THE BEST JAZZ OF THE 1990s, Part Five-B

Horace Tapscott
The Dark Tree, 1 & 2
hatOLOGY : 1991

HT, piano; John Carter, clarinet; Cecil McBee, contrabass; Andrew Cyrille, drums.

(Part five [b] of five)


Here’s our own round-up of favorite jazz albums and significant artists of the 1990s. We’ve also included a list of key musicians whose work deserves more recognition — from us as well as the wider world — and we invite your comments about them.

We list this first because we’re surprised nobody mentioned it on any other list. For us, it’s Tapscott’s masterpiece. A towering work full of emotional drama, sensitive musical interplay, and sophisticated compositions. It’s ripe for rediscovery. Check out the long-but-gripping title track for some of Carter’s most fiery playing and a stellar example of Tapscott’s ability to mix solid vamps and winding pianistic excursions.

Tapscott’s refusal to travel early in his career and his commitment to grassroots L.A. causes kept his talents a longtime regional secret. The 90s saw him shuffle towards the spotlight, releasing some stellar solo outings accompanied by a series of wonderful and seemingly never-ending archival releases called The Tapscott Sessions. Although he’s passed away, Tapscott will cast a long shadow over jazz in the years to come.

Shipp exploded in the 90s, releasing a string of remarkable solo albums. We’ve got a special fondness for New Orbit, which, depending on how you date it, isn’t exactly a 90s album. But we could also single out his trio date Multiplication Table, string duet Gravitational Systems, string trio By the Law of Music, the in-and-out Pastoral Composure, not to mention DNA, Circular Temple, or his work with Roscoe Mitchell and David S. Ware. His most recent music has scattered in dozens of directions at once and become largely hit-or-miss. Making it too easy to forget the amazing body of work he amassed during the 90s, much of it still waiting to be properly digested.

Naked City’s eponymous debut dropped like a hydrogen bomb on our impressionable little minds. The no-wave, style-hopping, surf thrash, spaghetti-western lounge music with babblecore vocals was…jazz? We loved it, from the blood-splattered Weegee cover photo to Yamasuka Eye’s choreographed screams. We also ate up Grand Guignol, Radio, and the band’s other outings, but nothing else quite replicated that initial shock.

We equally loved Zorn’s other major group of the decade, Masada. But their output was sprawling and hard to track, since their studio albums were pricey imports. We were properly amazed by the electrifying live gigs and sublime large ensemble records like The Circle Maker and Bar Kokbha. But there are big gaps in the Masada discography we have yet to fill. And then there is Zorn’s solo work, and we’d be remiss not to name-check the superlative Filmworks 1986-1990, ear-shattering Kristallnacht, and dizzying noir cabaret The Bribe.

Perhaps the best long-standing band of the decade, David Ware’s quartet blazed through a series of consistently excellent albums. Even voters couldn’t decide if their best effort was Flight Of I or Go See the World. We could also add Godspelized and Third Ear Recitation to that short list. Depending on the day, we’d give you a different fave album. But we have no trouble naming Susie Ibarra as the finest drummer to ever grace the group.

Another great run during the decade — albums with remarkable variety and consistency. We’ve always gravitated towards Douglas’ Tiny Bell Trio, in particular Constellations, a near-perfect album that probably would loom much larger if it had ever been released domestically.

We were fortunate to see Braxton’s Great Quartet at the Knitting Factory in 1993, where they scrolled through sheaves of musical scores as if the pages were on fire, obliterating the line between the improv and composition. Braxton played with roiling passion, sweat rolling off his face, shaking back-and-forth so violently that his glasses flew into the third row. The gig even made a free jazz believer out of Chilly’s father. Still parsing those epic Willisau 1991 and Santa Cruz 1993 sets, but they’re molten reminders of that unforgettable night.

It’s hard to recapture the impact of hearing this record in 1991. It was real and unapologetic fire-breathing free jazz, uncompromised by hackneyed production, and on a major label! Sharrock’s guitar work brought something new to this union of titans — and as much as we love Black Woman, a quick comparison shows how his tone became more potent and nasty over the decades.

Two impressive series from the venerable trumpeter: the two Vade Mecum sessions as well as Papyrus 1 & 2 (the Papyri?), duets with Tony Oxley that also showed off Dixon’s chops at the keyboard.

This two-disc comp was a coup of creative curating. It codified the Kozmigroov sound and shone a light on many unjustly forgotten corners of jazz-fusion from the 70s. Listening was like discovering a new continent.

That 10-CD Testament sure is imposing, but see our recent entry on Dust to Dust for the reasons why we prefer that studio album to the live conduction excursions of the box set. But we also love the underrated Berlin Skyscraper, which conjures woolly instrumental textures with admirable focus.

A major dude in NYC during the decade, mostly for his scaldingly intense live shows, filled with sax blow-outs extraordinaire and surprisingly sensitive piano tantrums. The albums recaptured those moments but their one-dimensional fury wore out pretty quickly. Touchin’ on Trane digs deeper, tapping into a more nuanced and lasting spiritual vein.

