1. Pygmy Unit – Signals From Earth (Private, 1974)
An amazing free-jazz recording on par with Sun Ra’s Strange Strings; just totally otherwordly. Features Darrell DeVore. Recorded in San Francisco and self-released.
2. Mary Lou Williams – Zoning (Mary, 1974)
Takes the piano and reimagines it as a power tool. Like nothing else Mary Lou Williams ever recorded. A pure product of the times, and also self-released.
3. Bill Barron – Modern Windows (Savoy, 1962)
Such an original voice on the tenor saxophone; also, Kenny Barron’s brother. I heard this and I was transfixed immediately. Nothing else on Savoy sounds like this.
4. Terumasa Hino – Taro’s Mood (Enja, 1973)
Whether sparse or pummeling, this record is in the moment from beginning to end. The total highlight of a batch of Japanese jazz LPs I came across earlier this year.
5. Leon’s Creation – This is the Beginning (Studio 10, 1970)
San Francisco group that could have given Sly Stone a run for his money. Absolutely kills from beginning to end. Unbelievable grooves. Found in a 25-cent bin!
6. Boogaloo Joe Jones – No Way! (Prestige, 1971)
Funky jazz guitar that never goes out of style. For some reason I never liked Grant Green all that much, but this is incredible. Like a wild pet escaped from its cage.
7. Donna Brooks – I’ll Take Romance (Dawn, 1956)
Basically a totally unknown singer who only made this one album. She captivates me.
8. Peter Brötzmann & Walter Perkins – The Ink is Gone (BRO, 2002)
Horns and drums skipping over the fires of hell. Wild sounds and intrinsic interplay. A more focused continuation of Machine Gun and Nipples.
9. Krczysztof Komeda – Cul-de-Sac (Harkit, 1966)
While digging around for Knife in the Water, I found this. It has its own sound. It grew on me, and it’s completely unique. He died young.
10. Takehiro Honda – Jõdo (Trio, 1970)
Piano player from Japan who weirdly appears nude on the back cover. The title track alone is as suspenseful as a Hitchcock classic.
11. Lucy Ann Polk – With the Dave Pell Octet (Trend, 1954)
My favorite obscure female singer of the last two years. Wore out her LP on Mode, and finally got a copy of this session; it’s breathtaking.
12. Mel Graves – Three Worlds (Arch, 1980)
Two days after he died, I came across this in the dollar bin. Had no idea it existed. Pretty out-there spiritual stuff, with George Marsh and Andy Narell.
13. Bennie Green – Soul Stirrin’ (Blue Note, 1958)
There once was a time when people partied in the studio and called it an album.
14. Don Pullen – Solo Piano Album (Sackville, 1975)
“Unique” doesn’t begin to describe this solo outing. Sadly overlooked. His playing always takes me on a mental journey.
15. Cecil Taylor – Love For Sale (United Artists, 1959)
Just an lesser-known LP from his late-’50s period that I hadn’t heard of until this year. Half Cole Porter songs; half originals. Straddles reality and non-reality, respectively.
16. Jaki Byard – There’ll Be Some Changes Made (Muse, 1972)
When I die I want Jaki Byard to come back to life and play at my funeral.
17. June Christy – The Cool School (Capitol, 1960)
I avoided this for years, thinking it was a soulless children’s record. Instead, it swings like nothing else and fast became one of my favorites. The kids are alright.
18. Billy Butler – Guitar Soul! (Prestige, 1969)
More guitar jazz that actually creeps under the skin. “Blow for the Crossing” is a backbeat nightmare that belongs on every mixtape.
19. Paul Bley – Ballads (ECM, 1967)
I have a Paul Bley record on ESP which is blessed by heaven. Most everything else is okay, but I found this last week and it’s in the clouds. Piano brilliance.
20. Melvin Jackson – Funky Skull (Limelight, 1969)
Standup bass, run through a fuzz box. Eddie Harris’ right-hand man. A fun one.
Just a selection of records that’ve been on the stereo lately.
Deerhoof – Milk Man LP: I saw them the other week and they were never as good as this record. They eventually evolved a little bit to blend sweetness and chaos – the two are still separated on this album, and that’s great.
Pantera – Far Beyond Driven LP: Me and Hesh used to rock this shit hard in ’94 at 714. Somehow over the years I lost it, but the other day Dave sold it back. Thanks, Dave. Some albums kind of gently work under your skin, or slowly hit your consciousness. This is one that goes straight to your blood.
Kraftwerk – S/T 2LP: Every once in a while I nerd out on some German crapola like Neu! or Peter Brotzmann. This is early stuff, before Kraftwerk had “songs.” It’s a lot of glitchy noise, which matches the sounds in my head, from time to time.
Ruby Braff – Braff! LP: A great trumpet player who unfortunately often sounds like the cliche of ‘jazz trumpet player’ much like Coleman Hawkins sometimes sounds like the cliche of ‘jazz saxophone player.’ Too bad; following his solos is like talking to a really funny, witty person.
The Cribs – Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever LP: My favorite record of 2007. It made me guiltlessly happy every single time I listened to it. It still does.
Curtis Mayfield – Live 2LP: The smallest band, the biggest heart. Does he really play a Carpenters song and make it sound like the most sincere thing ever? Yes, he does. An exercise in minimalist soul.
David Murray – 3D Family 2LP: Goddamn eyes rolling into the back of his head, goddamn horn falling apart under the weight of his lungs. I saw him last year in NYC with my dad. Indescribable.
Spank Rock – Yoyoyoyoyoyo 2LP: Sleazy, juicy, do-me, sweaty, sticky, bring it on, dance-even-if-you-can’t-dance album. It grows on you in a pretty harsh way. Production sounds like the dance music from a strip club on Mars.
Pinhead Gunpowder – Carry The Banner 10″: “What a shitty version of a Diana Ross song,” I thought when I first bought this. Then, a couple weeks ago at Gilman, they finished their set with it and it was the GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD. Why is life so unpredictable and why do I love that so much?
The Watery Graves – Caracas LP: If Bill Evans were alive in 2008 and worked at La Sirenita in NE Portland, he’d make music like this.
Celia Cruz – Canta LP: Good old Cuban music. A little goes a long way, but it’s always good for at least Side A or Side B while cleaning up the house.
Bobby Short – S/T LP: None more expressive, down to the tiniest fraction of a syllable. An amazing interpreter and filled with such gayness. In that, yes, gay, and yes, hella vivacious and exuberant. I bought this on the last night Village Music was open, at about 11:45 pm, along with an autographed Atlantic Starr record.
Can – Ege Bamyasi LP: After all these years of working at a record store and I managed to resist the Can thing for almost the entire run. It finally hit me this year.
Mary Lou Williams – Zoning LP: Jazz with a lot of open space in which to think about God and a lot of recurring grooves to pull you back to reality. I never understood why everyone was so crazy about her until I heard this.
Moggs – The White Belt is Not Enough LP: A great Petaluma band. Those words are rarely if ever typed together, I know, but it’s true. Heavy, fucked-up, Sonic Youth art school sort of stuff. Some parts just get repeated forever and ever and it’s so satisfying.
Headlights – Kill Them With Kindness LP: Swirly beautiful pop music with boy-girl harmonies, keyboards, well-crafted songwriting. . . sounds like a rocket taking off. Never gets old. They’ve got a new one that just came out last week and I’m dying to hear it.