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2016: The best bits

The Nobel Prize in Literature

To live outside the law, you must be honest.

He not busy being born is busy dying.

She knows there’s no success like failure, and that failure’s no success at all.

Sometimes even the president of the United States must have to stand naked…

Like William Shakespeare, whom he mentioned in his acceptance speech at the Nobel awards ceremony, Bob Dylan has lodged more phrases in the collective consciousness than you could begin to count. To me, that’s one cast-iron argument in favour of awarding him the Nobel Prize in Literature. The announcement met some opposition, much of it incoherent, but it seemed to me like one of the very few bright public moments in a notably dark year.

The appearance of Dylan’s friend Patti Smith at the ceremony in Stockholm, performing “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”, was wonderfully moving, and her description of the experience was equally affecting. As she delivered the line “I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children,” I thought of the report I’d read that morning about the two girls, possibly as young as seven or eight, said to have been used as suicide bombers in the market of Maiduguri, a city in north-eastern Nigeria, the previous day. While I can’t imagine Dylan ever thinking in terms of prophecy, his words have a way of retaining, even deepening, their resonance through time and space. And that’s what literature does.

(Another occasion on which an old song seemed to find a new place in history was Bruce Springsteen’s intense performance of “American Skin (41 Shots)” at Wembley Stadium in June. Written after the killing of Amadou Diallo and now rededicated to Trayvon Martin, it formed a stark interlude in the middle of an otherwise euphoric concert on a warm midsummer evening. I’m hoping, without much confidence, that next year’s most memorable moments will be unshadowed by such concerns.)

Live performances

1. Eve Risser’s White Desert Orchestra (Cité Universitaire, Paris, January)

2. Matana Roberts’s ‘For Pina’ (Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, November)

3. Arve Henriksen / Jan Bang / Eivind Aarset (LSO St Luke’s, May)

4. Liberation Music Orchestra (Cadogan Hall, November)

5. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band  (Wembley Stadium, June)

6. Mike Westbrook (Kings Place, November)

7. Ches Smith Trio (New School, NYC, January)

8. The Necks (Union Chapel, April)

9. Laura Jurd / Evan Parker / Orphy Robinson / Alexander Hawkins (Cockpit, March)

10. Oddarrang (Jazzahead, Bremen, February)

11. Christian Lillinger’s Grund (Tiyatrom, Berlin, August)

12. Oslo Jazz Festival Band (Ronnie Scott’s, January)

13. Twelves (Vortex, July)

14. Wadada Leo Smith (Cafe Oto, July)

15. Orphy Robinson’s Bobby Hutcherson tribute (St James the Great, East London, September)

16. Terry & Gyan Riley (Barbican Hall, September)

17. Moses Boyd (Phonica, October)

18. Jason Moran’s ‘The Wind’ (Milton Court, November)

19. The Enemy (Vortex, November)

20. Elephant 9 (Ronnie Scott’s, May)

New albums

1. Catherine Christer Hennix: Live at ISSUE Project Room (Important)

2. Tyshawn Sorey: The Inner Spectrum of Variables (Pi)

3. Elza Soares: The Woman at the End of the World (Mais um Discos)

4. Masabumi Kikuchi: Black Orpheus (ECM)

5. Radiohead: A Moon-Shaped Pool (XL)

6. Beyoncé: Lemonade (Parkwood)

7. Ossatura: Maps and Mazes (ReR)

8. Andrew Cyrille: The Declaration of Musical Independence (ECM)

9. Darcy James Argue: Real Enemies (New Amsterdam)

10. David Bowie: blackstar (Columbia)

11. Philip Clemo: Dream Maps (All Colour Arts)

12. Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker (Columbia)

13. Steve Lehman & Sélébéyone (Pi)

14. Anna Lena Schnabel: Books, Bottles & Bamboo (ENJA)

15. Jason Palmer / Cédric Henriot: City of Poets (Whirlwind)

16. Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra: Time/Life (Impulse)

17. Empirical: Connection (Cuneiform)

18. Laurence Crane + Asamisimasa: Sound of Horse (Hubro)

19. Paolo Conte: Instrumental Music (Decca)

20. Applewood Road (Gearbox)

Archive/reissue albums

1. Georgie Fame: Survival: A Career Anthology 1963-2015 (Universal / Polydor)

2. Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto: Getz / Gilberto ’76 (Resonance)

3. Albert Ayler Quartet: European Radio Studio Recordings 1964 (hatOLOGY)

4. Ray Charles Orchestra: Zurich 1961 (Montreux Jazz)

5. Various: Jon Savage’s 1966 (Ace)

6. John Surman: Morning Glory (Fledg’ling)

7. Don Cherry / Irene Schweizer / JohnTchicai: Musical Monsters (Intakt)

8. Shirley Horn: Live at the 4 Queens (Resonance)

9. Chet Baker: Live in London (Ubuntu)

10. Various: The Motortown Revue in Paris (Tamla)

Books: Fiction

1. Emma Cline: The Girls (Chatto & Windus)

2. Patrick Modiano, trans. John Cullen: Villa Triste (Daunt Books)

3. Christine Otten, trans. Jonathan Reeder: The Last Poets (World Editions)

Books: Non-Fiction

1. William Finnegan: Barbarian Days (Little, Brown)

2. James McBride: Kill ’em and Leave (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

3. Damon Hill: Watching the Wheels (Macmillan)

Feature films

1. The Assassin (dir. Hou Hsaio-Hsien)

2. Paterson (dir. Jim Jarmusch)

3. Our Little Sister (dir. Hirozaku Korea)

4. Love and Friendship (dir. Whit Stillman)

5. Victoria (dir. Sebastian Schipper)

Documentary films

1. Don’t Blink (dir. Laura Israel)

2. I Called Him Morgan (dir. Kasper Collin)

3. What Happened, Miss Simone? (dir. Liz Garbus)

Exhibitions

1. Abstract Expressionism (Royal Academy, October)

2. Alex Katz (Serpentine Gallery, June)

3. Picasso portraits (National Portrait Gallery, October)

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5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Chris Byrne #

    Some great albums in your list but you obviously haven’t heard the brilliant Karl Blau album “Introducing……”

    December 19, 2016
  2. mick gold #

    Good list. One plug: Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th is astonishing look at black lives incarcerated in USA and much more.

    December 19, 2016
    • nick grant #

      thanks for tip about Ray Charles In Zurich. Though not good for his piano the rest of the band’s extraordinary playing is really well recorded and an evocative memorial to a master

      December 20, 2016
  3. Amazing list of films: almost identical to mine except my film of the year [and the decade] was Son of Saul.

    December 21, 2016
  4. GRAHAM ROBERTS #

    Many thanks for the blue moment posts in 2016 – as always, very stimulating and a path to a great deal of music that I suspect might otherwise have passed me by. Although it didn’t make your list of best archive recordings, I was particularly grateful to you for recommending the Paris recordings by Larry Young and Woody Shaw released by Resonance. And of the new issues you recommended in 2016 – although again not on your best bits list – I am in awe of Trygve Seim’s playing on the flood of ECMs featuring this great player.

    Again, thanks for the posts – best wishes for 2017.

    December 23, 2016

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