2020 NPR Jazz Critics Poll

Happy new year and best wishes to everyone for a significant upgrade for 2021!  This is my final reflection on a decidedly terrible 2020.

The 2020 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll has now been published and Francis Davis has again let me chime in.  Go buy all of this great music!

The overview results are here

Davis’ commentary is here

…and my contribution is here

My favorite part of this poll is reading each of the contributor’s picks, which can be done here

 

My best of 2020 are as follows…

NEW RELEASES

Craig Taborn’s Junk Magic, Compass Confusion (Pyroclastic)

Jennifer Curtis and Tyshawn Sorey, Invisible Ritual (Tundra)

WHO Trio, STRELL The Music of Billy Strayhorn & Duke Ellington (Clean Feed)

Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl, Artlessly Falling (Firehouse 12)

Susan Alcorn, Pedernal (Relative Pitch)

The Warriors of the Wonderful Sound, Soundpath (Clean Feed)

Ingrid Laubrock, Dreamt Twice, Twice Dreamt (Intakt)

Ron Miles, Rainbow Sign (Blue Note)

Steph Richards, Supersense (Northern Spy)

Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra, Dimensional Stardust (International Anthem/Nonesuch)

 

REISSUES

Charles Mingus, @ Bremen 1964 & 1975 (Sunnyside)

Theloinious Monk, Palo Alto (Impulse)

Ivan Zagni and Steve Garden, Trouble Spots (Rattle Echo)

 

VOCAL

Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl, Artlessly Falling (Firehouse 12)

 

DEBUT

Emi Makabe, Anniversary (Greenleaf)

 

LATIN

Aruán Ortiz with Andrew Cyrille and Mauricio Herrera, Inside Rhythmic Falls (Intakt)

Nicholas Lens & Nick Cave, Roots Magic, and Ivan Zagni & Steve Garden

Artist: Nicholas Lens & Nick Cave

Title: L.I.T.A.N.I.E.S

Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Release Date: 12/4/20

Personnel: Clara-Lane Lens & Denzil Delaere & Nicholas L. Noorenbergh & Claron McFadden – vocals; Maaike Cottyn – solo flute/alto flute; Midori Mori
- solo clarinet/bass clarinet; Rhonny Ventat – saxophones; Clara-Lane Lens & Nicholas Lens – keyboards & programming; Alain Cremers – solo bassoon; Joe Kina & Jack Pinger – percussion; Gudrun Vercampt – solo violin; Maryna Lepiasevich – solo viola; Amy Norrington – solo cello; with
The Fourteen Storks Ensemble

Impression: Resuming where they left off with 2014’s Shell Shock, Lens and Cave have busied themselves in lockdown by crafting a consuming chamber music suite incorporating Taizé-like mediations on the full range of human experience.

More Info: Deutsche Grammophon site , Nick Cave site and Nicholas Lens site

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Deutsche Grammophon site

 

 

Artist: Roots Magic

Title: Take Root Among the Stars

Label: Clean Feed Records

Release Date: 07/24/20

Personnel: Alberto Popollla – clarinet & bass clarinet, objects; Errico De Fabritiis – alto & baritone sax, mouth harp; Gianfranco Tedeschi – double bass; Fabrizio Spera – drums, percussion, zither; guests: Eugenio Colombo – flute on 1, bass flute on 3; Francesco Lo Cascio – vibraphone on 1, gong

Impression: TRAtS is the artfully paced house party a weirdo introvert like me is longing to attend as soon as the entire world is vaccinated.

More Info: Roots Magic site and Clean Feed Records

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Bandcamp and Clean Feed Records Store

 

 

Artist: Ivan Zagni and Steve Garden

Title: Trouble Spots

Label: Rattle Echo

Release Date: 06/9/20

Personnel: Ivan Zagni – acoustic & electric guitars, keyboards, voices; Steve Garden – drums, percussion, voices, loops and treatments; Peter Scholes – recorders, sax, clarinet; Don McGlashan – bass, prc, vox; Amanda Hollis – flute, vox; Richard Nunns – pukaea, putorino

Impression: TS is a surprise pop-Dadaist masterpiece reissued by New Zealand’s Rattle Records under its new and stellar Rattle Echo imprint; this one will keep you guessing at each successive track.

More Info: Rattle Echo site

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Bandcamp

 

 

SUSS, Dino Saluzzi, and Thelonious Monk

Artist: SUSS

Title: Promise

LabelNorthern Spy Recs

Release Date: 12/4/20

Personnel: Jonathan Gregg – Pedal Steel, dobro; Bob Holmes – Mandolin, baritone guitar, acoustic guitar, harmonica, violin; Pat Irwin – Electric guitars, National guitar, eBow, harmonium, keyboards, melodica, loops; Gary Leib – Keyboards, looping, imaging

Impression: The New York-based quartet SUSS makes minimal and patient musical-vignettes and Promise is a warm blanket on a forlorn winter’s night.

More Info: Northern Spy Recs and SUSS site

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Bandcamp and Northern Spy Recs

 

 

Artist: Dino Saluzzi

Title: Albores

Label: ECM Records

Release Date: 11/6/20

Personnel: Dino Saluzzi – bandoneon

Impression: Albores, Saluzzi’s first solo release in more than thirty years, is overflowing with the kind of sublime and healing sonorities that could only come from the hands of an absolute master.

