The Year in Review: Top 50 Albums of 2018

JazzTimes' critics choose the top 40 new albums and top 10 historical releases of the year

JVC, Newport Jazz Festival, Fort Adams State Park, August 9, 200

Wayne Shorter (photo © Alan Nahigian)

We calculated our top 40 new releases and top 10 historical/reissue recordings of 2018 based on year-end lists by our writers. They were asked to choose the 10 best new releases and five best historical titles—i.e., albums and box sets consisting primarily of music recorded 10 or more years ago. Albums and box sets released between Nov. 7, 2017 and Nov. 10, 2018 were eligible. Some discs may have slipped through the cracks, however, as official release dates shifted or weren’t available.

Blurbs by David R. Adler, Philip Booth, Shaun Brady, Thomas Conrad, J.D. Considine, Andrew Gilbert, Geoffrey Himes, Matthew Kassel, Ken Micallef, Mac Randall, Jeff Tamarkin, and Michael J. West

  1. Wayne Shorter Emanon (Blue Note)
Wayne Shorter "Emanon"
Wayne Shorter “Emanon”

Like Himalayan peaks, these performances stretch out before the listener, vast in scale. A full disc in-studio with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, two discs live from London with the spectacular Shorter quartet, even a graphic novel: It’s as triumphant a late-career statement as anyone could make. Choose any entry point and one can get lost in it, with tantalizing clues and markers to be grasped as one ascends. Three of the four Orpheus pieces receive quartet treatments as well, including “Prometheus Unbound,” seeds of which were sown in “Capricorn 2,” the final track from Alegría. It’s heartrending to recall that on David Weiss’ Endangered Species: The Music of Wayne Shorter (2013), we hear Geri Allen probe the same piece’s secrets alongside bassist Dwayne Burno—two brilliant lights who would soon depart well before their time. These complex histories intersect on Emanon, as Shorter defies the march of time and stirs up spirits that can never die. D.R.A.

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  1. Ambrose Akinmusire Origami Harvest (Blue Note)
Ambrose Akinmusire "Origami Harvest"
Ambrose Akinmusire “Origami Harvest”

It’s hardly novel in 2018 for young jazz composers to infuse elements of hip-hop or chamber music, or even both, into their own compositions. Yet that doesn’t stop Ambrose Akinmusire’s latest from feeling utterly original. With Origami Harvest the trumpeter’s achievement reaches, if not exceeds, the scale of his estimable ambition. The music is fueled by Akinmusire’s searing intellect, shot through with the acidic tinge of all-too-justified anger at our current sociopolitical crisis. S.B.

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  1. Myra Melford’s Snowy Egret The Other Side of Air (Firehouse 12)
Myra Melford "Snowy Egret"
Myra Melford “The Other Side of Air”

The Berkeley pianist/composer delivers another uncommonly picaresque journey with her quintet featuring cornetist Ron Miles, bass guitarist Stomu Takeishi, guitarist Liberty Ellman, and drummer extraordinaire Tyshawn Sorey. Vivid compositions marked by starkly contrasting but intuitively suggestive passages keep the surprises coming. Miles and Ellman’s cool poise insistently interrogates Melford and Sorey’s flashing heat, with the protean Takeishi egging on both sides, playing one against the other. A.G.

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