth of Indifference
[the one-man-band, T-1000 version] 
-Wormrot, Hiss
[visionary grindcore]
-Clutch, Sunrise on Slaughter Beach
[the earth rockers reappear in full splendor]
-Cloud Rat, Threshold
[dire extremity]
-Sumerlands/Haunt, Dreamkiller/Windows of Your Heart
[retro done right]

I also love the Darkthrone record, which has sparked a re-engagement with their revelatory run of recent LPs.

Another recent listening project: a first-time immersion in Frusciante-era(s) Chili Peppers, sparked by the two new double albums and a fascinating run of Rick Rubin–conducted interviews on the Broken Record podcast. Have really dug both Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen so far and look forward to getting to know them better.

Two new Krallice albums! As ever, I'm a few years behind these guys, but every record is a revelation once you really wrap your head around it.

A new Extra Life album! Charlie Looker is an avant-garde powerhouse, not to mention a hell of a YouTuber.

The Drug Church record is strong, though it didn't prepare me for what a massively entertaining live band they are. More on that below. 

PS to this section: I love reading/watching year-end metal round-ups. The genre is basically impossible to keep comprehensive tabs on so I always learn a ton from these. Check out best-of-'22 posts from:

Rolling Stone

Machine Music

Last Rites

Bandcamp Daily

Stereogum / Black Market

Burning Ambulance [plenty of metal on here, among many other genres]

Ken's Death Metal Crypt



Below is the ballot I submitted for the annual Jazz Critics Poll — formerly masterminded by Francis Davis and now run by Tom Hull — with two additional historical titles added. Full 2022 results should be online soon are online now.

new releases:

1. The Bad Plus, The Bad Plus [see top 10 entry above]
2. Zoh Amba, O, Sun
[see top 10 entry above]
3. Makaya McCraven, In These Times
[timeless instrumental-R&B majesty, filtered through contemporary jazz aesthetics; had the pleasure of profiling Mr. McCraven for the recently relaunched Creem but the piece is print-only]
4. Tyshawn Sorey, The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism
[raucous romps through standards both familiar and fresh]
5. James Brandon Lewis Quartet, MSM Molecular Systematic Music - Live
[an authoritative statement from my favorite of JBL's several excellent working bands]
6. Eubanks-Evans Experience, EEE
[an unexpected and beautifully diverse duo set from mid-career masters Kevin Eubanks and Orrin Evans]
7. The OGJB Quartet, Ode to O
[Oliver Lake, Graham Haynes, Joe Fonda and Barry Altschul doing gritty yet graceful stuff that sounds like it could have come out on Black Saint in the mid-'80s; side note: it's a real shame that you can't purchase TUM albums in any digital form]
8. Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride and Brian Blade, LongGone
[the all-star band to beat]
9. Karl Berger and Kirk Knuffke, Heart Is a Melody
[timeless free-bop warmth from a beautifully matched quartet with Jay Anderson on bass and Matt Wilson on drums]
10. Tumi Mogorosi, Group Theory: Black Music
[a powerful return to early-'70s choral jazz à la Billy Harper's Capra Black and Max Roach's Lift Every Voice and Sing]

historical titles:

Charles Mingus, The Lost Album From Ronnie Scott's [a wonderful surprise from a super-obscure '72 lineup]
Albert Ayler, Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings
[a welcome invitation to reengage with an underrated Ayler chapter]
Horace Tapscott, The Quintet
[a previously unreleased companion album to Tapscott's cult-classic debut, The Giant Is Awakened]
Elvin Jones, Revival: Live at Pookie's Pub
[portrait of the drum giant as budding bandleader]
John Sinclair Presents Detroit Artists Workshop
[a window into an overlooked regional scene]

Note: I wrote all these up for a recent New York Times box set round-up.


Jazz-related addendum: 

I predict we'll be hearing a lot more from Fievel Is Glauque.


So many good ones. Here are 30 that seem to sum up the year, grouped intuitively. Twitter links included where applicable.

