So… about 2017, Part V: Two, not one


There’s some stuff I just don’t want to listen to anymore.

I’m a blogger, not a journalist.  When I write, the words are meant to convey here’s what I like, not here’s what it is.  That said, my perspective isn’t one of me me me.  It’s not always about what I like.  Many times, I recommend an album because I think others might like it, because what it is eclipses my personal preferences.  Even if it’s an album that doesn’t much appeal to me in terms of casual enjoyment, there can be compelling aspects of the recording that make it deserving of a recommendation.  It can be any number of factors that drive the decision making process, and even though the ratios may change, the theory of the math is pretty consistent:  Feature compelling music.

It’s the same attitude I take to constructing these Best Of lists.  I’m trying to represent the best jazz had to offer in a particular year.  Among those included are albums that will get deleted from my music library once it’s a wrap on year-end projects.  I listened to them as much as required to provide a well-balanced, thoughtful rundown.  Tangentially, there are albums not included in the Best Of list that will never leave my music library, and will remain a fixture in my life.  These favorite albums don’t always get included in a Best Of list, or if they do, their ranking may not accurately reflect the way they connect with me personally.

For any one particular year, my Best of list always looks different than my Favorites Of list.  The Best Of list is something you see every year, but, in fact, there are two lists.  My Favorites list is something I keep to myself.  I’m not entirely sure why, but my gut tells me it’s important to do it that way, and so I do.

That said, I’d like to share some of my favorite albums of 2017, in no particular order, and some thoughts on each.  These were albums that didn’t receive a mention on the Best of 2017 list.  It’s an opportunity to feature even more music that brings some happiness to a world that needs as much of it as it can get.


Olivier Bogé – When Ghosts Were Young (Jazz & People)

Over the course of four recordings, Olivier Bogé has developed a talent at unleashing enchanting melodies that is as potent as anyone on the scene.  His blend of modern jazz and folk is seriously charismatic, and the shifts between states of introspection and intensity should appeal to anyone who enjoys that same quality from the Brian Blade Fellowship.  When Ghosts Were Young was one of the final cuts for the Best of 2017 list, and it’s indicative of just how deep the talent pool ran on that year.  This is a solid album, and one I’m pretty well addicted to.

I wrote about the album for The Bandcamp Daily.


Christian Meass Svendsen – Avin (Nakama Records)

I have been captivated by Avin since its opening notes first hit my hears many months ago.  The reverie on a relationship by bassist Christian Meass Svendsen has all of the melancholy heartbreak and sublime joy of that subject, and susses it out in a way that incites introspection yet carries with the ease of a lullaby.  Nakama Records, which is really the loose collective of like-minded musicians, isn’t really a jazz label per se… their music spans a number of influences and genre.  As such, Avin is very much a work of folk and chamber, and even with my very broad definition of what qualifies as jazz for this site, I decided to exclude it from Best Of list consideration.  But of greater importance is the observation that Avin may very well be the most gripping, beautiful album I’ve heard in 2017.  Svendsen’s emotional weight carries through loud and clear, and forges a connection to the music through an empathy from anyone who’s ever experienced the peaks and valleys of love.

Read more on Bird is the Worm.


Hampshire and Foat – Galaxies Like Grains of Sand (Athens of the North Records)

The modern distillation of cosmic jazz from keyboardist Greg Foat and guitarist Warren Hampshire is one where rich melodies melt away into an atmospheric bliss, and the cadence of the melt are the building blocks of the casual grooves that gently propel each song forward, providing a sense of structure to the otherwise formless parade of vivid imagery.  Galaxies Like Grains of Sand is a natural extension of Foat’s excellent 2015 release The Dancers at the Edge of Time, an album that Hampshire contributed to and which earned the #7 slot on this site’s Best of 2015 list.  Their 2017 release was one of the final cuts for the Best of 2017 list, but remains a fixture on my personal listening queue.  This is a gorgeous recording, and I don’t anticipate ever feeling any less strongly about it as the years pass on by.

Read more on Bird is the Worm.


Zach Rhea – Zach Rhea’s New Music Collective (Self-Produced)

Read up a little bit on Zach Rhea, and you’ll find his music interests span a pretty wide array of sounds and influences.  The drummer’s listening habits clearly translate to his own music, because this eponymous debut of the New Music Collective mixes in some rock and pop and cinematic ambiance with its personal styling of a post-bop sound.  Sometimes the music is catchy, sometimes it’s punchy, sometimes it coos softly and other times it burns wildly out of control.  I find all of it quite charming, especially when the variations of expression are viewed in the context of the album as a whole, like the changing of seasons over the course of a year… all of those differences reveal themselves as facets of a singular event.  It’s why I keep returning to this album time and again.

I wrote about the album for The Bandcamp Daily.


Morgan’ – Sémaphore (Self-Produced)

Ever since I first laid ears on this 4-track EP by the Morgan’ duo of clarinetist Hugo Proy and guitarist Vincent Guiot, I’ve been fascinated by its friendly chatter and moments of stunning beauty.  They collaborate with one guest on each track, and each guest brings an unconventional instrument to the affair:  sitar, didgeridoo, mandolin and synthesizers & effects.  This album came out at the tail end of 2016, after the books were closed on the year, and at a time when the potential is high for an album to slip under the radar.  I’m glad this one didn’t make it past mine, because I am truly enamored with it.

Read more on Bird is the Worm.


Saagara – 2 (Instant Classic)

Every year, there’s an album (or three) whose exclusion from the Best Of list truly haunts me.  For 2017, it would appear Saagara‘s 2 has earned that distinction.  Waclaw Zimpel’s Indian Orchestra concocted an intoxicating blend of Indian classical, folk and electronica, and it’s the kind of thing that becomes increasingly addictive with frequency of use.  Clarinets and khanjira and thavil and violin and the electronic production of mooryc are the ingredients for this dizzying display of textures and kaleidoscopic transformations in expression.  I guess I excluded it because it really falls outside the auspices of the jazz sphere, but I should’ve just said to hell with it and included this album.  It’s amazing.

Read more on the Bird is the Worm.

And before signing off, one final mention should go to Jon De Lucia‘s 2017 release As the River Sings.  You’ll be reading about that album tomorrow, but it’s music that has been filling up my house for many yesterdays all year long.