Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

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.

3. Ella Fitzgerald: Ella: The Lost Berlin Tapes (Verve)

3. Ella Fitzgerald: <i>Ella: The Lost Berlin Tapes<i> (Verve)</i></i>

Just shy of 45, Ella was in sensational form in 1962 when she sang at Berlin’s Sportpalast. Her set, brimming with nuance and vitality, was recorded in state-of-the-art fidelity but never released till now. Performances of standards (“Summertime,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “Mack the Knife”) are definitive, but it’s the oddities—like her cover of Ray Charles’ “Hallelujah I Love Him So”—that give the program that extra pizzazz. JEFF TAMARKIN

Originally Published