Best Jazz Albums 2013

It’s not exceptional to write that 2013 was an excellent year for jazz records, since there are so many creatively restless contemporary jazz musicians driven to play and record dispute the enormous economic hardship of the jazz life. There are also more than ten best albums of the year, but this list comes via the ballot I submitted to Francis Davis for his 8th Annual Jazz Critics poll, hosted at NPR

I though rigorously about this one, and kept it within the confines of jazz. My definitions for the music are broader than many of my peers, but I still had to save such great records as Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd’s Holding it Down and Ben Monder’s Hydra for different lists, since stylistically their connection to jazz is attenuated. This may be the first 2013 list, but not the last, so you’ll see them soon.

If you want to buy any, this list collates all the ones available directly through Amazon, special distributions are through links in the release listings themselves. Remember, if you ordered through Amazon, a tiny bit of coin goes to me instead of Jeff Bezos (no extra cost to you) and that helps keep this blog going.

2013 Ten best New Releases:

  1. Mary Halvorson Sextet, Illusionary Sea (solid number one, a uniquely great record)
  2. William Parker, Wood Flute Songs
  3. John Hébert Trio, Floodstage (should be available through Clean Feed any day)
  4. Jon Lundbom and Big Five Chord, Liverevil
  5. Bobby Avey, Be not so long to speak
  6. Ches Smith and These Arches, Hammered
  7. Marc Cary Focus Trio, Four Directions
  8. Harris Eisenstadt September Trio, The Destructive Element
  9. Curtis Hasselbring, Numbers Stations
  10. 10–32K, That Which is Planted; Live in Buffalo and Rochester

These are all Number 11:

  • Noah Preminger, Haymaker
  • Mark Dresser Quintet, Nourishments
  • Ryan Keberle, Music is Emotion
  • Ryan Cohan, The River
  • Myra Melford, Life Carries Me This Way
  • Nate Wooley Sextet, (Sit in) The Throne of Friendship
  • Elliott Sharp Aggregat, Quintet
  • Endangered Blood, Work Your Magic
  • Amir ElSaffar, Alchemy
  • Billy Bang, Da Bang
  • John Hollenbeck, Songs I Like a Lot
  • Darcy James Argue, Brooklyn Babylon
  • JP Schlegelmilch, Throughout
  • Ghost Train Orchestra, Book of Rhapsodies
  • Mostly Other People Do The Killing, Slippery Rock
  • Ben Goldberg, Unfold Ordinary Mind
  • Marco Cappelli Acoustic Trio, Le Stagioni Del Commissario Ricciardi

2013 Top Three Reissues:

  1. Woody Shaw, The Complete Muse Sessions
  2. Gil Scott-Heron, The Revolution Begins
  3. The Complete Clifford Jordan Strata-East Sessions

And tied for an even fourth:

  • Paul Bley, The Complete Remastered Recordings on Black Saint and Soul Note
  • Joe McPhee, Nation Time

2013 Best Vocal Album: Andy Bey, The World According to Andy Bey

  • Just as great is Pete McGuiness, Voice Like a Horn!

2013 Best Debut Album: Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Defense, Moment and the Message

These are also superb and promise future excitement, and the debut list would be in the top 10, but this was a convenient excuse to honor a baker’s dozen of jazz albums you should be listening to:

  • Dylan Ryan & Sand, Sky Bleached
  • Thiefs, Thiefs

2013 Best Latin Jazz Album: Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet, Jazz Latin

You will find just as much pleasure with:

  • Sao Paolo Underground, Beija Flors Velho E Sujo

UPDATED: Fixed Mary Halvorson’s album title, added link to final poll results


I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.


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