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2020 Best of/Recommendation List by 11 Journalists/Label Folks/Distributors


Stringers & Struts - s/t (Aerophonic)

Gard Nilssen’s Supersonic Orchestra - If You Listen Carefully the Music Is Yours (Odin Records)

Anna Högberg’s Attack - Lena (Omlott)

Tim Berne and Nasheet Waits - The Coandă Effect (Relative Pitch)

Matthew Shipp Trio – The Unidentifiable (ESP-Disk)

James Brandon Lewis Quartet - Molecular (Intakt)

Paul Flaherty - Borrowed From Children (577 Records)

Luis Lopes & Humanization 4Tet - Believe, Believe (Clean Feed)

Tim Stine Trio - Fresh Demons (Astral Spirits) & Tim Stine Quartet - Knots (Clean Feed)

Various - Not Two...But Twenty! Festival Wlen, Poland - September 21-23, 2018. (Not Two)


Modern Jazz Quintett Karlsruhe / Four Men Only - Complete Works (NoBusiness)

Lol Coxhill & Olaf Rupp - Poschiavo 2003 (s/r)

Rashied Ali / Frank Lowe - Duo Exchange: Complete Sessions (Survival Records)

Terumasa Hino ‎– Journey To Air (Octave Lab)

Paul Acquaro is an editor/contributor to the FreeJazz Blogsite & occasional DMG reviewer. Mr. Acquaro redesigned the DMG website & database several years ago and still maintains it for us. We remain in his debt. Mr. Acquaro got remarried a couple of years ago and has since moved to Germany where he has continued to teach.


DARREN BERGSTEIN Music journalist, aural provocateur

Isolationism. Destroyer of worlds or fount of creation? If we are to judge by the enormous amount of music released in this most despondent of timeframes, I’d say the latter. Out of necessity or desire, whether the suppression of live performance provided impetus, or musicians just used their newly-discovered ‘free’ time to produce in abundance no matter the circumstances, pandemic or not, 2020 felt like a constant airburst of artistic engagement, actualization, and realization. As always, there’s just simply too much, and never enough money, time, shelf space, etc. Of course, not a bad thing for those who drink deep of the art form, but such considerations mandate choosing wisely and acclimatizing your ears selectively.

   Nevertheless, my tastes run broad and wide—I’m eclectic, i contain multitudes—crisscrossing the readymade, journalistic shorthand for ‘rock’, ‘jazz’, ‘electronic’, ‘experimental’, what-have-you. In that spirit, my list of 2020 picks (rather than ‘best of’s’) comprise what I consider to be distinctive, generally uncategorizable recordings that were the most memorable, stood up to and encouraged repeated exposure, were enriching and hugely enjoyable, and seemed determined to push/pull on established ‘norms’ and boundaries.

Listening habits, acquisitions, and investigations from 2020 (and beyond): An ever-deepening love and appreciation for the vibraphone and its nuclear family of instruments; the ongoing mission to curate a sub-library of 60s/70s Japanese jazz, fusion, and avant/free/improv material; the perpetual hunt for synth/electronic treasures that fell between the cracks; being regularly impressed by the astounding sounds emanating from such labels as Hubro, Sofa, Jazzland, International Anthem Recording Co., Mikroton, Confront, Spool, Evil Clown, DiN, Txt, Carpe Sonum, Neotantra, et al, and the bottomless congregation of artists and labels residing on the planet Bandcamp.

Final footnote: all the recordings listed below are CDs, the media to which I continue to pledge unyielding fealty and, for me, the sole, best format for sound reproduction, presentation, and archiving that matters. So, in alphabetical order:

EIVIND AARSET & JAN BANG Snow Catches On Her Eyelashes (Jazzland 377 925 0) Aarset is all over this list, and serendipitously or not, it’s only coincidental by virtue of his range extending beyond that of a mere ‘guitarist’. He’s not only of the most in-demand musicians working, but like the best character actor, his mere presence on a recording automatically raises expectations to the next level. Joined by fellow auteur and longtime foil Bang, himself no slouch in the innovation department, the two sculpt immaculately conceived electronic tone poems whose wayward, liquifying textures, rose-colored hues, and eccentric matrices ravish the ear. Whether Aarset waxes au naturel or complements the big Bang is irrelevant; the duo’s mercurial creations effervesce colors out of space, refracted through digital prisms bending the wavelengths of jazz and electronica.

BVDUB Ten Times the World Lied (Glacial Movements GM041) Brock Van Wey, aka bvdub, has built an immense catalog spanning the ambient/drone/dub-techno divide. Founded in 2007, and though originally a more bass-ic, bottom-up construct, successive years have seem him adopt a starkly minimalistic posture, but don’t be fooled—his leviathanic walls of sound align him as one of the key architects of such musics operating today. Before you grimace in displeasure over yet another trawl through aimless drift however, rest assured that with Brock you’re in good hands. The man surely didn’t invent melancholy, but he wields its pronounced affect like a pro, each track’s luxuriously blossoming and immersive loops discomfiting enough to deflect even the slightest bit of listening malaise. Yes, strict ambient music (of which this album isn’t), taken in large doses, magnifies Eno’s original dictum of it being simultaneously ignorable and listenable. Bvdub emphasizes the latter; you want to get lost in his timestretched emo-scapes, and the honing of this milieu has birthed his best record to date.

EXTRACTOR - Echo Train (Greyscale GRSCL 15) Dub techno brilliance from Russia on the increasingly necessary Greyscale imprint. While epitomizing words like “lush” and “deep” (and surely revelling in those descriptors), Extractor’s take on the genre doesn’t truck within the kind of passivity that many outlier critics dismiss as coffeehouse beat-zak. Dub-techno routinely embraces cavernous echo, swampy reverb, atmospheric tonewash, and lo-fi rhythmic propulsion, but those characteristics are its fundamental hallmarks, what literally defines the genre. Extractor amps the lush factor in spectacular fashion, unabashedly exploiting every rule in the d-t playbook; crazy thing is that he does it so well. For me, I can put this thing on endless repeat and let the images rush by: sinking into a bathtub of velvet, charcoal skies shifting overhead, riding that twilit train to a city on the edge of forever.

