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Best of jazz – year 2020

The best jazz 2020 in 10 albums plus 10 extra tracks.

No rank, no order, just two lists -(a) 10 albums, (b) 10 tracks – and a playlist with 20 tracks (at the end of this post) to enjoy outstanding music. All comments to correct information are very welcomed. Any recommendations on tracks that should have made it to the playlist would also be very appreciated.

(a) Best Jazz 2020 – 10 Albums

(a.1) Shabaka and the Ancestors

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


“…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: 2020.03.13
Contemporary Jazz

Website Bandcamp

(a.2) GoGo Penguin

GoGo Penguin
GoGo Penguin
GoGo Penguin

(Blue Note)

“Now back with their self-titled album out on June 5th, which signifies their conviction that they’ve struck upon the motherlode, hit the jackpot, stepped up and generally arrived at a point they’ve always striven for but never quite attained before.”
Blue Note

Chris Illingworth: piano; Nick Blacka: bass; Rob Turner: drums
Release date: 2020.06.05
Contemporary Jazz

Website Twitter

(a.3) Gil Scott-Heron, Makaya McCraven

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: 2020.02.07

Website Twitter

(a.4) Majid Bekkas, Goran Kajfeš, Jesper Nordenström, Stefan Pasborg

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


“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.”

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: 2020.01.31
Jazz, Folk, World, & Country, African

Website Twitter

(a.5) Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard, Steve Swallow

Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard, Steve Swallow
Life Goes On
(ECM Records)

“A striking album of new music from pianist/composer Carla Bley, whose trio with Andy Sheppard and Steve Swallow is now in its 25th year.”

Carla Bley: piano; Andy Sheppard: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Steve Swallow: bass guitar
Release date: 2020.02.14
Contemporary Jazz

(a.6) Peter Brötzmann, Maâlem Moukhtar Gania, Hamid Drake

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: 2020.04.20
Jazz, Folk, World, & Country, Free Jazz


(a.7) Anna Högberg Attack

Anna Högberg Attack - Lena
Anna Högberg Attack

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: 2020.04.25
Free Jazz


(a.8) Nduduzo Makhathini

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: 2020.04.03
Contemporary Jazz, African

Website Twitter

(a.9) Gard Nilssen´s Supersonic Orchestra

Gard Nilssen´s Supersonic Orchestra
from If You Listen Carefully The Music Is Yours

“Get ready for the full tilt, barely tamed, beautiful monster that is Gard Nilssen’s sixteen-piece Supersonic Orchestra.”
— Odin

Gard Nilssen: drums; Hanna Paulsberg: tenor saxophone, percussion; Kjetil Møster: saxophones, percussion; André Roligheten: saxophones, bass clarinet, percussion; Per “Texas” Johansson: tenor saxophone, contrabass clarinet, clarinet, percussion; Maciej Obara: alto saxophone, percussion; Mette Rasmussen: alto saxophone, percussion; Eirik Hegdal: saxophones, clarinet, percussion; Thomas Johansson: trumpet, percussion; Goran Kajfes: trumpet, percussion; Erik Johannessen: trombone, percussion; Petter Eldh: double bass, percussion; Ingebrigt Flaten: double bass, percussion; Ole Morten Vågan: double bass, percussion; Hans Hulbækmo: drums, percussion; Håkon Mjåset Johansen: drums, percussion; Gard Nilssen: drums, percussion.
Release date: 2020.04.02
Big Band, Free Jazz, Post Bop


(a.10) Ron Miles

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: 2020.10.09
Contemporary Jazz


(b) Best Jazz 2020 – 10 Tracks

(b.1) Angel Bat Dawid

Best Jazz 2020 - Angel Bat Dawid - Transition East
Angel Bat Dawid
“Transition East”
from Transition East

(International Anthem)

“Transition East” was composed and recorded alone by Angel Bat Dawid in her space on the Southside of Chicago.