We’re not sure this is jazz, but fuck it. Even if it has more kinship with the wonderful Latin Playboys albums like Dose and the first self-titled disc, in its retro-futurist melding of junkyard Latin rhythms, rock slop, and second-hand nostalgia. We also love his solo guitar joint, Don’t Blame Me, which covers the great American songbook, from Jimmy McHugh and Jerome Kern to Albert Ayler.

We haven’t been exhaustive in following Brotzmann’s output, but even given our limited purview it’s clear that The Chicago Octet/Tentet set from Okkadisc is some kind of major statement and Dried Rat Dog with Hamid Drake is not far behind.

It took us ages to get past the soupy production of Too Much Sugar for a Dime to enjoy the wonderful grooves and high-wire perform of the Very Very Circus band. Carry the Day and Spirit of Nuff Nuff are also exceptionally fine. But where’s that Society Situation Dance Band album?

His 50th Birthday Concert serves as both an impressive career summation and proof of Parker’s continuing vitality. So much so that it towers over his other albums from the period.

Where Taylor OWNED the 80s and his shows in the 90s were as jaw-dropping as ever, his records from the decade didn’t always bowl us over. The Willisau Concert is one of his best solo albums ever — which is saying a lot — but it was recorded in 2000 and probably shouldn’t count for this survey. So that leaves Momentum Space with Dewey Redman and Elvin Jones, an initially underwhelming record that refuses to bash you over the head with its brilliance and instead slowly grows in esteem with each patient spin.

Sunrise in the Tone World and the perhaps-not-officially-90s Mayor of Punkville show off Parker the community builder, sound sculptor, swing shifter. The orchestra is some kind of big band: sloppy, too large for its own good, difficult to capture on record, but the discs this group dropped nevertheless offered listeners some of the most unalloyed pleasure of the decade. Swinging like an elephant’s trunk, the records felt so immediate, so drenched in the moment, they emitted all kinds of funkiness. Some might feel you had to have been there; so next time you will be.

Her 90s work is underrated, probably even by us. Her ensemble album Santuerio and sax duet Red rank high in our esteem. And her piano duet Overlapping Hands is fascinating. We’re not thrilled by the recent ECM ossification of her music. But while we complain that Nothing Ever Was, Anyway is too slick and airless, there’s something about that tribute to Annette Peacock that keeps us coming back.

Random Thoughts is a terrific record, marrying spastic tone clusters and swing so effortlessly that even Stanley Crouch couldn’t resist its pull, avant garde pedigree and all. Though probably not as good, we’re surprised nobody mentioned Pullen’s stirring African-Brazilian connection records from his last years.

In the context of the movie, Ornette’s soundtrack to Naked Lunch is one of the all-time greats. Divorced from Cronenberg’s images, it’s still pretty excellent. It took us years to get with the global syncretic hip-hop inspired production of Tone Dialing, but now we dig it. Still trying to unlock those Sound Museum albums with Geri Allen. But we know better than to underestimate Ornette.

Maybe it’s because Weston recycles tunes so often from album to album that folks overlook him. But he had a great decade, reuniting with arranger Melba Liston and sharpening the Marrakech-Brooklyn axis. Gems included Volcano Blues, Khepera, and Saga. And The Spirit of Our Ancestors as the pick of a fine litter.

Cassandra Wilson, Blue Light Til Dawn; Leroy Jenkins, Solo; Muhal Richard Abrams, Blu Blu Blu; Nils Petter Molaever, Khmer; Charlie Haden and Hank Jones, Steal Away; Andrew Hill, Dusk.


One of our readers recently called Destination: Out “Afro-centric.” We take that as a high compliment, even if we doubt we’ve earned it. So call it our bias for the site. As a result, we probably give the massive European scene short shrift and that’s especially true in this 90s round-up. Alexander Shlippenbach Trio’s Elf Bagatellen likely deserves a place on our short list. And perhaps predictably, the Derek Bailey we love from the period is his funk outing Mirakle with Jamaaladeen Tacuma and Calvin Weston. So others can speak more eloquently about worthwhile work by Barry Guy, Tomasz Stanko, and the rest.

MacArthur Genius grant recipient but sometimes we think his greatest contribution might be as an organizer and a gateway for new fans of free jazz. An entire generation of indie rock fans in the south and midwest can trace their love of free jazz directly to Vandermark and his various projects. His albums from the 90s sounded solid to us, but he seemed to really hit his stride during this decade, based on the Six for Rollins tribute, among others. But even so, we often suspect we’re still underestimating the guy.

We dig Shakill’s Warrior quite a bit, but somehow even that album seemed slightly underwhelming next to Murray’s titanic work from the 1980s. Maybe we’re stuck in the past. Or maybe we just missed his best albums from the decade. Suggestions?

The guy cut an impressive figure through the 90s, one of the first “young lions” to marry new traditionalist chops with an interest in the avant garde. Even Cecil was a fan. For many who liked their jazz more trad, he was kinda THE guy for the entire decade. But somehow we slid off his albums, admiring them but feeling that we were missing something. We’re due for a revisit. Which ones should we try first? And what’s happened to him recently?

