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These are the 2021 "Best of Jazz" lists and commentaries compiled by Members of the Jazz Journalists Association. They are displayed in the order received, with the most recent on top. 

It's up to each member to decide what to include in his or her post -- recordings, books, live performances or whatever -- how many choices to include, and how the post will be formatted.

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  • 18 Jan 2022 5:17 PM | Stephen Braunginn
    • Top 30 Jazz Albums for 2021

      Stephen Braunginn

      Producer/Host – Strictly Jazz Sounds: WORT89.9-FM, Madison, WI

      Not in particular order:

    • As I compiled this list while preparing for my annual "Jazz in Retrospective" show, I realized the different strategies jazz musicians used to advance their music, to just play music with someone else. Trends reflect the times. I'm mostly moved by the passion exhibited through the music. I spent more time with smaller and indie labels this year. One final observation, the British are coming. Innovative jazz is springing from the UK!

    • 1)    Benito Gonzalez: Sing to the World
    • 2)    Joe Chambers: Samba de Maracatu
    • 3)    Pierrick Pedron: Fifty-Fifty (New York Sessions)
    • 4)    Miguel Zenón: Long Years: The Music of Ornette Coleman
    • 5)    Joe Lovano, Marilyn Crispell, Carmen Castaldi: Trio Tapestry: Garden of Expression
    • 6)    Marcin Wasilewski Trio, Joe Lovano: Arctic Riff
    • 7)    Isaiah Collier& The Chosen Few: Cosmic Transitions
    • 8)    Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas Sound Prints: Other Worlds
    • 9)    Alchemy Sound Project: Afrika Love
    • 10) Dennis Mitcheltree: Nevermind the Circus
    • 11) Nicole Glover: Strange Lands
    • 12) Ches Smith and We All Break: Path of Seven Colors
    • 13) Terence Blanchard: Absence
    • 14) Johannes Wallmann: Elegy for an Undiscovered Species
    • 15) Chick Corea Akoustic Band: Live
    • 16) Christian McBride and Inside Straight: Live at the Village Vanguard
    • 17) Brandee Younger: Somewhere Different
    • 18) Sons of Kemet: Black to the Future
    • 19) Frank Kimbrough: Ancestors
    • 20) Vijay Iyer, Linda May Han Oh and Tyshawn Sorey: Uneasy
    • 21) Carlos Henriquez: The South Bronx Story
    • 22) Victor Gould: In our Time
    • 23) Renee Rosnes: Kinds of Love
    • 24) Pat Metheny: Side-Eye NYC (V1.IV)
    • 25) Kenny Garrett: Sounds From the Ancestors
    • 26) James Brandon Lewis Quartet: Code of Being
    • 27) Remy Le Boeuf’s Assembly of Shadows: Architect of Storms
    • 28) Jihye Lee Orchestra: Daring Mind
    • 29) Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: Virtual Birdland
    • 30) The Cookers: Look Out!

    Historical:

    Hal Galper Quintet: Live at the Berlin Philharmonic 1977

    Ella Fitzgerald: The Berlin Tapes

    Alice Coltrane: Turiya Sings

    John Coltrane: A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle

    Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: First Flight to Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings

    Lee Morgan: The Complete Live at the Lighthouse


  • 06 Jan 2022 9:21 AM | Luis Cubells

    SOME OF MY “BEST OF 2021”

    GREGORI HOLLIS - LANDING

    MIGUEL ZENON - EL ARTE DEL BOLERO

    ROY HARGROVE & MULGREW MILLER - IN HARMONY

    JOCELYN GARTH - TELL HIM I SAID HELLO

    WILD BLUE HERONS - Darlene Cooper & Bill Sample - YOU & I

    CONNIE HAN - PRETTY WOMAN

    PAU MOLTO - FRENCH HORN JAZZ PROJECT

    MICHAEL STEPHENSON - meets ALEXANDER CLAFFY TRIO

    DAN WILSON - VESSELS OF WOOD AND EARTH

    BILL CHARLAP - STREET OF DREAMS

    CARLOS HENRIQUEZ - THE SOUTH BRONX STORY

    ALEXANDER BROTT - THE AESTHETIC ATTITUDE

    TONY BENNETT - LOVE FOR SALE

    LUCY YEGHIAZARYAN & VANISHA GOULD - IN HER WORDS

    JARED SCHONIG - TWO TAKES VOL 2

    ROSA PASSOS - DUNAS, LIVE IN COPENHAGEN 

    MADS MATHIAS - I’M ALL EARS

    ANTHONY WONSEY - LORRAINE’S LULLABYE

    JOHANNA PATTERSON - THE SHOW MUST GO ON

    SHANNON GUNN - ON A MOUNTAIN

  • 02 Jan 2022 8:14 AM | Mirian Arbalejo

    50 Favorite Recordings of 2021*



    Artifacts. Nicole Mitchell, Tomeka Reid, Mike Reed. ... And Then There's This. Astral Spirits