Angel Bat Dawid: clarinets, keys, drum machine
Release date: 2020.06.19
Avant-garde Jazz

Bandcamp Twitter

(b.2) Jo Kaïat

Jo Kaiat - Koreduga la joie
Jo Kaïat
“Koreduga la joie”
from Come To My World

(Imago Records)

In this project, Jo Kaïat draws on the richness of Hebrew music from the Middle East, West Africa and Arab-Andalusia.

Jo Kaïat: piano; Avishai Cohen: bass; Noam David: drum
Release date: 2020.07.03
African, Afro-Cuban Jazz, Contemporary Jazz

Website Twitter

(b.3) The Sorcerers

Best Jazz 2020 - The Sorcerers - In Search of the Lost City of the Monkey Gold
The Sorcerers
“Opening Titles”
from In Search Of The Lost City Of The Monkey God

(ATA Records)

“[…]to conjure up images of the unforgiving environment of the dense jungle, unknown eyes watching the protagonists of the imagined film as they make their way towards their ultimate goal, their pursuit by unseen assailants, the arcane mysticism of undiscovered cargo cultists and the ancient ruins of long passed civilizations”
— ATA Records

Joost Hendrickx: drums; Neil Innes: bass & guitar; Pete Williams: flutes, bass clarinet, percussion & xylophone; Richard Ormrod: vibraphone
Release date: 2020.01.24
Funk, Afro-Cuban Jazz


(b.4) Giannis Arapis & Noël Akchoté

Giannis Arapis, Noël Akchoté - Name It So
Giannis Arapis & Noël Akchoté
“Mara Xantis”
from Name It So

(Noël Akchoté Downloads)

The guitarist in free improvisation + the guitar music “to scratch your heart”.

Noël Akchoté: electric guitar; Γιάννης Αράπης : electric guitar
Release date: 2020.02.21
Avant-garde Jazz, Contemporary Jazz, Free Improvisation


(b.5) Joel Ross

Best Jazz 2020 - Joel Ross - Who Are You
Joel Ross
Who Are You?
(Blue Note)

“This record is a culmination of our maturing – as people, as a band, within the music – it’s about figuring out who we are”
— Joel Ross

Joel Ross: vibraphone; Immanuel Wilkins: alto saxophone; Kanoa Mendenhall: bass; Jeremy Dutton: drums; Brandee Younger: harp; Jeremy Corren: piano
Release date: 2020.10.23

Website Twitter

(b.6) Tori Handsley

Tori Handsley - What's in a Tune
Tori Handsley
“What’s in a Tune”
As We Stand
(Cadillac Records)

“This album means so much to me and distills my observations, feelings and deepest expressions, reflecting on where we stand at this point in time, and our place in nature. It is the right time to stand and see the disruption humans have caused to nature’s balance and our growing disconnection from our natural landscape.”
— Tori Handsley

Tori Handsley: electric harp + Fx, piano; Moses Boyd: drums; Ruth Goller: bass; Sahra Gure: vocals
Release date: 2020.11.27
Contemporary Jazz

Website Twitter

(b.7) Scott Lee, JACK Quartet, Steven Beck, Russell Lacy

Scott Lee, JACK Quartet, Steven Beck - Through the Mangrove Tunnels
Scott Lee, JACK Quartet, Steven Beck, Russell Lacy
“Through the Mangrove Tunnels”
from Through the Mangrove Tunnels


“Inspired by his experiences growing up exploring the swamps and bayous of Florida, composer Scott Lee’s album-length work Through the Mangrove Tunnels features the JACK Quartet with pianist Steven Beck and drummer Russell Lacy performing eight genre-straddling movements.”
— PR

Scott Lee: composition; JACK Quartet; Steven Beck: piano; Russell Lacy: drum
Release date: 2020.11.13
Classical crossover

Bandcamp Website

(b.8) Anteloper

Best Jazz 2020 - Anteloper - Tour Beats Vol. 1
“Bubble Under”
Tour Beats Vol. 1
(International Anthem)