Tyshawn Sorey, Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano @ Village Vanguard (February 6)
Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride and Brian Blade @ Town Hall (April 19)
John Zorn New Masada Quartet with Julian Lage, Jorge Roeder and Kenny Wollesen @ Village Vanguard (April 24)
These were all just scorching. The top players, reminding you why.

Khruangbin @ Radio City Music Hall (March 10)
The ultimate party band. See them at all costs.
Gulch @ Saint Vitus (April 30)
The final New York appearance by the new kings of hardcore. These guys left behind a smoking crater.

Maryland Deathfest; Baltimore (May 26–29)
Extreme-metal heaven (hell?). Highlights too numerous to name, but catching Coroner (big bucket-list check-off), Demilich, Immolation, Deicide, Tom G. Warrior, Obituary, Carcass, Deeds of Flesh, Autopsy, Atheist, Massacre, Monstrosity, Nocturnus A.D. and other giants in the same weekend — along with cult masters Rottrevore, Divine Eve and Drawn and Quartered — was life-altering.

Rage Against the Machine @ MSG (August 8, 14)
Rex @ Tubby's; Kingston, NY (August 17)
Afghan Whigs @ Brooklyn Steel (September 15)
Jawbox @ Le Poisson Rouge (July 22) 
Crowbar @ Bottleneck; Lawrence, KS (September 4)
Sunny Day Real Estate @ Brooklyn Steel (September 29)
Mars Volta @ Terminal 5 (September 30)
For a few months there, it was like my CD wallets from the '90s and early 2000s had come to life. The highlight was seeing RATM for the first time, but every other one of these — from my first time seeing Rex (after having the honor of profiling them for TIDAL) in around a quarter century to my first times seeing Mars Volta, SDRE and Afghan Whigs at all — was an utter joy.

Anteloper @ Public Records (July 16)
This is how I will always remember jaimie branch, thrillingly engaged and supercharging every moment.  

Ravi Coltrane Freedom Trio @ Mama Tried (August 4)
The second of two great Ravi sets I caught at MT this year. The first was pure abstraction; this was a funk-fusion mega-jam.

Greg Tardy, Christian McBride and Johnathan Blake @ Village Vanguard (August 11)
This was supposed to be a Bill Frisell gig, but COVID intervened, Christian McBride subbed in, and it turned into the ultimate late-night Vanguard hang.

Makaya McCraven @ Public Records (September 19)
Look, the album is really good, but hearing it live in full with a string quartet, Brandee Younger on harp and De'Sean Jones on sax and EWI was the peak In These Times experience.

Gospel + Uniform @ Saint Vitus (August 12)
City of Caterpillar + Foxtails @ Saint Vitus (October 2)
Saetia + Pique + Uniform @ Le Poisson Rouge (November 19)
Always go see the screamo reunion! Props to Foxtails and Pique, standouts of the new guard, and Uniform, who never fail to bring the noise.

Domi and JD Beck @ Le Poisson Rouge (October 19)
This made me feel old! In a good way.

The Chats + Drug Church + Scowl @ Brooklyn Steel (October 22)
Punk gig of the year. Three different flavors of awesome.

Chat Pile @ Saint Vitus (October 24)
The nastiest songs of the year were even nastier live. 

Mercyful Fate + Kreator + Midnight @ Kings Theater (November 10)
Undeath + 200 Stab Wounds + Enforced + Phobophilic @ Saint Vitus (November 13)
Stacked bills representing the best of the old and new schools.

Hammered Hulls @ TV Eye (December 2)
D.C. comes to Queens in style. Was sad not to see usual Hulls bassist Mary Timony, but the fill-in (Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty) wasn't too shabby.

Dinosaur Jr. + Guided by Voices + Eugene Mirman @ Terminal 5 (December 3)
The indie-rock party of the year.

Orrin Evans Quintet with Gary Thomas, Nicholas Payton, Robert Hurst and Marvin "Smitty" Smith @ Smoke (December 11)
The single best hour of jazz I heard in 2022. This band apparently hit the studio the next day and I can't wait to hear the results.

