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2013: the best bits

haus der kunstI can’t remember a year in which I heard more wonderful music in person, a high proportion of it in Dalston — at Cafe Oto and the Vortex — or at this year’s excellent London Jazz Festival. Bob Dylan’s “Forgetful Heart” on the first night of his return to the Albert Hall, the Necks’ second set on the last of their three nights in London, the rediscovery of John Williams’s Stoner, the ambition and magnificence of The Great Beauty, and a last chance to see Picasso’s Child With a Dove: these are things for which I’ll remember the past 12 months. I’ll probably never get over missing Arve Henriksen perform Andrew Smith’s Norwegian Requiem at St Luke’s, but here are the highlights of the things I did manage to listen to, watch, read and see.


1. Wadada Leo Smith at Cafe Oto (November)

2. Paolo Conte at the Royal Festival Hall (November)

3. The Necks at Cafe Oto (November)

4. Bob Dylan at the Royal Albert Hall (November)

5. Alexander Hawkins Septet at Kings Place (March)

6. Amarcord Nino Rota at the Royal Festival Hall (November)

7. Keith Tippett + Elysian String Quartet at the Vortex (August)

8. Bruce Springsteen at Wembley Stadium (June)

9. Marc Ribot at Cafe Oto (October)

10. Burt Bacharach at the Royal Festival Hall (July)

11. Paula Morelenbaum at Snape Maltings (October)

12. Bryan Ferry Orchestra at the Royal Centre, Nottingham (October)

13. Booker T Jones at Ronnie Scott’s (August)

14. Television at the Roundhouse (November)

15. Compositions by Dobrinka Tabakova at the Warehouse Studio, London SE1 (April)


1. The Necks: Open (RER)

2. Arve Henriksen: Places of Worship (Rune Grammofon)

3. Booker T Jones: Sound the Alarm (Stax)

4. Dave King Trio: I’ve Been Ringing You (Sunnyside)

5. Carla Bley/Andy Sheppard/Steve Swallow: Trios (ECM)

6. Boz Scaggs: Memphis (429 Records)

7. John O’Gallagher: The Anton Webern Project (Whirlwind)

8. Giovanni Guidi: City of Broken Dreams (ECM)

9. Willie Nelson: To All the Girls… (Legacy)

10. Mike Gibbs: Mike Gibbs + 12 Play Gil Evans (Whirlwind)


1. John Coltrane: The Complete Sun Ship Sessions (Impulse)

2. Elvis Presley: Elvis at Stax (RCA Legacy)

3. Don Cherry: Live in Stockholm (Caprice)

4. Beach Boys: Made in California (Capitol)

5. Miles Davis Quintet: Live in Europe 1969 (Legacy)

6. Harry Miller: Different Times, Different Places (Ogun)

7. Dionne Warwick: We Need to Go Back: The Unissued Warner Bros Masters (Real Gone/Rhino)

8. The Band: Live at the Academy of Music 1971 (Capitol)

9. Velvet Underground: White Light/White Heat (Verve)

10. Various: Beating the Petrillo Ban (Ace)


1. The Great Beauty (dir. Paolo Sorrentino)

2. Much Ado About Nothing (dir. Joss Whedon)

3. Something in the Air (dir. Olivier Assayas)

4. A Late Quartet (dir. Yaron Zilberman)

5=. Bayou Maharajah (dir. Lily Keber) and Muscle Shoals (dir. Greg Camalier)


1. Nothing But a Man (dir. Michael Roemer)

2. Classe Tous Risques (dir. Claude Sautet)

3. Point Blank (dir. John Boorman)


1. John Williams: Stoner (Vintage)

2. James Salter: All That Is (Picador)

3. Owen Martell: Intermission (William Heinemann)


1. The Jazz Standards by Ted Gioia (Oxford)

2. Eminent Hipsters by Donald Fagen (Jonathan Cape)

3. Kansas City Lightning by Stanley Crouch (Harper)


1. Becoming Picasso: 1901 (Courtauld Gallery, London)

2. Sean Scully: Triptychs (Pallant House Gallery, Chichester)

3. ECM: A Cultural Archaeology (Haus der Kunst, Munich)

* These lists were inspired by those that Stewart and Barbara Tray produced over the last few years, for their own enjoyment and that of their friends. They are dedicated to the memory of Barbara, who died last year. Stewart’s 2013 list is head by Quercus, the collaboration between June Tabor, Iain Ballamy and Huw Warren (ECM). The photograph is one I took outside Munich’s Haus der Kunst during the exhibition ECM: A Cultural Archaeology last February, in the early weeks of this blog. It was great to see Don Cherry on the poster.

