Ours for Yours: The “Best” of “2007”

OUR 2007 CHILL OUT SPECIAL

SOLO
Bill Dixon
Considerations 1: 1972-1976
Fore : 1980

BD, trumpet.

There’s too much. Too much music, film, books, art. Keeping up these days is practically an Olympic sport. We find ourselves rabidly downloading, listening, reading, and viewing the latest greatest — pausing ever-so-briefly to consider it — and then rushing on to the next shiny geegaw. It was fun for a while but now an almost automatic mania for novelty has set in. We crave more, more, more. And sadly we find ourselves in danger of becoming mere collectors, losing any chance for contemplative appreciation in favor of the general response: “yeah, I got that.”

So although it’s “best of” season here in Webville — and we love a good list as much as anyone — we’re taking a small step back from the hype cycle and refraining from the celebrating the ceaseless shocks of the new. Instead, we’re offering some thoughts on our favorite things discovered in 2007 but not necessarily of 2007. Because the process of discovery isn’t limited to items released during the current year. And while there’s a thrill to experiencing the most recent art-ifacts in medias res, some of the most radical and exciting pieces still live comfortably in the past.

Plus, it’s not as though 2007 isn’t being represented elsewhere. One of the things that are so ultimately stultifying about best-of lists is how many of them tend to converge on the same few items. Do we need another publication telling us that Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke is the best of the year? We get it. Not that there’s anything wrong with consensus. It’s just that since one of the main projects here at D:O is trying to make sure the possibly overlooked doesn’t become the definitively forgotten, we figured we’d extend that thinking to the lists below. Which is to say: we liked a lot of other things, too, most of which you already know about.

D:O’s Top Sevens of 2007

CHILLY JAY CHILL

SUN RA REISSUES
Even though I was well familiar with Strange Strings and Disco 3000, hearing the robustly remastered reissues from Atavistic and Art Yard made them new. And somehow I’d overlooked the deliriously slinky The Night of the Purple Moon. Sometimes it’s easy to take giants like Ra for granted, but these had me marveling all over again.

ABSTRACTIONS OF THE INDUSTRIAL NORTH by Basil Kirchin
Kirchin’s lovely Abstractions fall between the cracks: Free jazz, big band, folk melodies, minimalist serialism, and exotica kitsch. These endless evocative jazzy tunelets remind me of the Ghost Box aesthetic as well – another find this year. Plus Broadcast’s Tender Buttons. To better locate Kirchin’s aesthetic: One track here features both Jimmy Page and Evan Parker.

BORN IN FLAMES by Howard Hampton
Dest:Out readers should check this out for the illuminating essays on Braxton, Shipp, Parker, Derek Bailey, etc. But Hampton goes far beyond jazz, finding links between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and D. H. Lawrence, Seijin Suzuki and Sleater-Kinney, Pere Ubu and Performance. A handbook in the aesthetics of displacement by the heir to Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus. So good you’ll break into a cold sweat.

PASTORAL: TO DIE IN COUNTRY by Shuji Terayama
I was brought to my knees this year by the discovery of Japanese New Wave cinema of the 1960s. Terayama, who’s best known for the scandalous short “Emperor Tomato Ketchup,” made my fave film of the entire genre, the candy-colored, freak-flaked, eye-popping Pastoral. Also recommended: Funeral Parade of Roses, Eros + Massacre, Ecstasy of the Angels. Interestingly, there seems to be direct overlap with the Japrock recently chronicled by Julian Cope and the Shinjuku free jazz scene. More on this later.

Z CHANNEL: A MAGIFICENT OBSESSION
Xan Cassavettes’ brilliant documentary is a must-see for any wannabe cinephile. Disturbing but ultimately affirming story of how curating can be its own artform. In the 1970s, Z Channel took art films that many people deemed rarified and presented them to the public as fun, sexy, and an integral part of life. Forget academia and making people feel they need to eat their vegetables. To borrow Richard Foreman’s rallying cry: “Elite art for the masses!”

EPITAPH OF A SMALL WINNER by Machado de Assis
Marvelously funny novel written in bite-size sections by an epileptic Brazilian in the 1880s. And it feels more modern than most things you’ll pick up today. The narrator affably recounts his life from beyond the grave, chasing digressions and casually ripping asunder every cliche and received idea that tumbles across his path. Susan Sontag deemed Machado the greatest South American writer, but this book is also immediate and intimate, wearing its genius lightly.