TRILOK GURTU - God Is A Drummer (Jazzline D77075) Peripatetic master percussionist Gurtu might create ‘world’ music, but not from the one the rest of us occupy; his own self-ascribed world transcends time, space, locale, dimension. Though his Hindu heritage and musical upbringing is never in the rear-view mirror, Gurtu’s nomadic m.o. has long embraced fusion, indigenous musics, multikulti chamber cells, and a gaggle of other imperatives, all subsumed, digested, realized, and performed with the utmost brio. This recording recalls nothing less than the halycon days of his work for the late, lamented CMP label, an energized, simply dazzling display of jazz thermodynamics cast aloft cresting waves of interlocking tabla, spiritualized drumming, and a palpable exuberance that is positively life-affirming. That the band behind him stirs up the diverse Asian underground, London’s irruptive club aromas, and widening electronic eddies from various stylistic soups only boosts his well-earned cred. Like an exquisitely crafted pinot noir, the man gets better with age.

JON HASSELL - Seeing Through Sound (Pentimento Volume Two) (Ndeya NDEYA7CD) Hassell might be eighty-three years old, but he has the musical sense and sensibility of a young turk in his 20s. Still spry, vital, and forward-thinking, we should count any new work from him as a blessing, and this, the second in a (hopefully) ongoing series, is a godsend. The previous volume seemed somewhat erratic, maybe a bit too ‘edited’ in spots, even for an iconoclast like Hassell (and his ‘lesser’ records lay shame to most progressive artist’s highest achievements), but this one is utterly startling. All the idiosyncrasies he’s developed while engaging his Fourth World concepts are in full tilt here. Alien topographies are introduced with Hassell’s typical flare, augmented by his patented trumpet daubs, extraordinarily other electronics, and arsenal of effects, with ample assistance by simpatico experimentalists Eivind Aarset (again), Michel Redolfi, percussionist Adam Rudolph, and many others. Hassell and crew re-enact the flora and fauna populating a rainforest on Mars from one million B.C., its chameleonic inhabitants erecting simmering biospheres under their shaman’s eyes. Poetics aside, no one sounds like Hassell; his verdant reality zones are his own. I’ve been wowed by his work ever since the unassailable Power Spot, and this one cuts the mustard (nearly) as much as its classic predecessor. Bold, bodacious, and totally essential. For those of you who haven’t bought this yet, what the hell are you waiting for?

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, SHANKAR MAHADEVAN, ZAKIR HUSSAIN - Is That So? (Abstract Logix ABLX061) Place these three visionaries in a room, sit back, and watch magic happen. The CD cover’s intricate mandala acts like a time portal; gazing upon its embroidery, one is instantly transported to a ‘60s Haight-Ashbury psychedelic hoedown, where cultures clash and Love Devotion Surrender blasts out from the windows. What can be said about McLaughlin that hasn’t already been said? While other guys his age are watching the days go by from the comfort of their easy chairs, he continues to crank out some of the most vital music of his career, and that’s saying something from the former Mahavishnu kingpin. Is That So? fixes his gaze inwards, a meditative set of tracks created predominately with guitar synth (yay!) that fold out into widescreen vistas of absolutely gorgeous technicolor. Tabla prophet Hussain takes your pulse while providing earthly anchors, the rhythmic temperature set on low simmer, but as the sparks fly from McLaughlin’s frets, he quickly goes raga a-gaga. Mahadevan’s aching voice is manna from heaven; he’s the ancestral glue that binds the trio together in pantheistic fashion. Immediately disavow yourself of the notion that this is just Shakti 2.0; more like a gathering of elders showing the young’uns how it’s all done. As for JM? Still blazing after all these years.

DAVID LEE MYERS - That Which Is It (Pulsewidth PW010) Post-Arcane Device, his original imprimatur, Myers’s works have tilted towards a somewhat more ‘melodic’ accessibility that runs counter to the dense waves of sounds forged through those early feedback generators. Whatever tools he employs now to foment his art (soft synths? Modulars?) doesn’t mitigate his expert knob twiddling one iota. Mentors both literal (Tod Dockstader) and figurative (Louis & Bebe Barron) inform these burbling, bubbling, transformative works; the inventiveness on display here is, quite frankly, stunning. From whirlygigging datastreams that sound like anthropomorphic plasma to the verdant ritual beat patterning of farflung tribes, Myers’s breadth of ideas appears boundless; he’s one of a dwindling pool of artists whose reach never exceeds his grasp. And it’s a marvelous thing to behold.

CARLOS NINO & MIGUEL ATWOOD-FERGUSON - Chicago Waves (International Anthem Recording Co. IARC0033) It’s impossible to underestimate the Windy City’s influence on the evolution and discourse of jazz in all its forms. For uncountable years, from the AACM to the Tortoise/Isotope 217 contingent, the city’s been a hotbed of improvisational and compositional mutation that periodically reinvents itself like the proverbial phoenix. Discovering the IARC label back in 2019 was one of those rare, galvanizing experiences for me, the ones that stop you in your tracks, whose sheer audacity takes your breath away. The music released on the label by Makaya McCraven, Angel Bat Dawid, Junius Paul, Jaimie Branch, and many others seemed to signify a grand reawakening where jazz was but a springboard for limitless ideation where genre confines don’t exist. Nino and Atwood-Ferguson carry on as if the term ‘category’ was a dirty word; this picturesque, unclassifiable music sets its own standard. Nino’s mysterioso percussives and atmospheric conjugations vie with Atwood-Ferguson’s effects-drenched violins to call forth a divine rush of Alice Coltrane spirituality, Ariel Kalma’s misty mountain hop, and Laraaji’s ecstatic chakra-boosts. More nu-age than ‘new age’, a pure, enraptured music, the ideal soul-balm for tattered times.

OZRIC TENTACLES - Space for the Earth (Kscope KSCOPE678) I’ve bowed in reverence to Ed Wynne & Co. since first discovering them in Claremont, California’s Rhino Records shop around 1991 (though they’d been self-releasing tapes on the UK’s festival circuit since the mid-80s). Over the ensuing decades and a catalog as large, I’ve never missed a single one of their psychedelic space rock mindfucks. Influenced by Gong, Steve Hillage, Hawkwind, Here and Now, and whatever ganja was available at the time, this free-wheeling collective of trippin’ misfits minted perhaps the most formidable archive of interplanetary ear sauce ever, unparalleled in its breadth, scope, imagination, and sheer musicianship. Leader Wynne remains the mainstay, but he’s got his son, keyboardist Silas Neptune, in tow, and some choice crewmembers from the past helping him out as well. Revolving door notwithstanding, space is still the place these lot reside in, chock-a-block with supernova guitar licks, oodles of soaring synthesizer, burping, splashy fugs of sequencer, and neck-snapping drumming, emphasized by the fusoid interstellar overdrive of “Popscape”. Vita voom!