Charles McPherson Quintet with Terell Stafford, Jeb Patton, David Wong and Billy Drummond @ Smoke (November 6)
George Coleman Quintet with Eric Alexander, Emmett Cohen, David Williams and Joe Farnsworth @ Smoke (December 22)
Always go hear the masters!


My favorite songs of the year by artists not mentioned above are…

Avril Lavigne, "Bite Me" (late 2021 single release ahead of a 2022 album)


Alex G, "Runner" 

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

jaimie branch

In June, Broadcast (a publication backed by the Brooklyn arts space Pioneer Works, where I've seen tons of great shows in recent years), asked me if I'd like to interview jaimie branch. I responded with an enthusiastic yes. We met in Red Hook on the evening of July 27, 2022, and I found her to be just as wise, engaging and unfiltered — not to mention hilarious — in person as she was onstage. Shockingly, less than a month later, she was gone. Here is that conversation, along with select audio excerpts. Farewell to a legend.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Rex @ Tidal

Profiled one of my favorite bands of the '90s for Tidal. It's funny how closely my summer/fall show calendar (Karate, Jawbox, Rage Against the Machine, Rex, June of 44, etc.) is mirroring my high school CD booklet, but I'm certainly not complaining!

Sunday, August 07, 2022

'Out Front' @ Pitchfork

Honored to delve into my favorite jazz album, and one of my favorite albums, period, for Pitchfork's Sunday Review. 

In researching this piece, I went back to the tape of a Booker Little tribute broadcast I co-hosted on WKCR 89.9 FM back in 2001. Phil Schaap told me something incredible about Out Front on air that day that I've never heard elsewhere — I've decided to share the excerpt on YouTube in the hopes that other fans of Booker Little and this record might find it interesting.

Monday, June 27, 2022

HS @ RS, 2015 – 2022

My last day at Rolling Stone is this week.

After seven years, I’ve decided to leave and try something new. For now, I’ll be freelancing — please feel to reach out via my new work-centric gmail address (hshteamer [dot] writes [at] gmail [dot] com) re: any type of writing or editing work. 

As for my RS experience, a name-by-name thank-you list would be too long, so I’ll just say: It was an honor to work alongside so many talented, passionate, hard-working people. I learned so much.

Thanks to everyone who showed me the ropes, assisted me with my writing, trusted me with theirs, sent me music to check out, facilitated or granted interviews, read my work and/or helped to make this experience so fun and rewarding. 

To mark the occasion, I put together the following list of some of my own RS pieces that meant a lot to me.

-HS, 6/27/22


Slint // feature on Spiderland at 30 (March 2021)

Alice Coltrane // Journey in Satchidananda, 500 Greatest Albums podcast (November 2021)

John Zorn // feature on his "jazz-metal multiverse" (June 2020)

Neil Peart // remembrance (January 2020)

King Crimson // two-part feature on the history and influence of "21st Century Schizoid Man" (Oct 2019)


John Coltrane // feature on Interstellar Space at 50 (February 2017)

hate5six // feature on DIY videographer Sunny Singh (June 2022)

Anthony Braxton // interview on collaboration with Nels Cline, Greg Saunier, Taylor Ho Bynum (June 2019)

Cecil Taylor // remembrance (April 2018)

Bill Bruford // career-spanning interview (October 2019)


Black Sabbath // feature on their jazz roots and resonance (Feb 2020)

Robert Fripp // feature timed to King Crimson's 50th anniversary (April 2019)

Morbid Angel // reflections on Covenant at 30 (June 2018)

Suffocation // review of Frank Mullen's final NYC show (November 2018)

Herbie Hancock on Chick Corea (February 2021)


Descendents // feature timed to 9th & Walnut (May 2021)

Clutch // review of NYC show (October 2018)

Art Ensemble of Chicago // feature timed to We Are on the Edge (March 2019)

Sonny Sharrock // tribute timed to Summer of Soul (June 2021)

Meshuggah // feature timed to Immutable (March 2022)


Killing Joke // review of NYC show (September 2018)

Ringo Starr and Dave Grohl // moderated interview (October 2019)

Milford Graves // remembrance (February 2021)

Carcass // feature timed to Torn Arteries (August 2021)

Iron Maiden // review of NYC show (July 2019)


+ 100 Greatest Metal Albums [co-edited with Kory Grow]

Saturday, June 04, 2022


One of the masters. Listen to a three-hour interview and career overview I hosted on WKCR in 2000 here.

