There were a few albums that would’ve received a slot on my Best of 2013 list, had I not gotten a strong twinge of jazz purism at the last moment. These three recordings are all quite wonderful, but as wide as I try to stretch my own subjective Jazz boundaries, I couldn’t extend them far out enough to bring these three albums into the fold. Hell, in at least one instance, I don’t think even the musician considers it a jazz album (though I’d have to check my notes to be sure of that assertion).
In any event, here are three recordings by jazz musicians that weren’t really jazz albums. They’re all quite wonderful, and despite my busy listening schedule, I always find time to listen to each frequently.
RJ Miller – Ronald’s Rhythm
Miller’s debut album is a blissful session of ambient minimalism, with brief infusions of Alice Coltrane-like space-y spiritual jazz. Drummer Miller, who’s a mainstay of the New York scene, and who has appeared on albums by Jeremy Udden, Mike Baggetta, and Nancy Harms (all having received mention on this site), retreated to his home state of Maine and used the seclusion and beautiful landscapes as inspiration for this serene recording. There is a peacefulness and a warmth to this music, and I listen to it often first thing in the morning… each time expecting to see snow drifting down when I look out the window. Miller creates a wonderful ambiance with this music. He made the album he wanted to make, and certainly wasn’t taking my definition of Jazz into account when creating it. I just couldn’t justify including it in my Best Jazz of 2013 list, even though it is one of the thirty best albums I heard in 2013.
Released on Loyal Label.
A Bird is the Worm review HERE.
Christian Wallumrod Ensemble – Outstairs
Wallumrod was only vaguely in the jazz realm earlier in his career, mostly getting slotted in the Nordic Jazz category. But with each successive album, he’s become increasingly daring in his inventiveness and expressionism… bringing together Nordic jazz, folk musics, chamber music, modern classical, and anything else that floats his boat. I find his music fascinating, and his newest Outstairs continues that trend. Some moments of stunning beauty. But this ain’t a jazz album, and it just didn’t seem right to include it in my Best Of 2013 list. That aside, it deserves a mention as one of the best things to come out during the year.
Released on ECM Records.
A Bird is the Worm review HERE.
Chris Schlarb – Psychic Temple II
Part two of Schlarb’s Psychic Temple project was no less profound than the first, but it was interesting to hear the latter’s focus on proper song structures… a different facet of the music, though entirely cohesive. Schlarb had some background in the genre via his free jazz improvisation duo I Heart Lung, and he’s brings in a solid assortment of jazz artists to perform on his projects (Kris Tiner, Steuart Liebig, Dave Easley all come to mind immediately), but his music really transcends genre. Ironically, in a perfect world, this would be pop music… catchy melodies couched with amicable percussion, music that could be listened to in a variety of settings and moods, possessing different facets that would appeal to a variety of people. Of course, it’s not a perfect world, and pop music, instead, sounds like, well, don’t get me started. Until the world wises up and becomes like I think it should be, music like Schlarb’s is more underground than music for the masses. But all of that static is irrelevant in the face of the music itself, which is pretty damn amazing. Listen to this one, and then go listen to the first Psychic Temple installment. You can’t go wrong here, and 2013 was better because of it.
Released on Asthmatic Kitty.
A Bird is the Worm article (and interview) HERE.