Another guy whose work we admire but could never whole-heartedly embrace. Given his high profile in the 90s, we’re surprised to see only Banned in New York getting props from this poll. Folks admire his recent work more? Or don’t rate him so highly?

A huzzah for The Tao of Mad Phat, a seriously funky affair. But apparently we missed his other major 90s achievements as we kept buying the “wrong” Steve Coleman albums and prematurely writing him off.

We slept on prime late period Ra like Mayan Temples and Purple Night, and it makes us wonder if we’re missing anything else from El Saturn’s twilight years?

We remember Antennae looming large when it was released. He has an interesting technique, but sometimes comes off a bit arid for us hardcore Sharrock and Cosey fans. But our ears remains open.

Berne’s 80s work and some of his music from this decade are among our faves. But somehow we were on a different wavelength from him during the 90s and, from the voting, it seems many others were as well. Our problem or his?

Surprised that nobody name-checked the work of this formidable Japanese pianist and composer, particularly Something About Water, her duet album with Paul Bley, or her quartet firestorm Kitsune-Bi.


There’s a lot to be said for the marvelous music of this talented pianist, composer, and bandleader. But we’re not the ones with the expertise to say it.

See above.

There have been some exceptional follow-up posts elsewhere in response to, and as clarifications of, the lists below. These two at Pat Donaher’s visionsong are pretty great. Dan Melnick over at Soundslope has put up three very detailed and passionate posts regarding his selelctions — one, two, three. And DJ Durutti took his list in some interesting directions. Carl Wilson raised the significant question of how a period’s great albums relate to a music’s overall vibrancy (or cultural capital), asking if there’s a relationship there at all. We had much simpler goals than making any kind of case for jazz’s continued validity/vibrancy, and we’re honestly too burnt out at this point to address this issue, but recognize its importance, and hope to pick up on it later on. Possibly much later on…

90 90 90 90 90

Finally, before we bid adieu to the decade that was, we would like to send a shout-out to those non-jazz albums that set our ears on fire and made our hearts flutter. Musically, the 1990s would not be the same for us without Sleater-Kinney’s Dig Me Out, Pavement’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, Sonic Youth’s Washing Machine; Wu Tang Clan’s Enter the 36 Chambers; the Mekons on any stage on any night; the Swinging Neckbreakers; the Pere Ubu box set; et cetera.

Category 1990s, Horace Tapscott, lists

44 Responses to THE BEST JAZZ OF THE 1990s, Part Five-B

  1. Re: Tapscott, Constellations, etc.–there’s a bromide that gets bandied about some of the more petty exchanges on Organissimo, something to do with how availability seems to determine history. Print status and distribution, especially in this (independent, in label in mind) music will complicate what could and may get into our hands–and art can and often does still travel on demand curves, and anyone who’s been at this game long enough knows that creative music can get expensive/

    The same level of analysis goes some way toward unraveling the supposed afrocentrism of this blog, or rather the distinct American bent that characterizes many of these (our) lists. It’s not only an out of print/in print thing–European imports, even albums from as recent as a couple years ago, are often difficult to find and painfully, aggressively (if you track ebay, amazon, etc.) expensive. Some things we’ll just never see stateside, or that we’ll never comprehend at the same level of creative intensity or imagination that suffuses what we have, in our hands, at those moments that make history.

    Now, change of the (still young) century–it’s contingent upon these younger generations to understand the decisive contributions of the blogosphere to our historical apprehension, when it’s often times about sifting through an excess (information both sonic and textual) than bobbing, with great difficulty, for the proverbial musical apples.

    Re: Sharrock. I think Laswell turned Sonny onto the fuzz pedal, but the guitarist spent a lot of time shedding, reportedly in some sort of solitude, in the interim between his 60’s/70’s sides and those apocalyptic 80’s albums. Early Sonny, barring his slide work (and non-recorded examples–availability intervening again), was first and foremost a rhythmicist, maybe a purer distillation of the “precision instrument as drum” esthetic than even more commonly cited, but far more harmonically ambitious, musicians like Cecil Taylor. Now, whatever happened during those lost years, Sonny gained a shiload of linear chops and a new caliber of melodic articulation–maybe it took amp effects to bring it out (and some of his recordings with Herbie Mann hint at this), but it’s arguably in much, much fuller evidence Material/Last Exit onward.

    What I can speak to: Satoko is a master of modern large ensemble work and arrangement–not necessarily innovative, but harmonically creative, unembarassed with its sources, and damn proficient. It’s the non-irritating sort of syncretism, a post-loft aesthetic that’s terribly refreshing in big band music. For more recent examples, I’d recommend Undulation and Kobe Yee (maybe only available on import, but worth it).

    Myra is at the top of her game right now. She exudes a quiet, infectious intensity that’s extremely inspiring to those in her company–I haven’t known another musician with such an exacting control on the axis between energy and intelligence. I don’t think you can lose with any of her material, although there’s been a sort of simmer-power to her recent stuff that’s unmistakable. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be The Tent, with Chris Speed, Stomu Takeishi, Cuong Vu, and Kenny Wollesen, but that may just be because I struggled through “Brainfire and Buglight” for a semester of undergrad.

