2008 Favorite Listening

There’s lots of IT-related stuff I intend to write about soon: I’ve been working on UW Technology’s Service Catalog and I have some thoughts about the whole process of service management, and I’ve been really enjoying getting to know my way around Drupal these past couple of weeks.

But in the meantime, here’s my year’s musical picks – not all are 2008 releases, but they’re what’s been occupying my ears a lot this past twelve months.

Roy Hargrove – Earfood: Wonderful playing by Hargrove’s working band in a set reminiscent of 60s era Blue Note at its best.

Nino Moschella – The Fix: TapeOp mag turned me on to this 2006 offering. Funky, spare, and warm, with overtones of Stevie Wonder and George Clinton, all done by Nino by hisself in his own studio.

Al Green – Lay It Down: Al lives up to all our hopes, with great songs and terrific performances.

Bang On A Can All Stars – Brian Eno’s Music For Airports Live: Eno never meant for this to be performed live, but NYC’s minimalist heros pull it off wonderfully.

Buffalo Tom – Three Easy Pieces: Nice friendly pop-rock with great grooves.

Cassandra Wilson – Loverly: Took a bit to grow on me. Not as far-reaching as some of her efforts, but maybe deeper. What a voice!

Dr. Dog – Fate: Another discovery inspired by TapeOp. Quirky in the way the Band was in the 60s, but in a 2008 sorta way.

The Decembrists – The Crane Wife: Nice moody folk-art-rock, or art-folk-rock, or rock-art-folk, or … textures incorporating lots of instruments.

El Ten Eleven: I was watching the movie Helvetica and was captivated by the music on the soundtrack – turns out it was mostly these Chicago arty-instrumental-rockers. Great open-sounding grooves.

Fleet Foxes: This Seattle band’s debut is on lots of people’s 2008 best lists. Beautiful harmonies, nice tunes. I wish they had used less reverb on the voices, though.

Habib Koite and Bamada – Afriki: Wonderful African music can sure warm up a cold winter night in Seattle. Habib plays great guitar and establishes that warm Malian groove. They put on a great show at Jazz Alley this past year.

Menahan Street Band – Make The Road By Walking: Nuevo-soul instrumental grooves from this offshoot of the Dap-Kings. Soul music enjoys yet another resurgence!

Minus The Bear – Planet Of Ice: Sophisticated, hypnotic indie-rock from another local band. Lots of time changes, and very cool guitar playing from Dave Knudson, using lots of looping, which he does with stomp-boxes, not computers. Lame lyrics, though.

Michael Brecker – Time Is Of The Essence: I picked up this 1999 release at a Friends of the Library sale this year, and it really stayed with me. Featuring Larry Goldings on organ and Pat Metheny on guitar, along with Elvin Jones drumming on some of the tunes, the compositions are strong, the grooves are awesome, and the playing is stellar. Modern jazz doesn’t get much better than this – it’s a shame we lost both Brecker and Elvin in recent years.

Orgone – The Killion Floor: Another champion of the new soul revival, LA-based Orgone is more on the funky side than the Dap-Kings. There is one killer song on this album, “Who Knows Who”, which I could not stop listening to. The rest of the tunes are good too. Great funky grooves, great vintage sound on the recording.

Oliver Mtukudzi – Tuku Music: Tom Lenon turned me on to this 1999 release from Zimbabwean Mtukudzi. Another fabulous African musician, making more fabulous African music.

Pretenders – Pirate Radio 1979-2005: Even though I didn’t manage to see them on their tour this month, the Pretenders have been occupying a lot of listening time lately. Check out some of their recent live videos on the web – their current lineup rocks hard, and Chrissie sounds great.

Rockpile – Seconds of Pleasure: Seeing Nick Lowe got me going on Rockpile again. What a great rock band – killer tunes, great rock grooves, no pretense.

Sonny Rollins – +3: Through it all, we’ve still got Sonny Rollins – 78 years old now. This set from ’96 has just great playing on a set of mostly standards. Great jazz for getting through the new depression.

Great shows I saw this year – Nick Lowe at the Shoreline Arts Center, Tower of Power at Jazz Alley, and Squeeze at the Showbox: Long time pros at the height of their creative powers. Charlie Haden and the Liberation Music Orchestra at Town Hall: Even though Carla Bley didn’t make it, Haden’s explicitly political large group played incredibly three nights before the election. Habib Koite at Jazz Alley: made me want to go to Mali.

All in all, a great year musically.


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