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The 2018 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll

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    Posted: 06 Jan 2019 at 3:07pm

New Albums

1. Wayne Shorter
Emanon (Blue Note)
Points: 259
Votes: 34

This multi-disc project, available only as a physical product complete with a 84-page graphic novel featuring a protagonist named Emanon ("no name" spelled backwards) and his adventures across the multiverse, showcases the octogenarian saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter, with pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade — and their 22nd century, improvisational ESP. From "The Three Marias" to the sonically sprawling "Pegasus," the music, augmented by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, shows why Shorter's artistic footprints will never fade. —Eugene Holley

2. Henry Threadgill 14 or 15 Kestra: Agg
Dirt . . . And More Dirt (Pi)
Points: 233
Votes: 36

The Pulitzer winner here grew a 15-piece ensemble from his Zooid group. Like its inspiration — Walter De Maria's New York Earth Room installation (280,000 pounds of loamy earth in a SoHo loft) — this music is: densely packed elemental material; a respite from commercial and manufactured surroundings and a bed of organic possibilities. —Larry Blumenfeld

3. Andrew Cyrille
Lebroba (ECM)
Points: 193
Votes: 37

Stately, atmospheric and exquisite, Lebroba takes the great free jazz drummer Andrew Cyrille deeper into the uncharted territory of his 2016 ECM album, The Declaration of Musical Independence. With trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith soaring clarion-like through the sound chamber and super-alert guitarist Bill Frisell scratching surfaces, melody flows from rhythm until the two become one. —Lloyd Sachs

4. Makaya McCraven
Universal Beings (International Anthem)
Points: 190
Votes: 29

Makaya McCraven injects new energy (and post-production artistry) into the jazz vernacular. In his most ambitious work yet, he invites us to take communion in cerebral improvisation, astral grooves, kinetic club vibes and meticulously curated beats. An expertly crafted collage of live recordings, Universal Beings showcases NYC, Chicago, London and Los Angeles' new jazz vanguard, including Tomeka Reid, Shabaka Hutchings and more. —Ivana Ng

5. Ambrose Akinmusire
Origami Harvest (Blue Note)
Points: 175.5
Votes: 24

"The dream and the hope of the slave" — deferred. Combining hip-hop and chamber strings, the resolute calls of Akinmusire's melodic trumpet soar high and strong and stark, capturing the unspeakable pain of black bodies killed by white hands, and the promise of children's dreams fulfilled as their living testament. —Shannon Effinger

6. Steve Coleman and Five Elements
Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1 (Pi)
Points: 171.5
Votes: 24

I've described what Coleman and his band do as an ongoing quasi-scientific inquiry into what he characterizes as biological processes, but are in reality groove dynamics and harmonic montage. The studio work has yielded encouraging and often earth-shaking results. But in a live setting, especially within the concave confines of jazz music's Holy Dive, everything the band does seems ramped up in intensity as if having live witnesses to its experiments goads Coleman, Jonathan Finlayson, Miles Okazaki, Anthony Tidd and Sean Rickman to raise their respective games. The overlapping dialogue between Coleman's scorching alto sax and Finlayson's slashing trumpet seems more colorfully serpentine on stage while the worlds-within-worlds polyrhythmic drive provided by bassist Tidd and drummer Rickman yanks you into the music's molten core and Okasaki's guitar sets off well-timed compression bombs. If your head can move to this group's percolating dramatic tension — and it should — your body will eventually follow. —Gene Seymour

7. Mary Halvorson
Code Girl (Firehouse 12)
Points: 164.5
Votes: 29

This guitarist starts new bands with impressive frequency. Her latest includes familiar collaborators — drummer Tomas Fujiwara and bassist Michael Formanek — while adding trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and vocalist Amirtha Kidambi. Those recruits help turn this collection of original tunes into a new highlight in the bandleader's catalog. The group can dart between categories — like indie-rock, free-improv or ecstatic minimalism — in a manner similar to the way Halvorson switches up textures during a solo. —Seth Colter Walls

8. Myra Melford's Snowy Egret
The Other Side of Air (Firehouse 12)
Points: 161.5
Votes: 30

Pianist/composer Myra Melford's second release with her sinewy quintet Snowy Egret is a challenging yet elegant experience. With its trumpet and guitar frontline, the group easily summons its analogies to the small white heron, their natural stride suggesting a certain bird-like musical air; industriously pecking, foraging and soaring through Melford's knotty melodies and rattling sense of purpose. —Dan Buskirk

9. Cecile McLorin Salvant
The Window (Mack Avenue)
Points: 135
Votes: 21

In a high-stakes gamble, vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant steps away from the small group format that earned her two Grammys for Best Vocal Jazz Album. On The Window, she sings with bare-bones piano accompaniment only, revealing an ever-deepening connection to the modernized Songbook. Against pianist Sullivan Fortner's inventive reharmonizations, Salvant bedazzles. —Suzanne Lorge