  2. I absolutely LOVE the Tapscott record, but it fell victim to my own rules for the poll (recorded Dec. ’89, so I disqualified it), though I was probably inconsistent on dates for other records. Anyway, thanks for letting me take part in this poll. It’s been great fun and (as expected) has made me pick up a few records that I for various reasons had not checked out before.


  3. The Tapscott record had escaped me. Thanks for sharing.

    You are so right about Pullen’s African-Brazilian Connection. ‘Ah George, We Hardly Knew Ya’ from Live Again must be one of my most played 1990s tracks. How did it slip through? The Roots Collective’s Stablemates with Pullen, Blythe, Freeman and Rivers should also have been there now I think about it.

    I’ve never really got Myra Melford. Perhaps we need a feature on her to change my mind.

    I’ve taken up your challenge to review Murray’s 90s material at

  4. I just can’t get with the Stablemates sides–“together” the playing may be, I just couldn’t see the “point”: mainly conservative playing, obvious repertoire (though that was the point? Or were they just mining a tradition in general?), arrangements/orchestration reverential, often to a fault. What bothers me the most is that the band is just so good on paper.

    Not to play the role of over-interested advocate–what don’t you get with MM, Tim? (Congrats on dealing with the Murray records, by the way!)

  5. There’s an amazing youtube video of the WSQ with James Carter. Much more powerful with him than with Murray to my ears.

    I have a cassette I made of a radio broadcast in the 80’s of a sort of Liberation Music-y suite by bassist Roberto Miranda with Tapscott, Carter, Bradford, the head of the USC jazz department of the time, whatever his name was, on fat-toned sax, and I think some of Roberto’s siblings on various percussion. Still listen to it all the time.

    Saw Tapscott play a few times in trios (with, as I remember, Miranda and Sonship Theus), small groups (sax player Michael Sessions, aonce with Josh Spiegelman) and once with the big, full, noisy Arkestra, complete with African dancers, in Leimert Park.

    I believe Sessions is keeping the Arkestra alive.

    Can’t sleep. Reading about early Scritti Politti…

  6. re: James Carter – a good album to revisit is Jurassic Classics. It includes both extremes of his neo-traditionalist/avant playing.

    As far as I know he still splits his time between his native Detroit and New York City. He recently put out a killer Organ Trio record on Half Note (meaning it was recorded live at The Blue Note in NYC) where he plays some of the most out shit I’ve heard him do. I think ‘Blood’ Ulmer was on that record along with Hamiet Bluiett. I saw him at the Michael Brecker Memorial Service at Town Hall in March in full zoot suit and pork pie hat.

    What’s really ironic is that his official website is still in the hands of Sony, a record label he hasn’t been on for 4 years (he even had a record on Warner Bros. in that label’s last throes as a jazz labe). Such are the wonders of major labels and artists who apparently don’t care about their web presence enough to even create a new official site or even a MySpace page…

    Btw, I feel like this poll (which I enjoyed reading VERY VERY much) should have been called “The Best Off-the-Beaten-Path/Avant Jazz of the 1990s.” Yes, I know that Prof. LeDrew’s tastes run towards the avant and that people with like tastes tend to hang here and post comments. And yes I know Joe Henderson’s name came up a few times for a record on Verve, of all things unholy! And while I totally dig D:O in general, I think that the exclusion of a lot of important artists from the decade is a result of a strong bias of the part of many of the contributors. The rather underhanded dismissal of an artist like Greg Osby in this follow-up post is rather off-putting. I don’t understand the logic of getting behind Steve Coleman but not Greg Osby (is it because he recorded for Blue Note? Does that make his art any less important?

    Speaking of Osby, I thought a glaring omission was his 2000 record “Invisible Hand” (recorded Sep 8, 1999-Sep 9, 1999) with Andrew Hill, Gary Thomas, Scott Colley and Terri Lyne Carrington – possibly one of the most refreshing takes on both so-called “new music” and “the tradition” with a cast of empathetic players who share Osby’s daring take on expression (Hill was one of Osby’s most important and influential mentors).

  7. In regards to Tapscott, like Chris M, that record fell victim to me being a stickler for the 90s rules – I had it placed as 1989. I would have put the Dark Tree records over Thoughts of Dar Es’Salaam which did make it onto my list; they’re essential discs in my collection and are in regular rotation, and I agree that it’s his towering masterpiece. I just love Tapscott’s playing. I’ve posted about it over at Soundslope, focusing on the Dissent or Descent record with Fred Hopkins and Ben Riley.

  8. Thanks for an interesting series of posts during 90s week. I went into the week with a long-standing intention to find out more about the music of Myra Melford, and came out of it owning three of her 90s albums — two mentioned in people’s lists (Alive in the House of Saints and Even the Sounds Shine) and one other (The Same River Twice). Together they provided me with a good grounding in her music. But I suspect that those in charge of D:O might prefer Equal Interest as their starting point.

