High Rotation #3 — Because what’s life without records?

A baker’s dozen of what’s on Bradley’s personal jukebox…

  1. Michaël Attias Quartet, Nerve Dance (Clean Feed, 2017), with Aruán Ortiz, John Hébert and Nasheet Waits. This is perhaps the best studio record yet by saxophonist-composer Michaël Attias, a talent ripe for wider discovery – although he’s an ever-inspired mainstay in New York City, as well as a Sound It Out favorite. His tunes brim with snaking rhythms and a keening melodicism that never grow old, even on heavy repeat; and the band, fully devoted to Attias here, could scarcely be more acute or symbiotic, with drummer Nasheet Waits always a marvel.
  2. Jamie Saft with Steve Swallow and Bobby Previte, Loneliness Road (Rarenoise, 2017) and The New Standard (Rarenoise, 2014). Keyboardist-composer Jamie Saft has made a beautiful pair of records with the fluid Swallow/Previte rhythm section. The sound picture of Loneliness Road is especially gorgeous: the hook-laced touch of Saft at the piano, the singular throb of Swallow’s electric bass, the color of Previte’s percussion – all captured with a vividness that feels as if the band is within arm’s reach. The new album also includes three guest vocals by none other than Iggy Pop, in existentialist crooner mode. Just as worth playing over and again is Saft’s Bob Dylan tribute album Trouble (Tzadik, 2006), with its knowing, deep-soul instrumental interpretations and a pair of guest vocals from Mike Patton and Anthony Hegarty.
  3. Mulatu Astatke, Mulatu of Ethiopia (Strut, 2017). Ethiopian vibraphonist and composer-arranger Mulatu Astatke, born in 1943 and educated in London and New York, was the prime mover of Ethio-jazz, the pentatonically tuneful, ultra-groovy genre that flowered briefly in early-’70s Addis Ababa before a burgeoning scene was stamped out by a Marxist military takeover. His music gained new currency in the 21st century, thanks to its showcasing in the “Ethiopiques” series of reissues (not to mention in Jim Jarmusch’s movie Broken Flowers). Multiple compilations and new recordings have followed, with Astatke collaborating with The Heliocentrics, the Either/Orchestra and the Black Jesus Experience. Originally released in 1972, Mulatu of Ethiopia was his initial Ethio-jazz LP, and the Strut label – which has done much lately for the Ethio-jazz sound – has reissued it, smartly including both the stereo original and the very different, unexpurgated mono mixes.
  4. LCD Soundsystem, American Dream (DFA/Columbia, 2017). So it wasn’t “goodbye” when this hit art-pop band did its elaborate farewell show/movie in 2010 but rather just “see you later.” Good – now we have James Murphy and company’s tune-rich, electro-glow comeback, complete with Berlin-era Bowie sonic references. (Murphy worked with David Bowie in his final decade, creating a fantastic, Steve Reich-accented remix of “Love Is Lost” that builds beautifully on the original.) Fave new tracks: “I Used To,” “Change Yr Mind” and “How Do You Sleep?”
  5. Vijay Iyer Sextet, Far From Over (ECM, 2017). The ever-prolific pianist-composer’s most exciting release so far, by far – featuring a volatile dynamo of a band, with Graham Haynes (cornet), Steve Lehman (alto sax), Mark Shim (tenor sax), Stephan Crump (double-bass) and Tyshawn Sorey (drums) managing melody and groove, elegy and explosion.
  6. Stephan Crump, Rhombal (Papillon, 2016). There’s always soul to the work of Memphis-bred bassist-composer Stephan Crump, whether in Vijay Iyer’s bands or those of his own. With Rhombal – a loose-limbed quartet with trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, saxophonist Ellery Eskelin and drummer Tyshawn Sorey – Crump made an album in the wake of his brother’s early passing; but it isn’t the shadow of grief one hears as much as a celebration of life, the beauty of creativity and communion.
