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Best of Jazz – Year 2020

The best jazz 2020 in 10 essential albums.

No rank, no order, just 10 albums and a playlist summing it up (with 10 extra tracks) at the end of this post to enjoy outstanding music.

best jazz 2020

Best Jazz 2020 – 10 Essential Albums

Shabaka and the AncestorsWe Are Sent Here By History

Best Jazz 2020 - Shabaka-and-the-Ancestors-We-Are-Sent-Here-By-History
Shabaka and the Ancestors
We Are Sent Here By History

(Impulse!)

“…it is jazz at its best. If humankind’s extinction is inevitable, as Hutchings fears, then at least we have some extraordinary music with which to play ourselves out.”
Chris May

Shabaka Hutchings: woodwinds; Mthunzi Mvubu: saxophone; Ariel Zamonsky: bass; Gontse Makhene: percussion; Tumi Mogorosi: drums; Siyabonga Mthembu: voice; Nduduzo Makhathini: keyboards; Thandi Ntuli: piano; Mandla Mlangeni: trumpet
Release date March 13, 2020
Contemporary Jazz


Keith JarrettBudapest Concert

Keith Jarrett - Budapest Concert
Keith Jarrett
Budapest Concert
(ECM)

This is another amazing solo concert by the virtuoso pianist Keith Jarrett. Recorded live on July 3, 2016, at the Béla Bartók National Concert Hall, Budapest Concert is after Munich 2016 the second recording of this European tour published by ECM. But Budapest brought some extra inspiration: as his family roots reach back to Hungary he “viewed the Budapest concert as akin to a homecoming, and the context inspired much creative improvisation”.

Part of Keith Jarrett – Piano Solos (1998-2017)

Keith Jarrett: piano
Release date October 30, 2020
Contemporary Jazz


Gil Scott-Heron, Makaya McCravenWe’re New Again

Best Jazz 2020 - Makaya McCraven - We're New Again
Gil Scott-Heron, Makaya McCraven
We’re New Again (A Reimagining by Makaya McCraven)
(XL Recordings)

“To mark the tenth anniversary of the release of I’m New Here, the thirteenth – and last – studio album from the legendary US musician, poet and author Gil Scott-Heron, XL Recordings will release a unique reinterpretation of the album by acclaimed US jazz musician Makaya McCraven.”
— XL Recordings

Gil Scott-Heron: voice; Makaya McCraven: drums; Jeff Parker: guitar; Brandee Younger: harp; Junius Paul: bass; Ben LaMar Gay: multi-instrumentalist.
Release date February 7, 2020
Soul-Jazz


James Brandon Lewis, Chad Taylor – Live in Willisau

James Brandon Lewis, Chad Taylor - Live in Willisau
James Brandon Lewis, Chad Taylor
Live in Willisau
(Intakt Records)

James Brandon Lewis: tenor saxophone; Chad Taylor: drums, mbira.
Release date April 17, 2020
Avant-garde Jazz, Free Jazz


Majid Bekkas – Magic Spirit Quartet

Magic Spirit Quartet
Majid Bekkas, Goran Kajfeš, Jesper Nordenström, Stefan Pasborg
Magic Spirit Quartet

(ACT)

“Now, with Magic Spirit Quartet, he has had taken the boldly imaginative step of building a bridge to connect North Africa and Scandinavia, to align the ancestral with the ambient. It is an inspired move which seems to catch the very spirit of 21st-century jazz.”
— ACT

Majid Bekkas: vocals, guembri, oud & electric guitar; Goran Kajfeš: trumpet, electric trumpet & percussion; Jesper Nordenström: piano, organ, synthesizers & spinet piano; Stefan Pasborg: drums, percussion & tuned gongs
Release date January 31, 2020
Jazz, Folk, World, & Country, African


Peter Brötzmann, Maâlem Moukhtar Gania, Hamid DrakeThe Catch of a Ghost

Peter Brötzmann, Maâlem Moukhtar Gania - The Catch of a Ghost
Peter Brötzmann, Maâlem Moukhtar Gania, Hamid Drake
The Catch of a Ghost

(I Dischi Di Angelica)

“3 names, 3 cultures, 3 continents, 3 different concepts of time and timing – this is the essence of this trio. This is what we have to bring together. I am rather optimistic.”
— Peter Brötzmann

Peter Brötzmann: tenor saxophone, tarogato; Maâlem Moukhtar Gania: guembri, voice; Hamid Drake: drums
Release date April 20, 2020
Jazz, Folk, World, & Country, Free Jazz


Anna Högberg Attack – Lena

Anna Högberg Attack - Lena
Anna Högberg Attack
Lena
(Omlott)

Read our full review here Anna Högberg AttackLena

Anna Högberg: alto saxophone; Elin Forkelid: tenor saxophone; Niklas Barnö: trumpet; Lisa Ullén: piano; Elsa Bergman: bass; Anna Lund: drums
Release date April 25, 2020
Free Jazz


Nduduzo MakhathiniModes Of Communication: Letters From The Underworlds

Nduduzo Makhathini - Modes Of Communication Letters From The Underworld
Nduduzo Makhathini
Modes Of Communication: Letters From The Underworlds

(Blue Note)

“an expansive album anchored by Makhathini’s expressive piano in which lyrical, plaintive horns mingle with percussion, pained yelps and urgent lyrics”
— Blue Note

Nduduzo Makhatini: piano; Logan Richardson: alto saxophone; Linda Sikhakhane: tenor saxophone; Ndabo Zulu: trumpet; Zwelakhe-Duma Bell Le Pere: bass; Ayanda Sikade: drums; Asanda Msaki, Omagugu Makhathini, Nailah Makhathini: vocals
Release date April 3, 2020
Contemporary Jazz, African


Matthew Shipp – The Piano Equation

Matthew Shipp - The Piano Equation
Matthew Shipp
The Piano Equation
(TAO Forms)

Further honing a singular cosmic musical language, Matthew Shipp began celebrating his landmark 60th year with this new solo piano recording.

Matthew Shipp: piano
Release date May 22, 2020
Cosmic, Improvised, Solo


Ron Miles – Rainbow Sign

Ron Miles - Rainbow Sign
Ron Miles
Rainbow Sign
(Blue Note)

“Miles wrote most of Rainbow Sign as his father was passing away in the summer of 2018, and the album is both a loving dedication and a riveting spiritual document that scores the journey from Earth to eternal peace.”
Blue Note

Ron Miles: cornet; Brian Blade: drums; Bill Frisell: guitar; Jason Moran: piano, photography; Thomas Morgan: double bass
Release date October 9, 2020
Contemporary Jazz


Playlist “Best Jazz 2020”

Here is a link to the Spotify Playlist Best Jazz 2020, with a track for each album listed above plus 10 tracks from 10 other amazing 2020 jazz albums, including Gogo Penguin, Angel Bat Dawid, Anteloper, and more!

Selection 2020:

  • Shabaka and the AncestorsWe Are Sent Here By History
  • Keith JarrettBudapest Concert
  • Gil Scott-Heron, Makaya McCravenWe’re New Again (A Reimagining by Makaya McCraven)
  • James Brandon Lewis, Chad TaylorLive in Willisau
  • Majid Bekkas, Goran Kajfeš, Jesper Nordenström, Stefan PasborgMagic Spirit Quartet
  • Peter Brötzmann, Maâlem Moukhtar Gania, Hamid DrakeThe Catch of a Ghost
  • Anna Högberg AttackLena
  • Nduduzo MakhathiniThe Underworlds
  • Matthew ShippThe Piano Equation
  • Ron MilesRainbow Sign

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