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Taking stock, a year half over

Mark Corroto By

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This month, at the halfway point in the year of music, we are taking stock, and there have been so many great discs released. Here is my list (in no particular order) of the best albums so far. I predict many of these will make final top ten 2013 lists. Sorry, I couldn't keep my list to ten.

The Ex & Brass Unbound—Enormous Door (Ex Records) Federico Ughi—Federico Ughi Quartet (FMR) Rachel Musson/Mark Sanders/Steve Noble—Tatterdemalion (Babel) Matt Parker—Worlds Put Together (BYNK) Petr Cancura—Down Home (Roots To Boot) Hashem Assadullahi Quintet—Pieces (OA2) Frank Rosaly—Cicada Music (Delmark) Fire! Orchestra—Exit! (Rune Grammofon) Ken Vandermark/Made To Break—Lacerba (Clean Feed) Steve Coleman—Functional Arrythmias (Pi) Ivo Perelman—Serendipity (Leo) Gilad Hekselman—This Just In (Jazz Village) Peter Evans—Zebulon (More Is More) Rudresh Mahanthappa—Gamak (ACT) John McNeil—Hush Point (Sunnyside) Mats Gustafsson/Merzbow/Balazs Pandi—Cuts (Rare Noise)

But wait, there's more to consider for this year's best of lists. The Spaceways' galaxy is ever expanding...

São Paulo Underground Beija Flors Velho E Sujo Cuneiform 2013

Beija Flors Velho E Sujo is the fourth release from the Brazil/Chicago trio São Paulo Underground. It's the band's second disc for Cuneiform Records, following Três Cabeças Loucuras (2011). The band's first two efforts can be heard on Aesthetics Records label. Like the city of São Paulo itself, the music is crowded, joyous, messy, and both modern and primitive. Recorded in Chicago after an acclaimed North American tour in 2012, the disc opens with a tsunami of sound. Guilherme Granado's bass synth motor blares distorted waves on "Ol' Dirty Hummingbird" like a punch to the solar plexus, as the percussion induces movement. Their sound draws from the new tropicalia electronic movement and the work of cornetist Rob Mazurek's Chicago Underground bands. Like a futurist rendering of technology incorporated into the jungles of the Amazon basin, the altered DNA of this South-meets-North American collaboration could be a soundtrack for a Philip K. Dick sci-fi novel ghost written by Roberto Bolãno. Granado and Mauricio Takara, are both members of Mazurek's Exploding Star Orchestra and have dabbled in rock and hardcore musics. This trio has now established itself as the heir to bands like Tortoise, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Collections of Colonies of Bees. They can take a classic piece like Harold Arlen's "Over The Rainbow" as Sun Ra could, configure it to have a rough exterior while remaining sincere. The band's clash of fuzzy electronics, percussion and melody is definitely urban, but the jungle's entropy has subverted the sounds of the metropolis. "Taking Back the Sea Is No Easy Task" applies noise to rhythm and hints at Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse" as it unwinds itself into a wilderness of sound.

Chris Kelsey & What I Say The Electric Miles Project Self Produced 2013

No longer does the music of Miles Davis post-In A Silent Way (Columbia, 1969) have to be a guilty pleasure for jazz fans. A reappraisal of the day doesn't so much cast Miles as the harbinger of jazz fusion or it's brain-numbing stepchild smooth jazz, but as an innovator that synthesized rock, funk, and blues into his own electrified vision. It was his imitators, or perhaps the non-improvisers, that nearly extinguished the jazz flame. For saxophonist Chris Kelsey, born at the tail-end of the baby boom, albums like A Tribute to Jack Johnson (1970) and Dark Magus (Columbia, 1974) were nothing shocking. Just as someone born in the 1970s or 80s might not grasp how the music of Thelonious Monk or Ornette Coleman could cause an argument, Miles plugged-in was another music spun before Jimi Hendrix and after Sly Stone. A product of the Downtown music scene, Kelsey revisits Davis' music with What You Say, his trumpet-less band of two guitarists Rolf Sturm and Jack DeSalvo, bassist Joe Gallant, and drummer Dean Sharp. Place this disc next to Wadada Leo Smith and Henry Kaiser's Yo Miles! bands, Bill Laswell's reconstructed Panthalassa (Columbia, 1998), and Dave Liebman's Back On The Corner (Tone Center, 2006) in the Electric Miles tribute catalog. Also though, nudge this disc up to the San Francisco's Splatter Trio record A Fistful of Dewey (Racer, 1992). Like Fistful this electric project is bold and fearless. "Agharta Prelude" hits with the immediacy of the original 1975 version but this time there are two versions of Pete Cosey nailing back guitar licks. Funk flies, James Brown towels-off from a cold sweat and the groove is communicable. When they turn inward with the ambient traced music on the originals "Mad Love Pt. 1" and "Mad Love Pt. 2," the groove persists. This tribute band succeeds because they are indeed, a band. Kelsey organizes the sound but refrains (like Miles) from monopolizing the spotlight. His soprano and straight alto saxophone work sound is piercing, translucent, and uncomplicated. On "Sivad," from Live Evil (Columbia, 1971), he traces the melody over the tenacious groove of Gallant and Sharp, before the guitarist carves up the corpse. Yes, it is such sweet meat.

Michael Coleman/ Aram Shelton/ Alex Vittum Stratic Stratic Music 2013

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