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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.

5. Nat King Cole: Straighten Up and Fly Right – The Best of Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943) (Resonance)

5. Nat King Cole: <i>Straighten Up and Fly Right – The Best of</i> Hittin’ the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943) (Resonance)

Derived from the extremely all-encompassing seven-CD collection Hittin' the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943), which—yes, we remember—made our year-end list last year, this is a stripped-down 21-track version intended for fans who prefer to enjoy only Cole’s essential songs from the era when he played jazz. Highlighting the album are the great pianist/singer’s interactions with Oscar Moore on guitar and Johnny Miller or Wesley Prince on acoustic bass, along with bonus (non-box) number “This Side Up.” CHRIS J. WALKER

Originally Published