Some note hovering between an F and an F# hovered over the Vijay Iyer Trio during their soundcheck before their performance Saturday, January 17th at San Antonio's Carver Community Cultural Center. Bassist Stephan Crump picked out the note, concerned it would float over the night's show like a phantom. Drummer Tyshawn Sorey, in for Marcus Gilmore who was currently in London performing at Gilles Peterson's Worldwide Awards (so he gets a pass), already had snark ready for Facebook later. However, the capable crew of the Carver soldiered through and solved the Case of the Wonky Mix, and a moderate, but dedicated crowd of jazz fans were among the first to hear and purchase the latest music off pianist Vijay Iyer's Break Stuff.
I haven't written much in the last year. Anyone who has been paying close attention to the work I've done in 2014 would notice that while I've reviewed albums at various descriptive, expository lengths at Nextbop and at DownBeat Magazine, explored assorted music festivals and concerts, and wrote the heck out of some blurbs for the very impressive Art of Cool Festival and an array of year-end lists. I even had the sad task of writing an obituary for the pianist I've loved more than any other musician. Yet the only time I believe I've pontificated on the scene or some other idea at length was to lovingly admonish and teach a few lessons to the press unsavvy (which then led to a lovely conversation with a dude in Finland at 7am early one Friday morning). I've written a lot this year, but I haven't written in a while.
As l look back at the albums I loved most this year, I realized the importance of being swept up. There's intellectual noodling and the need to keep attention; there's creating new ideas and reforming old ones; there's high and lows in energy, but what I loved the most this year wasn't just the creating of interesting artistic work but if that work is done so well, the music made so compellingly, that it melts this cold, robotic heart and sweeps me up, or sweeps others up just as much. There's been all this talk this year about the Year of the Drummer or how this year is better or worse in music than the year before, but ultimately, the connection the music makes -- whether or not you get swept up -- makes all the difference. Here are the ten albums that took me out of my everyday this year and made each day something a little bit more.
I must admit, there's a lot of music this year,even music that I may be praising in this very list, that I may forget some time later. Next year, or two years from now. There's just so much to keep track of nowadays. But for now, in this moment at the end of the year, I would like to feel confident saying that I enjoyed these albums the most.
In 14 years together as a group, rhythms get to be familiar. This thematically was what I was getting at in the preview piece I wrote for the San Antonio Current of The Bad Plus' show last night at San Antonio's Aztec Theater. There's a sense of familiarity in the rhythm, a knowledge of direction. When I asked them how they do what they do, for example, in Reid Anderson's composition, "Physical Cities" off 2007's Prog (a song the trio unfortunately didn't play last night, something just a tad too complicated and a little too far back in their catalog to perform with the level of precision these guys are proud to demonstrate in every show), while I expected some sort of breakdown of specific counting, a lesson of polyrhythms that couldn't possibly have been conveyed to such a tender-minded admirer in the span of time of the tail end of a dinner break, Iverson jokingly answered they did so through telepathy. One might over 14 years of playing together and building such a body of work, most recently with Inevitable Western on the Sony-OKeh label, seriously consider that as a possibility.