    I was glad to see Reggie Workman’s Summit Conference getting a few mentions in people’s lists. He also made a very interesting album called Cerebral Caverns which I play just as often as Summit Conference.

    I love some of the asides in D:O’s summing up, including the references to Charles Gayle’s one-dimensional fury and Marilyn Crispell’s ECM ossification. How right you are! But when it comes to the question of European versus American, I think you should resist rising to the bait. It is blindingly obvious from everything you post that there is a massive interdependence/symbiosis between the US musicians and the European performance venues and recording labels. Which gives me an excuse to mention one more album from the 1990s. Anyone who paid close attention to WKCR’s tribute to the late Andrew Hill will have spotted the key linking album in his late-period discography: Les Trinitaires, recorded at a club of that name in Metz in February 1998. It is a brooding, thoughtful solo piano set which puts you right inside his head as he thinks through the material that later emerged on Dusk. Those who care about this music should be grateful to the people who ensured that it got recorded. I bought my CD direct from the record producer on eBay, which tells you all you need to know about the marginal economics of running small European jazz labels.

  9. Zorn, Shipp, Ware, Fuji, Douglas, Carter, Berne, Ribot and Vandermark all get (more) bold letters and yet nary a peep about Marco Eneidi.

    How very 90’s.

  10. Count me as one more who excluded the Horace Tapscott set as being technically outside the realm of a â??90s list; ditto CT’s Willisau set.

    As for James Carter, I’m not convinced that he’s been captured to his best effect on CD. But I’m fondest of the sheer audacity in his Conversin’ with the Elders, from â??95. That one’s got Lester Bowie and Hamiet Bluiett as guests, and pays tribute to forebears (Bird, Pres, etc.) in a most interesting way. How many other discs stack Braxton’s “Composition 40Q” between “Centerpiece” and “Moten Swing”? And yeah, Commercial Jazz Boy, you’re right about the Sony site being a poor web presence for Carter… but Gardenias for Lady Day is still the project he’s currently touring. With strings attached, naturally.

    If I find a few spare hours (ha!), maybe I’ll write up a blog post to expand on the rhyme and reason for my own selections. (But geez, it’s great to see that one other person have Charlie Haden’s Dream Keeper a nod.)

  11. Steve, I’m still kicking myself that I missed “Dream Keeper”, especailly for as much as I rave about Dewey’s big moment on that record.

    Re: James Carter. Count me in among the skeptics to this day. (Though that youtube thing godoggo points out is great. Link on my blog) I remember he emerged with such hype around him, both Wynton and Bowie calling him the next big thing. The man can play the shit out of the horn- I’ve never heard anyone with the level of command and resources so early in a career, conventional and “extended technique” that he had at age 20. But both live and on record (I saw him twice in the ’90s, once with the quartet with Taborn, once with a Django tribute project(??!)), I thought him a showboat who put flash ahead of substance in his playing. Great pyrotechnics, not so great music.

    Osby. I think the difficulty Greg runs into with critics and audiences is that his music is soooo cerebral, I think even more than Steve Coleman’s. His tone is cool, his harmonic approach brilliant, but obtuse. I heard Mike Mossman, who played with him briefly in Out of the Blue in the 80s, say he’d go out of his way to find the most dissonant note in every chord of a ballad. I love him, admire him, study him, but it’s probably why he isn’t better represented. I need to get that album with Andrew Hill that someone mentioned, and I highly recommend the “Symbols of Light” album with strings he in ’01.

  12. Thanks for the lists and the recommendatoins for filling the gaps in my 90’s collection. Just two brief things regarding your to be continued bit. first, James Carter. I am a fan, especially of his live shows. Real Quietstorm, though convincingly on the ‘in’ side of his repetoire, is a great disc. and his first one, JC on the set is one of his best of the decade. Recently, he’s still touring with his organ trio – and the live disc Out Of Nowhere (as previously mentioned, on Half Note) is a great, wild disc with Bluiett and Blood Ulmer and a complete ripping apart of Along Came Betty.

    The other point is Greg Osby. In my opinion, he is simply one of the best musicians alive. His albums, all of them, are endlessly interesting and challenging, and markedly different. Zero and Inner Cirlce and Banned In New York from the 90’s and basically everything from the current decade. But you should visit his website were he posts a number of live shows for free download. they are all phenominal. the one from Moods and the duo with Jason Moran from Padova (though recorded in 2003) are the perfect answers to anyone who doesn’t like or get Osby.

  13. forgot the David Murray question – he had a great decade in the 90’s, though the series on Red Baron are weakened from a too clean production. But check out his discs – Long Goodbye and his duo disc In Concert with Dave Burrell. two of his best, I feel. And I’d certainly include Yonn De as one of his best, though that teaters on the edge of 2000.

  14. It’s hard for me to think of another jazz musician whose playing consistently annoys and appalls me as much as James Carter’s. I don’t mind so much that he acts like an self-obsessed showboat — lots of great players fit that description. The problem is that he invariably sounds like a self-obsessed showboat. Did anyone hear that record of Pavement covers?

