Dec 30 2019
Here it comes.
Dec 30 2019
Here it comes.
Jan 17 2020
This is the year I expect outrage. This is the year that will leave some speechless, struggling for the words to express dismay at inexplicable omissions. This is the year that will convince some that this site has lost its bearings. And that’s because this is the year that was the best year ever.
Welcome to the Best of 2019.
It could’ve been one hundred. It could have been two hundred, and it still wouldn’t have been enough. The year 2019 was the strongest year of the decade in new releases, and the way with the numbers was such that some excellent recordings were not going to make this year’s list. That is how these things go. But what began as a general Best Of round-up in 2011, then became a formal countdown with 2012’s Top 30 best of list, then grew to a Top 50 in 2017, has now expanded to a heady Top 70 year-end rundown. It could’ve been 500, and it still would not have been enough.
How does one even measure a particular year’s greatness in comparison to others? With flawed precision, with unerring subjectivity, and an accumulation of first blush impressions that reveal the ultimate patterns that produce an emboldened statement like 2019 cemented the reality of this new golden age of Jazz. And it did. And here we are. And it’s only going to get better.
The introductions to the Best of 2017 and Best of 2018 columns are about as close as I’ll ever come to encapsulating what this Best Of list endeavor is about, what this site hopes to capture, and a good faith effort to give name to the music that is featured. This music we love. These columns spoke of musicians whose work have transcended the jazz classification, of musicians who rose up through the jazz tradition, but are making music that defies categorization as such. And this is how it should be. With each day that passes in their lives, these artists are pursuing new creative paths that allow them to express the person they are today, the person they were before, and the person they aspire to be. It’s only natural that their music would incorporate a mix of something mainstream, something traditional, and something alien and futuristic. These columns also remarked that it’s only natural their music would reflect the diversity of influences, musical or otherwise, that are like waves crashing against their shores each and every day. That diversity symbolizes the jazz scene today. It’s where we’re at.
The language of jazz remains a constant even under the forces of creative evolution, but the creativity that informs the approach to those constants is inevitably influenced by the musicians themselves… their past, present and vision of the future. It becomes obvious that the word Jazz is as all-encompassing, and usefully vague, as the concept of Earth. An argument could be made that the best direction to take in encapsulating the modern jazz scene is to view it through the artists themselves, and view jazz traditions through the foundations of the artists and not the art. Perhaps the perspective should be of the roots of the musicians and not so much via the roots of the music. Because while the latter is the basis for so much sonic joy, it’s the former that is ultimately the source of the inspiration and surprise and evolution that will keep jazz alive and headed down a path into the future, one generation after the next, like a golden age with no end.
Bird is the Worm is a catalog of that evolution. This site documents music from all corners of the globe, and from all types of people. But 2019 wasn’t the year to put names to music or trace the shape of its lineage to the modern day. 2019 was the year to simply immerse oneself in the thick of it all, whatever it is called, all the things it sounds like, and all the different people who give it life. 2019 was the best year of a decade of bests, and more than any other year, the best approach to understanding what it all means was to simply sit back and listen.
The Best of 2019 list is a snapshot of a year in albums. But, truly, these lists never end.
As in previous years, I’m looking for albums that deliver an impact across the board… cerebral, physical and emotional aka head, heart and soul. It’s not enough that they’re simply a very good album. Hell, in 2019, it’s not enough that they were an excellent album. The music had to possess gravitas, had to offer something a little bit different, or, conversely, present the familiar better than anybody else on the scene. Bonus points were awarded for wild creativity and experimentalism.
These albums, released approximately between November of 2018 and November of 2019, were notable for any number of reasons, but each in their own way made a statement. The synopses that accompany the albums are not reviews. They’re last minute thoughts about the albums. However, many of these synopses have a link that’ll take you to another post on this site (or elsewhere), where you can read and hear more about the album and the musicians who created it. The Best of 2019 is a jump-off point to more music and more discovery. And fun. Lots of fun.
That’s it. There’s nothing else. The End. Now, let’s begin.
