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)

The Warriors of the Wonderful Sound, Stephan Thelen, and Ennio Morricone

Artist: The Warriors of the Wonderful Sound

Title: Soundpath

Label: Clean Feed Records

Release Date: 10/30/20

Personnel: Marty Ehrlich – conductor/alto saxophone; Bobby Zankel – alto saxophone; Julian Pressley – alto saxophone; Robert DeBellis – tenor and soprano saxophone; Hafez Modirzadeh – tenor saxophone; Mark Allen – baritone saxophone; Dave Ballou – trumpet; Dwayne Eubanks – trumpet; Graham Haynes – cornet; Josh Evans – trumpet; Steve Swell – trombone; Michael Dessen – trombone; Alfred Patterson – trombone; Jose Davilla – bass trombone; Michael Formanek – bass; Tom Lawton – piano; Chad Taylor – drums

Impression: Soundpath is a Muhal Richard Abrams-penned, Bobby Zankle-comissioned piece consisting of a number of majestic vignettes for big band that premiered in 2012, was recorded in 2018, and is presented now for the first time so that we might all listen in awe at MRA’s total compositional mastery as executed by a like minded and boffo ensemble.

More Info: Clean Feed Records

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Clean Feed Records Store and Bandcamp

 

 

Artist: Stephan Thelen performed by Al Pari Quartet, and Kronos Quartet

Title: World Dialogue

Label: RareNoise Records

Release Date: 10/30/20

Personnel: KRONOS QUARTET: David Harrington – Violin 1; John Sherba – Violin 2; Hank Dutt – Viola; Sunny Yang – Cello + AL PARI QUARTET: Marta Lucjan – Violin 1; Alicja Miruk-Mirska – Violin 2 ;Magdalena Maier – Viola Elzabieta Rychwalska – Cello

Impression: In all honesty, I came for Kronos and the hypnotizing syncopation Thelen has showcased in his wicked ensemble Sonar, but I am staying for the delicious melodies adorning his signature brand of minimalism, all beautifully performed by both quartets on this recording.

More Info: Stephan Thelen’s Site and Rarenoise Records

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Bandcamp and RareNoise Records

 

 

Artist: Ennio Morricone

Title: Morricone Segreto

Label: CAM Sugar Records and Decca Records

Release Date: 11/6/20

Personnel: various

Impression: No one excelled at putting music to film like Morricone and a collection of the less-orchestral, more tripped-out and groovy side of the maestro circa late 60s-early 80s, seven tracks heretofore unissued ’til now, is cause for celebration in a time that is short on celebration of any sort.

More Info: Ennio Morricone’s site

Listen Here:

Buy Here: Decca Records shop