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John Kelman's Best Releases of 2019


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Well, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome continues to be a challenge, as it has been since mid-2014. 2019 represents, in fact, the worst year when it comes to the actual number of articles written. Still, I've been finding an increasingly satisfying niche in the arena of in-depth, detailed and extensive/exhaustive (exhausting, for you as much as I!!) articles. So, while it appears that I've published fewer articles in 2019, when it comes to word count....well, I've not actually done the math but I have my suspicions.

So, for this year I'll first shine another spotlight on some of the music about which I've written this year, and provide links to those reviews. Following that, I'll list the great many ones that got away...and this time I'm going to break them out into jazz and beyond jazz, but this time with archival reissues lumped in. With 2019 representing the 50th anniversary for a great many artists, the volume of deluxe box sets has been (or, perhaps, it just seems that way) greater than usual. I love digging deeply into an artist's work, whether it's their entire career or a significant portion of it, and I fully expect to continue with that focus in 2020.

That said, there are still plenty of single-disc releases worthy of recognition, in particular ECM Records, celebrating its golden anniversary this year. Beyond an impressive number of new releases and a second Touchstone series of budget-priced reissues for a great many titles that, while previously available on CD, had gone out of print, the label finally righted a longstanding wrong by releasing a slew of recordings that were never before available in the digital realm in any format. While unavailable in hard media formats, the label has brought them into virtual print by mastering and making them available in downloadable/streaming formats ranging from compressed "Mastered for iTunes" to full studio quality high resolution.

I didn't get around to covering these thirty-plus titles, ranging from the known (amongst them, Steve Kuhn, Jack DeJohnette and Art Lande) to lesser-known but still-significant (like Contact Trio, Adelhard Roidinger, OM and Gallery). Still, it seems to me that they flew under many folks' radars, so I'm splitting out a number of titles from that series that deserve to be highlighted as well. So there's a separate section for some of my favorite titles from that batch (and a couple were reviewed in my currently on-hiatus Rediscovery column).

That list doesn't include new archival reissues like the first-time release of a live album by Paul Bley, Gary Peacock and Paul Motian, and the expanded, 50th anniversary celebration of the label's very first album, Mal Waldron's great Free At Last (ECM, 1969).

So, bearing all that in mind, here we go, with just a few of the top recorded events in jazz and beyond for 2019 (each section in alphabetical order). And, of course, if you're looking for a top 10 or even a top 20? Sorry, folks, but I just list the titles that moved me the most this year, and don't worry about the numbers.

Jazz Recordings (Reviewed):

Bill Bruford
Earthworks Complete
Summerfold Records

Marc Copland
And I Love Her
Illusions Mirage

Bill Frisell | Thomas Morgan
ECM Records

Phillip Johnston
The Adventures of Prince Achmed
Asynchronous Music

Steve Khan
Tone Center

Beyond Jazz Recordings (Reviewed):

Gentle Giant
Unburied Treasure

King Crimson
Heaven & Earth: Live and In the Studio 1997-2008
Panegyric Recordings

King Crimson
Live In Newcastle, December 8, 1972
DGM Live

Pink Floyd
The Later Years: 1987- 2019
Legacy Recordings

Stephan Thelen
Fractal Guitar
MoonJune Records

Unreviewed But Still Faves

And now, three additional lists of 2019 releases that I couldn't get around to reviewing, but sure wish I did. Again, in alphabetical order, every one of these is top-drawer, regardless of genre, and worthy of attention. First up, a special section for those streaming/download-only titles from amongst thirty-plus releases that ECM Records has finally made available, for the first time, in the digital realm, culled from both the main label and its relatively short-lived sister label, JAPO.

ECM Streaming/Download-Only Releases:

  • Arild Andersen, Lifelines (ECM, 1981)
  • John Clarke, Faces (ECM, 1981)
  • Contact Trio, New Marks (JAPO, 1978)
  • Jack DeJohnette's Directions, New Rags (ECM, 1977)
  • Double Image, Dawn (ECM, 1979)
  • Everyman Band, Everyman Band (ECM, 1982)
  • Gallery, Gallery (ECM, 1981)
  • Steve Kuhn, Non-Fiction (ECM, 1978)
  • Art Lande & Rubisa Patrol, Desert Marauders (ECM, 1978)
  • Om, Kirikuki (JAPO, 1976)
  • Rena Rama, Landscapes (JAPO, 1977)
  • Enrico Rava, Opening Night (ECM, 1982)
  • Adelhard Roidinger, Schattseite (ECM, 1982)
  • Tom van der Geld, Path (ECM, 1979)
  • Hajo Weber, Winterreise (ECM, 1982)

Jazz Recordings (New & Archival):

Beyond Jazz Recordings (New & Archival):

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