Favorite Jazz of 2012: My Top 10 Plus 25 Others

Another year, another essay or two bemoaning “the end of jazz” or some such uninformed nonsense.

And yet, jazz marches on, ever widening its musical scope, with more and more recordings being produced and distributed, via channels ranging from single-artist labels to a few large jazz concerns.

Sadly, the combination of a genre that’s less than commercially explosive and a weak economy made it tough for even the most inspired and dedicated jazz musicians to focus exclusively on their art without being plagued by issues related to economic survival.

Still, there’s much high-end jazz being played and recorded, by solo artists to big bands, variously drawing from traditional blues idioms, swing rhythms and bebop modes as well as incorporating Latin styles, hip-hop, New Orleans grooves, experimental music, old-school fusion, and even Indian classical music.

It’s impossible for any one critic to hear everything out there. So herewith, instead of “the best” …

My Ten Favorite Jazz CDs of 2012

(in alphabetical order):

  •  Jeff Coffin & The Mu’tet,” Into the Air” (Ear Up)
  • Anat Cohen, “Claroscuro” (Anzic)
  • Duduka Da Fonseca Quintet, “Samba Jazz — Jazz Samba” (Anzic) my review for JazzTimes 
  • Kurt Elling, “1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project” (Concord Jazz)
  • Tom Harrell, “Number Five” (HighNote)
  • Lionel Loueke, “Heritage” (Blue Note)
  • Pat Metheny, “Unity Band” (Nonesuch)
  • Eric Reed, “The Baddest Monk” (Savant)
  • Gonzalo Rubalcaba, “XXI Century” (5Passion)
  • Kenny Wheeler Big Band, “The Long Waiting” (Cam Jazz) my review for JazzTimes


Best vocal jazz CD: Kurt Elling, “1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project” (Concord Jazz);

Best debut jazz CD: Ryan Truesdell, “Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans” (Artistshare)

Best Latin jazz CDGonzalo Rubalcaba, “XXI Century” (5Passion)

& 25 Other Jazz CDs That Resonated

(in alphabetical order):

  • The Bad Plus, “Made Possible” (E One)
  • Roni Ben-Hur & Santia Debriano featuring Duduka Da Fonseca, “Our Thing” (Motema) my review for JazzTimes
  • Brazilian Trio, “Constelacao” (Motema)
  • Bobby Broom, “Upper West Side Story” (Origin)
  • Brubeck Brothers Quartet, “Lifetimes” (Blue Forest)
  • Cyrus Chestnut, “The Cyrus Chestnut Quartet” (WJ3)
  • Joey DeFrancesco, Larry Coryell, Jimmy Cobb,”Wonderful! Wonderful!” (HighNote)
  • Dirty Dozen Brass Band, “Twenty Dozen” (Savoy Jazz)
  • Dave Douglas Quintet with Aoife O’Donovan, “Be Still” (Greenleaf)
  • Robert Glasper Experiment, “Black Radio” (Blue Note)
  • Fly, “Year of the Snake” (ECM)
  • Winard Harper and Jeli Posse, “Coexist” (JLP)
  • Billy Hart, “All Our Reasons” (ECM)
  • Scott Henderson with Jeff Berlin and Dennis Chambers, “HBC” (Tone Center)
  • Lisa Hilton, “American Impressions” (Ruby Slippers)
  • Vijay Iyer, “Accelerando” (ACT)
  • Greg Lewis/Organ Monk, “Uwo in the Black” (Greg Lewis Music)
  • Branford Marsalis Quartet, “Four MFs Playin’ Tunes” (Marsalis Music)
  • Brad Mehldau Trio, “Ode” (Nonesuch)
  • Hendrik Meurkens & Gabriel Espinosa with Anat Cohen & Antonio Sanchez, “Celebrando” (Zoho) my review for JazzTimes
  • Marcus Miller, “Renaissance” (Concord Jazz) my review for JazzTimes
  • Christian Scott, “Christian Atunde Adjuah” (Concord Jazz)
  • Esperanda Spalding, “Radio Music Society” (Heads Up)
  • Cassandra Wilson, “Another Country” (E One)
  • Pete Zimmer, “Prime of Life” (Tippin’)

Other notable jazz vocal CDs: Melody Gardot, “The Absence” (Decca); Diana Krall, “Glad Rag Doll” (Decca); Luciana Souza, “The Book of Chet” (Sunnyside)

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