In a year where pop culture looked back at the 1960s, it makes sense that jazz critics lauded the 80-year-old Shorter, who made his first recording in 1959. His latest album displays him as enigmatic as ever — and as committed to finding new sounds.
We asked 136 jazz journalists to pick their favorite albums that came out this year. Out of over 700 nominees, here are their collective top 50 picks, along with top finishers in the Latin jazz, vocal, debut and reissue categories.
You could look at Michele Rosewoman’s New Yor-uba band as reuniting cousins who’ve drifted apart: jazz, and folkloric Cuban music with its own family ties to the slave coast of West Africa.
Cline expertly shifts from one genre to another, with an emphasis on melodic improv and minimalism. Hear the guitarist and composer perform songs from 2009’s Coward in this archived session from the same year.
With a career derailed due to severe hand problems, Amadie found a way to play the music he loved.
Baum’s latest music is inspired by the late Pakistani vocalist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, one of the most celebrated voices in the world. While Khan died more than 15 years ago, Baum talks about his influence on her new album, In This Life.
NPR’s Melissa Block talks with music critic Tom Moon about three recently released live recordings, all from around 1970, that each capture an artist at a distinct point of change in his career.
Italian pianist Stefano Bollani stretches the limits of imagination with improvisations ranging from quirky to transcendent. Virtuoso technique and a keen harmonic sense bolster Bollani’s improvisations, which are influenced as much by Charlie Parker as Prokofiev and Zappa.
Every year, NPR Music invites some of the world’s best jazz keyboard players to Washington, D.C., for a special performance of holiday tunes. Hear Stanley Cowell, Sullivan Fortner, Michele Rosewoman and Andy Bey play live.
The guitarist, composer and arranger died in his sleep Tuesday at 83. Hall was known for a subtle, lyrical playing style, a gift for innovation and collaborations with a host of talented musicians in a career that stretched more than seven decades. Hear an interview from 1989.