This one sends me every single time:

And here is Nate Chinen's comprehensive NPR obit.

Friday, March 18, 2022


I had a great time speaking with Tomas Haake, re-immersing in the Meshuggah-verse (including the excellent new Immutable) and writing about it for RS.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

2021 in review

First, a bit of a disclaimer: Keeping up with new music in any kind of orderly way was pretty much an impossibility for me in 2021. Between work obligations and personal pursuits (guitar, etc.), there just wasn't a whole lot of time and space left over. So I heard what I heard. Categories fell by the wayside — as did the hope of putting together an informed genre-oriented survey, as I've done in recent years for new jazz releases. 

I'm fortunate to be in a position where people (publicists, label folks, the artists themselves) often send me new music. I'm grateful for every submission. I also try as best I can to manage expectations. I make no promises re: coverage — ultimately, I'm an editor by trade, and each year, I'm only able to take on a select amount of writing projects — and in 2021, the gap between the amount of music that made its way to me and the amount I was able to publicly acknowledge seemed wider than ever. 

Still, I heard a fair amount and some of it really connected. And though, as I pointed out around a decade ago now (!) on this very blog, I identify much more as an all-purpose music lover than as a partisan of any particular genre, I stayed as current as I could re: jazz, metal and other areas I've often gravitated toward, while taking in whatever else happened to call out to me. The bottom line is that if music hits you, and, especially, if it sticks with you after making an initial impact, it doesn't really matter what kind it is — the important thing is that it lingers, intrigues and ideally makes you want to go back. And in the arbitrary parameter of a year, you never (or at least I never) have time to go back to everything that grabbed you. So you do your best and then, come December, you see what you've got to work with. Whatever your taste profile, I hope you find something below that interests or excites.

Lastly, I just want to say that if you've engaged with anything I've worked on this year (writing, music, podcast), I sincerely appreciate it. Attention is at a premium for all of us, and I don't take it for granted that anyone would expend a bit of theirs on something I've had a hand in. Thank you.

By the way, just stating for the record that the most gratifying projects I worked on this year were this Spiderland feature and this Journey in Satchidananda podcast. Check 'em out if you haven't! And now, on to the lists and annotations.


Overall 2021 top 10 [w/ a few links to prior coverage where applicable]: 

  1. Turnstile, Glow On 
  2. Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra, Promises
  3. Mastodon, Hushed and Grim 
  4. Assertion, Intermission 
  5. Matt Sweeney and Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Superwolves 
  6. Willow, Lately I Feel Everything 
  7. Jason Moran, The Sound Will Tell You  
  8. Amyl and the Sniffers, Comfort to Me 
  9. Leo Nocentelli, Another Side 
  10. Carcass, Torn Arteries

An annotated version of the above can be found here, alphabetized within Rolling Stone's annual collection of staff lists. I'll just say that aside from Promises, which is more like a holistic sound bath, with every one of these — from the Amyl to the Willow to the Leo, Bonnie/Sweeney, Mastodon, Assertion, Carcass, Moran and of course the Turnstile — what did it was the songs. An abundance of tracks that dug in and stayed put.

The two records not listed above that came closest to making the cut were Bo Burnham's Inside (The Songs) and Mustafa's When Smoke Rises. The former was an odd case: the soundtrack to a Netflix tragicomedy special that doubled as a one-man musical. Ultimately I elected to leave it out of the running, but really only on a technicality (it didn't seem quite fair to stack up a multimedia product against other audio-only albums; or put another way, even when listening to Inside as an album, I still felt like I couldn't separate it entirely from its visual counterpart). The truth is that, song for song, the Burnham stuck with me as much as anything I heard this year aside from the Turnstile LP, which rarely left my heavy rotation after an initial spin. (I had a new favorite song roughly every week, from "Holiday" to "New Heart Design" to the brief but brilliant "No Surprise") If you haven't seen Inside, I recommend it wholeheartedly, and if you do watch it and don't spend weeks or months with its tunes rattling around inside your head — well, to quote one of the special's best songs, "Welcome to the Internet," "If none of it's of interest to you, you'd be the first…" (The Phoebe Bridgers cover of "That Funny Feeling," honestly probably better than the original, really drives home how strong Burnham's writing is here.) 