    Patricia Brennan. Maquishti. Valley of Search

    Roy Brooks. Understanding. Reel To Real

    George Cables. Too Close For Comfort. HighNote Records

    Caminero Trio. Al Toque. Karonte

    Àlex Cassanyes. Composició II. UnderPool

    Bill Charlap Trio. Street Of Dreams. Blue Note Records

    Clasijazz Valparaíso Big Band. Casijazz Fundación Valparaíso

    John Coltrane. A Love Supreme - Live In Seattle. Impulse!

    Sylvie Courvoisier - Mary Halvorson. Searching for the Disappeared Hour. Pyroclastic

    Dr. Lonnie Smith. Breathe. Blue Note

    Scott DuBois. Summer Water. Watertone Music

    Bill Evans Trio. On a Friday Evening. Craft

    Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & the London Symphony Orchestra. Promises. Luaka Bop

    Michael Formanek - Peter Formanek. Dyads. Out Of Your Head

    María Grand. Reciprocity. Biophilia Records

    Roy Hargrove - Mulgrew Miller. In Harmony. Resonance

    Abdullah Ibrahim. Solotude: My Journey, My Vision. Gearbox Records

    Ethan Iverson & Umbria Jazz Orchestra, Bud Powell in the 21st Century. Sunnyside

    Vijay Iyer, Linda May Han Oh, Tyshawn Sorey. Uneasy. ECM

    Jazz Worms. Squirmin'. Capri

    Sheila Jordan, Comes Love: Lost Session 1960. Capri

    Charlotte Keefe. Right Here, Right Now. Discus Records

    Martín Leiton. Desde a Bajo. UnderPool

    James Brandon Lewis - Red Lily Quintet. Jesup Wagon. TAO Forms

    Charles Lloyd & the Marvels. Tone Poem. Blue Note

    Jean-Marie Machado Quartet. Majakka. La Buissonne

    Georgia Mancio - Alan Broadbent. Quiet Is The Star. Roomspin Records

    Ossi Maristo. Arc. Eclipse Music / Supersounds Music Oy

    Marco Martínez. NOI. Errabal

    Makaya McCraven. Deciphering the Message. Blue Note

    Tomoko Omura. Branches Vol. 2. Outside In Music

    Moisés P. Sánchez. Bach (Re)Inventions. MarchVivo

    Gretchen Parlato. Flor. Edition Records

    Marcelo Peralta. Northwest Wind. Mariana Potenza y Juan Calvi

    Guillem Plana, Aleix Forts, David Viñolas. NUCLI TRIO. Errabal

    Alex Riel, Bo Stief, Carsten Dahl. Our Songs. Storyville Records

    Sara Serpa. Intimate Strangers. Biophilia Records

    Fran Serrano Quintet. 0202. ESMUC

    Archie Shepp / Jason Morán. Let My People Go. Archieball

    Ches Smith & We All Break. Path of Seven Colors. Pyroclastic Records

    Sons Of Kemet. Black To The Future. Impulse!

    Kevin Sun. <3 Bird. Endectomorph Music

    Arthur Taylor, Marc Cary, Tyler Mitchell, Abraham Burton, Willie Williams. Taylors Wailers [sic] Live In NYC (Birdland, 1992). The Harlem Sessions / Marc Cary

    UNDP Collective. Esto Sí Se Llama Querer. UnderPool

    UNDP Collective. UNDERPOOL 5  Vol 2. UnderPool

    Angel Unzu Cuarteto. Orain. Moskito Rekords

    Wadada Leo Smith’s Great Lakes Quartet. The Chicago Symphonies. TUM

    Wadada Leo Smith, Jack DeJohnette, Vijay Iyer. A Love Sonnet for Billie Holiday. TUM

    Anna Webber. Idiom. Pi

    Mareike Wiening. Future Memories. Greenleaf Music


    *As published by Mirian Arbalejo on December 31st 2021.

    A shorten list was presented to the Jazz Critics Poll (The Arts Fuse).