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Gerry Smith #

    Thanks, Richard. Lots of stuff to investigate here.

    I always welcome your new postings, with their trademark erudition (lightly worn) and originality. Your cultural worldview encourages me to open new windows.

    Anyone who has written perceptive, enjoyable books on both Dylan and Miles has to be worth serious attention, so it’s a pleasure to see you developing a steady stream of ideas online.

    Keep ’em coming.

    Happy winter solstice to you and your readers.

    Gerry Smith, St Albans, England.

    December 20, 2013
  2. Richard
    forgive me for presuming what someone we both know calls “redundant intimacy” but I want to thank you for your entertaining and informative blog which I always look forward to reading.
    Seasons Greetings

    December 20, 2013
  3. Colin Bailey #

    Out of interest I recently found a letter from you when you were at the Times on the subject of records of the year for 1985. Interestingly it was the year you discovered Willie Nelson’s Stardust but the most played track was Big Maybelles Oh Lord What Are Doing To Me and albums of the year Hot House Flowers and Withholding Pattern. You expected to be playing both in 2005,John Surman should still be on the turntable not so sure about Hot House?
    Great list for this year lets hope we can all revisit in seventeen years. I would only add Espen Erikson trio What Took You So Long which did take ages to track down in CD form and not as a dreaded download. Also Kat Edmonson’s interpretation of I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times.

    December 21, 2013
    • Thanks, Colin. Well, I still listen to “Lazy Afternoon” from Hot House Flowers — the only Marsalis track that gets any play at all these days (although I must track down that early quartet album with Hancock, Carter and Williams). And “Doxology” from Withholding Pattern is a permanent favourite. I’ll check out Erikson and Edmondson. All best.

      December 21, 2013
  4. Thanks Richard, this is a rich list! I’m especially grateful that you highlighted Don Cherry in Stockholm, it had passed me by; now I’ll track down a copy. I was sorry I missed The Necks at Café Oto but consoled by their wonderful Open, my album of the year too. Good to see Sean Scully’s exhibition at Pallant House on your list, but a pity your blog is restricted to music; I’d love to read your take on that show. I think his paintings are a form of visual music! And my film of the year is The Great Beauty, seen after reading your recommendation. Many thanks, happy Christmas and all the best for 2014.

    December 21, 2013
    • The Cherry is an absolute cracker. It’s wonderful that stuff of his continues to surface. I quite agree about the parallels between Scully’s painting and music: he mentions it himself in one of the captions in the show. I’d like to talk to him about it one day. And this week I saw The Great Beauty for the third time: it keeps getting better. Happy Christmas and new year to you, too.

      December 21, 2013
  5. Colin Bailey #

    Whilst still on the subject of lists I thought you might like to know that the Espen CD was one of Donald Fagen’s records of last year. Have a great Christmas.

    December 22, 2013

    Thanks for writing such consistently superb items throughout the year – essential reading.

    I’m glad to see that November was as good a month for live music for you as it was for me, and for many of the same reasons. The Vortex and Cafe Oto have become my favourite live music venues and it was a treat, following the glories earlier in the year, to see 2013 out with Chris Biscoe (at Oto) and the Schlippenbach Trio (the Vortex). Sorry to rub it in, but the Arve Henriksen concert at St Lukes was extraordinary.

    Nice selection of records; the Don Cherry release is a new one on me so thanks for highlighting it; it’s on the ‘to buy’ list. I think I might have tried to find room for Kenny Wheeler in my own ‘best of 2013’, both on CD and live, but that just serves to illustrate how much great stuff there is around at the moment. Roll on 2014 …

    Have a great Christmas and all the best for the New Year.

    December 24, 2013

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