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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.

Click the member's underlined name after the date to view that member's profile. You are invited to comment on the posts.


  • 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.


    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)


    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)


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


    • Sara Schoenbeck, Sara Schoenbeck(Pyroclastic)


    • 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


    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)


    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 


    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

  • 19 Dec 2021 12:49 PM | Rick Mitchell

    Here are twenty recommended tracks featured on my radio shows, Jazz In the New Millennium (syndicated nationally through the African American Public Radio Consortium) and KBOO-FM in Portland, Oregon. The first ten are from my top albums ballot, though not necessarily in this order. Obviously, no one can listen to everything; what I heard was in part dictated by what came my way. 

    Top Ten Albums and Tracks

    Charles Lloyd and the Marvels, "Ramblin'" (Tone Poem, Blue Note)

    Dr. Lonnie Smith, "Why Can't We Live Together," (Breathe, Blue Note)

    Lauren Henderson, "I Concentrate on You," (Musa, Brontosaurus) 

    Kenny Garrett, "Sounds from the Ancestors" (Sounds from the Ancestors, Mack Avenue) 

    Pat Metheny, "Time Line" (Side Eye NYC V1.1V, Metheny Group)

    Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trios, "Tango for Terry" (Songs From My Father, Whaling City Sound) 

    Vijay Iyer, "Drummer's Song" (Uneasy, ECM) 

    Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas, "The Transcendentalists" (Other Worlds, Greenleaf)

    Arturo O'Farrill The Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble, "Del Mar" (Dreaming In Lions..., Blue Note) 

    Johnathan Blake, "Steppin' Out" (Homeward Bound, Blue Note) 

    Ten More for the Radio

    Joe Chambers, "Samba de Maracatu" (Samba de Maracatu, Blue Note) 

    Leon Lee Dorsey, "Freedom Jazz Dance" (Freedom Jazz Dance, Jazz Avenue) 

    Julian Lage, "Saint Rose" (Squint, Blue Note) 

    Kurt Elling, "Manic Panic Epiphanic" (SuperBlue, Edition)

    John Patitucci/Vinnie Colaiuta/Bill Cunliffe, "Ana Maria" (Trio, Le Coq) 

    Terence Blanchard feat. the E! Collective and Turtle Island Quartet, "Diana" (Absence, Blue Note) 

    Noah Haidu, "Chambers of Tain" (Doctone, Sunnyside) 

    Brandee Younger, "Love & Struggle" (Somewhere Different, Impulse) 

    James Francies, "My Favorite Things" (Purest Form, Blue Note) 

    Makaya McCraven, "Wail Bait" (Deciphering the Message, Blue Note) 

    Three Very Cool Reissues

    Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, First Flight to Tokyo: The Lost Recordings (Blue Note): Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Timmons, Jymie Merritt, Art Blakey. We now have proof. On January 14, 1961, this was the greatest band in the world. 

    Sheila Jordan, Comes Love: Lost Session 1960 (Capri): She can't remember who was in the band but they sound great. She does, too. 

    Oscar Peterson Quartet, A Time for Love (Mack Avenue): Oscar is Oscar, Joe Pass is shredding... 

    Three Very Cool Non-Jazz Albums

    Robert Plant/Alison Krauss, Raise the Roof (Rounder) 

    Allison Russell, Outside Child (Fantasy)

    Charley Crockett, The Valley (Son of Davy/Thirty Tigers) 

  • 17 Dec 2021 10:44 AM | Ken Franckling

    The 10 best new jazz releases of 2021

    1. Yoko Miwa, Songs of Joy (Ubuntu)

    2. Greg Abate, Magic Dance: The Music of Kenny Barron (Whaling City Sound)

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

    4. Paxton/Spangler Septet, Anthem for the New Nation (Eastlawn)

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

    6. Graham Dechter, Major Influence (Capri)

    7. Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, Skyline (Passion)

    8. Diego Rivera, Indigenous (Posi-Tone)

    9. Dan Wilson, Vessels of Wood and Earth (Brother Mister)

    10. Out To Dinner, Play On (Posi-Tone)

    2021’s best vocal recordings:

