Yes but what was the best of the year, and what does all That add up?
Here’s one man opinion. Remember one thing I didn’t hear but one cut of Song for Billie Holiday by Wada Leo Smith, Vijay Iyer and Jack DeJohnnette, which I regret and surely a high top tenner.
I participated in the 144th Annual International Critics Poll of El Intruso, the Spanish publication dedicated to jazz, experimental and creative music. I have included the results of the NPR critics poll here in recent years. But For a change of perspective, it’s interesting to see what critics from all around the world come up with, as the best of the year.
Summer of Soul best new music recording.
But before that, the international poll does not ask for top 10 album lists, I will list my choices of best albums of the year for the NPR poll:
Best Jazz Albums 2020 NPR Critics Poll
1. Amir ElSaffar Rivers of Sound Orchestra – The Other Side (Out Note) This was the surprise of the year. I didn’t expect ElSaffar do a big band and a very unconventional pan-cultural creature. But this is actually their second recording and there’s a rare symbiosis developing. He’s a Chicagoan but has deeply investigated his Iranian roots and allowed the bitonal modalities to flourish like an exotic garden.
2. Charles Lloyd and the Marvels – Tone Poem (Blue Note) Tenor sax guru Lloyd and his stylistically elastic quintAset, with simpatico guitar innovator Bill Frisell, lays his ineffable touch on Ornette Coleman, Thelonious Monk, Leonard Cohen and Gabor Zsabo, a concoction enfolded with a few worthy originals.
3. Emile Parisien – Louise (ACT) This sextet w naseet waits did a marvelous take on Joe Zawinul’s “Madagascar” and swinging and stretching the exotic theme itself, yes! But Pairsien writes his own strong melodies in varying moods, and has Trane-like chops on soprano sax, if not Trane’s passion. “Jungle Jig” was more swinging post-bop and melodic with plenty of complex counterpoint sounding like The Dave Holland Quintet!. Can’t praise much higher. And on another tune “Prayer for Peace,” employed minimalism in his own sweet way. He was part of another album that won over many critics this year.
4. Anthony Braxton – 2 Comp (Zim) 2017 (firehouse)
5. Johannes Wallmann – Elegy for Undiscovered Species (Shifting Paradigm)
6. Lionel Loueke – Close your Eyes (Sounderscore) Wow, what a brilliant guitarist extending the modern, harmonically weighty tradition from Wes Montgomery. He has a dazzling rhythmic acumen and plays with tension like a master basketball dribbler. This was his first full-album statement “in the tradition” as the compulsive original Braxton did, and alost all were revelatory. He got a bit too clever by crunching the closer, Trane’s “Naima,” which lost the tune’s arching, iridescent lyricism.
7. Marcin Wasilewski Trio — en Attendant — (ECM) With this sad news this year of Chick Corea’s passing, and of Keith Jarrett’s apparently disabling stroke, Marcin Wasilewski joins the conversation as a darkhorse for “greatest living (and active) jazz pianist, or perhaps “best jazz piano trio.” Here’s my review of this recording:
8. Frank Kimbrough – Ancestors (Sunnyside) Another great recent loss among jazz pianists, Kimbrough enhanced the Maria Scheider’s Orchestra expansively harmonic sound paintings, and really stepped out in recent years with his profoundly delicious Monk’s Dreams box set, and a few marvelous recordings including this one, gracefully asserting his place as successor to his artistic ancestors.
9. Simon Moullier Trio – Countdown ((Fresh Sound New Talent) A virtuoso vibraphonist new to me dazzled in this deftly imaginative romp through modern standards.
10. Warriors of the Wonderful Sound – Soundpath (Music of Muhal Richard Abrams) Ars Noah Workshop)
11. Joel Ross – Who Are You? (Blue Note)
12. Noah Haidu – Slowly: Song for Keith Jarrett (Sunnyside)
Honorable Mention: Miguel Zenon — Law Years: The Music of Ornette Coleman (Bandcamp), Stephanie Niles – I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag – The White Flag (Sunnyside)? Roberto Magris & Eric Hochberg – Shuffling Ivories (JMood), Jamie Breiwick The Jewel (Live at the Dead Poet) (Ropeadope), Silent Room (Enzo Carniel and Filipo Vignato) – Aria (Menace),Helen isWho face camp and lose when a heck is that Craig Taborn – Shadow Plays (ECM), Mike Neumeyer – Marimba Maverick (Voirimba), Marc Cary — Life Lessons (Sessionheads United)
Craig Taborn – Shadow Plays (ECM)
Here’sa a link to the El Intruso Internatioal Critics Poll:
Louise strong theme
2 swinging zawinul’s Madagascar and stretching the exotic theme itself, yes!
6 another strong melancholy theme. But trane like chops on soprano but clean intonation.
8 /Jungle Jig more swinging post-bop. Melodic With plenty of complex counterpoint sounding like Dave Holland Quintet!!
9 Prayer 4 Peace Another fine theme with free playing around its repetition not the usyual blowing on cganes a big diff from mainstream jazz.!!!!!employs minimalisms power ever as the theme is slowly developed.
Best Historical Albums
John Coltrane – A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle (Impulse)
Bill Evans — Behind the Dikes (Elemental)
Roy Brooks — Understanding (Reel to Real)
Best Latin Jazz Album
Miguel Zenon and Luis Perdomo – El arte Del Bolero
Best Debut Album
Kazemde George – I Insist (Greenleaf) ?
El Intruso – 14th Annual International Critics Poll ballot for 2021
Kevin Lynch, The Shepherd Express, Culture Currents (Vernaculars Speak), nodepression.com
musician of the year – Miguel Zenon, Amir ElSaffar
newcomer musician – Kazemde George (saxophone)
group of the year – Charles Lloyd & The Marvels
newcomer group – Silent Room (Enzo Carniel/Filippo Vignato duo)
album of the year — Amir ElSaffar Rivers of Sound Orchestra – The Other Side (Out Note); Emile Parisien — Louise (ACT); Lionel Loueke — Close Your Eyes (Sounderscore)
composer – Amir ElSaffar, Anthony Braxton, Johannes Wallmann
drums – Brian Blade, Joe Chambers, Nasheet Waits
acoustic bass – Buster Williams, Christian McBride, Reuben Rogers
electric bass – Steve Swallow
guitar – Lionel Loueke, Mary Halvorsen, Miles Ozaki
piano – Chick Corea, Vijay Iyer, Marcin Wasilewski
keyboard/synthesizer/organ – Lonnie Smith
tenor saxophone – Charles Lloyd, Chris Potter, Joe Lovano
alto saxophone – Miguel Zenon, Jim Snidero, Kenny Garrett
baritone saxophone – Gary Smulyan
soprano saxophone – Emile Parisien, Isaiah Collier
trumpet/Cornet – Brian Lynch, Wadada Leo Smith, Dave Douglas
clarinet/bass clarinet – Anat Cohen
trombone – Gianluca Petrella, Filippo Vignato
flute – Nicole Mitchell
cello – Hank Roberts
vibraphone – Simon Moullier, Joel Ross, Mike Neumeyer
electronics — Marc Cary
female vocals – Cecile McLorin Salvant, Stephanie Niles, Mary LaRose
male vocals – Kurt Elling
label of the year — Sunnyside