WIRE 10:20 - (Pinkflag PF26CD) The enigma that is Wire twists the old maxim of age before beauty—as the years progress, their beauty appears infinite, their constitutional architecture ageless. The band calls the tracks herewith ‘strays’, the first half from 2010, the second from 2020, but the history of these tunes run the gamut of Wire’s idiomatic legacy. “Boiling Boy” and “German Shepherds”, two 80s chestnuts, are reduced to their bare essence, members Colin Newman, Matthew Simms, Graham Lewis, and Robert Grey (with additional contributions by Laika’s Margaret Fielder) expertly tracing the graceful lines across each track’s precision-etched chassis. The flip’s opening “The Art of Persistence”, all throbbing gristle and Neu-inflected discipline, eclipses their finest work, new millennium tensions deconstructing the minutiae of post-rock and the quartet’s lineage within it. To coin a Wire-ism, it’s beginning to and back again.


LINKWOOD & OTHER LANDS Face The Facts (Athens Of The North AOTNCD 042)B The message in Herbie’s (Hancock) shirts spelled out this, a merging of Balearic disco swagger, outlander slo-mo house, and Arp/Moog airbrushing by this savvy duo. Delightful home-listening for the jet-set, picking o’er the bones of early Paul Hardcastle, Fila Brazillia, and Juan Atkins’ blacktronic-science daydreams.

MIKE MANGINO Coisas (Ideal) Robo-electro riddim riders with a sweet center, initiated by crusty analog noisemakers that reveal their mecha-pretty selves, like a long-lost IDM classic from the glory days of the 90s when electronic sound exploration, post-dance music, ruled the roost. Richard D. James, eat your heart out.

MARILYN MAZUR’S FUTURE SONG Live Reflections (Stunt STUCD 20082) Miles’ protegé Mazur’s organic fusion ensemble meets its maker subtly at times, brashly at others, featuring (yet again) Eivind Aarset, trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer, drummer Audun Kleive, and others in a contemporary bitches brew of cosmic proportions.

HERVE PEREZ & ALEX HEGYESI Garden Of Secrets (Discus 97) Strangers in strange lands, these two act as cartographers marking their territory with a fusillade of struck objects, coiling appendices, neo-primitive paraphernalia, and (un)found sounds. Prickly perverse, and all the richer for it.

J. PETER SCHWALM & ARVE HENRIKSEN Neuzeit (Rare Noise RNR125) Neuzeit (“new time”) like the present for these dedicated, hard-working tonal extremists throwing ambient jazz tropes and shuffleboard electronica together to see what sticks. It all does, superbly. Third millennium shock bop in a nutshell, primed by guile and awe—make of that what you will.

I’ve known Darren Bergstein for a long time (20 years?!?) and used to subscribe to his two magazines “e.i” and “i/e”. He also ran a label called Anodize which specialized in electronic music which came in unique packaging. Mr. Bergstein is a gifted reviewer for electronic, progressive and other musics in between the cracks. He has been doing reviews for the DMG newsletter and Squidco so we do appreciate his contributions.


From Seth Colter Walls:

Favorite Albums from 2020:

1. George Lewis / Oxana Omelchuk / Studio Dan - "Breaking News"

2. Rebecca Saunders - "Musica Viva, Vol. 35

3. Kehlani - "It Was Good Until It Wasn't"

4. Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra - "Black, Brown & Beige"

5. Spektral Quartet - "Experiments in Living"

6. Numinous / Joseph C. Phillips, Jr., - “The Grey Land"

7. Cory Smythe - "Accelerate Every Voice"

8. Bob Dylan - "Rough and Rowdy Ways"

9. Immanuel Wilkins - "Omega"

10. Thomas Kotcheff - "Frederic Rzewski: Songs of Insurrection"

5 Recommended Books (that I read for the first time in 2020):

Kathleen Collins, "Notes from a Black Woman's Diary"

Sinclair Lewis, "It Can't Happen Here"

Claude McKay, "Romance in Marseille"

Miranda Popkey, "Topics of Conversation"

Alain Robbe-Grillet, "A Regicide"

I met NY Times reviewer Seth Colter Walls at The Stone, Roulette and National Sawdust. Seth has a weekly column for the NY Times, mostly covering modern classical music which I always read. His review of a John Zorn concert at National Sawdust was one of the best written Zorn reviews that I’ve read.


Laurence Donohue-Greene of New York City Jazz Record:

1.Charles Lloyd - 8: Kindred Spirits (Live From the Lobero) (Blue Note)
2.Barre Phillips - Thirty Years in Between (Les Disques Victo) - 2 CD Set
3.Matt Wilson Quartet - Hug! (Palmetto)
4.Rufus Reid & Sullivan Fortner - Always in the Moment (Newvelle)
5.Kirk Knuffke - Tight Like This (SteepleChase)
6.Daniel Bingert - Berit in Space (Moserobie)
7.Juhani Aaltonen/Jonas Kullhammar/Christian Meaas Svendsen/Ilmari Heikinhei - The Father, the Sons & the Junnu (Moserobie)
8.Jon-Erik Kellso, Sweet Fruits Salty Roots (Jazzology)
9.Andrea Keller - Journey Home (self-released)
10.Collocutor - Continuation (On the Corner)

1.Alan Wakeman - The Octet Broadcasts: 1969 & 1979 (Gearbox)
2.Charles Mingus - @ Bremen 1964 & 1975 (Sunnyside)- 4 CD Set
3.Nathan Davis Sextet - Peace Treaty (SFP-Sam)
4.Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - Just Coolin’ (Blue Note)
5.Thelonious Monk - Palo Alto (Impulse)

Laurence Donahue-Greene is the editor of the New York City Jazz Record and we’ve been good friends for many years. The New York City Jazz Record is a monthly jazz newspaper which lists more gigs in the NYC area that any of periodical, does great features on important jazz figures and has 100’s of LP/CD/DL reviews. A genuinely nice guy who I all enjoy talking with at gigs or at DMG.



