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Ludovico Granvassu's 2021 Sonic Delights


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Jazz is not a competitive sport and "Best Ofs" are misnomers. End of the year listicles have no bearing on the artistic standing of the albums they include, or on those they neglect, just like a five star review doesn't make the album it graces any better than it already is.

But, apparently, humans like to rank, classify, compare and contrast, possibly as that allows them to make semi-informed choices in a disorienting world. With the number of great albums that keep being released, indeed, listicles may provide a few hints about music that is worth checking out in the midsts of the discographic deluge, or to make sure not to miss something that may have passed under one's radar.

At a personal level, end of the year listicles may also function as bread-crumbs that one can use years later to trace back her or his listening path. With that spirit in mind, below I include—in alphabetical order—albums that made my 2021 sonically delightful.

No claim that these are the best albums of the year, nor that they're better than those that are not included below. The list just reflects what resonated with me most, among the albums that I had the pleasure of listening to, during a year that was—once again—even more replete of superb releases than the year bfore. And since the list below cannot do justice to 2021's remarkable volume of beautiful albums, further below are more memorable titles, divided in various sub-categories.

If you have not listened to them yet... give them a spin. My guess is that you'll like them too!

Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber
Angels Over Oakanda

Thomas de Pourquery Supersonic
Back to the Moon
Lying Lions

Rachel Eckroth
The Garden
Rainy Days

Kurt Elling
Edition Records

Vijay Iyer
ECM Records

James Brandon Lewis
Jesup Wagon
Tao Forms

Johan Lindstrom
On the Asylum

Charles Lloyd and the Marvels
Tone Poem
Blue Note

Adam O'Farrill
Visions of Your Other
Biophilia Records

Pino Palladino, Blake Mills
Notes with Attachments
Impulse! Records

Michel Portal
Label Bleu

Tom Rainey Obbligato
Untucked in Hannover
Intakt Records

Ches Smith's We All Break
Path of Seven Colors
Pyroclastic Records

Becca Stevens, Elan Mehler
Pallet on Your Floor
Newvelle Records

Unscientific Italians
Play the Music of Bill Frisell—Vol. 1
Hora Records

Various Artists
Newvelle Records

Debut albums

Zane Carney: Alter Ego (Orenda Records)

Francesca Remigi: Il labirinto dei topi (Emme)

Chris Pattishall: Zodiac (Self-Produced)

Malcolm Jiyane Tree-O Umdali (Mushroom Hour Half Hour)

Giacomo Zanus: KORA (Aut Records)


[I.e. I should have known these musicians, but I didn't before listening to these amazing albums]

Roxana Amed: Ontology (Sony Latin)

Maya Dunietz: Free the Dolphin (Raw Tapes)

Paul Jarret: Ghost Songs (Neuklang)

Legraux Tobrogoï:Pantagruel résolu Self-Produced)

Dave Meder: Unamuno Songs and Stories (Outside In Music)

Stephanie Nilles: I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag—the White Flag (Sunnyside)

Orchestre Tout Puissant: We're OK. But We're Lost Anyway (Bongo Joe)

David Sanford Big Band: A Prayer for Lester Bowie (Greenleaf Music)


The Eivind Aarset 4-tet: Phantasmagoria or a Different Kind Of Journey (Jazzland)

Ben Allison: Moments Inside (Sonic Camera)

Bruno Angelini: Transatlantic Roots (Vision Fugitive)

Florian Arbenz, Hermon Mehari: Conversation #1: Condensed (Self-Produced)

Artifacts: ... and then there was this (Astral Spirits)

Badbadnotgood: Moments Inside (XL)

Big Monitors: Knots and Notes (Auand)

Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die: Live (International Anthem)

Joachim Caffonnette Extended: Bittersweet Times (Hypnote Records)

Melanie Charles: Y'all Don't (Really) Care About Black Women (Verve)

Steve Coleman: Live at the Village Vanguard Vol. 2 (MDW NTR) (Pi)

Vincent Courtois, Bill Carrothers: Firebirds (La Bouissonne)

Cowboys & Frenchmen: Our Highway (Outside-in-Music)

Alban Darche: Le Gros Cube #2 (Yolk)

Caroline Davis: Portals, Volume 1: Mourning (Sunnyside)

Benoit Delbecq 4: Gentle Ghosts (Jazzdor)

Benoit Delbecq: The Weight of Light (Pyroclastic Records)

Anais Drago: Solitudo C.A.M.