  • 29 Dec 2021 6:48 PM | Bill Milkowski

    The Top Ten: 

    1. Henry Threadgill, Poof (Pi Recordings)               

    2. Charles Lloyd & the Marvels, Tone Poem (Blue Note)                                     

    3. Terence Blanchard, Absence (Blue Note)                                                                 

    4. Andrew Cyrille Quartert, The News (ECM)                                                    

    5. Dave Holland, Another Land (Edition)                                                                      

    6. Brian Lynch, Songbook, Vol. 1: Bus Stop Serenade (Hollistic Music Works)         

    7. Dave Stryker, As We Are (Strikezone)                                                                       

    8. Alex Conde, Descarga for Bud (SedaJazz Records)                                            

    9. Michael Feinberg, Hard Times (Fresh Sound)                                               

    10. Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra, Community Music, Vol. 1: Tinctures in Time (Royal Potato Family) 

    The Other Forty:

    11. Miguel Zenon, Law Years: The Music of Ornette Coleman (Miel Music)

    12. Eric Wyatt, A Song of Hope (Whaling City Sound)

    13. Dan Wilson, Vessels of Wood (Mack Avenue)

    14. Kurt Elling w/Charlie Hunter, Super Blue (Edition)

    15. Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trios, Songs From My Father (Whaling City Sound)

    16. John McLaughlin, Liberation Time (Abstract Logix)    

    17. Renee Rosnes, Kinds of Love (Smoke Sessions) 

    18. Pasquale Grasso, Pasquale Plays Duke (Sony Music Masterworks)

    19. Dave Stryker, Baker’s Circle (Strikezone)

    20. Rale Micic, Only Love Will Stay (Whaling City Sound)

    21. Orrin Evans, The Magic of Now (Smoke Sessions)

    22. Nicole Glover, Strange Lands (Savant)

    23. Charged Particles w/Tod Dickow, Live at the Baked Potato! (Summit)

    24. Don Braden/Joris Teepe Quartet, In the Spirit of Herbie Hancock (O.A.P.)

    25. Fred Hersch, Breath By Breath (Palmetto)

    26. John Pizzarelli, Better Days Ahead (Ghostlight Deluxe)

    27. Lorne Lofsky, This Song Is New (Modica Music)

    28. Greg Belisle-Chi, Koi: Performing the Music of Tim Berne (Relative Pitch)

    29. Alex Sipiagin, Upstream (Posi-Tone)

    30. Fay Claassen & David Linx w/WDR Big Band Köln, And Still We Sing (Jazzline)                                                                 

    31. Franco Ambrosetti, Lost Within You (Unit Records)     

    32. Reggie Quinerly, New York Nowhere (Redefinition)    

    33. Dr. Lonnie Smith, Breathe (Blue Note)        

    34. David Kikoski/Boris Kozlov, Sure Thing (HighNote)       

    35. Frank Kimbrough, Ancestors (Sunnyside)       

    36. Martin Wind Quartet, My Astorian Queen (Laika Reocrds)    

    37. Leon Lee Dorsey/Manuel Valera/Mike Clark, Freedom Jazz Dance (Jazz Avenue  1)                 

    38. Alex Norris, Fleet from the Heat (SteepleChase)        

    39. Dafnis Prieto, Transparency (Dafnison Music)          

    40. Chuck Owen and the Jazz Surge, Within Us (Summit)         

    41. Bill Charlap, Street of Dreams (Blue Note)  

    42. Johnathan Blake, Homeward Bound (Blue Note)  

    43. Brian Charette, Power from the Air (SteepleChase)       

    44. Steve Slagle, Nascentia (Panorama Records)  

    45. Eliane Elias, Mirror Mirror (Candid)       

    46. Mark Masters, Masters and Baron Meet Blanton and Webster (Capri)    

    47. Jeff Lederer, Eightfold Path (little i music)  

    48. Graham Dechter, Major Influence (Capri)     

    49. Roseanna Vitro, Sing a Song of Bird (Skyline)        

    50. Mike Neer, Keepin' It Real (Mike Neer Music)

    Best Historical Recordings/Reissues:

    1. Hasaan Ibn Ali, Metaphysics: The Lost Atlantic Album (Omnivore)

    2. Roy Brooks, Understanding (Reel to Real)

    3. Sheila Jordan, Comes Love: Lost Session 1960 (Capri)

    4. Larry Coryell & Philip Catherine, The Last Call (ACT)

    5. Roy Hargrove & Mulgrew Miller, In Harmony (Resonance)

    6. John Coltrane, A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle (Impulse!)

    7. Oscar Peterson, A Time For Love (Two Lions/Mack Avenue)

    8. Bill Evans, Everybody Still Digs Bill Evans: A Career Retrospective (1956-1980) (Craft Recordings)

    9. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, First Flight to Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings (Blue Note)

    10. Harvie S w/Mike Stern and Alan Dawson, Going For It (Savant)


  • 29 Dec 2021 9:18 AM | C. Andrew Hovan

    TOP JAZZ PICKS FOR 2021

    New Releases-

    1. Joe Farnsworth- City of Sounds (Smoke Sessions)

    2. Donald Edwards- The Color of Us Suite (Criss Cross)

    3. Orrin Evans- The Magic of Now (Smoke Sessions)

    4. Pat Metheny- Side-Eye NYC (Modern Recordings)

    5. Bill Charlap- Street of Dreams (Blue Note)

    6. Mike LeDonne- It's All Your Fault (Savant)

    7. John Pizzarelli- Better Days Ahead: Solo Guitar Takes on Pat Metheny (Ghostlight)

    8. Brian Lynch- Songbook Vol.1: Bus Stop Serenade (Hollistic Music)

    9. Renee Rosnes- Kinds of Love (Smoke Sessions)

    10. Brian Charette- Power From the Air (SteepleChase)

    Historical Releases-

    1. Louis Armstrong- The Complete Columbia and RCA Victor Sessions 1946-1966 (Mosaic)

    2. Lee Morgan- The Complete Live at the Lighthouse (Blue Note)

    3. Roy Brooks- Understanding (Reel to Real)

    4. Thelonious Monk- Palo Alto (Impulse)

    5. Harold Land- Westward Bound (Reel to Real)

  • 28 Dec 2021 9:19 AM | John Chacona
    In alpha order by artist name, my favorite recordings of creative music

    in the Black American tradition.


    Artifacts Trio, …and then there’s this

    Roy Brooks, Understanding 

    Steve Coleman and Five Elements, Live at the Village Vanguard Volume II (MDW NTR)

    Mark Feldman, Sounding Point

    Irreversible Entanglements, Open The Gates

    David Leon, Aire De Agua

    James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet, Jesup Wagon

    Dave Liebman Expansions, Selflessness

    William Parker, Migration of Silence Into & Out of the Tone World

    Diego Rivera, Indigenous

    Ches Smith and We All Break, Path Of Seven Colors

    Sons Of Kemet, Black To The Future

    Stringers and Struts, Stringers and Struts

    Kevin Sun, <3 Bird

    Craig Taborn, Shadow Plays

    Henry Threadgill Zooid, Poof

    Thumbscrew, Never Is Enough

    Miguel Zenón, Law Years: The Music of Ornette Coleman

    various artists, John Zorn's Bagatelles

  • 23 Dec 2021 3:07 PM | Christopher Burnett


    I'm founder and editor of Jazz Artistry Now. Our Contributing Writers lists follow:

  • 23 Dec 2021 12:54 PM | Rob Shepherd

    Here are my top ten for 2021. I also list another 15, with commentary on the whole twenty-five, over at PostGenre.

    NEW RELEASES

    1. Kaidi Tatham, An Insight to All Minds(First Word)
    2. Kenny Garrett, Sounds From the Ancestors (Mack Avenue)
    3. Natural Information Society & Evan Parker, Descension (Out of Our Constrictions) (Aguirre/Eremite)
    4. Wadada Leo Smith-Jack DeJohnette-Vijay Iyer, A Love Sonnet for Billie Holiday (TUM)
    5. Archie Shepp & Jason Moran, Let My People Go (Archieball)
    6. Pino Palladino and Blake Mills, Notes With Attachments (Impulse!)
    7. Sylvie Courvoisier & Mary Halvorson, Searching for the Disappeared Hour(Pyroclastic)
    8. James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet, Jesup Wagon (Tao Forms)
    9. Terence Blanchard, Absence (Blue Note)
    10. Brandee Younger, Somewhere Different (Verve)

    REISSUES/HISTORICAL

    1. Marcos Resende & Index, Marcos Resende & Index (1976, Far Out)
    2. Khan Jamal, Infinity (1982, Jazz Room)
    3. John Coltrane, A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle (1965, Impulse)

    VOCAL

    • Jen Shyu & Jade Tongue, Zero Grasses: Ritual for the Losses (Pi)

    DEBUT

    • Sara Schoenbeck, Sara Schoenbeck(Pyroclastic)

    LATIN

    • Arturo O'Farrill, . . . Dreaming in Lions . . . (Blue Note)
  • 21 Dec 2021 1:03 PM | Howard Mandel (Administrator)

    This is the time of year where jazz critics clammer to contribute their favorite albums of the passing year. This year has been particularly fruitful for jazz musicians as the pandemic continues to create opportunities to explore and release new bodies due to the lessening of live performances and tours, specifically at the beginning of 2021 when the live venues were unable to open their doors to full capacity.

    The end of 2021 has offered many more opportunities as many jazz clubs completed successful fundraising campaigns to keep their doors open and have reverted back to full offering capacity shows with the condition that attendees show their vaccination cards. I personally attended an Artemis performance at Birdland in New York City last week and was able to enjoy the show maskless because I had proof of vaccination. 

    I have my opinions of the Best Jazz Albums of 2021 which I am sure reflects similar sentiments from several jazz critics yet, of course, is also arguable and may invite differing outlooks and choices. This list is a culmination of my choices for Year-End Polls for a number of publications and from notable albums, I wanted to highlight during my chat with Nate Chinen and Greg Bryant for the taping of the Jazz United podcast, which will be released later this month.

    I’ve listened, enjoyed and learned so much on my continuing journey as a busy jazz critic who has published nearly 30 reviews, articles and columns this year. I am thankful for these artists’ courageousness and ingenuity during these uncertain times. I look forward to hearing more music in 2022.

    • Makaya McCraven, Deciphering the Message (November 2021)

    • Brandee Younger, Somewhere Different (August 2021)

    • Jamie Branch, Fly or Die Live (May 2021)

    • Amirtha Kidambi & Lea Bertucci, End of Softness & Phase Eclipse (June 2021)

    • Steph Richards, Zephyr (October 2021)

    • Vijay Iyer Trio, Uneasy (April 2021)

    • Terence Blanchard, Absence - tribute to Wayne Shorter (August 2021)

    • Alice Coltrane,  Kirtan: Turiya Sings (July 2021)

    • John Coltrane, Live in Seattle (October 2021)

    • Luke Stewart, Works for Electric Bass Guitar (September 2021)

    • Luke Stewart & Jarvis Earnshaw Quartet, Self-titled (October 2021)

    • Brad Linde with Wendy Eisenberg/Erika Dohi/Luke Stewart/Allison Miller, Into Thin Air (October 2021)

    • Irreversible Entanglements, Open the Gates (Nov 2021)

    • Sara Serpa and Emmanuel Iduma, Intimate Strangers (December 2021)

    • Esperanza Spalding, Songwrights Apothecary Lab (September 2021)

    • William Parker, Migration of Silence Into and Out of the Tone World (January 2021)

    • Roxana Amed, Ontology (April 2021)

    • James Brandon Lewis, Jesup Wagon (May 2021)

    • Branford Marsalis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2021)

    • James Brandon Lewis – Molecular (October 2021)

    • Jazzmeia Horn, Dear Love (September 2021)

    • Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders, & The London Symphony Orchestra, Promises (2021)

  • 20 Dec 2021 4:19 PM | Howard Mandel (Administrator)

    For convenience, I've followed the template of the Davis-Hull poll, but for honesty of my enjoyments, I've added albums beyond its proscription.. When the year ends and these lists are compiled, I learn of how much I missed. It's not gone, I'll try to catch up, but (gladly) there's so much more to come.

    XXXX (ACT) - Wollny-Parisien-Lefebvre-Lillinger

    The Other Shore (El Saffar Music) – Amir ElSaffar Rivers of Sound

    . . . And Then There's This (Astral Spirits) – Artifacts (Nicole Mitchell, Tomeka Reid, Mike Reed)

    Everything Happens to Me (BAG Production Records) – Ben Goldberg

    Kimbrough (Newvelle Records) – Various Artists

    Skyline, Gonzalo Rubalcaba-Ron Carter-Jack DeJohnette

    A Love Suite for Billie Holiday (Tum) – Wadada Leo Smith

    Homeward Bound (Blue Note) – Johnathan Blake

    Angels Over Oakanda – Burnt Sugar

    The News (ECM) – Andrew Cyrille Quartet

    Reissues/Historical

    Corona (FMP) Cecil Taylor and Sunny Murray

    The Summer House Sessions (Blank Forms Editions) – Don Cherry

    A Love Supreme Live in Seattle (Impulse!) John Coltrane 

    Best Boxed Set

    Julius Hemphill (1938 – 1995): The Boyé Inter-National Crusade for Harmony (New World Records)

    Vocal

    Dear Love (Empress Legacy) – Jazzmeia Horn

    Petite Fleur (Storyville)Adonis Rose and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra featuring Cyrille Aimée 

    Superblue (Edition Records) – Kurt Elling with Charlie Hunter 

    Debut

    Ruminate: Improvisations for Fretless Guitar and Dutar (Worlds Within Worlds) - Gabriel Ahkmad Marin

    Jazz with prominent Afro-Caribbean characteristics and marketingChapter 10: Breaking Cover (Picaro Records) -- Papo Vasquez and the Latin Troubadours


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