I spent most of 2020 writing about jazz, so all the other year-end lists. I wrote up were focused on that. Just for Bruce and the crew at DMG, who were unlikely to agree with me on jazz picks, I thought I’d come up with something special: 10 albums guaranteed to peel your face off and tuck it into your shirt pocket for you.

1 Afterbirth, Four Dimensional Flesh (Unique Leader) Four Long Island dudes laying down skull-pulverizing riffs and machine-gun blast beats, but that’s a Trojan horse. Once they’ve got you, they start tossing soft synth washes, prog-rock compositional left turns, and bursts of almost Sonic Youth-ish dissonance into the mix.

2 Ulcerate, Stare Into Death and Be Still (Debemur Morti) This New Zealand trio’s brand of death metal is dissonant, atmospheric, and punishingly bleak; some of their albums feel like a single hour-long song, by design. This one, though, lets a little light into the room. It’s still ugly and severe, but it feels like they might want you to enjoy the experience.

3 Beast of Revelation, The Ancient Ritual of Death (Iron Bonehead Productions) Two relatively low-profile Dutch musicians recruited John McEntee, of Pennsylvania death metal legends Incantation, to handle vocals on this album, and it’s a crusher. Funereally slow and bulldozer-heavy, it’ll suck the life right out of you, and that’s a good thing.

4 Neptunian Maximalism, Éons (I, Voidhanger) Remember God, Kevin Martin’s band from before he became The Bug that sounded like Godflesh covering Charles Mingus? Neptunian Maximalism have a similar ritualistic, pounding pagan-apocalypse thing going on, with heavy guitars doing battle with roaring saxophones, and when they say maximalism, they mean it. This is a 3-hour 3CD set that’ll send you out of your body by the time it’s over.

5 Behold the Arctopus, Hapeleptic Overtrove (Willowtip) Tony Oxley is not a name one expects to see dropped as an influence on an extreme metal band. But this instrumental trio modeled the percussion on their latest album on his work, as well as classical compositions by Xenakis and Varèse. This means lots of wood blocks, small gongs, and tympani, and percussion that’s on an equal plane with the guitars and bass, not a mere timekeeping device. Complex, head-spinning, and brilliant.

6 Faceless Burial, Speciation (Dark Descent) The third album from this Australian trio is a giant leap forward from their earlier work. The music crawls along like a bus-sized caterpillar, the Immolation-esque riffs squeezing your head till your brain comes out your ears. Wild, almost prog-rock guitar solos and fascinatingly busy drumming keep it from being just punishment, though.

7 Xythlia, Immortality Through Quantum Suicide (I, Voidhanger) Xythlia is a one-man technical grindcore project that piles layer upon layer of Slayer/GridLink riffs and squiggly, shredding solos atop programmed blast beats. It packs 12 tracks into 23 minutes and is relentless, developmentally arrested, and brilliant, with vocals that sound like he recorded them from the weight bench in his garage.

8 Devangelic, Ersetu (Willowtip) This Italian quartet’s third album is based on Annunaki myths about human creation based on alien DNA. That doesn’t really matter, though. All you need to know is that the vocals sound like a broken toilet, the guitars sound like a chain saw, the drums sound like a belt-fed machine gun, and the guitar solos soar skyward in triumph.

9 Vader, Solitude in Madness (Nuclear Blast) Poland’s Vader are death metal legends for a reason. They hear the mixing engineer’s dictum that you can have big drums or big guitars, but not both, and say “f*ck that.” This album is maybe the most bludgeoning, cathartically aggressive thing on this list, built for savage headbanging and absolutely nothing else.

10 Abysmal Dawn, Phylogenesis (Nuclear Blast) Abysmal Dawn, from California, released their first album in six years in 2020, and honestly, it could have been recorded a week after its predecessor. Their chugging, knuckle-walking style of death metal is extremely traditional, but there’s a reason people still listen to AC/DC, too, you know? As snack food goes, this is tasty stuff.


Maria Golia, The Territory and the Adventure (Reaktion) An excellent book about Ornette Coleman (partly a biography, but much more) that places his own playing into the larger context of the Fort Worth scene and offers a lot of inside info about the Caravan of Dreams, which the author worked on back in the ’80s.

The Crew (original title: Braqueurs), dir. Julien Leclercq. Available on Netflix, this 2015 French heist movie is very much in the Michael Mann tradition, about a group of professionals who let one weak link into their crew and then have to recover when things inevitably go wrong. The lead actor, Sami Bouajila, is terrific (and Leclercq has used him in two other movies, The Bouncer and Earth and Blood), the action is incredibly well done, and the movie as a whole is a marvel of efficiency; it gets in and out in 81 minutes.Martha Wells, The Murderbot Diaries (Tor)

A series of five books (so far) about a cyborg that would much rather be hanging out in a storage container watching downloaded soap operas than saving the humans in its charge from the corporation out to prey on them. The books are fast-paced and exciting, and often quite funny, but they also delve deep into issues of identity in ways conventional literary fiction doesn’t bother with, or isn’t built to do.

Autechre, PLUS & SIGN (Warp) Two 2020 albums from the avant-garde electronic duo, released within weeks of each other (and nobody knew about the second one till the first was out). Some of the most thrilling and emotionally resonant music they’ve ever made.

Ivo Perelman / Nate Wooley - Polarity (Burning Ambulance Music) A CD released this year on my own label. Sax-trumpet duos, exploratory and lyrical at once. One of the most beautiful things Ivo’s ever done; I’m incredibly proud to be putting it out into the world. Available exclusively on Bandcamp.