  15. Thomas Chapin and Glenn Spearman were left out. Can’t have everything I guess, but these were titanic opuses (I was reminded after reading someone mention Marco Eneidi) of the 90’s

  16. Some amazing Joe Morris recordings from the 90s:
    Racketclub on About Time (1993) and Elsewhere on Homestead (1997). Also Flip and Spike on his own Riti Records (1993).

  17. Chapin got two mentions in my list, and Sky Piece was repeated in another, MK.

    I would certainly have put Invisible Hand from Osby in my list, but I’d gone for release date and that came out in 2000. Art Forum and New Directions are excellent, but the list had to be short.

    On James Carter, Take the A Train on Jurassic Classics maybe showboating but it always has me sitting back in awe.

    Commercial jazz boy, you shouldn’t feel that there’s a negative bias at play here. It’s just such a delight to have a space where records like this are valued. It’s far easier to find spaces where more mainstream artists and tracks get full discussion. I could have easily made a list of mainstream tracks from the 90s that I loved as much, but I suspect they would have been widely known. So, for me, it might be a bias, but a positive one in favour of sharing tracks that are far often neglected. So get an ‘intelligent comment on mainstream jazz’ blog started and we can all do another set of 90s lists.

  18. First, thanks for the remarkable commentary; outstanding contributions all the way down.

    As many noticed, we were not terribly careful about cut-off dates, for the simple reason that we didn’t care that much to be strict about such things. But we appreciate that folks did try to play by the (rather relaxed) rules. And we’re glad to see people making additions as necessary hereabouts.

    sjk: Ok, so, Marco Eneidi. In addition to chastening us, would you please enlighten, as well?

    commercial jazz boy: You characterize the poll very well, I think, and we did mean to add a disclaimer along the lines you mention. We make no claims of comprehensiveness. Yet what exactly constitutes the “mainstream” of the 1990s is sort of an open question. For example, is Gary Giddins a mainstream ciritc? Do his selections merely capture the avant garde perspective? We don’t know, but sense these answers are “yes” and “no.” On Osby we simply plead a certain degree of ignorance, or at least “not getting it (yet?)-ishness.”

    jab: On that note, thanks for the Osby recommends. Live shows, here we come.

    Also, I just like to second an earlier mention, posted as a comment on another post, to Sam Rivers’ late 90s big band work.

  19. So I was thinking about the problem everybody has with the younger Carter. Thought one is just that his over-the-top style is kind of inappropriate to the conservative settings that he tends to choose, and vice versa. Reminds me of the problem I have with a lot of post-’60s Rollins. Anyways, this goes to the effectiveness of that WSJ clip I mentioned before. Problem solved.

    Two is that, although his blues are authentic, to use a favorite Ethan Iverson word, they’re maybe not all that deep. Yet…

  20. oh yeah, Marilyn Crispell… “For Coltrane” is a definite ’90s winner…

    as for “non-jazz,” let’s not forget…
    Public Enemy: Fear of a Black Planet (and) Apocalypse ’91
    Aphex Twin: (pretty much everything from the ’90s)
    Philip Glass: Symphony No. 3
    Cornelius: Fantasma
    William S. Burroughs: Dead City Radio
    Foetus: Gash
    Kraftwerk: The Mix
    The Flaming Lips: The Soft Bulletin
    Frank Zappa: The Yellow Shark (and) Civilization Phaze III

    Wow, it’s weird being sentimental about the ’90s already…!

  21. On Greg Osby, you ought to check out The Invisible Hand from 2002 (I think) Some really interesting group improv with Jim Hall and Andrew Hill on one of his few sideman gigs. It’s an album of subtlety and nuance, one of my favorite from this decade.

  22. I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned the great Gerry Hemingway quintet of the 90s with Michael Moore,Wolter Wierbos, Ernst Reijseger, and Mark Dresser. Slamadam, Demonchaser and The Marmalade King are all excellent start to finish. This group was a seemless combination of composition/free and Europe/America.

  23. to pick up the other than jazz thread, I absolutely agree w/ Mr. Funk about Public Enemy. And several of the jazz influenced hip hop abums on my blog’s supplemental post. And the first thing I’d list is DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing (and his early ’90s singles). Plus things like Boards of Canada’s Music Has the Right to Children; Massive Attack’s Blue Lines and Protection; Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Slow Riot for a New Zero Kanada; Beastie Boy’s Check Your Head; Stereolab’s Dots and Loops; MC 900 Ft. Jesus’ Welcome to My Dream; Cibo Matto’s Viva La Woman!; Tom Waits’ Bone Machine; one of the last Astor Piazzolla releases b/f his death; etc, etc. And maybe the first Le Tigre album, partly b/c Kathleen Hanna is just so goddamn cool.

    Oh, and Wu-Tang, as CJC and prof. LeDrew note. And while I question a ’90s box set that includes ’70s and ’80s material . . . i’m fine w/ the mighty Pere Ubu on ANY list. I still dial up Dub Housing on the iPod on a semi-regular basis. Codex indeed.