    1. Veronica Swift, This Bitter Earth (Mack Avenue)

    2. Samara Joy, Samara Joy (Whirlwind)

    3. Roderick Harper, Evolving (RHM Entertainment)

    4. Anaïs Reno, Lovesome Thing (Harbinger)

    5. Roxana Amed, Ontology (Sony Latin)

    The best historical/reissues of 2021 (includes any recordings made over 10 years ago, whether newly released or reissued):

    1. Lee Morgan, The Complete Live at the Lighthouse (Blue Note, 1970)

    2. Roy Hargrove & Mulgrew Miller, In Harmony (Resonance, 2006-7)

    3. John Coltrane, A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle (Impulse!, 1965)

    4. Oscar Peterson, A Time For Love ((Two Lions/Mack Avenue, 1987)

    5. Bill Evans, Behind the Dikes: The 1969 Netherlands Recordings (Elemental, 1969)

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

    7. Miles Davis, Merci Miles! Live at Vienne (Rhino, 1991)

    8. Roy Brooks, Understanding (Reel to Real, 1970)

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

    10. Juan Carlos Quintero, Caminando [originally The Way Home] (Moondo, 1997)

    2021’s top debut recording:

    Emma-Jean Thackray, Yellow(Movementt/Warp)

    2021’s best Latin/Brazilian jazz recordings:

    1. Carlos Henriquez, The South Bronx Story (Tiger Turn)

    2. Miguel Zenón and Luis Perdomo, El Arte Del Bolero (Miel Music)

    3. Antonio Adolfo, Jobim Forever (AAM Music)

    4. Lunar Octet, Convergence (Summit)

    5. Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet, Social Distancing (Saponegro)

    6. Iván Melon Lewis, Voyager (Cezanne Producciones)

    7. Roxana Amed, Ontology (Sony Latin)

    8. Carlos Barbosa-Lima and Johannes Tonio Kreusch, Manisero (Zoho)

    9. Mauricio J. Rodriguez, Luz (self-produced)

    10. Various arists, CHANGÜÍ - The Sound of Guantánamo (Petaluma)

    The 10 best new compositions from CDs released in 2021, listed alphabetically:\

    • Gabriel Alegria, “The New Normal” from Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet, Social Distancing (Saponegro)

    • Rahsaan Barber, “Quarantine Queens” from Mosaic (Jazz Music City)

    • Ollie Dudek, “Children of the Sun” from The Scenic Route Trio, Flight of Life (Crosscurrent Jazz)

    • Giveton Gelin, “Armageddon” from Out To Dinner, Play On (Posi-Tone)

    • Cameron Graves, “Seven” from Seven (Mack Avenue)

    • Lisa Hilton, “So This Is Love” from More Than Another Day (Ruby Slippers)

    • Aron Kaufman, “Norm’s Nambo” from Lunar Octet, Convergence (Summit)

    • Chuck Owen, “American Noir” from Chuck Owen and the Jazz Surge, Within Us (Summit)

    • Lukasz Pawlik, “Indian Garden” from Long-Distance Connections (Summit)

    • Diego Rivera, “Sombras Del Pasado” from Indigenous (Posi-Tone)

  • 16 Dec 2021 1:16 AM | Anonymous

    21 for '21 -- the albums that topped my jazz pile this year
    (in alphabetical order)

