Top Jazz Albums of 2021: View List

As the second year of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic draws to a close, live music is slowly returning. The groups return to the recording studio. And we all try to predict what the future holds. Jazz, a familiar genre of precariousness even in the best of times, has been fundamentally altered by the events of 2020 and 2021.

The creative responses to pandemic life have been fascinating. It feels like more solo albums have been released in the past two years than at any time since the early 1970s, when the jazz loft scene and the progressive dissolution of the 1960s avant-garde. have led many artists to make long, highly individualistic statements. This time it was out of necessity, but much of the work that resulted was fascinating and emotionally powerful. I would point out the albums of saxophonists Sam Gendel, Jaleel Shaw and JD Allen; trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith; and guitarist Jeff Parker, among others, as examples of truly moving music that expand the possibilities of solo instrumental performance.

On the flip side, there have also been a lot of long distance collaborations, which is in a way even more fascinating, as it represents a fundamental break with jazz mythology. From the earliest days of music, it was always about live interaction. Gather the players in the room, give them the music and record them by engaging with her and with each other. In the late 1960s, when Miles Davis and Teo Macero started using the studio as an instrument and abandoned the idea of ​​the “perfect take” in favor of an approach that stuck together exciting moments, layered overdubs and overdubs. montages, and generally taking advantage of all the technology available to pop and rock musicians, it was like a revolution. And while overdubs and edits are common practice these days, jazz musicians still try to keep the sense of organic interaction as much as possible. Under pandemic conditions, however, many artists, from guitarist John McLaughlin and drummer Nate Smith to the Pino Palladino and Blake Mills duo, have produced albums with individual musicians contributing remotely and the finished work is put together. afterwards. The majority of jazz musicians still prefer to get together in the studio and make music in the moment, but adopting this type of remote collaboration has often yielded exciting results in the past, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all. to see it more and more common over the next few years, especially among young players.

Some of the albums below are one-off studio assemblies, while others are workgroup documents. Some are tightly composed, while others are freely improvised. Some are pushing the boundaries of jazz or penetrating entirely into other musical fields, but all are paving the way for a very vital future. Hopefully we will all experience it together.


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