And the Mustafa record is just lovely and intimate and quietly devastating. It's all there in the opening track, "Stay Alive." This Pitchfork interview from 2020 offers valuable context, and this review of When Smoke Rises by my RS colleague Mankaprr Conteh eloquently sums up what makes it so special.  

I also participated in an RS metal list for 2021, where I wrote up the Mastodon and the Carcass, as well as King Woman's Celestial Blues, an immersive opus that drew me in immediately once I checked in with it late in the year. I wholeheartedly second the votes on those Maiden and Converge selections as well — both bands are legacy acts who are still out there pushing.

2021 jazz top 10 [w/ Bandcamp links where applicable]:

Note: This is the list I submitted to the annual Jazz Critics Poll, hosted by Francis Davis and Tom Hull. Full results should be online within a week or so can be found here

  1. Jason Moran, The Sound Will Tell You
  2. James Brandon Lewis Quartet, Code of Being 
  3. Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and the London Symphony Orchestra, Promises
  4. Dan Weiss and Miles Okazaki, Music for Drums and Guitar
  5. Francisco Mela, MPT Trio Volume 1
  6. Artifacts, …and Then There's This
  7. Barry Altschul's 3Dom Factor, Long Tall Sunshine [physical/digital available here]
  8. The Cookers, Look Out! 
  9. William Parker, Mayan Space Station 
  10. Chris Potter, Sunrise Reprise  

Jason Moran stood out this year as something of an MVP, an honor he's almost always in the running for. The duo albums with Shepp and Graves (mentioned in the afore-linked RS staff round-up) were handsome mementos of exemplary intergenerational collabs, but the solo record sounds to me like a career highlight to date. Absolutely gorgeous and entirely beyond category. As for Promises, I wondered for a second whether it even made sense to classify it as a jazz record — maybe "minimalist classical work with improvising soloist" would be more accurate — but I feel alright about using Pharoah's presence as a loophole there. It's a spellbinding record that frames a legend in an entirely new light. James Brandon Lewis is just a full-on star at this point. He puts out a lot of music but phones nothing in. I've loved his duo discs with Chad Taylor from the past few years, and their work together in JBL's larger bands is just as impressive. The quintet album Jesup Wagon earned a lot of well-deserved praise this year, but Code of Being hit me even harder. There's a gravity and intensity to this one that really makes it feel top-shelf. In a jazz bandleader, you want to hear a highly developed instrumental and compositional vision and JBL is simply there on both counts. I'll be listening for whatever he does next. The Weiss/Okazaki is a high-order musical brainteaser and a memento of a deep, longstanding mind-meld between these two. The Mela really stood out to me from the jump.

I'm still digesting this one in full but re: this particular tune… wow. I wrote to a friend that it sounds a bit like the Motian/Frisell/Lovano trio with Milford Graves sitting in for Paul (nothing wrong with the original of course, but I loved hearing this spin on their approach). Fascinating and singular stuff. Cannot wait to catch this band live at some point. The Artifacts disc impressed me as a document of a band really growing into itself, and I could say the same of Chris Potter's Circuits Trio with James Francies (also a key presence on Pat Metheny's debut Side-Eye record and a second-time Blue Note bandleader with his own Purest Form) and Eric Harland, and Barry Altschul's ass-kicking inside-outside 3Dom Factor band with Jon Irabagon and Joe Fonda. The Cookers remain simply one of my favorite active bands in jazz, and anything they put out is going to have a shot at my year-end list, esp. if it's as strong as this latest disc — master player and composers, beautifully showcased. Don't know what more you could ask for from a new jazz record, really. And amid the slew of music that William Parker put out this year (I still need to make time for Cisco Bradley's bio!), the sizzling Mayan Space Station disc with Ava Mendoza and Gerald Cleaver stood out immediately as a fresh spin on the guitar trio — in some ways a spiritual cousin to the classic Gateway records. 