    + The Baylor Project, Generations (Be a Light)
    + Stephen Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra, Community Music, Vol. 1: Tinctures in Time (Royal Potato)
    + The Cookers, Look Out! (Gearbox)
    + Chick Corea Akoustic Band, Live (Concord Jazz)
    + Joey DeFrancesco, More Music (Mack Avenue)
    + Kurt Elling feat. Charlie Hunter, SuperBlue (Edition)
    + Orrin Evans, The Magic of Now (Smoke Sessions)
    + Joe Farnsworth, Time to Swing (Smoke Sessions)
    + Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trios, Songs From My Father (Whaling City Sound)
    + Carlos Henriquez, The South Bronx Story (Blue Engine)
    + Vincent Herring, Preaching to the Choir (Smoke Sessions)
    + Dave Holland, Another Land (Edition)
    + Samara Joy, Samara Joy (Whirlwind)
    + Remy Le Boeuf's Assembly of Shadows, Architecture of Storms (Soundspore)
    + John McLaughlin, Liberation Time (Abstract Logix)
    + Pat Metheny, Side Eye NYC (V1.IV) (Modern)
    + Arturo O’Farrill The Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble, …dreaming in lions… (Blue Note)
    + Chuck Owen and the Jazz Surge Within Us (Summit)
    + Nicholas Payton, Smoke Sessions (Smoke Sessions)
    + Chris Potter There is a Tide (Edition)
    + Nate Smith, Kinfolk 2: See the Birds (Edition)

  • 13 Dec 2021 3:54 PM | Jeffrey Siegel

    Andrew Cyrille Quartet - The News

    Charles Lloyd & the Marvels - Tone Poem

    Kenny Garrett - Sounds of the Ancestors

    Todd Cochran TC3 - Then & Again, Here & Now

    Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas Soundprints - Other Worlds

    Johnathan Blake - Homeward Bound

    Veronica Swift - The Bitter Earth

    James Brandon Lews/Red Lily Quintet - Jesup Wagon

    Floating Points, Pharaoh Sanders & the London Symphony Orchestra - Promises

    John Coltrane - A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle

    Roy Hargrove & Mulgrew Miller - In Harmony

    Roy Brooks - Understanding

    Lee Morgan - The Complete Live at the Lighthouse

    Terence Blanchard featuring E-Collective & Turtle Island Quartet - Absence

    To listen to the Straight No Chaser Podcast "A Few of My Favorite Things 2021' please visit https://straightnochaserjazz.libsyn.com/podcast-870-a-few-of-my-favorite-things-2021

  • 09 Dec 2021 12:11 PM | Dee Dee McNeil

    JOHN COLTRANE: "A Love Supreme:1965"

    HAROLD MABERN: "Mabern Plays Coltrane"


    TONY BENNETT & LADY GAGA: "Cheek to Cheet"

    MARK ZALESKI BAND: "Our Time Reimagining Dave Brubeck"


    OSCAR PETERSON: "A Time for Love Live in Helsinki 1987


    PAUL JOST: "While We Were Gone"



    SHEDRICK MITCHELL: "What Do You Say"


    CARLOS HENRIQUEZ: "The South Bronx Story"

    BRANDON GOLDBERG: "In Good Time"

    THE TEMPLE UNIV. JAZZ BAND: "Without You No Me honoring legacy of Jimmy Heath"


    JOE FARNSWORTH: "City of Sounds"

    KIRK LIGHTSEY: "I Will Never Stop Loving You"


    ELLA FITZGERALD: "Sunshine of Your Love"

    LADY BLACKBIRD: "Black Acid Soul"

    MICHAEL WOLFF: "Live at Vitellos"


    LEWIS NASH: "Live at No Black Tie"

    ARTURO O'FARRILL: "The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra - Virtual Birdland"

    HENRY "SKIPPER" FRANKLIN: "Showers & Blessings"

    NOAH HAIDU, BUSTER WILLIAMS, BILLY HART: "Slowly, Song for Keith Jarrett"


    BRIAN BROMBERG: "A Little Driving Music"

    RALPH PETERSON: "Raise Up Off Me"


    GABRIEL MARK HASSELBACH: "Tongue & Groove"

    TANYA DENNIS: "White Sails Blue Skies"

    GENERATIONS: "The Baylor Project"

    HAROLD LAND: "Westward Bound"

    GRAHAM DECHTER: "Major Influence"

    KENNY GARRETT: "Sounds From the Ancestor"

    ANTONIO ADOLFO: "Jobim Forever"


    FREDDIE HUBBARD: "The Hub of Hubbard"

    OSCAR PETERSON: "Motions & Emotions"

    RENEE ROSNES: "Kinds of Love"

    JOEY DEFRANCESCO: "More Music"

  • 09 Dec 2021 10:33 AM | Marcela Breton

    2021 Favorites

    Book: Mary Lou Williams : Music for the Soul by Deanna Witkowski (Liturgical Press).


