Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2020

Hello Dolphins! [email protected] here back with more quality content. As we begin the month of February and begin our celebration of Black History Month (why is there only one month? Anyways…) I thought it would be a good idea to give all the people a lesson in the culture’s music: Jazz. While not all of the artists on this list are black, in this article I’ll give you my Top 10 jazz albums of 2020 to listen to right now.

  1. Immanuel Wilkins- Omega
  • This album is an opus to the Black experience in America, depicting injustice that bears the age of centuries, and highlights the fight taken on by a new generation, both sociologically and musically. The quartet has a style that relies heavily on deep lyricism and melodic content, surrounded by  ample room for soloing that bears the weight of contemporary struggles through the medium we call modern jazz. Pianist Micah Thomas, bassist Daryl Johns and drummer Kweku Sumbry leave the listener with the understanding that these young artists are propelled forward with the goal of leading jazz music deep into this new century.
  1. Joel Ross- Who Are You?
  • Joel Ross is a vibraphonist and composer that hit the jazz scene with his wonderful debut, KingMaker. However, in his sophomore album Ross decided to try a new sound in his evolution as a musician. The theme of the album encourages listening to the project as a whole to experience the overall shape and mood of the story. As a young musician it will be exciting to see Ross’ growth over time.  There are plenty of harmonic and improvised twists that will keep the music flowing through the journey. Ross’ vision will only get more focused and succinct as he continues to grow as a player and composer.
  1. Butcher Brown- #kingbutch
  • The smooth jazz and funk fusion Butcher Brown has been known for makes this album feel organic and alive. To bring this energy, the band brought in live recordings to serve as the skeleton for the tracks on this album. This served to achieve the band’s goal to capture a sense of rawness that is sometimes lost in the studio. This mixed bag of styles means any listener can find a tune to move to.
  1. Aaron Burnett & The Big Machine- Jupiter Conjunct
  • Jupiter Conjunct features nine original compositions inspired by the largest planet in the solar system. Burnett pushes the envelope, by blending jazz, hip-hop and electronica into gorgeous groovy offshoots with plenty of side-stepping improvisation. This cryptic, jazzy, electronic, poppy mix makes for an eclectic and pleasant sound that proves Burnett’s extraordinary capabilities as a reedman and composer.
  1. Gerald Clayton- Happening: Live at the Village Vanguard
  • An energetic, if not cerebral post-Bop set, with occasional relief from the frenzy, in quiet and wistful moments on tracks like Body and Soul and the pianist-composer’s own Envisionings.
  1. Tigran Hamasyan- The Call Within
  • The Call Within illustrates Hamasyan’s remarkable gifts as a composer, musicologist and visionary. His creative perspective is heavily influenced by the culture of his native Armenia. Hamasyan stuck to the classic trio format, with Evan Marien providing the bass, Arthur Hnatek the drums, and just a few select guests to spice things up. When he cared to make a grander statement than his piano allowed, Hamasyan turned to electronic keyboards for a more widescreen effect. Hamasyan has said that he chose to let his inner soul dictate the shape of the music. He looked to art, poetry, astrology, cinematography, and other disciplines for his inspiration. This can be clearly seen in the light, airy, and naturalistic vibe of the album.
  1. Ambrose Akinmusire- On The Tender Spot Of Every Calloused Moment
  • This album is full of social commentary and grit. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd by the police, which follows the unjust deaths of so many other Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement, it is impossible not to think  of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin when we hear the phrase “read the names outloud”;  especially considering Akinmusire’s past work.
  1. Jeff Parker & The New Breed- Suite for Max Brown
  • This a cheery and wholesome record, jumping between the realms of jazz and hip hop. Parker’s latest album follows on from where his last left, as Ruby Parker greets us with beautifully layered vocals and a soft hip-hop-inspired synth underneath. The fittingly named ‘Fusion Swirl’ sees him channel the power of repetitious bass and humming synth lines to create an infectious and hypnotic affair. The ‘Fusion Swirl’ perspective allows Parker to create his loop heavy compositions and arrangements, but also explains how he cleverly uses textures to create contrasting moments of climax and calm.
  1. Charles Lloyd- 8: Kindred Spirits


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Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2020