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Year in Review: 2021 Individual Ballots

The new and historical jazz releases that each of our critics chose as their favorites of the year

Dr. Lonnie Smith
Dr. Lonnie Smith (photo: Kris King)

Here’s a full accounting of nearly every album and box set title voted for by our contributors—listed here in descending alphabetical order by last name—as part of our 2021 Year in Review section. (About that “nearly”: A small percentage of this year’s contributors requested that their individual ballots not be made public, and we have honored their requests.)

A.D. AMOROSI

New Releases
1. Vince Mendoza Freedom Over Everything (Modern) 
2. Dr. Lonnie Smith Breathe (Blue Note)
3. Patricia Barber Clique (Impex)
4. Henry Threadgill Zooid Poof (Pi)
5. Ches Smith/We All Break Path of Seven Colors (Pyroclastic)
6. Miguel Zenón Law Years: The Music of Ornette Coleman (Miel)
7. Roscoe Mitchell Dots / Pieces for Percussion and Woodwinds (Wide Hive)
8. Todd Cochran Then and Again, Here and Now (Sunnyside)
9. Craig Taborn Shadow Plays (ECM)
10. Joey DeFrancesco More Music (Mack Avenue)

Historical/Reissues
1. John Coltrane A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle (Impulse!)
2. Nina Simone The Montreux Years (BMG)
3. Charles Mingus Mingus at Carnegie Hall Deluxe Edition (Rhino)
4. Roy Brooks Understanding (Reel to Real)
5. Roy Hargrove/Mulgrew Miller In Harmony (Resonance)

DAN BILAWSKY

New Releases

1. Nadje Noordhuis Gullfoss (Little Mystery)
2. Remy Le Boeuf’s Assembly of Shadows Architecture of Storms (Soundspore)
3. Dan McCarthy A Place Where We Once Lived (self-released)
4. Veronica Swift This Bitter Earth (Mack Avenue)
5. Simon Moullier Trio Countdown (Fresh Sound)
6. Steven Feifke Big Band Kinetic (Outside In)
7. James Brandon Lewis/Red Lily Quintet Jesup Wagon (Tao Forms)
8. JD Allen Queen City (Savant)
9. The Mariel Bildsten Quintet Backbone (Outside In)
10. Scott DuBois Summer Water (Watertone/Sunnyside)

Historical/Reissues
1. John Coltrane A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle (Impulse!)
2. Roy Brooks Understanding (Reel to Real)
3. Lee Morgan The Complete Live at the Lighthouse (Blue Note)
4. Sheila Jordan Comes Love: Lost Session 1960 (Capri)
5. Roy Hargrove/Mulgrew Miller In Harmony (Resonance)

PHILIP BOOTH

New Releases
1. Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trios Songs from My Father (Whaling City Sound)
2. Chick Corea Akoustic Band LIVE (Concord Jazz)
3. Chris Potter There Is a Tide (Edition)
4. Kurt Elling SuperBlue (Edition)
5. Nate Smith Kinfolk 2: See the Birds (Edition)
6. Pat Metheny Side-Eye NYC (V1.IV) (Modern)
7. Remy Le Boeuf’s Assembly of Shadows Architecture of Storms (SoundSpore)
8. Chuck Owen and the Jazz Surge Within Us (Summit)
9. The Baylor Project Generations (Be a Light)
10. Orrin Evans The Magic of Now (Smoke Sessions)

Historical/Reissues
1. John Coltrane A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle (Impulse!)
2. Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller In Harmony (Resonance)
3. Harvie S Trio with Mike Stern and Alan Dawson Going for It (Savant)
4. Roy Brooks Understanding (Reel to Real)
5. Nina Simone The Montreux Years (BMG)