    Greg Abate “Magic Dance: the Music of Kenny Barron” (Whaling City Sound).

    Ruben Blades & Robert Delgado & Orchestra “Salswing!” (Ruben Blades Productions).

    Ruben Blades & RGO "Swing!" (RBP).

    Ruben Blades & RGO “Salsa Plus!” (RBP).

    Brian Charette “Power from the Air” (Steeplechase Records).

    Alice Coltrane “Kirtan : Turiya Sings” (Impulse).

    Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra “Promises” (Luaka Bop).

    Gene Perla & Various “3 Trios” (PM Records).

    Sharp 5 “Shine a Bright Light” (Valley Jazz Records).

    Deanna Witkowski “Force of Nature : the Music of Mary Lou Williams” (MCG Jazz).

    Miguel Zenon & Luis Perdomo  “El Arte del Bolero” (Miel Music).
  • 06 Dec 2021 5:59 PM | Ralph A. Miriello

    Reissues and Historical Releases:

    Roseanna Vitro: Listen Here: self-produced 1982

    Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller: In Harmony: 2006 & 2007 Resonance Records

    Wolfgang Lackerschmidt and Chet Baker: Quintet Sessions 1979 Dot Time Records

    Harvie S Trio w Mike Stern and Alan Dawson: Going For It: 1985  Savant Records

    Best New Releases: In no Specific Order

    Jakob Bro w Arve Hendriksen and Jorge Rossy: Uma Elmo: ECM Records

    Chick Corea Akoustic Band: Chick Corea Akoustic Band Live w John Patitucci and Dave Weckl: Concord Records

    Steve Gadd: Steve Gadd Band Live at Blue Note Tokyo: BFM Jazz 

    Lyle Mays: Eberhard: OIM Records

    Chris Potter Circuits Trio: Sunrise Reprise: Self-produced

    Alex Sipiagin: Upstream: Posi Tone Records

    Lorne Lofsky: This Song is New: Modica Music

    Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas Soundprints: Other Worlds: Greenleaf Music

    Dave Holland Trio w Kevin Eubanks and Obed Calvaire: Another World: Edition Records

    Pharoah Sanders w Sam Shepherd and the London Symphony Orchestra: Floating Points: 

    Kirk Lightsey: I'll Never Stop Loving You: Jo Jo Records

    Nnenna Freelon : Time Traveler: Origin Records

    Marc Johnson: Overpass: ECM Records

    John Daversa Jazz Orchestra featuring Justin Morell: All Without Words

    Gonzala Rubalcaba w Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette: Skyline: 5 Passion records

    Sinne Eeg and Thomas Fonnesbaek: Staying in Touch: Stunt Records

    Carlos Henriquez: The South Bronx Story: self produced

    Kate McGarry +Keith Ganz Ensemble feat Ron Miles and Gary Versace: What to Wear in the Dark: self-produced

    Mike LeDonne Grover Quartet + Big Band : It's All You Fault: Savant Records

    Dave Zinno and Unisphere: Fetish: Whaling City Sound 

    Rachel Eckroth: The Garden: Rainy Day Records

    Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trios: Songs From My Father: Whaling City Sound

    The Baylor Project: Generations: Be A Light Records

    Roberto Magris and Eric Hochberg: Shuffling Ivories: J Mood Records

    Ross Hammond: It's Been Here All Along: self-produced

    David Kikoski w Boris Kozlov: Sure Thing: High Note Records

    Gabor Lesko: Earthway: self-produced

    Slowly Rolling Camera: Where The Streets Lead: Edition Records

    Michael Wolff: Michael Wolff Live at Vitellos: Sunnyside Records

    Jim Snidero: Jim Snidero Live at the Deer Head Inn: Savant Records

    Steve Reeves Quintet: The Alchemist: Origin Records

    Chuck Owens and the Jazz Surge: Within Us: Mama Records

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