Two albums really blew me away this year, astonishing recordings which I’ve listened to over and over again. I haven’t seen either of them on many of the top ten lists that proliferate around this time of year, so thought it worth mentioning –
Barry Guy’s “Blue Shroud” (Intakt) is an incredible and ambitious recording featuring a 14 piece band, drawing on Picasso’s Guernica, the Iraq War, the poetry of Kerry Hardie, compositions by Bach and Biber all drawn in to Guy’s own improvisational and compositional world. Definitely one of the most successful large scale compositions for improvisers I’ve heard in recent years.
A very different but also wonderful album is “Oblengths” (Leo), by Achim Kaufmann, Frank Gratkowski and Wilbert De Joode. This is the free improv recording I’ve spent the most time with this year, in my opinion the best yet by one of the most fascinating groups in improvised music today. A huge range of approaches organically making up a whole, the trio have been playing together for 14 years and have a truly special understanding.
Two other albums I’ve really enjoyed and recommend are “Dobbeltgaenger” (Cleanfeed) by the Julie Kjaer 3, and “America’s National Parks” (Cuneiform) by the great Wadada Leo Smith.