Best Jazz Albums of 2014 (UPDATED)

This is the list of albums I submitted to Francis Davis for his Jazz Critics Poll (and also posted at the Jazz Journalists Association site). Jazz releases this year were broad and deep in overall, consistent quality, though none on the top new releases lists startled me. No criticism, the freshest and most unexpected music I heard on recordings this year can be found in the subcategories below, and the CDs from Serpa and Matos, Sperrazza, and Virelles are the de facto top three for 2014, not just for quality—everything below is high quality—but for that uncanny newness factor, music that is unexpectged and powerfully attractive, and that doesn’t give up its secrets even after many listens. The mystery adds a compelling sensation.

You can find and purchase everything from this list at Amazon, except for the Sperrazza debut, which is available here.

Best New Releases:

  1. Steve Lehman Octet, Mise En Abîme (Pi)

  2. Trio 3 & Vijay Iyer, Wiring (Intakt)
  3. Joe Morris Quartet, Balance (Clean Feed)
  4. Mark Turner Quartet, Lathe of Heaven (ECM)
  5. Ken Thomson and Slow/Fast, Settle (NCM East)
  6. Fred Hersch Trio, Floating (MRI)
  7. Tom Harrell, The Auditorium Session (Parco Della Musica)
  8. Jochen Ruekert, We Make the Rules (Whirlwind)
  9. Kulhammar, Aalberg, Zetterberg, Basement Sessions Vol. 2 (Clean Feed)
  10. PRISM Quartet, People’s Emergency Center (Innova)

Best Reissues:

  1. Steve Lacy, The Complete Remastered Recordings on Black Saint & Soul Note: Quartet, Quintet, Sextet, Octet (Black Saint/Soul Note)

  2. Charles Lloyd, Manhattan Stories (Resonance)
  3. Miles Davis, At the Fillmore: Miles Davis: 1970: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 3 (Sony)

Best Vocal Album:

Sara Serpa & Andre Matos, Primavera (Inner Circle Music)


Best Debut Album

Vinnie Sperrazza, Apocryphal (Loyal Label)


Best Latin Jazz Album

David Virelles, Mbókò (ECM)

UPDATED: Apologies, this came at the end of a day editing an 18,000 word interview … Cleaned up the sloppy typing, dialed the list back down from 11 (sorry Thumbscrew), and also I want to add this special item:

Fred Hersch, My Coma Dreams: Closely related to but outside the category of jazz, this is Fred Hersch’s autobiographical music theater piece about his own experience lapsing into a coma due to his HIV infection. So deeply personal that it may not communicate with every viewer, it’s nonetheless a serious and accomplished work that deserves attention.

My Coma Dreams from AnEn Productions on Vimeo.


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.


  • Interesting list, one correction – although the Charles Lloyd recording on Resonance is a historical recording, it doesn’t properly quality as a reissue never having been released before! … N

    • For the Jazz Critics Poll, the Lloyd recording satisfies the criteria for reissue, so I’ll leave it “uncorrected.”

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