Yesterday we unveiled Nextbop’s Best Jazz Albums of 2019, which was compiled by our staff as a whole. Today, we continue our Season of Lists with Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dean-Harris‘ Favorite Jazz Albums of 2019.
There’s something kind of lovely about the lack of one major cohesive idea present in the genre of jazz at the moment. The idea of what the music can be is larger than specific motifs and yet in all its disparate directions from players the world over, it all can still be, to a degree, defined as jazz. There are those who would run away from the name of the genre but this is what the music has led to. In 2019, folks are still playing free, or post-bop, or chamber, or melded with rock, or hip hop, or EDM, or so many other inspirations. It can still all be jazz. I liked a lot of different things all throughout the year and my list doesn’t look exactly like the others here on staff or other journalists out there or perhaps yours, and that’s pretty great. The genre and all the artists who play it have done a lot this year. -Anthony Dean-Harris
10. Sun Speak – Moon Preach (Flood Music)
Matt Gold and Nate Friedman continue to grow and expand while constantly captivating. Every new permutation of this group, this time around with Dan Pearson on synths, find new avenues to humbly bring a sense of calm that constantly manages to find new ways to delight.
Stream Sun Speak’s Moon Preach album
9. Kendrick Scott Oracle – A Wall Becomes a Bridge (Blue Note)
Any time Taylor Eigsti, Mike Moreno, John Ellis, and Joe Sanders get together with Kendrick Scott, a perfect groove falls into place that can feel like it floated in from out of the ether. Oracle is one of those groups where whenever they drop a new album, it’s definitely worth your attention and the latest adds turntablist DJ Jahi Sundance to add a little more texture that works perfectly here.
Stream the Kendrick Scott Oracle’s “Voices” featuring Derrick Hodge
8. Kris Davis – Diatom Ribbons (Pyroclastic)
Kris Davis has always been an interesting pianist but on her latest album, she’s gotten really weird and it’s perfect. She’s the core of this, of course, as well as the ever dynamic Terri Lyne Carrington on drums, but all throughout the album are folks like Nels Cline, Marc Ribot, Esperanza Spalding, JD Allen, Ches Smith, and others who all really give Davis’ sound more angles to make this a really fun listen.
Stream Kris Davis’ Diatom Ribbons album
7. Jeremy Pelt – Jeremy Pelt, The Artist (HighNote)
Every year, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt changes up the game and makes a new, bold artistic creation. This year’s entry has Pelt contemplating the visual arts with his five-part ‘Rodin Suite’ on top of his usual collection of new songs that keep showing what jazz today can be in its purest sense.
Stream Jeremy Pelt’s “The Rodin Suite, Pt. 1: L’Appel aux armes”
6. Portico Quartet – Memory Streams (Gondwana)
The baddest hang in the game is back for certain this time with the Portico Quartet going full circle in their sound while still keeping the post-rock attributes they’ve picked up along the way.
Stream Portico Quartet’s Memory Streams album
5. Junius Paul – Ism (International Anthem)
Bassist Junius Paul is a secret weapon for many artists as of late, but on his debut release for International Anthem, he’s certainly not staying a secret. Ism goes in all sorts of directions, all of them great.
Stream Junius Paul’s Ism album
4. Kneebody – Chapters (Edition)
In Kaveh Rastegar’s last album with the group before Nate Wood took over on bass and drums simultaneously, the quintet is bringing it and they’re bringing it hard. Kneebody‘s debut album on Edition is full of jams that are definitely on the outer edge of jazz and are some of the most fun songs these folks have crafted yet, which is saying a lot considering how fun they’ve been for years.
Stream Kneebody’s Chapters album
3. Steve Lehman Trio + Craig Taborn – The People I Love (Pi)
There’s nothing simple about saxophonist Steve Lehman‘s playing, but somehow the very stripped-down nature of his playing with his longstanding trio of bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Damion Reid, and the addition of pianist Craig Taborn, makes this all seem so simple. It’s beautiful structure and combinations and four guys just vibing.
Stream the Steve Lehman Trio + Craig Taborn’s The People I Love album
2. Resavoir – Resavoir (International Anthem)
Will Miller crafted through laborious editing, camaraderie, and overall mad skills a debut album that’s worth keeping in rotation for quite a while. It’s one of those albums that you keep in rotation until the next one drops and then you have two Resavoir albums to play for a while, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. It’s got chill and replay value for days.
Stream Resavoir’s Resavoir album
1. Linda May Han Oh – Aventurine (Biophilia)
Take everything about the nature of Linda May Han Oh‘s ability to produce straight bangers and add strings. She’s awesome on the bass, but there’s something about her sense of bounce and balance in her songwriting that makes her music so constantly infectious, including the loftiness of strings would only elevate that feeling. These bangers are highfalutin’, and they are in every sense of the word some of the most inspiring jazz music I have heard this year.
Stream Linda May Han Oh’s Aventurine album
Stephan Crump’s Rosetta Trio – Outliers (Papillon Sounds)
The pure magic that shines from Stephan Crump, Liberty Ellman, and Jaime Fox has always been something to behold. Outliers is just another example of the brilliance that happens when these folks get together.
Fabian Almazan Trio – This Land Abounds With Life (Biophilia)
Jeff Ballard – Fairgrounds (Edition)
Javier Santiago – B-Sides: The Phoenix Sessions (Ropeadope)
Javier Santiago proves he’s as brilliant acoustically as he is electronically and keeps making songs that soar.
Lawrence Hobgood – T E S S E T E R R A (Ubuntu)
It’s Hogbood with strings. These songs are classics with even more charm applied.
Nextbop Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio and is also a contributing writer to DownBeat Magazine and the San Antonio Current.