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The Year in Review: Top 50 Albums of 2019

JazzTimes' critics choose the top 40 new albums and top 10 historical releases of the year

Branford Marsalis Quartet
The Branford Marsalis Quartet (left to right: Marsalis, Justin Faulkner, Eric Revis, and Joey Calderazzo) made the best jazz album of 2019, according to JazzTimes‘ critics. (photo: Eric Ryan Anderson)

6. Tom Harrell Infinity (HighNote)

Joined by familiar associates, including drummer Johnathan Blake, the trumpeter and flugelhornist offers searing, soaring lines on well-drawn compositions that feel distinctly forward-looking. With saxophonist Mark Turner and guitarist Charles Altura (replacing piano for a more open sound) as chief foils, Harrell opens with the chugging groove and speedy head of “The Fast,” hints at Gaelic themes on “Dublin” and “The Isle,” and makes great use of a hypnotic riff on closer “Taurus.” P.B.

7. Joel Ross KingMaker (Blue Note)

Ross is only in his early twenties, but he has already established himself as one of the most vital musicians on the scene—and on the vibraphone, no less. His debut as a leader is a refreshingly inventive postbop document, aware of the tradition but in no way bowing to it. Ross’ crisp, bell-like tone stands apart in his working quintet, Good Vibes, which also features alto saxophone, piano, bass, and drums. M.K.

8. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah Ancestral Recall (Ropeadope)

With its layers of roiling African-suffused percussion crossbreeding with Western instrumentation, gripping spoken-word interludes, and Adjuah’s own trumpet and electronics, Ancestral Recall teems with audacity and authority. At times there is an overpowering sense of otherworldliness and displacement within these incessantly engaging grooves, the music transcending conventional rules of time and space to forge its own self-contained world. J.T.

9. Johnathan Blake Trion (Giant Step Arts)

Trion launched the nonprofit Giant Step Arts program founded by photographer/recording engineer Jimmy Katz. Two hours of live music were beautifully recorded by Katz at the Jazz Gallery in New York. Three exceptional players (Johnathan Blake, Chris Potter, Linda May Han Oh) were given freedom, space, and time. They responded with epic 17-minute onslaughts of theme-and-variation like “Synchronicity I,” and by incinerating “Relaxin’ at Camarillo.” T.C.

10. Linda May Han Oh Aventurine (Biophilia)

Bassist Linda May Han Oh has made waves as an accompanist, but Aventurine, named after a viridescent form of quartz, is her boldest leap forward to date as a composer. She expands her lineup to include a jazz quartet, a string quartet and, on four tracks, the Invenio Singers ensemble. These separate elements bond into a lucent whole, a reflection of both Oh’s master’s from the Manhattan School of Music and her mastery as an arranger. M.E.

Originally Published