  24. My fave ’90s non-jazz:

    1. Balkanology by Ivo Papasov
    2. Casa Babylon by Mano Negra, mainly because it was a gift from this magical French chick I lived with, now married…

  25. Matt — Great list. Got to second you and Steven on those PE releases. Totally essential. Apocalypse 91 is very underrated. Can’t believe we forgot to mention “Check Your Head” as well.

    “Entroducing…” made a major dent in my head when that was released as well. In fact both Drew and I were heavy into that brief shining moment of turntablism w/Cut Chemist (“Live at the future Primitive” is killer), DJ Krush (“Strictly Turntablized”), Invisbl Scratch Pickles, X-cutioners, etc.

    And definitely Le Tigre’s debut! Just playing that the other day. Too bad their subsequent releases haven’t come close to it. I blame the defection of Sadie Benning. Also really dig Bikini Kill’s “Reject All American,” Huggy Bear’s “Taking the Rough with the Smooch” (Her Jazz, indeed) and Team Dresch’s “Personal Best” — just to continue in the riot grrl vein.

    Like many folks, I was blown over by pretty much everything Nirvana ever did. Plus the Gravediggaz’s debut, Fugazi’s “Red medicine,” Breeders “Last Splash,” The Dog-Faced hermans “Hum of Life,” Yo La Tengo “Painful,” Tricky “Maxinquaye,” Aphex Twin “Selected Ambient,” Digable Planets “Blowout Comb,” anything by PJ Harvey, and on and on.

    And godoggo – i was lucky enough to see Mano Negro open for Iggy Pop ages ago. they were ferocious live, so joyful and kinetic that the album i bought after the show – “Puta’s Fever” – never lived up to my memories. But may be I need to try “Casa.” i still spin manu chao’s “proxima estacion” solo joint.

  26. There’s a lot of great music on these lists for sure!

    I’m coming awfully late to this party, but my own secretive contribution is here.

  27. hi all

    you put a lot of work into this guys, and it created some interesting reading :) thanks! your quite exhaustive roundup “includes” one glaring omission from my pov… i’m sure that some people will feel that i was being just slightly hysterical in placing sonny simmons, brandon evans and kevin norton at the top of the tree (though that is one of the albums which has excited me the most in the last year, during which i’ve heard god knows how many really good recordings from the 70s onwards)… but in any case the 90s was when mr simmons made his comeback… no mention of this?? scandalous ;-)

    ancient rites would, i believe, be the traditional selection – very good it is too!

    i have only heard one album by james carter, conversin’ with the elders, and i do like it (but didn’t really consider it for my top ten)… i bought it sort of accidentally and was really impressed when i heard it, knocked back, in fact, by the guy’s encyclopaedic technique and knowledge, and by such complete authority at such a young age and on such a range of horns… of course for the most part it is stuff i wouldn’t actually listen to all that often, but i LOVE the braxton piece. and let’s not forget that supporting trio (as well as the guests), worth mentioning one at a time by name: craig taborn, jaribu shahid, tani tabbal

    i did look up carter’s discog after that and never quite rushed out to buy any more of his albums…

  28. how churlish of me! thanks for the dark tree… the only version i have is a (very good) piano trio and i’ve been enjoying john carter just recently soooo… perfect timing :)

  29. Hey- thanks for all the thought and work on this great look back to the distant past. In the 1990s, I defected from jazz, per se. Not entirely sure why. I was drumming in an avant slash funk metal alt trio at the time, based in Philadelphia and gigging there and at CBGB’s and The Lion’s Den, with a bassist who used about 6 billion inches of GK speakers and played a six string custom fretless bass and a guitarist whose distorted shredding and odd meter compositions owed more to McLaughlin, Pete Cosey and Sharrock. I was listening to Last Exit, Korn, Helmet, Meredith Monk, Captain Beefheart (especially Trout Mask), Primus, The Harmonic Choir, Gyuto Monks of Tibet, They Might Be Giants, Rollins Band, Tom Waits, Kate Bush. And Braxton, Brotzmann, Taylor, Ornette. Blood Ulmer. Shannon Jackson. I was totally disaffected in regard to “jazz.” It seemed to me that as a music, it had completely withered. I guess I was sick at heart about the “neo-mainstream” movement. Bill Clinton with a saxophone maybe, too. The last gasp of this defection was Mudvayne’s LD50 and Wisconsin Death Trip by Static X, two recordings for which I still hold a perverse fondness. Oh yeah, Patti Smith’s Gone Again and Lou Reed’s New York and Magic and Loss, too.


  30. OK, must post a response to the response about Mano Negra; I’m afraid that Casa Babylon is the only album I’m heard, and Clandestino is the only Manu Chao, but I much prefer the latter, and it seems to me that I’ve read that it has better production than their other albums; it’s an excellent listen, but you can tell they’re the sort of band you really have to experience live…

    …much like oZomotli, who always struck me as kind of he American Mano Negra, at least in the old days; first time I saw them, it was about the most explosive thing I’d seen since D. Boone’s girlfriend fell asleep at the wheel, though last time I saw them, they seemed alarmingly professional; we’ll see how they are next Sunday; the studio recordings I’ve heard have left me kind of cold, though there used to be some ferocious live stuff on their website, long gone alas…

    Actually, my favorite non-jazz album of the ’90s was Beyond and Back: The X Anthology, which wasn’t actually recorded during the decade for the most part, of course, but disk one was something very close to the X album I’d long dreamed of.

