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What are the best jazz albums of the past 20 years?


Josh Hurst
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I'm so used to thinking about jazz in terms of the classic Blue Note era-- or in terms of Miles, Mingus, Monk, Trane, Duke, et al.-- that I confess I'd never stopped to think about which albums could rightly be called jazz classics, from the past two decades.

Then I saw this All Music list, and was immeidatley dumbfounded and ashamed at how few of these records I've actually heard.

Some surprising omissions, though: The Bad Plus isn't here, and neither is the Brian Blade Fellowship, whose Season of Changes would be among the first albums I'd think of for a list like this.

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Kind of a stuffy list, isn't it?

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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Stuffy? Looks pretty good to me. Like Josh, I haven't heard several of the titles mentioned, although I have other discs by many of the performers. I've got sum catchin' up to do.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I've only heard half these albums, but they're certainly great. I'm surprised by the omission of The Bad Plus in particular. I would have figured that These are the Vistas would have been a shoo-in for such a list. And I personally would have included Robert Glasper, The Claudia Quintet, and Darcy James Argue's Secret Society. But that's what these lists are for. We all bemoan the 200 albums that absolutely, positively should have been included in the Top 20.

I think it's a pretty solid list.

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I'm throwing all of these recommendations onto a single Spotify playlist, so if you have more suggestions, please post them. When I listen to jazz, I almost always pull out Miles, Coltrane, and Evans. I'd love to make a few more discoveries.

One guy I expected to see on the list was the late, great Esbjorn Svennson.

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Stuffy? Looks pretty good to me. Like Josh, I haven't heard several of the titles mentioned, although I have other discs by many of the performers. I've got sum catchin' up to do.

I don't see why both can't be true. I mean, I think it looks like a pretty good list, too... but I'm also inclined to agree with Greg. With only one or two exceptions, as far as I can tell-- the Don Byron album, for sure-- this list seems pretty high-brow and conventional, as far as jazz goes. More anarchic or genre-bending fare-- The Bad Plus, Rob Glasper-- is left out in favor of a Billy Strayhorn tribute and what seem to be a lot of pretty straightforward bop albums, as best I can tell. All fine records, I'm sure, but this still seems like a representation of the "old guard" approach to jazz.

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Stuffy? Looks pretty good to me. Like Josh, I haven't heard several of the titles mentioned, although I have other discs by many of the performers. I've got sum catchin' up to do.

I don't see why both can't be true. I mean, I think it looks like a pretty good list, too... but I'm also inclined to agree with Greg. With only one or two exceptions, as far as I can tell-- the Don Byron album, for sure-- this list seems pretty high-brow and conventional, as far as jazz goes. More anarchic or genre-bending fare-- The Bad Plus, Rob Glasper-- is left out in favor of a Billy Strayhorn tribute and what seem to be a lot of pretty straightforward bop albums, as best I can tell. All fine records, I'm sure, but this still seems like a representation of the "old guard" approach to jazz.

But in this case, many of the members of the "old guard" are some pretty wild, crazy musical practitioners. Don Byron, Matthew Shipp, and William Parker, in particular, are likely to elicit "what, you call that music?" comments from those who may not have followed the labyrinthine twists and turns of the history of jazz. A number of those albums are knotty and difficult. Those folks may be old, but they're not safe and predictable. I don't think "anarchic" is too strong a word.

And some of those albums are twenty years old, too. Cassandra Wilson and James Carter may be established stars now (at least to the extent that any jazz musician can be considered a "star" in this culture), but when those albums were recorded they were kids, and they were the young lions who were out to redefine the music.

I have some disagreements with the choices, too. I really don't understand how The Bad Plus is not on that list, for example. But I don't think it's representative of boring, old-fart music either. A high-brow list? Yes, probably. But conventional? I don't think so.

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I've been really enjoying these lists that allmusic has been putting together. The indie, hip-hop, and country lists didn't yield me very many revelations. The R&B one was great (Shafiq Husayn ... my mind is officially blown. Although I should have been familiar with him already through his work with Erykah Badu and Robert Glasper).

That being said, I'm excited to work my way through this list. I'm all about filling in massive gaps in my listening habits.

"It is scandalous for Christians to have an imagination starved for God." - Mark Filiatreau

I write occasionally at Unfamiliar Stars.

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I went to the list hoping to see Joe Henderson's Miles Davis tribute from 1993, which doubles as my favorite John Scofield album as his playing throughout is perfect. The Lovano album was so huge in the mid-90s that leaving it off would be deliberate.

Too many from 2001 were new to me, so I've enjoyed a few Spotify sessions to catch up.

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