More Info: ECM Records

Listen Here:

Buy Here: ECM Records

 

 

Artist: Thelonious Monk

Title: Palo Alto

Label: Impulse Records

Release Date: 9/24/20

Personnel: Thelonious Monk – piano; Charlie Rouse – tenor saxophone; Larry Gales – bass; Ben Riley – drums

Impression: I’m a little late to this one, but as a teacher, just the thought of this perennially transformative music being performed in a high school auditorium in tension-filled 1968 fills my heart with almost unmatched joy.

More Info: Thelonious Monk site

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Thelonious Monk site

 

 

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AFRIRAMPO – RASHIED ALI – MARYANNE AMACHER – OREN AMBARCHI – LAURIE ANDERSON – CYRO BAPTISTA – BURT BACHARACH – DEREK BAILEY – MICK BARR – STEVEN BERNSTEIN – LISA BIELAWA – ANTHONY BRAXTON – GAVIN BRYARS – BUCKETHEAD – KEN BUTLER – CLERIC – STEVE COLEMAN – CONNIE CONVERSE – JACQUES COURSIL – SYLVIE COURVOISIER – MARILYN CRISPELL – ALVIN CURRAN – DAVE DOUGLAS – JEWLIA EISENBERG – LUC FERRARI – IRVING FIELDS – BILL FRISELL – FRED FRITH – SERGE GAINSBOURG – PETER GARLAND – BEN GOLDBERG – MILFORD GRAVES – HAINO KEIJI – MARY HALVORSON – JULIUS HEMPHILL – YUKA HONDA – JERRY HUNT – TEIJI ITO – SCOTT JOHNSON – EYVIND KANG – KRAKAUER – KRAMER – STEVE LACY – BILL LASWELL – OKKYUNG LEE – SEAN LENNON – GEORGE LEWIS – LUKAS LIGETI – FRANK LONDON – JOE LOVANO – JULIAN LAGE – JOSE MACEDA – BRIAN MARSELLA – MEDESKI, MARTIN & WOOD – MELT BANANA – MISHA MENGELBERG – MEREDITH MONK – MERZBOW – IKUE MORI – GORDON MUMMA – AYA NISHINA – OTOMO YOSHIHIDE – JIM O’ROURKE – TONY OXLEY – EVAN PARKER – ZEENA PARKINS – HARRY PARTCH – MIKE PATTON – GUILLAUME PERRET – LOU REED – MARC RIBOT – TERRY RILEY – SECRET CHIEFS 3 – ELLIOTT SHARP – ALVIN SINGLETON – WADADA LEO SMITH – SPIKE ORCHESTRA – SUPHALA – CRAIG TABORN – J.G. THIRLWELL – NANA VASCONCELOS – WU FEI – CHARLES WUORINEN – YAMATAKA EYE – DANIEL ZAMIR – JOHN ZORN

 

Artist: Some of the Greatest

Title: Many and Varied

Label: Tzadik

Release Date: now and then

Personnel: too many to list

Impression: Tzadik has been at the top of the heap of record labels for 25 years, showcasing with a staggering consistency creative musical endeavors of all sorts. Special insight into the favorite releases of some of the great artist on the label can be found at the second link below. Tzadik has put so much greatness into the world, so lets show them some love: take full advantage of this sale to fill those holes in your collection.

More Info: Tzadik and Tzadik artist recommendations

Listen Here: A sampling found on YT

Buy Here: Tzadik

J.Peter Schwalm and Arve Henriksen, Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra, and Bill Evans

Artist: J.Peter Schwalm and Arve Henriksen

Title: Neuzeit

LabelRarenoise Records

Release Date: 11/27/20

Personnel: J. Peter Schwalm – piano, drums, electronics, programming; Arve Henriksen – trumpets, percussion, voices

Impression: Schwalm’s ghostly production aesthetic is the perfect backdrop for Henriksen’s lilting, noir-ish delivery which is apropos during this pre-winter 2020 environment.

More Info: Schwalm site and RareNoise Records

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Bandcamp and RareNoise Records Store

 

 

Artist: Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra

Title: Dimensional Stardust

Label: International Anthem / Nonesuch Records

Release Date: 11/20/20

Personnel: Rob Mazurek – director, composer, piccolo trumpet, electronics; Damon Locks – voice, electronics, texts; Nicole Mitchell – flutes; Macie Stewart – violins; Tomeka Reid – cellos; Joel Ross – vibraphone; Jeff Parker – guitar; Jaimie Branch – trumpet; Angelica Sanchez – acoustic piano, electric piano; Ingebrigt Håker Flaten – bass; Chad Taylor – drums, percussion; Mikel Patrick Avery – drums, percussion; John Herndon – drum machines

Impression: Mazurek continues to raise the bar with his Exploding Star Orchestra by hitting that sweetest spot between accessible and challenging, routine when you have one of the most fire contemporary ensembles in your employ.

More Info: Nonesuch Records site

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Bandcamp and Nonesuch Records store

 

 

Artist: Bill Evans

Title: Bill Evans Live at Ronnie Scott’s

Label: Resonance Records

Release Date: 12/4/20

Personnel: Bill Evans – pinao; Eddie Gomez – bass; Drummer Jack DeJohnette – drums

Impression: Any excuse to hear more late 60’s Evans is just fine by me, but this dexterous set is hitting the spot right now.

More Info: Resonance Records

Listen/Watch Here:

Buy Here: Resonance Records store