Sunday, March 20, 2016

My favorite things, pt. 2: Pi Recordings

Some labels put out a plethora of releases each year, and of course we should all be grateful that they do. Others, like Pi, issue a handful of what feel like carefully curated albums that cause you to really focus your attention. The most recent, save one, is drummer Dan Weiss’ Sixteen: Drummer’s Suite, which pays indirect tribute to famous drummers who have influenced him in one way or another. I say indirect because the suite doesn’t mimic any past styles but makes a very comprehensive statement of its own. 

I wasn’t a fan of Weiss’ previous Pi release, Fourteen, because it felt like a pastiche, with styles grafted onto each other. He’s taken a major step forward with Sixteen, displaying complete mastery in combining acoustic instruments, electronics, voice and percussion. Some themes remind me of the open, endless blue sky style of John Hollenbeck’s Large Ensemble, but Weiss is his own man, and he has birthed a masterwork. 

The most recent Pi Recordings release ,which I haven’t yet heard, is Henry Threadgill’s Old Locks and Irregular Verbs.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

My favorite things pt. 1: Leo Records

Leo Records puts out an amazingly diverse group of recordings, and has done so for an astonishing 37 years now. I always see names that are new to me, even though I follow the music closely. Not everything is to my taste, but I’m indebted to the label for their Anthony Braxton recordings alone. Leo Feigin, the founder, also has great taste in pianists: Simon Nabatov, Achim Kaufmann, and more recently, Uwe Oberg. Here are some recently releases that I’ve really enjoyed:

Simon Nabatov / Mark Dresser / Dominik Mahnig - Equal Poise

Sarah Bernstein Quartet (with Kris Davis) - Still/free

Kaufmann, Gratkowski, de Joode - Oblengths

Uwe Oberg / Silke Eberhardt - Turns

Taking a pause

It’s time for me to say goodbye to reviews, at least for the foreseeable future. As I mentioned in a previous post, early last year I accepted a challenging new job that has left little time for listening to music, never mind writing about it. The stack of CDs that I’ve not yet heard, or heard only once, is daunting. 

Before I stop down for good, I’m going to do a series of posts around the theme of “My Favorite Things”, the labels and recordings that I’ve really gravitated to over the past few months, and for whose existence I’m grateful. Hopefully this will help bring a little more attention to deserving artists and the labels which support them, and help ease my guilt about all those CDs that never got written about.

To the label owners, PR professionals, and artists, thanks for your passion, and for your friendship that has developed online as a result of this blog. You can stop sending me CDs now, but know I’ll continue to support you as I always have by purchasing your recordings and following you on social media.