SHAUN BRADY

New Releases
1. Anna Webber Idiom (Pi)
2. Vijay Iyer Uneasy (ECM)
3. William Parker Migration of Silence Into and Out of the Tone World Volumes 1-10 (Centering/AUM Fidelity)
4. James Brandon Lewis/Red Lily Quintet Jesup Wagon (Tao Forms)
5. Anthony Braxton Quartet (Standards) 2020 (New Braxton House)
6. Thumbscrew Never Is Enough (Cuneiform)
7. Orrin Evans The Magic of Now (Smoke Sessions)
8. Ches Smith/We All Break Path of Seven Colors (Pyroclastic)
9. Craig Taborn Shadow Plays (ECM)
10. Maurice Louca Saet El Haz (The Luck Hour) (Sub Rosa/Northern Spy)

Historical/Reissues
1. Hasaan Ibn Ali Metaphysics: The Lost Atlantic Album (Omnivore)
2. Lee Morgan The Complete Live at the Lighthouse (Blue Note)
3. John Coltrane A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle (Impulse!)
4. Hasaan Ibn Ali Retrospect in Retirement of Delay: The Solo Recordings (Omnivore)
5. Roy Brooks Understanding (Reel to Real)

THOMAS CONRAD

New Releases
1. James Brandon Lewis/Red Lily Quintet Jesup Wagon (Tao Forms)
2. David Sanford Big Band Featuring Hugh Ragin A Prayer for Lester Bowie (Greenleaf)
3. Francesco Cafiso Irene of Boston (EFLAT)
4. Johnathan Blake Homeward Bound (Blue Note)
5. Bill Charlap Trio Street of Dreams (Blue Note)
6. Charles Lloyd & the Marvels Tone Poem (Blue Note)
7. Will Vinson/Gilad Hekselman/Antonio Sánchez Trio Grande (Whirlwind)
8. Jakob Bro Uma Elmo (ECM)
9. Marcin Wasilewski Trio En Attendant (ECM)
10. Renee Rosnes Kinds of Love (Smoke Sessions)

Historical/Reissues
1. John Coltrane A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle (Impulse!)
2. Lee Morgan The Complete Live at the Lighthouse (Blue Note)
3. Louis Armstrong The Complete Columbia and RCA Victor Studio Sessions 1946-1966 (Mosaic)
4. Roy Brooks Understanding (Reel to Real)
5. Bill Evans Behind the Dikes (Elemental)

MORGAN ENOS

New Releases
1. Anna Webber Idiom (Pi)
2. James Brandon Lewis Jesup Wagon (Tao Forms)
3. Johnathan Blake Homeward Bound (Blue Note)
4. Miho Hazama Imaginary Visions (Edition)
5. Brian Lynch Songbook Vol. 1: Bus Stop Serenade (Hollistic Music Works)
6. Jihye Lee Orchestra Daring Mind (Motéma)
7. Esperanza Spalding Songwrights Apothecary Lab (Concord Jazz)
8. Steven Feifke Big Band Kinetic (Outside In)
9. Tomoko Omura Branches, Vol. 2 (Outside In)
10. Min Xiao-Fen White Lotus (Outside In)

Historical/Reissues
1. Roy Brooks Understanding (Reel to Real)
2. John Coltrane A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle (Impulse!)
3. Alice Coltrane Kirtan: Turiya Sings (Impulse!)
4. Louis Armstrong The Complete Louis Armstrong Columbia and RCA Victor Studio Sessions 1946-1966 (Mosaic)
5. Lee Morgan The Complete Live at the Lighthouse (Blue Note)

ANDREW GILBERT

New Releases
1. David Sanford Big Band A Prayer for Lester Bowie (Greenleaf)
2. Remy Le Boeuf’s Assembly of Shadows Architecture of Storms (Soundspore)
3. The Cookers Look Out! (Gearbox)
4. Ches Smith/We All Break Path of Seven Colors (Pyroclastic)
5. Larry Ochs and Donald Robinson A Civil Right (ESP-Disk’)
6. Veronica Swift This Bitter Earth (Mack Avenue)
7. Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trios Songs from My Father (Whaling City Sound)
8. Harold Mabern Mabern Plays Coltrane (Smoke Sessions)
9. Ben Goldberg Everything Happens to Be (BAG Productions)
10. James Brandon Lewis/Red Lily Quintet Jesup Wagon (Tao Forms)

