Saturday, February 4, 2012

El Intruso's "Other Music" Picks for 2011

© Andrea Canter

With so many year-end polls, it’s hard to keep track and even harder to make sense of the range of opinion from critics and consumers. And many would argue, what difference does it make anyway? Everyone has his or her opinion, and in music, it’s all about personal tastes. What appeals to me might not appeal to you. Ellington tried to make it easy by suggesting music falls only into two categories---good and everything else. Still, some of these polls are interesting given their scope and contributors, and one that strikes me as unique is El Intruso’s polls.

El Intruso is a Spanish (Buenos Ares) website dating back to 2005, dedicated to “people who care about music,” with a focus on “creative music, jazz and beyond, free improvisation, art-rock and all kind of experimental music.” Not your typical jazz or general music poll, El Intruso invites opinions from a world-wide array of music writers for its “Critics Poll,” covering the usual categories from musician of the year to best of specific instruments, albums, and labels, and from a global ensemble of musicians for its Musicians Poll for Album of the Year.

I was invited to participate in the Critics Poll, and found it challenging given the parameters went beyond the usual definition of “jazz.” Among other respondents, local free-thinking saxman Nathan Hanson participated in the Musicians Poll. The results were released today, and in addition to the lists of winners and runners-up, the site also provides each participant’s individual responses. What’s most striking to me is the vast number of musicians I’ve either never heard of at all or for whom I have no real knowledge. Many of the artists here are of course from beyond the U.S., reminding us that music is indeed global, be it jazz, classical or rock. I was pleased to see, however, the frequent appearance of Twin Cities native pianist Craig Taborn, who topped the critics’ piano poll and the musicians’ CD of the Year list. The site is in Spanish but you can figure out the poll pretty easily regardless of your linguistic skills. Think of this as an introduction to a lot of musicians that might be new to you! Highlights:

Critics Poll
About 40 writers and critics participated, with winners determined by the number of votes (with each participant allowed three votes per category):

Musician of the Year: Wadada Leo Smith (runners-up, Peter Evans, Anthony Braxton, Craig Taborn and Rob Mazurek)
New Musician of the Year: Ambrose Akinmisure
Group: Mostly Other People Do the Killing
Album of the Year:
1. Peter Evans Quintet, Ghosts
2. Bill Dixon, Envoi
3. (tie) Craig Taborn, Avenging Angel; Wadada Leo Smith’s Organic, Heart’s Reflection
4. Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Live in Coimbra
Composer: Wadada Leo Smith
Drummer: Gerald Cleaver
Bass: William Parker
Guitar: Mary Halvorson
Piano: Craig Taborn
Keyboards: John Medeski
Sax: Darius Jones
Trumpet: Nate Wooley
Clarinet: Joachin Badenhorst
Trombone: Samuel Blaser
Violin: Jason Kao Hwang
Cello: Fred Lonberg-Holm
Vibes: Jason Adasiewicz
• Other: Nicole Mitchell, Flute
Female Vocalist: Fay Victor
Male Vocalist: Theo Bleckmann

The Musicians Poll, CD of the Year
1. Craig Taborn, Avenging Angel, ECM

2. Tyshawn Sorey, Oblique-I, Pi Recordings

3. Julius Hemphill, Dogon A.D. (reedición 2011), International Phonog.

4. Anthony Braxton, Trillium, E New Braxton House; PJ Harvey, Let England Shake, Island; Gerald Cleaver/Uncle June, Be it As I See It, Fresh Sound (tie)

5. Peter Evans Quintet, Ghosts, More is More; Paul Motian, The Windmills of Your Mind, Winter & Winter (tie)

6. The Claudia Quintet + 1, What Is the Beautiful? Cuneiform Records; Endangered Blood, Endangered Blood, Skirl; Nate Wooley Quintet, (Put your) Hands Together, Clean Feed Records; Radiohead, The King of Limbs, Ticker Tape; Steve Coleman & 5 Elements, The Mancy of Sound, Pi Recordings (tie)

Photos (top to bottom): Craig Taborn, winner of the Musicians' Poll for CD of the Year and Critics Poll for Pianist of the Year, and runner-up for Critics' Musician of the Year and CD of the Year; Ambrose Akinmisure, Critics' Poll New Musician of the Year. (Photos by Andrea Canter)