I met fellow Jersey-man, Phil Freeman, in the mid-nineties when he used to frequent our first store on East 5th St. I appreciated the fact that he has a big metalhead who discovered heavy free/jazz via David S. Ware, Matt Shipp and William Parker. Phil has written several books and also writes mainly jazz reviews for the Wire and NY City Jazz Record. He is a longtime expert in the many worlds of heavy metal music and his primer in The Wire is required reading in you want to learn some Metal history with articulate recommendations. He also started an on-line magazine/blogzine called Burning Ambulance which is also well worth checking out


David Fricke – Sirius XM Radio, MOJO


Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways (Columbia)

Maria Schneider Orchestra – Data Lords (ArtistShare)

John Zorn/Jesse Harris – Songs for Petra (Tzadik)

Garcia Peoples – Nightcap at Wit's End (Beyond Beyond Is Beyond)
Full disclosure: I wrote liner notes for this album. But I declined any payment because of my admiration for the band and label and because I felt so strongly about the lift and healing in the songwriting and technicolor-Quicksilver Messenger Service guitars. I recommend it here in the same spirit. We're all at our wit's end – here's a toast to the forward march.

Hedvig Mollestad – Ekhidna (Rune Grammofon)

Prince – Sign o' the Times: Deluxe Edition (Warner)

The Stooges – Live at Goose Lake: August 8th, 1970 (Third Man)

Thelonious Monk – Palo Alto (Impulse)

Mary Halvorson's Code Girl – Artlessly Falling (Firehouse 12)

Lankam – The Livelong Day (Rough Trade) Released in the fall of 2019, the third album by this powerful and exploratory Irish folk quartet was a stark, beautiful medicine all through the plague year.

Film: Creem: America's Only Rock 'n' Roll Magazine

Music Book: Mind Over Matter: The Myths and Mysteries of Detroit's Fortune Records by Billy Miller and Michael Hurtt, Kicks Books

Television: Noir Alley, hosted by Eddie Mueller, Turner Classic Movies channel

Gigs: The two best shows I saw before the abrupt end of live music in 2020:

March 4th, Sounds of Justice: Sun Ra Arkestra and William Parker's Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield, Town Hall, New York City – the bill says it all.

March 10th, The Brothers, Madison Square Garden, New York City – a reunion of surviving members of the Allman Brothers Band that took the legacy and 1969-73 repertoire to a new space and future still waiting out there until the experiment and passion from that night can resume. For now, the entire three-hour ascension is blowing up the air at the streaming and download site,

I’ve known Rolling Stone senior writer, David Fricke, for around 40 years. I often see him at rare concerts that only seasoned music journalists would know about. Mr. Fricke is the go-to guy for writing the liner notes of many of the 60’s & 70’s bands, whose recordings are reissued every few years. His radio show on Sirius XM Radio is well worth checking out.   



Ten of my favorite albums from 2020
Brooklyn String Orchestra Afterimage (Furious Artisans) – The first time I listened to Brooklyn String Orchestra’s debut album, and Jacob Cooper’s Stabat Mater Dolorosa in particular, I stood outside in the rain with my headphones on to let it conclude uninterrupted. It’s not a short piece.
Deerhoof Love Lore (Joyful Noise) – When Deerhoof played this set live at the Time:Spans fest in NYC in August, it was beyond jawdrop. Glorious then that they put it up on Bandcamp (as a free download cuz they’d need Bezosbucks to afford those licensing fees).
Bob Dylan Rough and Rowdy Ways (Columbia) – Seriously. Just seriously.
The End Allt Är Intet (RareNoiseRecords) – Sofia Jernsberg’s part in Fire! Orchestra wasn’t quite enough so thank heavens saxophone heavyweight Mats Gustafsson reconvened this exceptional quintet for this, their record, and every bit as fiery.
Hypercube Brain On Fire (New Focus Recordings) – Ensembles playing other people’s compositions don’t often carry the force of personality that a band playing its own music does. Hypercube manages to hit on both counts. They draw from their own (Erin Rogers is on of the five composers here) and own the work of others (Nicholas Deyoe, Sam Pluta, Philip Schuessler, Dennis Sullivan).
Liturgy / Origin of the Alimonies / YLYLCYN – Origin of the Alimonies makes a noteworthy pairing with 2019’sHAØØ. It’s not the cast of NYC sonic experimentalists (Charlotte Mundy and Lucie Vítková on the first; Eve Essex, James Ilgenfritz, Josh Modney and Nate Wooley on the second; and Eric Wubbles on both) that make them great so much as the fact that Hunter Hunt-Hendrix is writing music that demands such players. Don’t be scared of the metal, just embrace the edge.
Jeff Parker and the New Breed / Suite for Max Brown / International Anthem/Nonesuch – I’ve spent more time thinking about this album than any other one on the list, trying to figure out why it’s impact is so profound. It seems a profound internal dialogue that elicits a profound internal response in some mysterious, metaphysical way. I can’t speak to Parker’s motivations and don’t want to try, but in a year that Black Lives Matter rose to a breaking point and refused to break down, this peaceful, complex, album seemed to me to say, simply, “Black lives are.”
Tristan Perich / Drift Multiply / New Amsterdam Nonesuch – This striking, 70-minute work for 50 violins and 50 electronic sources isn’t just Perich’s biggest project to date but his most beautiful. The 2018 concert at St. John the Divine was amazing for the acoustics. The record, from a 2019 performance in Rotterdam, is nice and crisp for home consumption.
PRAED Orchestra! Live in Sharjah (Morphine Records) – I’m excited that this list includes three debut releases, and this one is every kind of huge: a Chaabi electronica duo blows up into a 13-piece ensemble including Alan Bishop, Hans Koch, Martin Kuchen, Sam Shalabi, Ute Wassermann and Michael Zerang and put out an exceptional triple LP. Lots of ground covered in lots of different ways.
Cory Smythe / Accelerate Every Voice / Pyroclastic Records Cory Smythe’s 2018 Circulate Susanna was one of the happiest surprises of the year: imaginations upon and extrapolations from American folk blues by a trio with vocalist Sofia Jernberg and guitarist Dan Lippel. Accelerate Every Voice is a sequel of sorts, with four voices this time with loops and electronics, plus percussion and Smythe’s piano, building variations on the hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing” aimed more at conceptual interpretation than variation. It’s a fascinating and dizzying album.
& Five Favorite Streams
Vocalist Elaine Mitchener’s solo set from Cafe Oto on March 23, just as lockdowns were taking effect, underscored the emerging realization that the pandemic is real and it won’t be over soon. It’s in the archives at
A month later, thingNY’s SubtracTTTTTTTTT suggested how Zoom conferencing, prerecorded video and post production could be combined to present a coherent and compelling whole. Did I say coherent? Well, as coherent as anything was in 2020, anyway. The stream can be found under “Projects” at
It killed me not to make the short walk from my apartment to the Cloisters in Ft. Tryon Park in June to hear South African cellist Thapelo Masita’s half-hour recital of select movements from Bach’s first cello suite intermingled with arrangements of gospel songs, but of course there was no audience. The stream is available through the Metropolitan Museum website.
Masita’s performance and the remarkable set by Heroes Are Gang Leaders—The Day We Gave the Globes Back, a Sing-Along—from ISSUE Project Room in September gave solace, if not sense, during a summer of racial intolerance and upheaval. It can be hard at home to give a concert stream undivided attention, but their three-hour presentation of smart jazz, groove and verse demands and rewards it. It’s up on ISSUE’s site.
Roulette is to be commended for maintaining a full season of performances online. Mary Halvorson is to be commended for working in very different ways with two very different giants in 2020. The presence of Robert Wyatt’s heavenly weary voice on three tracks is only one of the ways Artlessly Falling expanded on the first album by her Code Girl. She’s also one of the best interpreters of Anthony Braxton around, which she did with the trio Thumbscrew for an album that stands as a worthy addition to the burgeoning Braxton catalog. They included some of those Braxton pieces on their stream from Roulette in October, celebrating Halvorson’s 40th birthday, which is still available on the venue’s site. I’d nominate her for Musician of the Year.