YOU MADE ME REALISE by My Bloody Valentine
It took me years to fully grok Loveless, but this 1988 E.P. smacked me sideways on first listen. It’s more concise and tuneful, but covers a staggering amount of sonic and emotional terrain in a short time. Five perfect songs, not a duff note. Fingers crossed for the reunion.


PROF. DREW LeDREW

FUN HOME by Alison Bechdel
A graphic memoir of considerable emotional depth, and plainspoken narrative drive. My main thought after reading this was that it was incredibly fortunate that this life happened to this author, because no one else could have depicted this story nearly as well. If that makes any sense. No Iggy references to be found within, but plenty of drama. And antiques.

COLTRANE: THE STORY OF A SOUND by Ben Ratliff
Alex Ross’ The Rest Is Noise is raking in much-deserved accolades this holiday season, but it would be a mistake to sleep on Ratliff’s really splendid take on Trane. Though it may be hard to get excited about another book on the tenor legend, Ratliff’s blend of musicological insight and cultural synthesis does what Coltrane himself did: make the familiar sound new again.

SOUTH AFRICAN EX-PAT JAZZ
Dudu, Dyani, Dollar. Moholo, Mongezi, McGregor. Somewhat aware of the collected body of work by these gentlemen and others before, I made 2007 an immersion year. Song for Biko, Witchdoctor’s Son, In the Townships, Brotherhood of Breath, Flute Music, Mbaqanga Songs…. Bouyant, melodic, astringent when called for, this stuff offers as plausible an answer as any to the question: if you could only listen to one kind of music for the rest of your life, what would it be?

JOHN CARTER’S ROOTS AND FOLKLORE SERIES
We’ve written about this elsewhere, but it bears repeating, and only fully dawned on me this year: this is good shit. All five records offer immense pleasures. It remains obscure why this series, much lauded in its day, has resisted becoming a significant monument in modern jazz. Perhaps it’s just the unfortunate current obscurity of the records themselves? Anyway, major props to Steve Smith for assisting with my appreciation.

THE MIERNIK DOSSIER by Charles McCarry
A spy novel in the form of field reports from CIA agents, intercepted telegrams, laundry lists, wiretapped conversations, covertly acquired diary entries, set in Europe and North Africa. Nothing splashy, but the accumlated narratives add up to a smashing good read, dryly accented by agent Paul Christopher’s aversion to moralizing. Not to be confused with The Metterling Lists.

DOG SOLDIERS by Robert Stone
I reread this this year, with vague memories of having enjoyed it, but no real recall of the plot or fine-grain details. As a portrait of the US on the brink of total psychotic breakdown, it holds up tremendously well, with Stone’s early 70s druggy vibe inducing the cold clammies and lightheadedness of a contact high. Having recently read Stone’s memoir Prime Green, and finding some similarities between his life and this book, it’s scary to ponder the degree to which Dog Soliders mirrors his actual experiences. If this post-Vietnam novel has anything to say about our current condition, we are in for a world of pain.

“Finer Feelings” by Spoon
The song I listened to more times than anything else this year, almost certainly. Though Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga will get (and has gotten) its share of “best of” nods, I’m breaking our own self-imposed conditions here to perhaps point out the obvious: a great pop song, with Commerical Appeal. When is that not worth highlighting?

* * *

OURS FOR YOURS: What are your favorite (re)discoveries from this year? Favorite new jazz records? Favorite whatever type of music? Things from 2007 very much included. We’d love to know.

Category lists

23 Responses to Ours for Yours: The “Best” of “2007”

  1. 1st time on CD this year – â??The Struggle Continuesâ? on ECM – by the late great Dewey Redman – surely the best album ever released under his name.

  2. Rediscover, thanks to the Net: aarly Scritti Politti (myspace, and mp3s, under “John Peel Session – December 5th 1978″ at page bottom). Previously I’d only ever heard “Skank Bloc Bologna” (and also managed to miss their transformation into a horrible ’80s dance band, but that’s a whole nother story. But if you’re interested in creative music, you’ll be interested in this, I reckon.

  3. Sorry, â??whole nother storyâ? link above was supposed to be this: http://www.simonreynolds.net/interview-green-p1.php

  4. Off the top of my head and in no particular order, these are the discs that come to mind when I think about this past year. I heard them all for the first time this year, and they all have spent considerable time on the player….

