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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

Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter (photo © Alan Nahigian)


John Coltrane
John Coltrane (photo: Roger Kasparian/Yasuhiro Fujioka Collection
  1. John Coltrane Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album (Impulse!)
John Coltrane "Both Directions at Once"
John Coltrane “Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album”

Of the unsuspected caches of Coltrane that have been miraculously unearthed in the new millennium, Both Directions at Once ranks third, after Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall and One Down, One Up. It contains material recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio on March 6, 1963 by Coltrane’s Classic Quartet at the peak of its powers. Among the masterpieces are “Slow Blues” and “Impressions.” It is ungrateful to rank gifts from the gods. T.C.

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  1. Miles Davis & John Coltrane The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6 (Columbia/Legacy)
Miles Davis & John Coltrane "The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6"
Miles Davis & John Coltrane “The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6”

By 1960, only with some arm-twisting was Davis able to get a reluctant Coltrane to stick around for one last tour: Miles’ first European trip with his own band. While his bandmates were still playing à la Kind of Blue, Coltrane was exploring the cascading blurs and dissonant slurs that would soon reshape jazz harmony. The result was a band in conflict with itself, but instead of a train wreck, it created dramatic tension of the highest order. G.H.

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  1. Wes Montgomery In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording (Resonance)
Wes Montgomery "In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording"
Wes Montgomery “In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording”

The guitarist was especially fired up on this 1965 gig, a rare visit to the European continent for the flying-phobic American. With a killer band including pianist Harold Mabern (and guest tenor sax soloist Johnny Griffin), Montgomery manages to chill for a couple of tunes—like a lovely “’Round Midnight”—but even then there’s an electric crackle in the air. J.T.

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  1. Charles Mingus Jazz in Detroit/Strata Gallery/46 Selden (180 Proof/BBE)
Charles Mingus "Jazz in Detroit/Strata Gallery/46 Selden" 
Charles Mingus “Jazz in Detroit/Strata Gallery/46 Selden”

This February 1973 performance at Detroit’s Strata Gallery was a shoestring affair, and so is WDET radio’s broadcast of it. Don Pullen’s piano is distorted; Mingus briefly solicits a backup amplifier from the radio audience. It only serves to remind us that one of 20th-century music’s most accomplished figures never lost touch with the people. The mammoth Jazz in Detroit also happens to capture Mingus (with a never-before-documented quintet) in inspired communion with those people. M.J.W.


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  1. Erroll Garner Nightconcert (Mack Avenue)
Erroll Garner "Nightconcert"
Erroll Garner “Nightconcert”

Though most tunes Garner played at this 1964 Amsterdam concert are thoroughly familiar, no one before or since has played them like this. The inexhaustible ideas, the spontaneous orchestration, the dynamic control, the fire: When Garner plays you’d think that bassist Eddie Calhoun and drummer Kelly Martin had three pianists to interact with, not one. And yet it’s seamless, as near the summit of jazz piano expression as a player can get. D.R.A.

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  1. Sonny Rollins Way Out West: Deluxe Edition (Craft)
  2. Woody Shaw Tokyo 81 (Elemental)
  3. Teddy Wilson Classic Brunswick & Columbia Teddy Wilson Sessions 1934-42 (Mosaic)
  4. Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette After the Fall (ECM)
  5. Grant Green Funk in France: From Paris to Antibes, 1969-1970 (Resonance)

Originally Published