Mathias Eick: When We Leave (ECM Records)

Petter Eldh: Projekt Drums, Vol. 1 (Edition Records)

Donald Fagen: The Nightfly—Live (Universal)

Giovanni Falzone, Glauco Venier: Dialogo espressivo (Parco della Musica)

Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: (Exit) Knarr (Odin)

Daniel Freedman Ghost Modern (GSI)

Erik Friedlander: Sentinel Skipstone

Danilo Gallo Dark Dry Tears: A View Through a Slot (Clean Feed)

Kenny Garrett: Songs from the Ancestors (Mack Avenue)

Sam Gendel: Fresh Bread (Leaving)

Sam Gendel, Sam Wilkes: Music for Saxofone & Bass Guitar—More Songs (Leaving)

Theo Girard: Pensées Rotatives (Discobole)

Ben Goldberg: Everythig Happens to Be (BAG)

Benito Gonzalez: Sing to the World (Rainy Days)

Maria Grand: Reciprocity (Biophilia)

Giovanni Guidi: Reciprocity C.A.M.

Miho Hazama: Imaginary Visions (Edition Records)

Kari Ikonen: Impressions, Improvisations and Compositions (Ozella)

Irreversible Entanglements: Open the Gates (International Anthem)

The J&F Band: Me and the Devil (LongSong)

Frank Kimbrough: Ancestors (Sunnyside)

Koma Saxo: Live (WeJazz)

François Lana: Cathédrale (Leo Records)

Ben LaMar Gay: Open Arms to Open Us (International Anthem)

Little Rosie Kindergarten: Jeder Gegen Jeden (Listen Closely)

Maurice Louca: Sa'et el-hazz (Northern Spy)

Hermon Mehari, Alessandro Lanzoni: Arc Fiction (MiRR)

Michel Meis Qt feat. Théo Ceccaldi: Kaboom (Double Moon)

Hedvig Mollestad Trio: Ding Dong, You're Dead (Rune Grammofon)

Georgia Anne Muldrow: Vweto III (Foreseen Entertainment)

Carlos Niño & Friends: More Energy Fields, Current (International Anthem)

Gretchen Parlato: Flor (Edition Records)

Enrico Rava: Edizione Speciale (ECM Records)

Jeff Parker: Forfolks (International Anthem)

Reverso: Live (Out-note)

Pete Rodriguez: Obstacles (Sunnyside)

Irene Schweizer, Hamid Drake: Celebration (Intakt Records)

Daniele Sepe: Direction Zappa (Self Produced)

Elliott Sharp's Terraplane: Century (Joro Rakotozoarison)

Nate Smith: Kinfolk 2: See the Birds (Edition Records)

Craig Taborn: Shadow Plays (ECM Records)

Sebastien Texier, Christope Marguet: We Celebrate Freedom Fighters! (Cristal)

Emma-Jean Thackray: Yellow (Movementt)

Le Tigre (Des Platanes): Terminus Radioso (Mr. Morezon)

Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, Ole Morten Vågan: Plastic Wave (Odin)

Van Dyke Parks, Veronica Valerio: Van Dyke Parks orchestrates Verónica Valerio: Only in America (Modern Recordings)

Gabriel Zucker: Leftover Beats from the Edges of Time (ESP Disk)

Unearthed Gems

Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers: First Flight to Tokyo—The Lost 1961 Recordings (Blue Note)

Roy Brooks: Understanding (Reel to Real)

Miles Davis: Merci Miles! Live at Vienne (Warner)

Julius Hemphill: The Boyé Multi-National Crusade For Harmony (New World Records)

Wayne Horvitz: Live Forever, Vol. 1: The President: New York in the 80's (Self-Produced)

Lyle Mays: Eberhard (Self-Produced)

Charles Mingus: @ Bremen 1964 & 1975 (Sunnyside)

Bheki Mseleku: Beyond the Stars (Tapestry Works)

Prince: Welcome 2 America Deluxe (SMG)

Sam Rivers: Braids (NoBusiness)


Louis Armstrong: The Complete Louis Armstrong Columbia & RCA Victor Studio Sessions 1946-66 (Mosaic)