  31. …by “I much prefer the latter,” I mean, of course, “I much prefer the former.”

    …and one more not-really jazz thing: my best ’90s musical memories were, as I mentioned, those Nels Cline New Music Monday gigs (memorable opening acts: Bobby Bradford quintet, Leo Smith/Sonship Theus Duo, Charles Gayle, Doug Webb 3 John Coltrane tribute followed by NC3 Stuart Whitman tribue, Wayne Kramer, Joe Baiza and the Mecolodiacs), but wait, there’s more, I recently realized how much I missed by being out of country out of country while Nels was in the Geraldine Fibbers, when I saw this video:

  32. Blimey – I forgot to check in for a couple of weeks. Big mistake, and still digesting all this fascinating comment.
    The tracks you’ve highlighted certainly convince me I missed some essential stuff. Thanks! This remains the most worthwhile music blog I niow by a long way.

    Have now hunted down a copy of the Dave Douglas and delivery is eagerly awaited…

  33. speaking of Brötzmann, I’m surprised no-one mentioned Die Like a Dog, or the two solos ‘No Nothing’ and ‘Nothing to Say’. Those are some great records.

  34. Re: John Zorn & Naked City

    I bought this on good old fashioned 12″ vinyl when it came without really knowing what I was in for. A casual acquaintence had bought it and told me how horrible and noisy it was, and I thought, “Uhm, that sounds dangerous, I like the sound of that.”

    I really liked it, it really was like nothing I had ever heard before. My friend was right, it was noisy and the band had a really distictive and strange sound.

    About 3 months later I heard a track from the album â?? the one about the Jazz critics eating habits – on BBC Radio1’s John Peel Show and thought, “That doesn’t sound right, what’s going on.” I had a proper look at the label, and with mounting horror, realised I had been playing it at 33rpm rather than the correct 45rpm.

    I got to discover the whole album again – 2 for the price of one!

    I still sometimes play it at the wrong speed to people who don’t know Zorn’s work, just for a laff, and to remind me what a dolt I was – and probably still am!!


    Zorn is a genius, someone who has changed music forever, a fact recognised by the MacArthur Foundation in 2006, much to the chagrin of moderate American opinion as typified here:

    MacArthur Foundation honours JOHN ZORN:{4A099024-6AC9-4CAE-AAD3-B5A64B241DD1}&notoc=1

  35. mm,

    well – i did…

    one of the entries on my eventual list would very possibly be the vade mecum session(s)… or so i suspect – so there you have SOME evidence of euro players (oxley and barry guy), albeit under american auspices…

    p. breslin, that mudvayne album… having only come across it very recently and removed from its original context, i nailed it right off as a slipknot carbon-copy… did i do it a disservice do you think?

  36. centrifuge – did y’all now? Must have missed that….. but did you mention the solos?

  37. mm,

    nope, haven’t heard those… but the first die like a dog was in my top ten, published here on the first day… i’m sure at least one other person mentioned it too, but maybe not…

  38. MW, I did mention a Gerry Hemingway Quintet disc — Perfect World, on Random Acoustics. I agree with you, that band was amazing (and amazingly consistent); I chose the live set Perfect World over the Hat Hut releases because it’s got an extra ounce of sumthin’ sumthin’ I find incredibly compelling. That one, and the GM set Waltzes, Two-Steps, and Other Matters of the Heart, strike me as the best introductions to Hemingway’s “European” quintet. But yeah, that’s all really vital and under-appreciated music.

  39. hey centrifuge…no, I bet you didn’t do Mudvayne a disservice. I had not heard Slipknot and still am not too familiar with them so I missed the ripoff factor no doubt.


  40. Obviously a little late to the party on this one but I’d recommend James Carter’s debut: JC on the Set. I think he is a great player.

  41. while people speak about james carter, i want everybody to know that john carter was one of the greatest clarinetists to ever have lived. most of his life in los angeles, mr. john carter was absolutely phenomenal. he was able to combine astonishing virtuosity on the Bb clarinet, particularly in the very high register, with an ability to truly communicate from the soul.

    this is a quality that many of the youngsters after 1980 haven’t yet grasped.

    i saw john carter perform on many occasions and he’s recorded several cds. he is also on film. a soft spoken man who taught children music during the day, he was truly a virtuouso of astounding skill and creativity and feeling. G-d bless john carter!!

  42. these lists are very useful, thank you. Why don’t you make also a “best jazz of the 1970s”?

  43. The shape of jazz gone by « Dance4

  44. Real Quiet storm, though convincingly on the ‘in’ side of his repertoire, is a great disc. and his first one, JC on the set is one of his best of the decade. Recently, he’s still touring with his organ trio – and the live disc Out Of Nowhere (as previously mentioned, on Half Note) is a great, wild disc with Bluiett and Blood Ulmer and a complete ripping apart of Along Came Betty.