Louisa "Markswoman" Mark, Breakout (reissued by Soul Jazz) The 1981 debut album by British singer Louisa Mark, who died in 2009, fulfilled the promise of her first single, a cover of the Robert Parker soul classic "Caught You in a Lie." She was only 14 when she cut that track in 1974, and with its combination of Philly-style soul and big Jamaican grooves it established the template for the reggae subgenre that would soon be called lovers rock.
Eivind Opsvik, Overseas IV (Loyal Label) On its latest album the band Overseas, led by New York-based Norwegian bassist Eivind Opsvik (with saxophonist Tony Malaby, keyboardist Jacob Sacks, drummer Kenny Wollesen, and cranky electric guitarist and mandolinist Brandon Seabrook), drifts far from its postbop roots. Though the performances make use of jazz harmony and improvisation, the compositions and arrangements draw from all kinds of musical traditions. Two recent additions to the band—Seabrook joined the lineup and Sacks began playing harpsichord—provide gripping, unusual timbres to go with the heavy and sometimes elliptical grooves.
Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Timon Irnok Manta (Type) This new two-track vinyl-only release, which finally clued me in about what Robert Lowe's middle initials stand for, is the first well-distributed album to showcase the great modular-synthesizer music he's been making for the past few years. The sidelong "M'Bondo" features swooping, minimal low-end frequencies scuffed by rhythmic static; the flip side, "M'Bondo (Version)," adds nice dubby vocal effects.
Ab Baars Trio, 20 Years: 1991-2011 (Wig, 2011) I'm fortunate to work with some of the most interesting contemporary improvisers, and I put Ab Baars at the top of that list, both as a player and a composer—I constantly look to him for inspiration. To my ears, his tenor playing is a radical and personal amalgam of Von Freeman, Frank Wright, and Paul Gonsalves; he's also one of the only clarinet players I know who's expanded upon the work of John Carter. As a composer Ab has singular voice. His years in the ICP Orchestra haven't turned him into a Misha Mengelberg clone; if anything, they've pushed him further along his own path.
Dick Raaijmakers, The Complete Tape Music (reissued by Basta, 2012) Kevin Drumm was the first person I played with who focused on electronics. He introduced me to the music of Bernard Parmegiani, which really changed the way I thought about constructing things, and these recordings by Dick Raaijmakers are the first in that vein to hit me with the same impact as Parmegiani—each piece in the box set is a knockout of sound, texture, and form.
Ennio Morricone, The Complete Edition (Edel Eur/Zoom, 2009) During the past few years my interest in film structure has had more impact on how I want to make music. Considering this, my enthusiasm for Morricone is probably not a surprise. His innovative mix of melodically conventional music with the avant-garde results in a unique use of overlapping sound and texture, extreme foreground/background placement, and the montage of structure. Morricone selected all the pieces for this box set, which is a roller-coaster ride between high art and high kitsch—with the emphasis on art.
Kevin Drumm, Sheer Hellish Miasma (but really anything in his catalog) It's weird to be obsessed with people you consider friends, but in Drumm's case it's deserved. As an improviser and experimental musician, he's a genius, pushing my preconceived notions of music and creating soundscapes that redefine what is a "song." I often wonder why I even bother to pick up an instrument or why I formed a band when this is out there in the universe. Go fuck yourself, Katy Perry.
Dust, "Suicide," from Hard Attack (Kama Sutra Records, 1972) A few years ago, my bandmate Arman Mabry covered this song with his "other" band Galactic Inmate—I nearly shat myself. Dude . . . not only is this the greatest bass solo ever (go ahead, argue this out, geeks), but the lyrics—oy, the lyrics! "Electrocution / I thought would make me a star / I stood in the rain / With my electric guitar." Plus the album cover is tits. Who are these people? Every time I listen to it I have a voluntary stroke.
YouTube karaoke I have house guests staying with me for a bit, and admittedly we go through a "few" bottles of wine here—so at about 1 AM we break out the YouTube on the TV and have at it. You're welcome.