    Albert Ayler â?? The Hilversum Session
    Don Cherry â?? Jazzhus Montemarte 1966
    William Parker â?? Scrapbook
    William Parker â?? The peach orchard
    Gayle/Parker/Ali â?? Touchinâ?? on Trane
    Frank Wright â?? Uhuru Na Umoja
    Noah Howard â?? The Black Arc
    Cecil Taylor â?? For Olim

  5. Great year end list. I love the mix of books and other epherema.

  6. as panthalassa CD has been stuck within my laptop I don’t feel like listing good CDs. I would say that my best e-find of 2007 was destination-out :-)

  7. 1. Books/authors: Stanley Elkin, for fun; art critics Michael Baxandall, Thomas McEvilley, and, after a couple of beers, Arthur Danto, for more cerebral fun. Also, Linda Pastan’s and Stanley Kunitz’s poetry.

    2. Music: Definitely in agreement on Johnny Dyani’s “Witchdoctor’s Son,” which I also rediscovered this past year. Perhaps my favorite of the year, even if it’s from ’78. Furthermore, I rediscovered the Frank Lowe discs on CIMP–and in particular, I really enjoyed repeated listening to “Bodies & Soul.” Chet Baker’s voice finally got under my skin this last year, too, quite unexpectedly. Additional rediscoveries include the WSQ (I loved “Political Blues,” though I expected to hate it), Tricky’s “Maxinquaye” and “Nearly God,” Anthony Braxton’s “Charlie Parker Project 1993,” the Pere Ubu boxed set, Arthur Blythe (“Metamorphosis” and “The Grip,” among others), Archie’s Shepp’s tribute to Charlie Parker (on Steeplechase, not sure of the exact title), Blonde Redhead, almost every version of Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land” (and, God help me, the best versions that I heard were Johnnie Allen’s version, from 1971, from “Radio Gold,” and another version by James Taylor, from a show at the Oakland Coliseum in Ca, from 1972. And this last discovery/rediscovery brings me to what–besides this blog–has definitely been my greatest find of the year, DIMEadozen.org. I have found the most unbelievable music on DIME this last year or so, including some Holy Grail concerts for me, like the three Brotherhood of Breath concerts that I snagged (and Air (with Baraka!), Don Pullen, Misha Mengelberg, Lucky Thompson, Monk, ROVA, WSQ, etc.). Impossible to sign onto, but otherworldly once you’re there–and L-E-G-A-L downloading!

    3. Art: Robert Rauschenberg’s “Gluts” and “Combines.” Also, graffiti art, and especially wheatpaste graffiti.

  8. One of my greatest finds this year was Eddie Prevost & Alan Wilkinson’s “so are we, so are we”, and I’d urge anyone who hasn’t heard it yet to try to do so as soon as possible. I get the feeling this one slipped under the radar somewhat, and that’s a shame.

  9. La Monte Young’s recording of The Well Tuned Piano totally blew my mind and is maybe still available at http://differentwaters.blogspot.com/ which has been the source of all kinds of great listening as well as evrything here at http://destination-out.com/

    I bought some of The Hugh Tracey Recordings from Africa
    – and it was actually worth it – seriously I actually bought music and it was worth it. How experimental am I now !?!!!

    This year I also saw an amazing duo between Axel Doerner and Juerg Bariletti at the now legendary Stralau 68 in Berlin. Juerg du bist der UberHammer!

  10. Posted on the WFMU website, here are my faves of 2007.

  11. After reading about him for years and never hearing his music, I discovered Joe Harriott this year, and after buying the reissue of Indo Jazz Fusions by The Joe Harriott-John Mayer Double Quintet I started hunting for everything that I could find by Harriott.

    And this led me to a full-fledged immersion in jazz and improv from the United Kingdom, again music that’s been “out there” for ages but remained unheard by my ears. Previously Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott and Stan Tracey were just about the only Brits I was familiar with. Man, there are many, many world-class players: Graham Collier, Shake Keane, Harry Beckett, the recently departed Paul Rutherford, the amazing John Butcher, and on, and on…

  12. Current (2007) faves can be found here: perfectsounds2007.blogspot.com.

    Been listening to a lot of Henry Threadgill during the last year, especially “When Was That” and “Rag, Bush & All”. As expected, the 90s lists also inspired me to check out some stuff I for whatever reason hadn’t picked up before, some of which may even have found a place among my own top 10 had I known them before. Abrams’ “Blu Blu Blu” is perhaps the most obvious contender. I also picked up 8 Bold Souls’ “Sideshow” thanks to Dan Melnik.

