No. 4–RAOUL BJORKENHEIM, BILL LASWELL AND MORGAN AGREN – BLIXT: Sounding something like neo-prog meets outjazz, this project was just as interesting for what it did as what it didn’t do. Sure, there were the considerable joys of their ear-melting inferno “Black Whole,” the opening cut on Blixt, but this power trio is also more than capable of downshifting into brilliantly coiled moments like “Shifting Sands Closing Hour,” with its mysterious far-east feel. They dashed through the rumbling angular mysteries of “Moon Tune,” but also boldly explored a gangly conspiratorial twilight in “Invisible One.” In the end, they fashioned an album of muscular inventiveness — often played hard, and sometimes quite fast — but one that never got too far afield from the nuances and textures that gave Blixt its creative heft.
REZ ABBASI’S INVOCATION – SUNO SUNO: There was a trance-like euphoria surrounding this emotional, at times indescribably spiritual endeavor. Abbasi, leading a group that also includes Rudresh Mahanthappa and Vijay Iyer, found inspiration here from Pakistani Qawwali, a devotional Sufi music. As with traditional gospel music, Qawwali is often populated with heart-filling themes of uplift, but it also includes these thrillingly circular, repeated melodies — something that give Abbasi’s music passion and joy, but also this enthralling, almost hypnotic power. Qawwali is the jumping off point, though, not the end point. From there, Invocation set about concocting a stirring new hybrid, one that strongly underlined the lasting influence of John Coltrane — especially in the way this group often worked toward an almost unbridled release without losing musical coherence.
Mastered by Michael Fossenkemper at TurtleTone Studio NYC