Bird is the Worm Best of 2013: Albums 11-15


Today’s post reveals the 11th through the 15th Bird is the Worm albums of the year.


BitW square avatarFor each album considered for inclusion, I was looking for it to hit me right in my heart, provoke a strong emotional reaction.  I was also looking for it to engage my brain, provide some intrigue or fascination with the music being presented.  Extra points were awarded for doing Something Different or building on a premise that embraced the best qualities of creativity.  Strong musicianship alone is not enough.  Many solid albums didn’t make the list.  It literally pains me when I see some of the albums that weren’t included.  But I listen to a lot of music, and one of the rare downsides to encountering so much great Jazz is that some of it won’t receive the recognition it deserves.  So there you have it.

These are not reviews.  They are simple thoughts, reminiscences, fragments of recollections, and brief opinions about how each album struck me both now and when I first heard it.  There is a link to a more formal review following each entry… that’s where you go to find out what’s what about each recording.  Most reviews are accompanied with embedded audio so you can hear some of the music, as well as personnel and label information, links to artist, label, and retail sites, and anything else that seemed relevant at the time I wrote the review.

Let’s begin…


11.  Ches Smith & These Arches – Hammered

Ches Smith - "Hammered"Released near the start of 2013, my fascination with this recording hasn’t much waned.  The music has an electric blanket warmth courtesy of Andrea Parkins’ accordion and electronic effects, and even this alone elevates the album from being just another typically strong Clean Feed Records release.  But add to this the twisting saxophone vines of Malaby and Berne, Halvorson’s woozy guitar twangs, and Smith’s rock ‘n roll barrage on drums, and now you’ve got an album overflowing with personality.  Plenty of dissonance, but the way catchy riffs emerge and disappear into that dissonance afford plenty of surprises on this inviting album.

Released on Clean Feed Records.

A Bird is the Worm review HERE.

12.  Pablo Ablanedo Octet(o) – ReContraDoble

Pablo Ablanedo Octet - "Recontradoble"Ablanedo’s blend of Jazz and Argentinian music possesses both an intimate warmth and a noble grandeur.  The pianist deftly builds up from a solid melodic foundation, revisiting and reforming fragments of the melody over and over, creating a stream of variations, all the meanwhile adding texture via percussion, and eventually that little melody sounds Big.  I was pretty taken with his previous release Alegria, but his newest ups the ante with a fullness of sound that the previous release hinted at.

Released on Creative Nation Music.

A Bird is the Worm review HERE.


13.  Nilson Matta – Black Orpheus

Nilson Matta - "Black Orpheus"I find this album no less personable than when first I gave it a listen.  Matta’s interpretation of de Moraes and Jobim’s respective takes on the story of Orpheus & Eurydice has an abounding warmth, a succinct lyricism, and a stately elegance… characteristics which, in combination, present an album with a storyteller’s heart.  Not an album that creates a big splash, but with each successive surge of tides, it eventually becomes apparent that this is a recording so easy to just immerse oneself in for hours.  To say this album grew on me would be understating things.  Wonderful music.

Released on Motema Records.

A Bird is the Worm review HERE.


14.  Dan Tepfer & Ben Wendel – Small Constructions

Tepfer-Wendell - "Small Constructions"I’m just taken with this album.  This duo collaboration of Wendel (on wind instruments) and Tepfer (on various keys) is bursting with personality and spontaneity.  Some originals, some covers, some improvisation, some nifty editing techniques, but ultimately it’s all about the conversation.  Anytime it’s a duo session, there’s the challenge of keeping things simple and exciting, both, and the way this album twitters with life even as it obsesses over a pretty melody, these musicians strike the perfect balance.  Several songs on this album I find myself humming, often forgetting where the songs come from until I’m reminded upon playing this album again.  Music that digs deep like that into a listener’s memory isn’t something that happens all that often, and it sure ain’t something to take for granted.  A sublime outing.

Released on Sunnyside Records.

A Bird is the Worm review HERE.

15.  Mary Halvorson Septet – Illusionary Sea

Mary Halvorson - "Illusionary Sea"Halvorson has carved out her own sound on guitar.  It ain’t always pretty.  It’s handy to employ the signifier ‘avant-garde’ in reference to her music.  However, the addition of trombonist Garchik and the tenor sax of Ingrid Laubrock adds some softer textures to hard-edged music, and it really allows the melodies more room to breathe.  As a result, this album’s potent dissonance provides plenty of handholds to grasp the music and go along for the ride.  An album of a strange geometry, of melodies with a warped beauty and harmonies of an essential warmth, bringing a fuzzy hospitality to chaotic, unfettered music.

Released on Firehouse 12 Records.

A Bird is the Worm review HERE.

Tomorrow’s post reveals the Bird is the Worm numbers 6-10 2013 albums of the year.