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)

Craig Taborn’s Junk Magic, Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl, and Joshua Van Tassel

Artist: Craig Taborn’s Junk Magic

Title: Compass Confusion

Label: Pyroclastic Records

Release Date: 10/30/20

Personnel: Chris Speed – saxophone; Erik Fratzke – bass; Mat Maneri – viola; David King – drums; Craig Taborn – piano, keyboard and synthesizer

Impression: Compass Confusion detonates at the junction of Partch Parkway and Autechre Avenue forming it’s own superhighway, and then curtly curtsies as the most satisfying listening experience of 2020.

More Info: Craig Taborn’s sitePyroclastic Records and Compass Confusion page

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Bandcamp

 

 

Artist: Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl

Title: Artlessly Falling

Label: Firehouse 12 Records

Release Date: 10/30/20

Personnel: Amirtha Kidambi – voice; Maria Grand – tenor saxophone, voice; Adam O’Farrill – trumpet; Mary Halvorson – guitar; Michael Formanek – bass; Tomas Fujiwara – drums, beer cans on track 2; Robert Wyatt – voice on tracks 1, 3, 5

Impression: Just when we were convinced the core of Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl couldn’t be improved upon, along comes the improbable and inspired inclusion of Robert Wyatt on guest vocals, one of so few utter delights of 2020 – though technically recorded in 2019, so maybe 2020 is actually all bad – only November will tell.

More Info: Mary Halvorson’s site and Firehouse 12 Records site

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Bandcamp

 

 

Artist: Joshua Van Tassel

Title: Dance Music Volume II: More Songs For Slow Motion

Label: Backward Music

Release Date: 09/11/20

Personnel: Joshua Van Tassel – Ondea, Therevox, piano, vibraphone, field recordings, electronics; The Venuti String Quartet: Drew Jurecka – Violin Rebekah Wolkstein – Violin Lydia Muchinsky- Cello Shannon Knights – Viola

Impression: Horrendous acts of hatred and villainy have begotten great beauty: Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps, Picasso’s Guernica, and Basinskis The Disintegration Loops are now joined by Van Tassel’s Dance Music Volume II: More Songs For Slow Motion.

More Info: Joshua Van Tassel site

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Bandcamp