    I’ve also enjoyed reissues by the Diagram Brothers, Pylon, and Thelonious Monk Trio, among others.

  13. I haven’t actually listened to muc new music this year. Some new discveries

    The Mingus Sextet @ Cornell that was released this year was phenomenal.

    Matthew Shipp-both his own work and with David S. Ware. The man astounds me. i heard him this october with the Nu-bop quartet, one of the best shows I’ve seen.

    Joh Adams-Harmonielehre: A truly complex, beautiful, engaging piece that owes a lot to Steve Reich minimalism, but isn’t confined by those
    boundaries.

    Wadada Leo Smith’s Gloden Quartet- What can I say, that album just kills.

  14. Cecil Taylor, William Parker, Tony Oxley & Anthony Braxton live in Royal Festival Hall this summer. I died & went to heaven that night. And 24 hours later there was Ornette Coleman….

  15. re: South African ex-pats. “if you could only listen to one kind of music for the rest of your life, what would it be?” Scary question. However, Mongezi, Moholo, McGregor, Dyani and Dudu is the correct answer!

    Much thanks for presiding over the most stimulating blog I know. Long may you flourish, and looking forward to 2008 selections and comments.

    (now playing: The Dedication Orchestra…

  16. Good call on Dog Soldiers. I was born in December 1971, and have a queasy fascination with that period in American history. It took me a few tries to get through that book for some reason, but once I did, I needed to sit down quietly alone for awhile. Right now, I’m working on Samuel Delany’s Dhalgren.

  17. Thanks to this blog, I’ve discovered Dave Douglas’ Tiny Bell Trio this year. The CD “Constellations” has spun quite a few rounds in my discman since I read about it on the big 90’s bonanza you had going here for a while. I have also started picking up Rage Against The Machine, to my own huge surprise.

    And in 2007 I saw Steely Dan live for the first time in my life.

  18. Great Page. Thought you might be interested in this oddity. First saw it mentioned at Julian Cope’s site and had a hell of a time finding it.

    Art Jackson’s Atrocity “Gout.”

    http://sharebee.com/8f112629

    One of the great lost experimental jazz/rock albums. According to legend, Gout was bankrolled by Miles Davis in 1974, delivered to Columbia Records and pressed for promotion… then summarily abandoned by the label. Specializing in free form, live-in-the-studio, jazz/rock experimentation, The Atrocity was a chaotic, 8 to 11 piece collective fronted by the 20 year old junkie Art Jackson – whose guitar explorations were prone to both violent outbursts and spacey sonic excursions. A long lost curiosity ripped from a very rare vinyl promo.

    Here’s the review for it at Julian Cope’s site…
    http://www.headheritage.co.uk/unsung/review/1824

    Shaft In Afghanistan (7:39)
    Arabian Fabian (8:59)
    Available Bush (7:11)

    Tomato Reign (16:20)
    Gout (6:22)

  19. Hey, Dirk, I think the general consensus is that the Art Jackson joint is a bit of a hoax perpetuated by the Catasto Elettrico fellers. Still fun to play though.

    My free fusion choices for 07 can be found here:
    http://databurn.com/bbs/viewtopic.php?id=26

    Thanks again to D:O for just BEING. Always a joy to listen and learn.

    Doug

  20. You should have just asked them instead of spreading rumors. I did. They said they had nothing to do with it, it’s not their style whatsoever (they are a trio) and that they originally got it from a blog called Never Get Out Of The Boat. They said they thought it was genuine.

  21. Gout is definitely NOT the Catasto Elettrico guys.

  22. late to the party, but it’s been seeping into my brain for a while, the 2007 Grachan Moncur III release Inner Cry Blues on Lunar Module. It got passed over in a lot of year-end lists but I think it belongs right alongside Evolution or Aco Dei de Madrugada.

  23. re: the Art Jackson’s Atrocity “Gout” thing…
    Unless the band were time-travellers, this can’t be from 1974… in the track “Tomato Reign” there’s a voice that says “F**k her… let her rot”. This is an audio clip taken from Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket”, which was released in 1987.
    So to me, this is a hoax, and I wish someone would come forward and explain, because I dig the music.