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Top (or most memorable) ten listings for 2014

December 29, 2014

As usual, just because I’ve read everyone else’s with interest, and it pleases me to have this to look back on…

Ten best live music events of the year (in no particular order).

1. The opening moments of Loose Tubes‘ comeback gig at Cheltenham – I was definitely misty-eyed.

2. The Dedication Orchestra at the London Jazz festival, driven by Louis Moholo, playing all the Dudu Pukwana and Brotherhood of Breath tunes I love so much – yup, misty-eyed again.

3. Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society playing the astonishing Brooklyn Babylon in its entirety at Gent Jazz Festival.

4. Trumpeter Avishai Cohen’s trio on the small stage at Gent, with Nasheet Waits drumming simply the most musically exciting application of extraordinary technique I can imagine.

5. Dan Messore’s Indigo Kid at Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival (with Iain Ballamy, Martin France, Callum Gourlay), a short set but memorably good.

6. Out of many great moments at Brecon this year (Michael Wollny, Marius Neset, Huw Warren) hearing Christine Tobin’s Leonard Cohen set live in the cathedral at festival end on Sunday evening was a great one to finish with.

7. James Gardiner-Bateman and Josh Arcoleo, with surprise guest Jason Rebello at Future Inns in January. Three of the South West’s best playing at their best.

8. Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble in Bath Abbey – perfect music, perfectly situated, and an edge of poignancy from their last tour together before the Hilliards’ dissolution.

9. Kit Downes’ quintet at the Hen and Chicken, way back in February but, as Mike Collins put it at the time, glows in the memory.

10. Dakhla Brass at the BeBop club, playing material from what should be a splendid forthcoming album for the now five strong line-up.

That omits a long list of other fine gigs – second helpings of Wollny and Loose Tubes, Ambrose Akinmusire, 2 lots of Phronesis, Wynton Marsalis, Dave Liebman, Tommy Smith and Brian Kellock, Jean Toussaint, and more. Not a bad year, in short! Deep thanks, as ever, to all the players who give such profound pleasure.

And ten CDs to remember.

This is harder, with a lot of new recordings coming my way this year – partly through reviewing for LondonJazz news, partly because there always seems to be so much tempting stuff to download or bring home from the gig…

But ten I’ll be returning to in 2015, again in no special order.

Dave Douglas and Uri CainePresent Joys. Marvellous duo renditions of old American tunes, in the mood of Hank Jones’ collaborations with Charlie Haden, but fresher sounding, somehow.

Julian ArguellesCircularity. A superb quartet (Holland, Taylor, France) doing justice to the leader’s great writing and ever more impressive playing.

PhronesisLife to Everything. Recorded live, and a brilliant representation of the excitement of heating the trio in concert.

Whahay! – Paul Rogers and trio playing Mingus with a free approach that just works.

PartisansSwamp. Welcome back to the UK’s own jazz supergroup. Dying to see them live again now.

Pigfoot21st Century Acid Trad. Chris Batchelor, Liam Noble, Paul Clarvis, Oren Marshall produced probably my most purely enjoyable recording of the year.

Fred Hersch TrioFloating. Return to studio recording for pianist whose work just gets more satisfying with every outing.

Nick Malcolm quartetBeyond These Voices. Second release for this adventurous and ambitious quartet, led by the Bristol-rooted trumpet player, and featuring Alex Hawkins on piano and/or Cory Mwamba on vibes.

Cloudmakers TrioAbstract Forces. Vibes to the fore again, this time the excellent Jim Hart.

Bobby Wellins, Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, Culloden Moor. Wellins, his lustrous sound still intact after all these years, gets to perform his 50 year-old composition as it was always meant to be heard. Moving for many reasons, and fine music, beautifully realised.

I could easily list ten more, but I these are ones that will stay with me. I really think each of them shows why making new art is one of the things that makes humans worth knowing.

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