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Year in Review: The 10 Best Historical Recordings of 2020

Our critics vote on the year's top reissues and vault discoveries

Thelonious Monk 1968
Thelonious Monk and (right) Larry Gales, 1968 (photo: Lee Tanner)

For our 2020 Year in Review section, we calculated the top 40 new releases and top 10 historical/reissue recordings of 2020 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. To see each voter’s ballot, go here. Albums and box sets released between Nov. 10, 2019 and Nov. 13, 2020 were eligible. Some discs may have slipped through the cracks, however, as official release dates shifted or weren’t available.

2. Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers: Just Coolin' (Blue Note)

2. Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers: <i>Just Coolin'</i> (Blue Note)

A previously unreleased album recorded in 1959 at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio, this session has the legendary drummer employing the superstar frontline of trumpeter Lee Morgan and saxophonist Hank Mobley, pianist Bobby Timmons, and bassist Jymie Merritt for a smoking six-song set. Two of these compositions have never been heard before, and they sound as fresh as anything written today. STEVE GREENLEE

Originally Published