Eyal Hareuveni's Best Releases of 2012

Eyal Hareuveni By

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A list of some of the new releases that enriched life in 2012. In no particular order...

Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet

Walk, Love, Sleep

Smalltown Superjazz

A long time ago I lost count of how many albums I have by Peter Brötzmann. Or how many I still want in my collection or how many he releases every year: check also excellent ones by the Hairy Bones quartet, Snakelust (to Kenji Nakagami), on Clean Feed, Solo + Trio Roma on Victo and Yatagarasu with Japanese pianist Masahiko Satoh and drummer Takeo Moriyama on Not Two. And there are more. But the albums by the Chicago Tentet were always my favorites. Not only because of the ass-kicking, intense energy of this great free jazz ensemble; also because this ensemble represents all the things that I like about Brötzmann's outfits—total commitment to the music, mind blowing performances by a strong cast of individual musicians and a strong belief that music can make this world a better place. Sadly, this recording from a concert at Café Ada in Wuppertal, Brötzmann's home town, made as part of his 70th birthday celebrations, is one of the last performances of the Tentet. After 14 years Brötzmann decided to disband it. "We have reached the peak of what is possible in improvisation and communication with an immense input from all of us," he explained.

Neneh Cherry & The Thing

The Cherry Thing

Smalltown Supersound

The Thing—Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, both members of the Brötzmann Tentet, and bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, are one of best live acts of free jazz, for more than a decade now. Over the years this trio enjoyed the company of guest musicians, beginning with iconic free jazz hero Joe McPhee and continuing with alternative sound sculptures Otomo Yoshihide and many more, but this collaboration with vocalist Neneh Cherry takes them to another level. It's accessible, with tons of fun and intense energy. Check out also the other side of The Thing, the fantastic collaboration with double bass master Barry Guy on Metal (No Business).

Sidsel Endresen & Stian Westerhus

Didymoi Dreams

Rune Grammofon

I was fortunate enough to see Endresen and Westerhus' magnificent performance at the Kongsberg Jazz Festival in Norway that managed to top this recording. Both redefined the concept of free improvisation, sketched personal musical universes of their own and communicated in a spellbinding, poetic language. Westerhus also released another excellent solo album this year, The Matriarch And The Wrong Kind Of Flowers (also on Rune Grammofon) and, hopefully, his collaboration with Trondheim Jazz Orchestra will bear another album in 2013.

Angles 8

By Way of Deception—Live in Ljubliana

Clean Feed

There are many parallels between Swedish saxophonist Martin Kuchen's Angels 8 band to Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra or William Parker's Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra. These outfits send clear messages against war and violence and for compassion and human rights, with strong, soulful melodies and excellent casts of musicians. This third, live recording of the Angels band is its best one. Küchen's other excellent releases this year were with the Trespass Trio, Bruder Beda, (also on Clean Feed) and the more experimental, Hellstorm—Man erkennt langsam das Elend, das über uns gekommen ist (Mathka).

Alexander Hawkins

All There, Ever Out

Babel Label

Great British ensemble that blend beautifully experimental free improvisations, contemporary music, South African jazz, early jazz and hard bop references into dense, challenging textures. Pianist and organ player Hawkins' compositions sound influenced by Anthony Braxton but pay tribute to Art Tatum and Elmo Hope.


Frk. B. Fricka

eget værelse

One of the most exciting revelations of this year, thanks to Kongsberg Jazz Festival where this all-female Danish quartet terrific performance concluded the festival. The quartet—two drummers and sax and trombone players who use pedal effects to customize the sound, blur the boundaries between alternative rock, free improvisation and noise with energetic shots of adrenalin to the heart.

Eve Risser / Benjamin Duboc / Edward Perraud

En Corps

Dark Tree Records

Three French masters of free and experimental improvisation in their first project as a trio. This trio explores the sonic spectrum of its instruments—piano, double bass and drums—and form a highly intense and powerful interplay, even in its most spare and reserved moments. Check also Perraud's wonderful duo with vocalist Elise Caron, Bitter Sweets (Quark Records), and The New Songs' challenging A nest at the junction of paths (Umlaut Records).

Marc Ducret

Tower, Vol. 4


French guitarist Marc Ducret is one of the most original guitarists working today. Here, as part of a continuing series of compositions that feature him in different setting, he explores the solo format on acoustic guitars, presenting his rich, imaginative vocabulary.

Espen Berg



One of the most beautiful solo piano albums of recent years and a debut solo album by a Norwegian pianist that collaborated before with saxophonist Marius Neset and Trondheim Jazz Orchestra. Excellent compositions that combine the romanticism of folk elements with spontaneous improvised structures, both in a way that reflect Berg deepest emotions.

Maya Homburger & Barry Guy

Tales Of Enchantment


The husband and wife duo—baroque violinist Homburger and master double bassist Guy—explores hymns from the 9th century, compositions of H.I.F..Biber and Gyorgy Kurtag, as well as compositions by Guy. The duo seamlessly bridges the gap between composition and interpretation. Check also Guy's excellent duo with Lithuanian reed player {Liudas Mockūnas}}, Lava (No Business), and the Hommage to Kurtág with pianist Katharina Weber and percussionist Balts Nill, Games and Improvisations (Intakt).

Gato Libre



The Japanese partnership of trumpeters Natsuki Tamura and Satoko Fujii released only two albums this year, their continuing, intimate duo, Muku (also on Libra), and the beautiful Forever by Tamura's Gato Libre quartet. Tamura's composition for this quartet are warm, emotional and have timeless quality. Sadly this is the last recording of bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu who has since passed away.

Kayhan Kalhor & Ali Bahramifard

I Will Not Stand Alone

World Village

Inspiring and timeless music by two great masters of the Persian tradition. A meditation on a dark story, the demise of the Green Movement's civil uprising in Iran, when violence seemed to be taking over, but at the same time also a universal, humane call about mankind's need for hope and freedom.

Getatchew Mekuria & The Ex & Friends

Y'Anbessaw Tezeta

Terp Records

A soulful, second collaboration between Ethiopian sax hero Getatchew Mekuria, now 76 years old, and Dutch quartet The Ex, augmented by reed players (among them Ken Vandermark and Xavier Charles). A true celebration of Mekuria's 65 years of playing music and aptly subtitled, "In Memory Of The Lion."

Finally, not exactly a recording: violinist and vocalist Carla Kihlstedt and her partner, drummer/multi-instrumentalist Matthias Bossi, this year launched their Rabbit Rabbit Music project, where each month they offer new musical gems to their subscribers. Each track—"a musical manifestation of this monthly mantra"—is a beautiful surprise. Warmly recommended.

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