The 20 Best Jazz Albums of 2012
Assembling a year-end list that’s going to get a lot of traffic demands a certain degree of responsibility: to be paying attention, and to be keeping an eye on what’s lurking in the shadows because that’s usually where the action is. Gil Evans knew that, and that’s why he’s on this one. As pretty much everybody knows, the final Dave Brubeck Quartet live show surfaced this year, as did the earliest known Wes Montgomery recordings, a tasty couple of rare Bill Evans live sets and a big box set of previously unreleased Mingus. The reason why they’re not on this list is because they’re on everybody else’s…and because they’re easy picks. This is an attempt to be a little more adventurous, to cast a wider net, to help spread the word about current artists whose work is every bit as transcendent. Obviously, there are going to be glaring omissions here: even the most rabid jazz advocate can only digest a few hundred albums a year at the most. And much as Henry Threadgill’s Tomorrow Sunny/The Revelry, Spp and the historic Sam Rivers Trio’s Reunion: Live in New York are phenomenal albums, they both fell off the list since each has received plenty of praise elsewhere.
1. Wadada Leo Smith – Ten Freedom Summers
2. Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans
3. Hafez Modirzadeh – Post-Chromodal Out!
4. Ran Blake & Sara Serpa – Aurora
The second collaboration from the iconic noir pianist and the eclectic singer/composer is every bit as intense and otheworldly as their 2010 collaboration, Camera Obscura, and considerably more diverse. This one’s taken mostly from a concert in Serpa’s native Portugal, a mix of classics, brilliant obscurities, icy/lurid cinematic themes and a riveting a-cappella take of Strange Fruit. It’s out on Clean Feed.
5. David Fiuczynski – Planet Microjam
6. Neil Welch – Sleeper
7. The Fab Trio – History of Jazz in Reverse
8. Giacomo Merega – Watch the Walls
9. Gregg August – Four By Six
10. Orrin Evans – Flip the Script
11. The Fred Hersch Trio – Alive at the Vanguard
11. Brian Charette – Music for Organ Sextette
12. Tia Fuller – Angelic Warrior
13. Guy Klucevsek – The Multiple Personality Reunion Tour
14. Old Time Musketry – Different Times
15. Endemic Ensemble – Lunar
16. The Danny Fox Trio – The One Constant
17. Slumgum – Quardboard Flavored Fiber
18. Catherine Russell – Strictly Romancin’
19. Juhani Aaltonen and Heikki Sarmanto – Conversations
20. Bass X3 – Transatlantic