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Best Of 2012

Top 20 Jazz Albums of 2012

by Seth Colter Walls

Top 20 Jazz Albums of 2012


From the harmonically abstract but always grooving late-period stylings of Henry Threadgill to pop-inflected albums by Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spalding, 2012 was a ravishingly good year for new jazz albums.

Clarence Penn made the straight-ahead approach sound urgently swinging, Elliott Sharp's trio brought rock energy to their recording date, and Jesse Stacken took care of the modernist-classical crossover. Neneh Cherry cut the best skronk-meets-vocals album since … well, ever. Vijay Iyer covered everyone from Flying Lotus to Threadgill (and also tossed in “Human Nature”). Bidding goodbye to Sam Rivers was made easier by the final recording of his best-known trio. Some albums that didn’t quite make my albums cut – like Brad Mehldau's Where Do You Start – still provided worthy tracks (like his cover of the Alice in Chains song “Got Me Wrong”). The accompanying playlist makes room for them all.

20) Clarence Penn, Dali in Cobble Hill
19) Christian Scott, Christian aTunde Adjuah
18) James Falzone, Klang: Brooklyn Lines . . . Chicago Spaces
17) Elliott Sharp Trio, Aggregat
16) Fred Hersch Trio, Alive at the Vanguard
15) Jesse Stacken, Bagatelles for Trio
14) David Virelles, Continuum
13) Tomas Fujiwara, The Air Is Different
12) Miguel Zenon & Laurent Coq, Rayuela
11) Esperanza Spalding, Radio Music Society
10) Neneh Cherry, The Cherry Thing
9) Black Music Disaster, Black Music Disaster
8) Sam Rivers, Reunion - Live in New York
7) Ravi Coltrane, Spirit Fiction
6) The Bad Plus, Made Possible
5) Branford Marsalis, Four MFs Playin' Tunes
4) Robert Glasper, Black Radio
3) Steve Lehman Trio, Dialect Flourescent
2) Vijay Iyer Trio, Accelerando
1) Henry Threadgill, Tomorrow Sunny / The Revelry, Spp