Wildcard - Elsa Nilsson
Ah the joys of instrumental grunge! Its loud, there're effects on everything, crazy spoken loops and unison ethnic percussion sections, but technically its jazz. Well, there are saxophone solos. Joyful, raucous and unpredictable ones, but still. Critters Buggin's records are full of grooves that feel like walking through swamps because there is just so much tension on the time. Sonically it goes from the very organic to the very affected and electronic without being gimmicky. Its very hard for me to pick a favorite recording of theirs, but "Guest" was the first one I heard and it opened my eyes to the idea that the only confines placed on any instrument are in our minds. Just because an instrument is traditionally considered to be one thing doesn't mean you can't break that mold. Critters broke many concepts I thought of as molds, and every time I hear it I fall deeper in love with improvised music. I have listened to this record at least twice a month for the last 6 years. Comfort food for my ears!
Sometimes you come across a record that is just sincere. When you feel like you are having a deep personal conversation with the musicians, and occasionally hearing things you weren't supposed to. It's intimate, and it’s a record you listen to alone. This is that record for me. I only listen to it when I'm alone, and I love everything about it. I kind of don't want to write specifics because I feel I would deprive you of the joy of discovering it on your own. I will tell you that I love the sounds, the amazingly strong but delicate compositions (like its a salt crystal that will break if I touch it but then punches me in the face with a hidden arm), the fluid and thoughtful improvisation and the seamless group dynamic and communication. That's vague enough right? Now you really want to hear it. Go listen to it. Or "Laughing Barrel". Both amazing records. I can wait.
More comfort food records. I listen to this almost weekly as well. More instruments doing things I didn't necessarily attribute to them until I heard this. This always makes me happy. I like to be sonically surprised. One thing I love about these records is that even when they go out (and they do) the ground and the groove remains. This free playing within the framework of a groove is one of my favorite things. I love the edgy quality to the tone and the general "don't give a damn" attitude it conveys to me, even on the softer songs. Somehow, these records always make me want to dance. And like the crazy agro arms spinning kind of dance (before you ask, no you can't see it). But sometimes that's what you need to stay sane.
Some more records I listen to OFTEN:
Elsa Nilsson's band is a tour de force, mixing personality and tradition to take the listener on a journey through sounds from Brazil, Cuba, Turkey, and the Baltic countries, all through the lens of Jazz and Swedish Traditional music. Nilsson has built a solid career and reputation upon her belief that all folk music (including jazz) has a common thread, and that by weaving those threads together, a deeper, more layered understanding among varying cultures can be reached.