  7. The Necks, Vertigo (Northern Spy, 2015). One of my favorite bands, The Necks have recorded 20-plus albums of improvisational hypnotism since making their 1989 debut in Australia with Sex. In concert, the group – pianist Chris Abrahams, bassist Lloyd Swanton, drummer Tony Buck – erases boundaries between jazz, ambient and minimalism, developing an hour’s worth of organic music from basic, impromptu motifs as they emphasize the tension of repetition and the pleasure of release. Vertigo sees the trio add shimmering electric piano and droning electric guitar and organ to the mix, as well as homemade percussion. I’ve spun this record probably a hundred times in two years, and its magic never dissipates.
  8. Cecil Taylor, Nefertiti, The Beautiful One Has Come: Live at Café Montmartre, 1962 (Revenant, 1997). A lot of great music was made at the various clubs Montmartre in Copenhagen over the years, particularly in the 1960s and ’70s, with some of it even captured for posterity. One of the most sublime albums ever recorded at the club was given its definitive reissue by Revenant, for those lucky enough to track down one of the remastered two-CD sets. The free-minded pianist – with his trio mates, saxophonist Jimmy Lyons and drummer Sunny Murray – was pushing through to his mature sound, though there are still plenty of ties to post-bop tradition, especially in the snake-charming, Charlie Parker-accented lines of Lyons’ alto. It’s cubist, kaleidoscopic, even lysergic – and a signpost to future jazz.
  9. Hampton Hawes, Live at the Montmartre (Black Lion, 1971/1995). Another LP recorded at the Montmartre in Copenhagen, this disc by pianist Hampton Hawes – picked up on impulse during a deep dive into the racks of Amoeba Records in Hollywood – isn’t a masterpiece, often sounding like a glorified bootleg (particularly when Dexter Gordon joins in for a spirited encore, microphones no doubt having been shifted at the last minute). But it’s serendipitous evidence of a time when giants still nightly walked the Earth, with a distinctive take on Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” and some fine band originals, even a Bacharach tune. This also reminded me to re-read Hawes’ classic memoir, Raise Up Off Me
  10. Andy Summers, Triboluminescence (Flickering Shadow, 2017). Over his solo career, ex-Police guitarist Andy Summers has created excellent, one-of-a-kind tribute albums to Monk and Mingus, as well as poetic, more ambient recordings, ventures into Brazilian music and duets with all manner of fellow guitarists. Triboluminescence, following his similarly minded Metal Dog solo disc, brims with ravishing, otherworldly guitar playing and evocative textures, beginning with the raga-like lines of “If Anything.”
  11. Marc Copland & Bill Carrothers, No Choice (Discograph/Minium, 2006). One of the richest, most musical duo-piano albums ever, although it came out under the radar. The disc ranges from gorgeous interpretations of Ornette’s “Lonely Woman” and the Bill Evans/Miles Davis “Blue in Green” to an exquisitely emotive take on the melody of Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done,” with Ellington, Monk, Shorter and more besides.
  12. Brahms: Complete Piano Trios, with Leonidas Kavakos, Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax (Sony Classical, 2017). Brahms wasn’t just some bearded icon, an autumnal figure making music for hallowed halls. He was a young lion at one point and deeply passionate always, about the history of music and the forward-minded integrity of his art. His three piano trios range from youthful days in 1854 (No. 1) to his mature prime in the early 1880s (Nos. 2-3). A new, cross-generational chamber group – the old friends of cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax teamed with a younger violinist, Leonidas Kavakos – plays this music with red-blooded beauty.
  13. Steely Dan, Aja (MCA, 1977). Donald Fagen and Walter Becker recorded some great LPs before this – Pretzel Logic and The Royal Scam, in particular – but they made their masterpiece with Aja. Those who just hear this music as “slick” have lazy ears; the playing boasts jazz-level virtuosity and the recording is beyond beautifully produced, but the art of it feels utterly organic and soulful, with some sly, sardonic humor to boot. Aja is virtually wall-to-wall FM hits, of course, and the title track has epic – and stirring – solos by Wayne Shorter and Steve Gadd. But the bittersweet “Home at Last” is my favorite, with Victor Feldman on piano and drummer Bernard Purdie’s elegantly groovy shuffle driving the track – plus a lovely guitar solo by the now departed Becker, R.I.P.