“studio loaded with acoustic drums, electronic triggers, modular FX unit, synths, sequencers, and a myriad of processors”

Jaimie Branch: trumpet, synth.; Jason Nazary: drums, synth.
Release date: 2020.11.13
Avant-garde Jazz, Abstract, Psychedelic


(b.9) The Heliocentrics

The Heliocentrics - Telemetric Sounds
The Heliocentrics
from Telemetric Sounds

(Madlib Invazion)

“The Heliocentrics search for [an individual voice] in an alternate galaxy where the orbits of funk, jazz, psychedelic, electronic, avant-garde and “ethnic” music all revolve around “The One”.”

Malcom Catto: drum; Jake Ferguson: bass; Adrian Owusu: guitar; Sylvia Hallett: hurdy gurdy, sarangi; Jack Yglesias: keyboards; Daniel Smith: guitar, electronics, synthesizer; Jason Yarde: baritone saxophone; Oliver Parfitt: synthesizer; Raven Bush: strings, electronics, violin; Barbora Patkova: vocals
Release date: 2020.08.07
Jazz, Psychedelic

Bandcamp Twitter

(b.10) Webber, Morris Big Band

Webber, Morris Big Band - Both Are True
Webber / Morris Big Band
from Both Are True
(Greenleaf Music)

“Integrating improvisation and composed material in unorthodox ways and using extra-musical sources – such as poetry or mathematics – here the traditional big band sound mutates into something unpredictable and exciting.”
— Greenleaf

Angela Morris: conductor, tenor saxophone, flute; Anna Webber: conductor, tenor saxophone, flute; Jay Rattman: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Charlotte Greve: alto saxophone, clarinet; Adam Schneit: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Lisa Parrott: baritone saxophone, bass clarinet; John Lake: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jake Henry: trumpet, flugelhorn; Adam O’Farrill: trumpet, flugelhorn; Kenny Warren: trumpet, flugelhorn; Tim Vaughn: trombone; Nick Grinder: trombone; Jen Baker: trombone; Reginald Chapman: bass trombone; Patricia Brennan: vibraphone; Dustin Carlson: guitar; Marc Hannaford: piano; Adam Hopkins: bass; Jeff Davis: drums
Release date: 2020.04.03
Contemporary Jazz, Avant-garde Jazz, Big Band


Playlist Best Jazz 2020

Best Jazz 2020 – Albums & Tracks List

10 Jazz Albums

  • Shabaka and the Ancestors – We Are Sent Here By History
  • GoGo Penguin – GoGo Penguin
  • Gil Scott-Heron, Makaya McCraven – We’re New Again (A Reimagining by Makaya McCraven)
  • Majid Bekkas, Goran Kajfeš, Jesper Nordenström, Stefan Pasborg – Magic Spirit Quartet
  • Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard, Steve Swallow – Life Goes On
  • Peter Brötzmann, Maâlem Moukhtar Gania, Hamid Drake – The Catch of a Ghost
  • Anna Högberg Attack – Lena
  • Nduduzo Makhathini – The Underworlds
  • Gard Nilssen´s Supersonic Orchestra – If You Listen Carefully The Music Is Yours
  • Ron Miles – Rainbow Sign

+ 10 Jazz Tracks 2020

  • Angel Bat Dawid – Transition East
  • Jo Kaïat – Come To My World
  • The Sorcerers – In Search Of The Lost City Of The Monkey God
  • Giannis Arapis & Noël Akchoté – Name It So
  • Joel Ross – Who Are You?
  • Tori Handsley – What’s in a Tune
  • Scott Lee, JACK Quartet, Steven Beck, Russell Lacy – Through the Mangrove Tunnels
  • Anteloper – Tour Beats Vol. 1
  • The Heliocentrics – Telemetric Sounds
  • Webber, Morris Big Band – Both Are True

Any thoughts or comments you would like to add to this post?