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My take on the best jazz recordings of 2021

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Emma-Jean Thackray
‘Tis the season for the outpouring of Top 10 lists, and their many variations, for jazz, world events, etc. The jazz lists tend to have a lot of variation depending on the individual reviewer's personal tastes, as well as what he or she listened to during the year.* Bottom line, all are extremely subjective.

These choices below (aside from top 10 new songs of the year) were submitted to the Jazz Journalists Association and Jazz Critics Poll 2021 compilations The latter is the 16thannual Francis Davis and Tom Hull-produced poll that is being published this year by the Boston-based online arts journal The Arts Fuse. Itpreviously was published by The Village Voice, Rhapsody.com and NPR Music).

As I begin preparing my review of significant events and trends in jazz in 2021 for All About Jazz, I thought I'd share my “best of 2021" lists. *Always keep in mind the above caveats.

The 10 best new jazz releases of 2021

  • Yoko Miwa, Songs of Joy (Ubuntu)
  • Greg Abate, Magic Dance: The Music of Kenny Barron (Whaling City Sound)
  • Pasquale Grasso, Pasquale Plays Duke (Sony Music Masterworks)
  • Paxton/Spangler Septet, Anthem for the New Nation (Eastlawn)
  • Dave Stryker, Baker’s Circle (Strikezone)
  • Graham Dechter, Major Influence (Capri)
  • Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, Skyline (Passion)
  • Diego Rivera, Indigenous (Posi-Tone)
  • Dan Wilson, Vessels of Wood and Earth (Brother Mister)
  • Out To Dinner, Play On (Posi-Tone)

2021’s best vocal recordings:

  • Veronica Swift, This Bitter Earth (Mack Avenue)
  • Samara Joy, Samara Joy (Whirlwind)
  • Roderick Harper, Evolving (RHM Entertainment)
  • Anaïs Reno, Lovesome Thing (Harbinger)
  • Roxana Amed, Ontology (Sony Latin)

The best historical/Reissues of 2021

(includes any recordings made over 10 years ago, whether newly released or reissued):
  • Lee Morgan, The Complete Live at the Lighthouse (Blue Note, 1970)
  • Roy Hargrove & Mulgrew Miller, In Harmony (Resonance, 2006-7)
  • John Coltrane, A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle (Impulse!, 1965)
  • Oscar Peterson, A Time For Love ((Two Lions/Mack Avenue, 1987)
  • Bill Evans, Behind the Dikes: The 1969 Netherlands Recordings (Elemental, 1969)
  • Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, First Flight to Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings (Blue Note, 1961)
  • Miles Davis, Merci Miles! Live at Vienne (Rhino, 1991)
  • Roy Brooks, Understanding (Reel to Real, 1970)
  • Sheila Jordan, Comes Love: Lost Session 1960 (Capri, 1960)
  • Juan Carlos Quintero, Caminando [originally The Way Home] (Moondo, 1997)

2021’s top debut recording:

Emma-Jean Thackray, Yellow (Movementt/Warp)

2021’s best Latin/Brazilian jazz recordings:

  • Carlos Henriquez, The South Bronx Story (Tiger Turn)
  • Miguel Zenón and Luis Perdomo, El Arte Del Bolero (Miel Music)
  • Antonio Adolfo, Jobim Forever (AAM Music)
  • Lunar Octet, Convergence (Summit)
  • Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet, Social Distancing (Saponegro)
  • Iván Melon Lewis, Voyager (Cezanne Producciones)
  • Roxana Amed, Ontology (Sony Latin)
  • Carlos Barbosa-Lima and Johannes Tonio Kreusch, Manisero (Zoho)
  • Mauricio J. Rodriguez, Luz (self-produced)
  • Various artists, CHANGÜÍ- The Sound of Guantánamo (Petaluma)

The 10 best new compositions from albums released in 2021

(listed alphabetically)
  • Gabriel Alegria, “The New Normal” from Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet, Social Distancing (Saponegro)
  • Rahsaan Barber, “Quarantine Queens” from Mosaic (Jazz Music City)
  • Ollie Dudek, “Children of the Sun” from The Scenic Route Trio, Flight of Life (Crosscurrent Jazz)
  • Giveton Gelin, “Armageddon” from Out To Dinner, Play On (Posi-Tone)
  • Cameron Graves, “Seven” from Seven (Mack Avenue)
  • Lisa Hilton, “So This Is Love” from More Than Another Day (Ruby Slippers)
  • Aron Kaufman, “Norm’s Nambo” from Lunar Octet, Convergence (Summit)
  • Chuck Owen, “American Noir” from Chuck Owen and the Jazz Surge, Within Us (Summit)
  • Lukasz Pawlik, “Indian Garden” from Long-Distance Connections (Summit)
  • Diego Rivera, “Sombras Del Pasado” from Indigenous (Posi-Tone)

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