Here’s the results of an International Critics Music Poll, with Kevernacular’s contribution

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 OrchestraThe 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 MarvelsTone 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 ParisienLouise (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 Braxton2 Comp (Zim) 2017 (firehouse)

5. Johannes WallmannElegy for Undiscovered Species (Shifting Paradigm)

6. Lionel LouekeClose 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:

Is this the best? Marcin Wasilewski’s cutting-edge piano trio forges ahead

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 TrioCountdown ((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:

Encuesta 2021 – Periodistas Internacionales


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.


Jojo ornette-ish


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),


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 OrchestraThe Other Side (Out Note); Emile ParisienLouise (ACT); Lionel LouekeClose 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

other instruments

female vocals – Cecile McLorin Salvant, Stephanie Niles, Mary LaRose

male vocals – Kurt Elling

label of the year — Sunnyside


Is this the best? Marcin Wasilewski’s cutting-edge piano trio forges ahead

Marcin Wasilewski Trio - En attendant - Music

This magnificent piano trio graced the Polish Center of Wisconsin in November 2008, an event etched in my memory as the last concert I attended with my parents, before they died. “That was the best live jazz I’ve heard in years,” said my father, a lifelong jazz buff. For good reason, as the trio, with intact personnel for 26 years, demonstrates on En attendant. My father’s favorable impression also spoke to the threesome’s range of appeal.