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)

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

 

Support Musicians via Bandcamp on Friday 3/20/20…and beyond

To support musicians during the Covid-19 pandemic, Bandcamp is waiving their revenue share on all sales Friday, March 20, from midnight to midnight PST.

Though certainly not exhaustive, I have assembled a list of some of my favorite recent and forthcoming releases on some of the greatest labels in the world available via Bandcamp. Just click on the label to see all their offerings on Bandcamp and/or click on the album title to see that specific release.  You can use the players on this page to listen.

Musicians are some of the hardest-hit by our new reality, so please consider supporting these and other artists now by loading up if you are able AND by spreading the word about this opportunity.

Don’t forget, you can pay in excess of the asking prices of releases on Bandcamp, making this an optimal way to enact your generosity for all that our favorite musicians do for us.

While you’re at it, ease into the habit of frequenting Bandcamp along with other great music retailers on the regular if you haven’t already!

Music matters friends, so let’s do our best to propagate it in any way we can.

Be safe and be well.

 

GEENLEAF MUSIC

Webber/Morris Big Band “Both Are True

listen here

 

 

INTAKT RECORDS

Tim Berne’s Snakeoil “The Fantastic Mrs 10

listen here

 

 

Aruan Ortiz “Inside Rhythmic Falls

listen here

 

 

Ohad Talmor Newsreel Sextet “Long Forms

listen here

 

 

INTERNATIONAL ANTHEM

Irreversible Entanglements “Who Sent You?

listen here

 

 

NORTHERN SPY RECORDS

Horse Lords “The Common Task

listen here

 

Jerry Cunningham “The Weather Up There

listen here

 

 

ORANGE MILK RECORDS

Nick Storring “My Magic Dreams Have Lost Their Spell

listen here

 

 

OUT OF YOUR HEAD RECORDS

Curt Sydnor “Deep End Shallow

listen here

 

 

NEW FOCUS RECORDINGS / PANORAMIC RECORDS

Ali Can Pushkulcu “Gibberish Shreds

(pre-order, so no preview yet)

 

Hasco Duo “The Same Old Wonder

listen here

 

Luis Ianes “Instrucciones de Uso

listen here

 

 

PI RECORDINGS

Tyshawn Sorey “Unfiltered

(preview at link above)

 

Liberty Ellman “Last Desert

listen here

 

 

PYROCLASTIC RECORDS

Kris Davis “Diatom Ribbons

listen here

 

 

RARE NOISE RECORDS

Bobby Previte, Jamie Saft, and Nels Cline “Music From The Early 21st Century

listen here

 

Giorgi Mikadze “Georgian Microjamz

listen here

 

 

RATTLE RECORDS

Steve Barry and Judy Bailey “Elements

listen here

 

Ferocious “Ferocious

listen here

 

 

CHRIS BROKAW

Chris Brokaw “End of the Night Band Live at the Lost Church

listen here

 

Chris Brokaw “End of the Night

listen here

 

 

FENNESZ

Fennesz “Live at Empty Bottle/Chicago”

listen here

 

Fennesz “Live at Jazz Café

listen here

 

 

OREN AMBARCHI

Oren Ambarchi “Simian Angel

(preview unavailable)

 

 

STEAMROOM RECORDS

Jim O’Rourke “Steamroom 46

listen here

 

 

SOUTHERN LORD

Caspar Brotzmann Massaker “Home

listen here

 

 

SHHPUMA

Bernhard Meyer and John Hollenbeck “Grids

listen here

 

 

BIRDWATCHER RECORDS

Jessica Pavone “Brick and Mortar

listen here

 

 

CHANT RECORDS

Curha “II

listen here

 

Randi Pontoppidan & Christian Rønn ” HEAD¨SPACE

listen here

 

 

EARS & EYES RECORDS

Nuturia “Meeting In Progress

listen here

 

Jeff Parker & The New Breed, Aly Keïta, and Jim Black Trio

Artist: Jeff Parker & The New Breed

Title: Suite for Max Brown

Label: International Anthem

Release Date: 01/24/20

Personnel: Jeff Parker – drums, vocals, piano, electric guitar, Korg MS20, sampler, etc; Ruby Parker – vocals; Paul Bryan – bass guitar; Jamire Williams – drums Paul Bryan – bass guitar Josh Johnson – alto saxophone and electric piano; Katinka Kleijn – cello; Rob Mazurek – piccolo trumpet; Makaya McCraven – drums and sampler; Jay Bellerose – drums and percussion; Nate Walcott – trumpet

Impression: There is no shortage of catchy tune-age here…ranging from accessible and danceable jams to virtuosic flights of fancy, this is the most well balanced release of 2020 so far.

More Info: Parker’s Website

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Bandcamp  or  Amazon

 

 

Artist: Aly Keïta

Title: Kalan Teban

Label: Intakt Records

Release Date: 01/17/20

Personnel: Aly Keïta –  Balafon, Kalimba, Voice; Jan Galega Brönnimann – Contra Alto- and Bass Clarinet, Soprano Saxophone, Kass Kass, Thumb Piano; Lucas Niggli – Drums, Percussion

Impression: Folky tunefulness is the refreshing and key ingredient in this delicious gumbo of mallet-magic and percussive propulsion.

More Info: Keita’s website  and Intakt Records

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Bandcamp  or Amazon

 

Artist: Jim Black Trio

Title: Reckon

Label: Intakt Records

Release Date: 01/17/20

Personnel: Elias Stemeseder – Piano; Thomas Morgan – Bass; Jim Black – Drums

Impression: Black, who has never sounded better, leads this trio through polyrhythmically dense terrain with what must be telepathy and smoke signals, for the path abounds with fire.

More Info: Black’s website and Intakt Records

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Bandcamp or Amazon