Tuesday, October 19

The 10 best jazz albums of 2020 | Jazz


Pat Metheny – From This Place

Being a best-selling jazz-fusion superstar and an experimental collaborator with John Zorn and Ornette Coleman requires unusual agility, but guitarist Pat Metheny has accomplished both. Metheny’s 2020 album, performed by his current live band (British pianist Gwilym Simcock, bassist Linda May Han Oh, and drummer Antonio Sánchez) with guest appearances by vocalist Meshell Ndegeocello and harmonica virtuoso Gregoire Maret, showcases his famous cinematic compositional muse, skillfully balanced with the group’s lighthearted inventiveness and, for the most part, subtly applies synthesized orchestral effects . Read the full review.

John Coltrane in Detroit in 1966.
John Coltrane in Detroit in 1966. Photograph: Leni Sinclair / Getty Images


John Coltrane – Giant Steps: 60th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

Recorded in 1959, a year of iconic jazz releases including Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, John Coltrane’s Giant Steps set a scorching new standard for expressiveness on a saxophone. The album’s 60th anniversary was celebrated with Rhino’s lavish release, packed with discarded takes, detailing Coltrane’s search for new spiritual music, built here from a fusion of massively enhanced bebop harmonies over relatively orthodox swing, already that the great Coltrane quartet, including McCoy Tyner, was still 18 years old. months away. Thrilling tales of the title track, Mr PC and Countdown join the exquisite ballad Naima, enriched for the closest listeners with alternate takes. Read the full review.


Joshua Redman – RoundAgain

The 1994 quartet of American sax star Joshua Redman with pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade was one of the most prominent formations of that decade, but short-lived, because all the members were on the brink. from the break in their own fertile careers. They reunited in 2019 to record RoundAgain, with decades of experience recharging their old synchronicity. Redman and Mehldau’s inventiveness through multi-chorus solos, backed by the rushing energy of McBride and Blade, matches a captivating balance of grounded soul figures, graceful waltzes, and resounding postbop flights.

Ezra Collective, featured in Blue Note Re: Imagined.
Ezra Collective, featured in Blue Note Re: Imagined. Photography: Dan Medhurst


Blue Note Re: Imagined

It’s not exactly a milestone in the kind of impromptu phrasing out of nowhere that makes you jump out of your skin, but a riveting snapshot of UK R&B, grime, hip-hop and electronica, fascinated by young jazz. Sixteen tracks encompass a narrative centered on the Rose Rouge song with St Germain loop by vocalist Jorja Smith, Ezra Collective’s brilliant distillation of Wayne Shorter’s Footprints, saxophonist Nubya Garcia’s powerful cover of Joe Henderson’s A Shade of Jade , Henderson Fire Dance’s Melt Yourself Down Caribbean blitz and more. Read the full review.


Sonny Rollins – Rollins in Holland

In the 1960s, the insatiably inventive tenor sax improviser Sonny Rollins used to tour without a band, connecting with local musicians in whatever city invited him. These unreleased 1967 recordings in the Netherlands mark the 36-year-old Rollins’ first encounters with the young Dutch bass and drums pair of Ruud Jacobs and emerging avant-garde drummer Han Bennink. Audio quality is variable, but nothing can obscure how spontaneously communicative these takes are: tit-for-tat exchanges and long, zigzagging tenor odyssey shared between musicians whose listening powers match their instrumental style. Read the full review.


Laura Jurd’s Dinosaur – Down to Earth

Third release by Laura Jurd’s dinosaur quartet, the most compatible vehicle for the young British trumpeter and composer’s prolific fusion of jazz and folk materials, global influences and sophisticated absorption of 20th century classical music. Jurd always seems blissfully and refreshingly indifferent to passing fads, though her attractive song qualities remain even in her most exploratory music. Barely 40 minutes long, To the Earth is nonetheless full of surprises and Dinosaur’s most explicit nods to jazz tradition, from the Monkish dissonances of Elliot Galvin, the soulmate of the piano, to the dirge songs of early jazz. and the Scandinavian breeze. Read the full review.


John Scofield / Steve Swallow – Swallow Tales

The association between guitarist John Scofield and electric bassist Steve Swallow dates back a long time, and they both have instantly recognizable identities in their respective versions of a guitar. Scofield plays jazz with a penetrating, sometimes dissonant blues, owed as much to Jimi Hendrix as to his teacher Jim Hall, and Swallow’s playfully lyrical phrasing infuses his bass lines and composition. Accompanied by Bill Stewart on drums in Swallow’s nine pieces, the pair often take off in extended and joyous solos; Scofield in particular sounds like he’s having a ball all along.

Carla Bley.
Recovered … Carla Bley.


Carla Bley – Life Goes On

The third in a sequence of poignant trio recordings from jazz songwriting legend and pianist Carla Bley, featuring bassist Steve Swallow and British saxophonist Andy Sheppard, a typically whimsical confection of sneaky blues, mischievous tangos, Monk figures and oblique takedowns of patriotic. hymns, linked by almost psychic ensemble improvisation. The title reflects the recent recovery of the octogenarian Bley from brain surgery, but while these exquisite pieces encompass sensations ranging from sensuality to late-life realism, nothing in the long history of this fantastic trio has had an ounce of sentimentality. Read the full review.


Django Bates / Norrbotten Big Band – Tenacity

A double celebration of the inimitable British composer and pianist Django Bates: his own 60th birthday and the centenary of the birth of Charlie “Bird” Parker, probably Bates’ greatest jazz hero, yet one of those who has explored and developed his legacy of more voluntary way. tortuous shapes. Recorded with the free-thinking, loose-legged Norrbotten Big Band from Sweden, Tenacity reworks Parker classics like Donna Lee (as a mix of bebop, free jazz, and South African village riffs), My Little Suede Shoes and Ah Leu Cha. alongside four characteristically whimsical Bates originals. Read the full review.


Maria Schneider Orchestra – Data Lords

The sensibilities of the great American songwriter, bandleader, and musicians’ rights advocate Maria Schneider has generally turned outward, toward depicting spacious landscapes and the sounds and movement of the natural world, paralleling jazz with the American views of Aaron Copland. For the 2020 Data Lords double album, Schneider enters a darker realm, with the theme of the erosion of private spaces and artistic independence from corporate technology, expressed in harsher metallic tones, fierce trumpet solos and connections. with the music of David Bowie, his most famous. fan. But old Pastor Schneider is still delicately and joyfully present in the last passages of this rich and eloquent session. Read the full review.

• What were your favorite jazz releases of 2020? Share your tips in the comments.


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