Thursday, January 28, 2010

All those born with wings

Time to report on the great ECM experiment of 2010. The initial feeling that I have come away with is that for every CD in the ECM collection that I love I will also buy one that will be recycled.

For instance - I love Jan Garbarek's Madar CD. It does have my latest hero, Anouar Braheim on it, but Garbarek's playing is very lyrical and entirely suits the combined mood of oud and tabla. On the basis of this I bought his 1987 CD All those born with wings. Unfortunately this one turned into a squonking atonal mess. Yeeech - didn't see that coming.

Another example? The Dave Holland Trio's Triplicate CD is a constant delight vs John Abercrombie's Selected Recordings, which is a dilly of a pickle - a few 'challenging' tracks left me in the dust (of which there is a fair amount in Qatar).

I'll leave you on a positive note - with another superb discovery - Bobo Stenson. His piano playing has it all for me and is challenging in a good way. This clip has the bonus of some stunning photography as well. Ka kite ano.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The toppermost of the poppermost

The top albums of the year and the decade of the 2000s have been the focus of the magazines I've read recently. I've been back to Jarir bookshop twice now to get the new Mojo - each time it was - 'next week sir'. So in the meantime I had to buy Q and Rolling Stone. Blimin eck. I felt a little shoddy doing it but without the new Mojo - what was I to do?

I really don't like Q. Too smarmy, too try hardy, too cliquey, too ironic, too needy. I bet their list reflects all of those things. I generally only buy it if the Beatles feature in it somewhere.

Rolling Stone - I used to buy it a lot in the pre Mojo days but only because there was no real magazine for me (until Mojo came along). It's too American, too smug, too broad, too glossy, and too obsessed with celebrity. I bet their list reflects all of those things too.

It's an interesting exercise comparing the various lists. My thesis before I go in is that Mojo will have more albums on it that I either own and love or will own and love soon!

Q - The cover folds out three times and features a bunch of talented people with some overhyped people and no one (I've checked carefully) is smiling - not even close! The mirthless cover points to a fairly unfunny list of the decades top 100 albums. To be fair in the comparison I've only checked the top 50 for my purchases. With that I've bought 12 of them. The top ten was as follows:
10 Johnny Cash - American IV: Man Comes Around
9 Radiohead - Kid A
8 Jay-Z - The Blueprint
7 Green Day - American Idiot
6 Arcade Fire - Funeral
5 Coldplay - Viva La Vida
4 The White Stripes - Elephant
3 Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
2 The Strokes - Is This It

As well as a top 10 of 2009 (see below), Rolling Stone also had a top 50 of the decade thing going and I did about the same - 11 of their classics are in the lock up in Stratford. Their top 10:
10Kanye West - The College Dropout
9 M.I.A. - Kala
8 Bob Dylan - Modern Times
7 Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP
6 Arcade Fire - Funeral
5 The White Stripes - Elephant
4 Jay-Z - The Blueprint
3 Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
2 The Strokes - Is This It
1 Radiohead - Kid A (like I said - too American - this is the only Brit).

This edition of Mojo listed the top 50 albums of 2009. Of them I actually bought a measly 5. The top 10 are (with the RS top 10 next to them):
10 Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz (RS Sonic Youth = The Eternal)
9 Madness - The Liberty of Norton Folgate (RS The XX - The XX)
8 F**** Buttons - Tarot Sport (RS The-Dream - Love vs Money)
7 Florence and the Machine - Lungs (RS Neko Case - Middle Cyclone)
6 Bob Dylan - Together Through Life (RS Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca)
5 Tinariwen -Imidiwan: Companions (RS Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown)
4 The Horrors - Primary Colours (RS Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3)
3 Richard Hawley - Truelove's Gutter (RS Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix)
2 Bill Calahan - Sometimes I Wish we Were an Eagle (RS Bruce Springsteen - Working of a Dream)
1 Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (RS U2 - No Line on the Horizon)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Un sentier d"alliance

Anouar Brahem ( أنور ابراهم ) plays the oud. And he plays it superbly. I don't know much about him or about ouds actually, so I did some research.

Turns out he was born a few weeks after me in 1957. He was born in the town of Halfouine in the Medina of Tunis, Tunisia and, according to wikipedia, he 'fuses Arab classical music, folk music and jazz'.

He began playing in 1967, age 10, and at age 18 he decided to devote himself to music. He produced his first album in 1991 (Malcolm Gladwell would smile here - another example of the 10,000 hours to become an expert idea).

And the oud? Well this pear-shaped, stringed instrument commonly used in Middle Eastern music that is often seen as the predecessor of the western lute, has been around for the last 5,000 years!!!

The nearby souq has a shop displaying various ouds and has an area for repairs. I love the look of the oud and listening to a master player like Anouar Brahem is a joy.

His albums (all on ECM) =
1991 - Barzakh
1992 - Conte de l'Incroyable Amour
1994 - Madar
1995 - Khomsa
1998 - Thimar
2000 - Astrakan Café
2002 - Charmediterranéen
2002 - Le Pas du Chat Noir
2006 - Voyage de Sahar
2009 - The Astounding Eyes of Rita

Here are a few clips to whet your appetite.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Tributaries (Keith Jarrett)

Okay, I admit it. I'm terrified of the ECM jazz catalogue. I know I'm unworthy. It's such a beast (over a thousand albums in the archive). The (usually fantastic) arty sleeves give you no clue, the names of the artists are usually exotic (Arvo Part? Anouar Braheim?), and the names that are accessible (Keith Jarrett, Pat Methany) have released tons of albums and I have no idea which are the good ones without a guide (for instance - Roger gave me a copy of The Koln Concert and it's brilliant).

So when I came across a pile of ECM CDs in the local souq (market) I freaked out somewhat. For a starter it was so bizarre to find amongst the exotic spices, watches, fabrics and eateries a pile of jazz CDs from Germany!! I am managing to sift through them slowly but it's such uncharted water for me. I enlisted the internet and here's a list of someone's recommendations on

1. Dave Holland Big Band - What Goes Around (2002)
2. Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin - Stoa (2006)
3. Paul Motian - Garden of Eden (2006)
4. Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin - Holon (2008)
5. John Abercrombie - Cat 'n' Mouse (2002)
6. Louis Sclavis - Napoli's Walls (2003)
7. Dave Holland Quintet - Extended Play / Live at Birdland (2003)
8. Jacob Young - Sideways (2007)
9. Tomasz Stanko Quartet - Lontano (2006)
10. Cyminology - As Ney (2009)
11. Trio Beyond (DeJohnette, Goldings, Scofield) - Saudades (2006)
12. Wolfert Brederode - Currents (2008)
13. Terje Rypdal - Vossabrygg (2006)
14. John Abercrombie - The Third Quartet (2007)
15. Arve Henriksen - Cartography (2008)
16. Arild Andersen - Live at Belleville (2008)
17. Charles Lloyd - Hyperion With Higgins (2001)
18. Tord Gustavsen- Being There (2007)
19. Vladimír Godár - Mater (2006)
20. John Surman - Brewster's Rooster (2009)
21. Charles Lloyd - Rabo de Nube (2008)
22. Louis Sclavis - L'Imparfait des Langues (2007)
23. David Torn – Prezens (2007)
24. Arild Andersen Group - Electra (2005)
25. Tomasz Stanko - Suspended Night (2004)

Mojo recently did a Top 10 in their 'How to buy...' series - and that helped too. But I still feel overwhelmed by the ECM catalogue.

Here are a few clips of worthiness I found, using these sources as a guide.

Great guitar clip - check this bloke out!