Best Jazz 1996
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Best Jazz Albums of 1996

Discover the Best of Jazz selection for 1996 with our ten best jazz albums released that year. Once again, the albums in this selection are listed in no particular order: all are amazing in their own ways. At the end of the post, you will also find a playlist with a track to represent each of those ten albums, plus ten extra, for more than 2 hours of breath-taking music.

Best Jazz 1996

The 10 Best Jazz Albums of 1996

David S. Ware Quartet - Godspelized

David S. Ware Quartet

(DIW Records)

“You need to make the music strong, and the philosophy behind the music has to be solid. What the music exudes, what it emits, has to be very strong. It’s your thinking that brings you things in life. Part of my philosophy to exceed starts right there.”
— David S. Ware

David S. Ware: tenor sax; Matthew Shipp: piano; William Parker: bass; Susie Ibarra: drums
Released 1996
Free Jazz

Bill Frisell - Quartet

Bill Frisell


Quartet may be his masterpiece.”
— The New York Times

Bill Frisell: electric and acoustic guitars; Ron Miles: trumpet, piccolo trumpet; Eyvind Kang: violin, tuba; Curtis Fowlkes: trombone
Released 1996
Jazz, post-bop

James Carter - Conversin' With The Elders

James Carter

Conversin’ With The Elders

The album features guest appearances by Lester Bowie, Larry Smith, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Hamiet Bluiett, and Buddy Tate. Interestingly, on all selections, James Carter can be heard on the right channel, with the guest on the left.

James Carter: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; Craig Taborn: piano; Jaribu Shahid: bass; Tani Tabbal: drums | Featuring Lester Bowie, Harry “Sweets” Edison: trumpet; Larry Smith: alto saxophone; Buddy Tate: tenor saxophone; Hamiet Bluiett: baritone saxophone.
Released June 4, 1996
Contemporary Jazz

Pharoah Sanders - Message From Home

Pharoah Sanders

Message From Home
(Verve Records)

“On Message From Home, Bill Laswell revisits and tweaks the electrified, pre-digital, Avant-funk studio template he had made his name within the mid-1980s, while Sanders stays mainly with the broken-note strewn, analog-age rhapsodizing that became his default mode in the early 1970s. Against expectations, it works.”
— AllAboutJazz

Pharoah Sanders: bells, bowls, flute, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, vocals; Jeff Bova: keyboards, programming; Aïyb Dieng: bells, chatan, congas, gong, vocals; Hamid Drake: drums, tabla, vocals; William Henderson: piano, electric piano, vocals; Dominic Kanza: guitar; Fanta Mangasuba: vocals; Charnett Moffett: bass; Steve Neil: bass, electric bass; Fatoumata Sako: vocals; Foday Musa Suso: doussn’gouni, kora, vocals; Mariama Suso, Salie Suso: vocals; Michael White: violin; Bernie Worrell: keyboards, vocals.
Released March 19, 1996
Modal Jazz, African

Paco De Lucía, Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin - The Guitar Trio

Paco De Lucía, Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin

The Guitar Trio
(Verve Records)

13 years after Passion, Grace, and Fire, which did not find its audience, and 15 years after the one and only Friday Night in San Francisco, the most amazing guitar trio has finally released a new perfect album.

Paco de Lucía: guitar; Al Di Meola: guitar; John McLaughlin: guitar
Released October 15, 1996
Flamenco, Latin Jazz

John Lindberg - Resurrection Of A Dormant Soul

John Lindberg

Resurrection Of A Dormant Soul
(Black Saint)

“This being their third outing together they have developed an admirable simpatico and complement each other with obvious relish and enjoyment. They have established a real dialogue that is rare in musicians with such disparate backgrounds. And though Lindberg is the listed leader, this really feels like a working co-op.”
— JazzTimes

John Lindberg: bass; Ed Thigpen: drums; Eric Watson: piano; Albert Mangelsdorff: trombone
Released December 28, 1996
Free Jazz, Contemporary Jazz

Joshua Redman - Freedom In The Groove

Joshua Redman

Freedom In The Groove
(Warner Bros. Records)

“I listen with stylistic innocence as well as critical intelligence.
I identify genres but ignore their limits.
I preserve my roots as I extend my branches.
Coming from a tradition but walking toward the horizons.
It takes me on a journey while it keeps me close to home.
Focused and eclectic: specialization and inclusion can go hand-in-hand.
Put it in the pocket, but keep it on the edge.
Give me a naked soul and a mature mind.
You can be grounded yet still be free.
With a swing. In the groove.
Playing jazz.
Playing music.”

— Joshua Redman (extract from the liner notes)

Joshua Redman: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, alto saxophone; Peter Bernstein: guitar; Peter Martin: piano; Christopher Thomas: bass; Brian Blade: drums
Released September 20, 1996
Post Bop

Ernest Ranglin - Below The Bassline

Ernest Ranglin

Below The Bassline
(Island Jamaica Jazz)

This is a must-have for both Reggae and Jazz fans.

Ernest Ranglin: guitar; Ira Coleman: bass; Idris Muhammad: drums; Gary Mayone: keyboards, percussion; Monty Alexander: piano, melodica.
Released 1996
Jazz, Reggae

Michael Brecker - Tales From The Hudson

Michael Brecker

Tales From The Hudson

Thanks to this album, Michael Brecker won two Grammy awards for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo (for his solo on “Cabin Fever”) and Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group.

Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone; Pat Metheny: guitar, guitar synthesizer; Joey Calderazzo: piano; Dave Holland: double bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums; McCoy Tyner: piano; Don Alias: percussion.
Released date September 10, 1996
Free Jazz, Contemporary Jazz

Dave Holland Quartet - Dream Of The Elders

Dave Holland Quartet

Dream Of The Elders
(ECM Records)

“I tried to take advantage of the elements of the new band – textures, space, the way the rhythm section works – in writing music for it…As I get older, I find I’m wanting to use all the various directions and languages that I like to play I like to engage in group interaction, have a performance be a group dialogue that features soloists at different times, that integrates written material with improvising.”
— Dave Holland

Dave Holland: double-bass; Steve Nelson: vibraphone, marimba; Eric Person: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Gene Jackson: drums; Cassandra Wilson: vocals.
Released January 1996
Contemporary Jazz, Post-Bop

Best Jazz 1996 – Albums List

  • David S. Ware QuartetGodspelized (DIW Records)
  • Bill FrisellQuartet (Nonesuch)
  • James CarterConversin’ With The Elders (Atlantic)
  • Pharoah SandersMessage From Home (Verve Records)
  • Paco De Lucía, Al Di Meola, John McLaughlinThe Guitar Trio (Verve Records)
  • John LindbergResurrection Of A Dormant Soul (Black Saint)
  • Joshua RedmanFreedom In The Groove (Warner Bros. Records)
  • Ernest RanglinBelow The Bassline (Island Jamaica Jazz)
  • Michael BreckerTales From The Hudson (Impulse!)
  • Dave Holland QuartetDream Of The Elders (ECM Records)

The 1990s

Discover all the other 1990s jazz selections: 19901991199219931994 – 1995 – 1997 – 19981999

Playlist “Best Jazz 1996”

Here is a link to the Spotify Playlist Best Jazz 1996, with a track for each album listed above plus 10 tracks from 10 other amazing 1996 jazz albums, including Don Byron, Bop City, Brandford Marsalis, Kenny Garrett, and more.

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