10. Thumbscrew
Ours/Theirs (Cuneiform)
Points: 123.5
Votes: 23

With two companion recordings, Ours, a program of nine originals, and Theirs, an album of ten covers, Thumbscrew, the trio of bassist Michael Formanek, drummer Tomas Fujiwara and guitarist Mary Halvorson, obliterate the false dichotomy of innovation versus tradition in jazz (you have to have both), and create a personal canon of music that seethes with rhythmic ingenuity, bristles with surprise and connects the dots in unique ways. —Martin Johnson

The Rest Of The Top 50

11. Sons of Kemet, Your Queen Is a Reptile (Impulse!) 121.5 (18)
12. Kamasi Washington, 
Heaven and Earth (Young Turks) 117 (16)
13. Miles Okazaki, 
Work: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Monk, Vols. 1-6 (self-released) 112.5 (18)
14. Tyshawn Sorey, 
Pillars (Firehouse 12) 97 (14)
15. Joshua Redman, 
Still Dreaming (Nonesuch) 94 (17)
16. Sylvie Courvoisier Trio, 
D'Agala (Intakt) 90.5 (17)
17. Dave Holland, 
Uncharted Territories (Dare2) 88 (18)
18. Henry Threadgill, 
Double Up, Plays Double Up Plus (Pi) 86.5 (12)
19. Frank Kimbrough, 
Monk's Dreams: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Sphere Monk (Sunnyside) 84 (12)
20. Charles Lloyd & the Marvels + Lucinda Williams, 
Vanished Gardens (Blue Note) 79.5 (11)
21. Ingrid Laubrock, 
Contemporary Chaos Practices (Intakt) 74 (12)
22. JD Allen, 
Love Stone (Savant) 70.5 (13)
23. Kenny Barron Quintet, 
Concentric Circles (Blue Note) 68.5 (13)
24. Brad Mehldau, 
Seymour Reads the Constitution! (Nonesuch) 68 (12)
25. Dan Weiss, 
Starebaby (Pi) 67 (13)
26. Bill Frisell, 
Music IS (Okeh) 65 (11)
27. Daniel Carter-William Parker-Matthew Shipp, 
Seraphic Light (AUM Fidelity) 60 (12)
28. Jon Irabagon Quartet, 
Dr. Quixotic's Traveling Exotics (Irabbagast) 57 (10)
29. Don Byron & Aruán Ortiz, 
Random Dances and (A)tonalities (Intakt) 54 (10)
30. Stefon Harris & Blackout, 
Sonic Creed (Motéma) 50.5 (8)
31. Satoko Fujii, 
Solo (Libra) 48.5 (7)
32. Adam O'Farrill's Stranger Days, 
El Maquech (Biophilia) 48 (8)
33. The Nels Cline 4, 
Currents Constellations (Blue Note) 46.5 (9)
34. Fred Hersch Trio, 
Live in Europe (Palmetto) 43 (8)
35. Nicole Mitchell, 
Maroon Cloud (FPE) 42 (9)
36. Harriet Tubman, 
The Terror End of Beauty (Sunnyside) 42 (6)
37. David Virelles, 
Igbó Alákorin (The Singer's Grove), Vol. I & II (Pi) 38 (8)
38. Angelika Niescier Trio, 
The Berlin Concert (Intakt) 37 (6)
39. Steve Swell, 
Music for Six Musicians: Hommage Ŕ Olivier Messiaen (Silkheart -17) 37 (5)
40. Mark Turner & Ethan Iverson, 
Temporary Kings (ECM) 34 (8)
41. Miguel Zenón, 
Yo Soy La Tradición (Miel) 34 (5)
Christian McBride, Christian McBride's New Jawn (Mack Avenue) 33.5 (7)
43. Edward Simon, 
Sorrows & Triumphs (Sunnyside) 33 (6)
44. Julian Lage, 
Modern Lore (Mack Avenue) 32 (7)
45 (tie). James Brandon Lewis & Chad Taylor, 
Radiant Imprints (OFF) 31 (7)
45 (tie) Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas Sound Prints, 
Scandal (Greenleaf Music) 31 (7)
47. Aaron Parks, 
Little Big (Ropeadope) 31 (6)
48. Noah Preminger & Frank Carlberg, 
Whispers and Cries (Red Piano) 31 (5)
49. William Parker, 
Voices Fall From the Sky (AUM Fidelity) 30 (4)
50. Elio Villafranca, 
Cinque (ArtistShare) 29.5 (4)

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Old Grey Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Feb 2019 at 5:17pm
Thanks for posting!   It looks like I have a lot of music to listen to -especially if so many bested a couple of my favorites on the list:

15. Joshua Redman, Still Dreaming (Nonesuch) 94 (17)
20. Charles Lloyd & the Marvels + Lucinda Williams, Vanished Gardens (Blue Note) 79.5 (11)
22. JD Allen, Love Stone (Savant) 70.5 (13)

All phenomenal albums I still have in heavy rotation.

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