Jan 16 2020
One of my favorite albums of 2019 was Reveries & Revelations by Mats Eilertsen. It’s got plenty of tranquility for when I need something soothing late at night or first thing in the morning, but it’s got just the right amount of edge and liveliness to sit down with the album smack dab in the middle of the day. And it’s on one my favorite labels, Hubro Music, which specializes in the this kind of music, along with the kind of music that is so strange and yet so melodic and eludes any attempt to classify it with our better known genre tags.
This video is from the album track “Tundra,” put together courtesy of Jenny Berger Myhre.
You can expect to be reading more about this album as we ramp up for the Best of 2019 reveal (which, by the way, starts tomorrow night with the introduction!)
Listen to more of the music on the artist’s Soundcloud page.
Jan 15 2020
I go through every album that hits the jazz aisle at Bandcamp. Every Single One. I may only listen to it for a hot minute, but I give every album a chance to grab my ear. So, even those musicians and labels who don’t reach out to me personally still have a shot to get a write-up on my site or in one of my Bandcamp Daily columns.
Some I bookmark for later. Some of those tags are because the album has some odd trait that makes me want to revisit it later, and perhaps write about the album or form a column around that trait. One such theme is holiday music. I was giving a quick listen to one that showed up in the new releases section, and I mumbled to myself, “This is only kind of yule.” It was an unintentional pun. The album had a reference that made me think of Miles Davis, which spurred me to think of Kind of Blue, and it just went on from there. There’s no good way to explain the stream-of-conscious thoughts that ripple through my brain as I listen to music. But that’s where I landed.
The more I chuckled about the title, the more it occurred to me that, hey, maybe I have enough bookmarked holiday jazz albums to form a column. That led to a pitch to Bandcamp, and, happily, the go-ahead from my editor to put it together. As it turned out, I had more music that I had open slots. The Kind of Yule column may have begun as a chuckle-thon, but it manifested as a collection of some very fine music.
Here’s where you check out the column on The Bandcamp Daily. The list captures more than Christmas music. It’s meant to represent all holidays, even those that fall outside the month of December. Because Jazz is a worldwide pursuit and a worldwide love, and the world is a very diverse place.
And a special shout-out to Thomas Slater for the excellent column art. It really captures the spirit of the column. Cheers.
And feel free to check out my Bandcamp Daily writer archives while you’re at it.
By davesumner • Announcement - Music, Jazz Recommendations • 0 • Tags: Art Yard Records, Auand Records, Bandcamp articles, Blue Music Group, Brad Linde, Dan Chmielinski, Ill Considered, Johanna Grüssner, Mars Williams, Martina DaSilva, Outside In Music, Salah Ragab, Sun Ra, Truth Revolution Records
Jan 13 2020
Some musicians just aren’t easy to cover. Some immeasurable synergy of distinctive sound, personal aesthetics, and singular gravitas makes it nearly an insurmountable task at honoring an original song by these musicians while simultaneously making the song anew. Elliot Smith was one such musician. Not unlike his predecessor and equally depressive songster Nick Drake, Smith brought a tunefulness to a state of sadness like being able to whistle the melody to your own funeral’s soundtrack.
Camila Meza is a ridiculous talent, as vocalist and as composer-arranger, and that she is able to create an inspired rendition of Eliot Smith’s “Waltz No 1,” with her Nectar Orchestra no less, is Exhibit A for proof of that talent. Here’s the official video of that song, which appears on her 2019 release Ámbar.
You will be reading more about Ámbar in the upcoming Best of 2019 reveal.
In the meantime, if you can’t wait to buy the album so that you can hear the whole thing, Amazon is waiting for you. I wouldn’t blame you. It’s a gorgeous recording. You should go buy it right now.
Jan 12 2020
Minua‘s Still Light is one of the most beautiful things I’ve heard all year long. I said as much when I recommended this album a year ago for Bandcamp, and I said it as much again for my 2019 Bandcamp wrap-up column. The trio of bass clarinetist Fabian Willmann and guitarists Luca Aaron and Kristinn Kristinsson tap into a vein of tranquility, and just let it flow.
And if you want another video from this trio, then, by all means, follow this link to another track from their 2019 release.