KURT GOTTSCHALK is another old friend that I’ve shared some serious listening time with at live gigs as well as in discussion. Like myself, Kurt’s tastes and writing/reviewing is always evolving. Kurt’s trio Implicit Arches played here at DMG on March 9 of 2020, just a few weeks before everything closed down. You can check that set here: Plus here is a video that Kurt and his wife Monika made:


ANDREY HENKIN of New York City Jazz Record:

Juhani Aaltonen, Jonas Kullhammar, Christian Meaas Svendsen, Ilmari Heikinheimo—The Father, the Sons & The Junnu (Moserobie)

Peter Evans—Into the Silence (More is More-Old Heaven)

Fire! Orchestra—Actions (Rune Grammofon)

David Krakauer/Kathleen Tagg—Breath & Hammer (Table Pounding)

Charles Lloyd—8: Kindred Spirits (Live From the Lobero) (Blue Note)

Miklós Lukács Cimbiosis Trio—Music From the Solitude of Timeless Minutes (BMC Records)

Luca T. Mai—Heavenly Guide (Trost)

Gard Nilssen Supersonic Orchestra—If You Listen Carefully The Music Is Yours (Odin)

Barre Phillips—Thirty years in between (Les Disques Victo)

Matt Wilson Quartet—Hug! (Palmetto)

Although I don’t specifically recall it, I met Andrey Henken at the original DMG location on 5th St. way back in the nineties. Andrey had wandered in and asked for some recommendations of Fusion music which was/is something I knew quite a bit about, having lived through the days when it was popular (early 1970’s). I said something silly like “Fusion was long dead”, which bothered young Andrey but we ended us a friends anyway. Andrey & Lawrence, both of whom run the NYC Jazz Record, went up the Victo New Music Fest with my friends & me for a couple of years. I still smile when I think that Andrey took Amanda Monaco (gifted jazz guitarist & lovely person) on their first date to a DMG anniversary show which featured guitar god Tisziji Munoz. Andrey & Amanda ended up getting married and invited my business partner, Manny Maris & myself, to attend their wedding. Mr. Henkin edits the obit column in the NYCJR and has done quite a bit of discological research. His reviews are always well-informed and he has a sly sense of humor.     



Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Peoples Orchestra: Ancestral Echoes: The Covina Sessions 1976 (Dark Tree)

Brandon Seabrook with  Gerard Cleaver and Cooper-Moore: Exultations (Astral Spirits)

Bill Laswell: Against Empire (Method of Defiance)

Henry Kaiser: Problems Are Only Opportunities In Dress Clothes (Fractal)

Kaiser/Russell/Russell/Brice: The Dukes of Bedford (Fractal/Balance Point)

Tisziji Muñoz: Drop Dead (MRI)

Not Two…but twenty (Not Two)

Milford Graves and Don Pullen The Complete Yale Concert, 1966 (Corbett Vs. Dempsey)

Ivar Grydeland and Henry Kaiser: In the Arctic Dreamtime (Rune Gramofon)

Sam Rivers Trio: Ricochet (No Business)

Threadbare: Silver Dollar (No Business)

Ikue Mori, Phew, YoshimiO: I.P.Y. (Tzadik)

Terje Rypdal: Conspiracy (ECM)

Code Girl: Artlessly Falling (Firehouse 12)

Harvey Gold: It’s Messy Vol. 1 (Smog Veil)

An Electric Love Supreme  (Cuneiform)

The Underflow (Corbett Vs. Dempsey)

Thumbscrew: The Anthony Braxton Project (Cuneiform)

Schnellertollermeier: 5 (Cuneiform)

Ray Russell: Fluid Architecture (Cuneiform)

Cecil Taylor and Tony Oxley: Being Astral and All Registers/Power of Two (Discus)

Glenn Kenny writes movie reviews for the NY Times as well as a few other publications. Since Glenn is an old proghead & Canterbury fan, we have been at many of the same gigs throughout many years. Mr. Kenny comes to visit us every Friday at the store after teaching a class at NYU. A marvelous conversationalist and an all-around nice guy.


From KEVIN REILLY, CoFounder of Relative Pitch Records:

1.Cecil Taylor three 2020 releases

2.Roscoe Mitchell ‎– Splatter

3.Bill Nace - “Both”

4.Nine Donkeys (bandcamp)

5.Thumbscrew - Anthony Braxton Project

6.Ingrid Laubrock - Dreamt Twice, Twice Dreamt

7.Sylvie Courvoisier Trio - Free Hoops

8.Joe McPhee, Dave Rempis, Tomeka Reid, Brandon Lopez, Paal Nilsson-Love - Of Things Beyond Thule

9.Marcia Bassett & Samara Lubelski ‎– Morning Flare Symmetries

10.Jessica Pavone - Lost and Found

Another fellow Jerseyite, Kevin Reilly, runs the ever-demanding Relative Pitch label. An important independent label that releases some of the most challenging and fascinating music of all. Both Kevin and I were longtime volunteers at The Stone and he remains a champion of all sorts of New Music, helping musicians in many ways.