Historical/Reissues
1. Lee Morgan The Complete Live at the Lighthouse (Blue Note)
2. Hasaan Ibn Ali Metaphysics: The Lost Atlantic Album (Omnivore)
3. Roy Hargrove & Mulgrew Miller In Harmony (Resonance)
4. Harold Land Westward Bound! (Reel to Real)
5. Roberto Miranda’s Home Music Ensemble Live at Bing Theatre – Los Angeles, 1985 (Dark Tree)

STEVE GREENLEE

New Releases
1. Anna Webber Idiom (Pi)
2. Steve Coleman and Five Elements Live at the Village Vanguard Volume II (MDW NTR) (Pi)
3. Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio I Told You So (Colemine)
4. Jacqueline Kerrod 17 Days in December (Orenda)
5. Henry Threadgill Zooid Poof (Pi)
6. Archie Shepp & Jason Moran Let My People Go (Archieball)
7. Wadada Leo Smith Sacred Ceremonies (TUM)
8. Wollny/Parisien/Lefebvre/Lillinger XXXX (ACT)
9. Jim Snidero Live at the Deer Head Inn (HighNote)
10. Yoko Miwa Trio Songs of Joy (Ubuntu)

Historical/Reissues
1. John Coltrane A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle (Impulse!)
2. Steve Tintweiss and the Purple Why MarksTown (Inky Dot)
3. Sonny Rollins Rollins in Holland (Resonance)
4. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers First Flight to Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings (Blue Note)
5. Don Cherry Cherry Jam (Gearbox)

GEOFFREY HIMES

New Releases
1. Charles Lloyd & the Marvels Tone Poem (Blue Note)
2. Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas SoundPrints Other Worlds (Greenleaf)
3. East Axis Cool with That (ESP-Disk’)
4. Vijay Iyer Uneasy (ECM)
5. Amir ElSaffar/Rivers of Sound The Other Shore (Outnote)
6. David Sanford Big Band Featuring Hugh Ragin A Prayer for Lester Bowie (Greenleaf)
7. Jihye Lee Orchestra Daring Mind (Motéma)
8. Arturo O’Farrill Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra Virtual Birdland (Zoho)
9. Henry Threadgill Zooid Poof (Pi)
10. Frank Kimbrough Ancestors (Sunnyside) 

Historical/Reissues
1. Sam Rivers Quartet Braids (No Business)
2. Hasaan Ibn Ali Metaphysics: The Lost Atlantic Album (Omnivore)
3. Sheila Jordan Comes Love: Lost Session 1960 (Capri)
4. Nina Simone The Montreux Years (BMG)
5. Roy Brooks Understanding (Reel to Real)

MARTIN JOHNSON

New Releases
1. James Brandon Lewis/Red Lily Quintet Jesup Wagon (Tao Forms)
2. Craig Taborn Shadow Plays (ECM)
3. Rob Mazurek’s Exploding Star Orchestra Dimensional Stardust (International Anthem/Nonesuch)
4. Anna Webber Idiom (Pi)
5. Caroline Davis Portals, Volume 1: Mourning (Sunnyside)
6. Irreversible Entanglements Open the Gates (International Anthem)
7. The Baylor Project Generations (Be a Light)
8. Jazzmeia Horn and Her Noble Force Dear Love (Empress Legacy)
9. Adam O’Farrill Visions of Your Other (Biophilia)
10. Andrew Cyrille Quartet The News (ECM)

Historical/Reissues
1. John Coltrane A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle (Impulse!)
2. Lee Morgan The Complete Live at the Lighthouse (Blue Note)
3. Charles Mingus Mingus at Carnegie Hall Deluxe Edition (Rhino)
4. Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller In Harmony (Resonance)
5. Alice Coltrane Kirtan: Turiya Sings (Impulse!) Originally Published