Speaking of slews of music, I felt like I only scratched the surface of the many worthy box sets that came my way: Wadada Leo Smith's Chicago Symphonies (w/ Henry Threadgill, whose own latest Zooid disc was typically enigmatic and alluring; John Lindberg; and Jack DeJohnette) and Sacred Ceremonies (w/ Bill Laswell and Milford Graves)— just two of three multi-album sets he released via the Finnish Tum label to commemorate his 80th birthday year, along with another trio disc featuring DeJohnette and Vijay Iyer (sadly, all these seem to be entirely absent from the digital marketplace; really would love to see Tum on Bandcamp one of these days); Anthony Braxton's 12 Comp (ZIM) 2017, a sonic world unto itself — don't miss the visual documents; and Matt Mitchell and Kate Gentile's weird and wonderful Snark Horse. I came away from each of these highly impressed and hoping to immerse more in 'em going forward.

And on the live front, the jazz highlight of the year for me had to be seeing Darius Jones play his moving, exacting new solo album Raw Demoon Alchemy in the catacombs of Green-Wood Cemetary. Unforgettable.

Then, history-wise, we got that marvelous A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle set; Alice's magical, centering Kirtan: Turiya Sings; a generous Julius Hemphill trove from New World; a vividly recorded live companion to Cecil Taylor's classic Winged Serpents (Sliding Quadrants) LP from '84, via Polish label Fundacja Słuchaj, which has been issuing a steady stream of archival Cecil since the master's passing; that illuminating, long-thought-lost Hasaan Ibn Ali date (as well as a solo one that I only just learned of, also via Omnivore); and maybe most impressively, a reissue of an all-star 1970 Roy Brooks date, previously unknown to me, that sounds like it's propelled by rocket fuel (my lord, Woody Shaw on this...).


A few other stray mentions of albums or songs that spoke to me:

Two albums from the Chicago label American Dreams left strong and immediate impressions: Lamplighter, a luminous and enveloping trio disc from guitarist Matthew Rolin, hammered-dulcimer player Jen Powers and drummer Jayson Gerycz that struck me as something like "if Takoma met FMP"; and Patrick Shiroishi's masterful overdubbed saxophone opus Hidemi, which brought to my mind a one-man World Saxophone Quartet.

The new Dinosaur Jr. album is a delight. You could play "I Ran Away" for someone who'd never heard them and their core charms would all be readily apparent.


Whereas Dinosaur Jr.'s genius lies in never fixing what ain't broke, the Flying Luttenbachers have always been about restless forward progression, esp. since their reboot a couple years back. Their new one, Negative Infinity — their first where founder/leader cedes drum duties; Sam Ospovat simply destroys in the role — is an absolute monster, reminiscent at times of the rigorous savagery of the band's Cataclysm era but challenging and overwhelming in all its own ways. I hear there's another new one due soon from this lineup and I can't wait to hear it.

This Heart Attack Man song is an emo-punk-pop mini masterpiece. The video is also a blast. 

As with "Pitch Black" above, every moment of Pom Pom Squad's "Head Cheerleader" is a hook. Songwriting excellence.

More monster hooks here, courtesy of some guy named Lindsey Buckingham:

And still more, courtesy of some of the guys also responsible for the Turnstile masterpiece:


(Note: The Angel Du$t track above first turned up on a 2020 EP, but makes a return appearance on the band's great 2021 album YAK: A Collection of Truck Songs.)

And who could deny this velvet juggernaut of the airwaves?

The best band I saw on a stage in 2021 — close call with the mighty likes of Sheer Mag, Harriet Tubman and Jaimie Branch's Fly or Die — may very well have been Gospel. Study up and get ready for the follow-up due soon. 
And lastly, goodbye and thank you for everything, Milford Graves, Greg Tate, Chick Corea, Sonny Simmons, Bobby Few, George Wein, Rick Laird, Barry Harris and Phil Schaap.