Phil Zampino
2020 Top 10 Recommendation List

1) Fred Frith / Nicolas Humbert / Marc Parisotto: Cut Up The Border
(RogueArt ROG-0098) CD

Fred Frith's Middle of the Moment was a revelation to me in studio composition and pacing when I first heard it back in 1995. This album extends that album with additional material composed roughly 25 years later. It's a welcome addition to an album I have played frequently over the years, as both inspiration and escape from the tedium of life. Having it come out on one of my favorite current labels only makes me like this more, as I discovered Middle of the Moment by following the family around one of my still-favorite labels, Recommended Records.

2) Eric La Casa: Interieurs (Swarming 013) CD

Being a frequent hobbyist in capturing field recordings and constructing studio compositions using them, La Casa has been an inspiration for a number of years.  This examination of a location near and dear to him showcases his profound skills at both abilities.

3) Rhodri Davies: Telyn Rawn (Amgen Records CD001)

An obsessively fascinating album reconstructing an ancient instrument and putting it into modern context.  Seek out the links to the videos of Davies constructing, playing and discussing the Telyn Rawn to fully appreciate this album.

4) Ballister: Znachki Stilyag (Aerophonic AR028)

Three of my favorite players -- Dave Rempis, Fred Lonberg-Holm and Paal
Nilssen-Love -- in a trans-Atlantic band that has a long history of
profound and powerful improvisation; what's not to keep this one spinning?

5) Gabriel Dharmoo: Quelques fictions (Ambiances Magnetiques AM 253)

The Montreal collectives and performers orbiting Ambiances Magnetiques continue to surprise and delight.  Gabriel Dharmoo was a new name to me in 2020, but his vocal music is incredibly sophisticated and remarkably creative.  His depth of interest and inquisitive nature shows through on
this album, with a diverse set of ideas that make this album a unique joy.

6) Cecil  Taylor / Tony Oxley: Being Astral And All Registers - Power Of Two (Discus 106CD)

Let's hope that more gems like this album, so perfectly recorded and filled with such imposing creative mastery, are hiding in other collections waiting to be released.  Wow!

7) Rodrigues / Rodrigues / Faustino / Pinheiro / Carneiro: The Book of Spirals (Creative Sources cs641)

Creative Sources has a remarkably prolific release schedule, and label director, violist and composer Ernesto Rodrigues is well represented on his label.  It's virtually impossible to point out a single release from the set that I consider the finest, I've become a strong adherent to his unique approach to improvisation.  This album, with members of Red Trio, who more frequently inhabit Creative Source's orbit, is a great example of his small group work, non-idiomatic and allowing great freedom to all performers.

8) Suspensao: Sfumato (Creative Sources cs638)

The other impressive aspect of the Creative Sources catalog are the larger ensemble works, both acoustic and electroacoustic.  This is a fine example of the latter, demonstrating the restraint of the ensemble's movements, and how unified these players are in concept and momentum.

9) Brian Marsella: Gatos Do Sul (Tzadik 4029)

Marsella's lyrical writing made this a go-to record for cooking and pleasurable listening after a long day's work.  The upbeat and exuberant rhythms creating foundations for each composition are a joy, whisking each player along in a great and radiant set of Brazilian-influenced jazz tracks.

10) Charlie Parker: Selections From The DIAL Recordings (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd ezz-thetics 1111)

Charlie Parker: Selections From The SAVOY Recordings (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd ezz-thetics 1112)

Discovering Parker's Dial releases in the late 70s changed my understanding of the history of jazz, both because of the solidity of Parker's compositions and playing, and because of the boldness in introducing new concepts into the tradition.  I bought some of the original LPs from a radio reviewer in Oswego, NY who was selling off his collection. Scratchy and written on with ball-point pen, I was thrilled to discover the music.  Peter Pfister's remastering, as he always does, brings out nuance that I haven't heard in any prior reissue of this material.

I met Phil Zampino around 1990 at the Old Knitting Factory through another good friend, Len 37 Siegfried. We’ve been good friends ever since. Phil designed and maintained the Recommended Records website for many years and founded Squidco, another good source for obtaining Creative Music. Squidco relocated from NYC to North Carolina several years ago and does some distribution as well.


Bruce Lee Gallanter’s Favorite Recommended Releases for Under-Recognized Musicians & Composers for 2020:


SCOT RAY QUARTET with BILL BARRETT / STEUART LIEBIG / ALEX CLINE - Scot Ray Quartet (Long Song Records 155; Italy) CD - Link:

HORSE LORDS - The Common Task (Northern Spy 124; USA) CD - Link:


HYPERCUBE with ERIN ROGERS // SAM PLUTA - Brain on Fire (New Focus 250; USA)- CD - link:


KRAKOW IMPROVISERS ORCHESTRA - “KIO at Cricoteka” (Not Two 1002; Poland) CD - link:


QUINSIN NACHOFF // MOLINARI STRING QUARTET / MARK HELIAS / SATOSHI TAKEISHI / et al - Pivotal Arc (Whirlwind Records 4761; USA) CD - link:

TODD CAPP / DANIEL CARTER / KURT RALSKE / CHE CHEN / ANDY HAAS / LELE DAI / FRANK MEADOWS / TALICE LEE / BARRY WEISBLAT / ANDREW LAFKAS / AUSTIN COVELL - Todd Capp’s Mystery Train / Ekstere Daniel Carter / Treatise on the Fragility of Knowledge (Noncept Records CD 105/106/107/108; USA) - 4 CD Set [LTD Edition] - link:

PIERO BITTOLO BON'S BREAD & FOX - This is Sour Music (Trouble in the East 013; EEC) - CD - link:

RON CAINES / MARTIN ARCHER AXIS with LAURA COLE / HERVE PEREZ / ANTON HUNTER / GUS GARCIDE / JOHNNY HUNTER - Dream Feathers (Discus 88; UK) other notch for the ever-growing Disc catalogue. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG - CD -  link:

PATRICK HIGGINS // VICKY CHOW / MIVOS QUARTET / WET INK ENSEMBLE - Tocsin (Telegraph Harp 014; USA) - CD or LP - link:



