Dec 30 2017
Best of 2017 #02: Jaimie Branch – “Fly or Die” (International Anthem)
The music of Jaimie Branch is constructed with the sounds of things falling apart. Fly or Die is the echo of metal ripped in half and set to fire with wires as the kindling. It’s not pretty, and yet it has a serious allure. It’s laid back and casual, and yet has a charismatic appeal that locks the attention in place. And when it all comes together with a laser beam melody and harmonic surge breaking through the dissonance like the morning dawn through darkness, everything just falls into place and begins making sense again. The trumpeter’s core unit of cellist Tomeka Reid, bassist Jason Ajemian and drummer Chad Taylor are birds-of-a-feather, and certainly no stranger to the art of building through deconstruction. These are musicians that see the poetry of decay, and how that leads to the rebirth of things anew. Jaimie Branch’s debut album not only cycles through both states, but gives the impression that they’re not viewed as even being separate. Everything about this album is different. It’s a strange vision Branch delivers, and yet it’s so simple to embrace. In a year that saw an astounding collection of singular displays of personality, Branch’s stands out as the most individualistic. This easily could’ve been the album of the year.
Music from NYC and Chicago.
Read more on Bird is the Worm.
Dec 31 2017
Bird is the Worm 2017 Album of the Year: Yazz Ahmed – “La Saboteuse” (Naim Records)
La Saboteuse is a statement album. It’s Yazz Ahmed illustrating who she is as a musician, and how the fuzzy math of past experiences, current environment and future aspirations equate to the composite of the notes she composed for her 2017 release and those that were adapted along the way. This isn’t unusual. In fact, it’s the foundation of any sincere creative endeavor. But that her 2017 release also possesses the quality of being a universal statement on the modern jazz and improvised scenes, of throwing open a window to a view of where the music can go for any that choose to launch themselves into it… that’s not so common at all. In fact, it’s pretty damn special, and that is one of the primary drivers of why the trumpeter’s La Saboteuse is the Bird is the Worm 2017 Album of the Year.
But before I go much further with this, let’s not lose sight of the essential quality that this album is a joy to hear, that it incorporates challenging elements into a fabric of embraceable ones, and that it all synthesizes down into a sharp drink that goes down smooth. It is immensely fun to just kick back and listen to La Saboteuse. It’s not obligatory to be studied up on Ahmed’s ingenious use of Arabic scales and melodic improvisation to warp and reshape a UK modern jazz sensibility and render it both alluring and catchy. Knowing that she’s lent her trumpet to the music of ambient-rockers Radiohead isn’t a prerequisite to dive into the mesmerizing drones and harmonic surges that wash over La Saboteuse like waves across sand. And it’s not required reading to be aware of Ahmed’s predilection for a forward-thinking cosmic jazz expressionism, nor how that wondrously ties back to the music influence of the trumpeter’s Bahrain birthplace. All of those characteristics lend intrigue and display the intelligence of an album that can be enjoyed for no other reason than it happens to be seriously beautiful music.
But those influences and how Ahmed wields them in the crafting of La Saboteuse, they’re a model for how others can go about seeking the convergence of past, present and future. So, too, is how Ahmed went about the practical construction of the album… of collaborating in the studio with other musicians, of weaving in separately prepared sections into the final work, of manipulating what was originally there into something new and fascinating, and yet leaving untouched the quality of it sounding as if in its original form. Every bit of the creativity and craft that went into this recording is something special, and situates itself as a path for others. La Saboteuse is a statement of what could be.
And all of that is why La Saboteuse is the Bird is the Worm 2017 Album of the Year.
Music from London.
Read more on Bird is the Worm, including links to a Yazz Ahmed interview, a cool video, to learn about the outstanding album art, to hear more of the album, and for artist, label and retail links.
By davesumner • Recap: Best of 2017 • 7 • Tags: Jazz - Best of 2017, London, Naim Jazz label, Yazz Ahmed