John Coltrane: A Love Supreme—Live in Seattle (Black Milk Impulses)

Joe Harriott: Free Form & Abstract Revisited (Ezz-thetics)

Charles Mingus: At Carnegie Hall—Deluxe Edition (Atlantic)

Lee Morgan: The Complete Live at the Lighthouse (Blue Note)

Mike Taylor: Trio, Quartet & Composer Revisited (Ezz-thetics)

Southern Energy Ensemble: Southern Energy (Strut)

Sun Ra: Lanquidity—Definitive Edition (Strut)

Skuli Sverrisson feat. Bill Frisell: Strata (Newvelle)

Unbridled Fun

Francesco Beccaro: Upward (Auand)

Garage a Trois: Calm Down Cologne (Royal Potato Family)

Scary Pockets, Larry Goldings: Scary Goldings (Pockets Inc.)

Itai Kriss: Supermoon (Self-Produced)

Delvon Lamar Organ Trio: I Told You So (Colemine)

Makaya McCraven: Deciphering the Message (Blue Note)

WRD Trio: The Hit (Color Red Music)


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Year in Review Pino Palladino Ludovico Granvassu Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber Avantgroidd Rachel Eckroth Rainy Day Records Kurt Elling Edition Records Vijay Iyer ECM Records James Brandon Lewis Tao Records Johan Lindström Moserobie charles lloyd Blue Note Adam O'Farrill Biophilia Records Blake Mills Impulse! Records Michel Portal Tom Raney Intakt Records Ches Smith Pyroclastic Records Becca Stevens Elan Mehler Newvelle Records Unscientific Italians Hora Records Zane Carney Orenda Records Chris Pattishall Malcolm Jiyane Xorile Mushroom Hour Half Hour Giacomo Zanus Aut Records Roxana Amed Sony Latin Maya Dunietz Raw Tapes Paul Jarret Neuklang Self-released Stephanie Nilles Sunnyside Orchestre Tout Puissant Bongo Joe David Sanford Greenleaf Music Eivind Aarset Jazzland Ben Allison Sonic Camera Bruno Angelini Vision Fugitive Florian Arbenz Hermon Mehari Conversation #1: Condensed Badbadnotgood XL Big Monitors Auand Steve Coleman Pi Cowboy & Frenchmen Outside-in-Music Alban Darche Yolk Caroline Davis Benoit Delbecq Jazzdor Anais Drago C.A.M. Petter Eldh Edition Donald Fagen Universal Giovanni Falzone Glauco Venier Ingebrigt Haker Flaten Odin Daniel Freedman Skipstone Danilo Gallo Clean Feed Kenny Garrett Mack Avenue Sam Gendel Leaving Sam Wilkes Théo Girard Discobole Ben Goldberg BAG Benito Gonzalez Rainy Days Maria Grand Biophilia Giovanni Guidi C.A.M. Jazz Miho Hazama Kari Ikonen Ozella The J&F Band LongSong Frank Kimbrough Koma Saxo WeJazz François Lana Leo Little Rosie Kindergarten Listen Closely Maurice Louca Norhtern Spy Michel Meis Théo Ceccaldi Georgia Anne Muldrow Foreseen Entertainment Gretchen Parlato Enrico Rava ECM Reverso Out-note Pete Rodriguez Irene Schweizer Hamid Drake Intakt Daniele Sepe Elliott Sharp ZOAR Nate Smith Craig Taborn Christope Marguet Cristal Emma-Jean Thackray Movementt Le Tigre (des platanes) Mr. Morezon Trondheim Jazz Orchestra Ole Morten Vågan Van Dyke Parks Verónica Valerio modern Gabriel Zucker ESP Disk Art Blakey Roy Brooks Reel to Real Miles Davis Warner Wayne Horvitz Charles Mingus Bheki Mseleku Tapestry Works Prince SMG Sam Rivers NoBusiness Louis Armstrong Mosaic John Coltrane Impulse! Joe Harriott Ezz-Thetics Atlantic lee morgan Mike Taylor Southern Energy Ensemble Strut Sun Ra Skuli Sverrisson Bill Frisell Newvelle Francesco Beccaro Melanie Charles Verve Garage A Trois Royal Potato Family Scary Pockets Larry Goldings Pockets Inc. Itai Kriss Colemine Makaya McCraven WRD Trio Color Red Music


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