6 Other Recommendations: Video or On-Line Series:

HENRY KAISER - Weekly Solo Series
For nearly the past year, West Coast Guitar Great, Henry Kaiser, has been transmitting a weekly on-line video series which is sponsored by Cuneiform Records and can be found on their Youtube Channel. Many of these are produced in Henry’s home in California with other musicians from around the world adding their parts. There have been solos, duos, trios and group efforts, some with themes and some free-form improv. Kaiser has also dug into his archives to find select group efforts with folks like Bob Weir from the Grateful Dead. Here is a short list of collaborators: Scott Amendola, Michael Manring, Drumbo, Michael Maksymenko, Ray Russell, John Russell, Andy West… Mr. Kaiser also likes to give credit where it is due so he also talks about the luthiers who have made his guitars. For those who still like psychedelic visual effects, check out the the background visuals to many of these vids. I  watch these every week since Mr. Kaiser remains one of the diverse guitarists on the planet and he is also filled with surprises. Here is a link for one of his shows:

INGRID LAUBROCK & TOM RAINEY: Stir Crazy, 45 Episodes
Ingrid Laubrock (tenor & soprano sax) and Tom Rainey (drums) are both married partners and music partners, bandleaders, composers and busy collaborators. Their audio series, which they record at home in Brooklyn, features the duo improvising and playing the music of their own, friends and composers they admire: Anthony Braxton, Julius Hemphill, Kris Davis, Francisco Mela, Ken Vandermark, Colin Hinton, Baikida Carroll, Tim Berne, Kyoko Kitamura, Taylor Ho Bynum… Here is the links for the last few episodes:

This blurb about the Stir Crazy series comes from bandcamp: "In a sense, these duets represent the quarantine challenges of the pandemic era. The music is spasmodic, reflecting the way that cabin fever infects us all, but the music is also sublime, conjuring the moments when we realize that nesting at home, engaged in enriching activities, can sometimes be the best use of our time on this planet."  

ROULETTE: Live On-Line Music Series:
I have been attending concerts at Roulette since the early 1980’s when they were a loft space on West Broadway, south of Canal in Tribeca. It was founded by and still run by Jim Staley and is currently in its third location in Brooklyn, just a few blocks from BAM. Since the pandemic started in March of 2020, Roulette has increased their ongoing live in-line music series and there have been dozens of great shows over the past year: Peter Evans, Joel Ross, JACK Quartet, Fay Victor, Matt Mottel, Phill Niblock, Bill Ware, Lester St. Louis, Graham Haynes, Nate Wooley, Zeena Parkins, MV Carbon and many more. What I have always admired about Roulette is that they are committed to give many new and under-recognized artists a chance to perform on a big stage for a sympathetic audience. Here is a link for Roulette:

Arts for Arts was founded by Patricia Nicholson Parker, dancer and longtime Community Organizer & Activist. With the help of her husband, bassist/composer William Parker and a number of other Downtown musicians & artists, Arts fir Arts organized the annual Vision Festival in 1996, one of the most important international festivals of Avant Jazz, Dance, Poetry and other Artwork. AforA also sponsored many other concerts and assorted events throughout the rest of the year, keeping many musicians busy and focusing on being a positive influence in an increasing difficult time. Over the past year, Arts for Arts has been livestreaming concerts from different locations. Here’s a list of who has performed in the past year: Wadada Leo Smith, The Healing Force (w/ Ellen Christie, Amirtha Kidambi & Ava Mendoza), Oliver Lake Organ Quartet, Afro-Algonquin Trio, James Brandon Lewis Quartet, Fay Victor, Andrew Cyrille Quartet and many more. Here is the link for the live-streams:

STEPHEN GAUCI - Pandemic Duets:
Aside from being a gifted tenor saxist and teacher, Stephen Gauci has been organizing shows at HappyLucky No.1, the Bushwick Series (5 or so bands, every Monday for several years) and Scholes Studios, for the few years. Since the pandemic closed down all live gigs in NYC since last March, Mr. Gauci has launched a series called the Pandemic Duos with the following musicians: Jeff Davis, Mara Rosenbloom, Cooper-Moore, Matt Shipp, Daniel Carter, Gerald Cleaver, Jonathan Goldberger, Kevin Shea and others. I’ve watched several of these and each one is strong, spirited and well worth checking out. Here’s the link the most recent duo:     

GARY LUCAS - Solo Concerts - A Journal of the Plague Years
Downtown Guitar Master, Gary Lucas, has had a long career in Creative Music, starting out playing guitar with Captain Beefheart in the late seventies & early 1980’s. Mr. Lucas, who has led several different versions of his own Gods and Monsters bands, has also be doing an ongoing solo series, three times a week, every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday live streamed at 3pm EST on his Facebook page:​. Gary often tells illuminating stories about himself, fellow musicians and those who have influenced him.

Yours truly, Bruce Lee Gallanter, is a lifelong fan-addict of Creative Music, which erupted for me when I bought my first Mothers of Invention LP - ‘Freak Out!’ in June of 1967 at the age of 13. My favorite bands have remained The Mothers, Soft Machine & Henry Cow since the mid-seventies. I worked at several record stores, JEM Distribution, Lunch For Your Ears (with Manny) and wrote for Jersey Beat Fanzine before founding Downtown Music Gallery in May of 1991. DMG will celebrate our 30th Anniversary this coming May. Last week, I sent out my own Best Of/Recommendation lists to the DMG Newsletter subscribers. It is a bit long than the above lists and can be found here: Instead of replicating those lists, I decided to a different list for this transmission. I decided to pick 15 more obscure releases (from 2020) which will most likely not get the recognition they really deserve. I reviewed most of these myself for the weekly newsletter so I have provided the links to my reviews. I used to got to more than concerts than any other person that I know and have run an ongoing free (admission) concert series at DMG on Sundays nights, which has continued for most of DMG’s long history. Since the pandemic hit, I have only been to 2 sets in the past year so I am jonesing big-time to see more live music, no doubt that many of us serious listeners feel the same way. To help get through these difficult times, I have been checking out quite a bit of on-line music events. Above I listed 6 musicians or organizations that have been broadcasting New Music over the past year. I do appreciate and support their efforts. Peace & Love Always, Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG