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Jordannah Elizabeth

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)

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