AllMusic 2014 Year In Review

Favorite Jazz Albums -

Big names like Branford Marsalis, Jason Moran and Nels Cline make appearances on our list of best jazz albums of the year, alongside younger artists like Theo Croker, Tumi Mogorosi and Hiromi.
The  Offense of the Drum

Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra / Arturo O'Farrill

The Offense of the Drum

Buoyed by guests and 28 percussion instruments, this date celebrates the drum as a cultural force in a spirited, wide-ranging program of big-band jazz.

The  Invasion Parade

Alfredo Rodriguez

The Invasion Parade

A deep dive into Cuba's vast musical variety and wound in a thoroughly modern, utterly enchanting mix of originals, folk songs, and classics.

The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier to Paint

Ambrose Akinmusire

The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier to Paint

On his sophomore Blue Note date, this trumpeter puts the emphasis on his bold and diverse compositions to thrilling effect.

Palo Colorado Dream

Anthony Pirog

Palo Colorado Dream

The guitarist and loop-meister has made a big splash on the D.C. experimental music scene; here's the evidence why.

Mira

Arild Andersen / Tommy Smith / Paolo Vinaccia

Mira

The second offering by this trio was recorded in a studio; it's more exploratory, lyric, and deeply satisfying.

Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro

Billy Childs

Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro

Pianist Billy Childs celebrates the music of the late folksinger Laura Nyro.

One Is the Other

Billy Hart Quartet / Billy Hart

One Is the Other

This experienced quartet delivers expansive, disciplined group interplay in composition and improvisation over eight tunes.

In My Solitude: Live at Grace Cathedral

Branford Marsalis

In My Solitude: Live at Grace Cathedral

The great saxophonist adds depth and breadth in a new chapter of his long career by delivering a stunning solo concert.

Landmarks

Brian Blade

Landmarks

On its fourth album, the band returns to Blue Note and goes deeper into its exploration of song forms through modern jazz.

Morning Forest aka Nose Up Bottom Down

Bruno Vansina Orchestra

Morning Forest aka Nose Up Bottom Down

Colorful, vibrant, and often rhythmically charged large-ensemble jazz influenced by the likes of Gil Evans and Charles Mingus.

Thou Shalt Boogie!

Bushman's Revenge

Thou Shalt Boogie!

On its sixth studio album, this Norwegian trio comes across with more disciplined writing, a bigger sonic palette, and wider horizons.

Last Dance

Charlie Haden / Keith Jarrett

Last Dance

This volume was taken from the same sessions that resulted in the duo's lovely 2010 offering Jasmine.

Really OK

Chris Speed

Really OK

An inimitable spin on the sax-bass-drums trio form, covering Ornette, Coltrane, and even "All of Me" along with the reedman's spirited originals.

Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith

Craig Handy

Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith

A buoyant celebration inspired by the organ jazz of Jimmy Smith and the joyous New Orleans second-line tradition.

Panama 500

Danilo Pérez

Panama 500

Pérez explores the folkloric traditions of his homeland with a mix of jazz, classical, and Latin American sounds.

Cosmic Lieder: The Darkseid Recital

Darius Jones / Matthew Shipp

Cosmic Lieder: The Darkseid Recital

Three years after their auspicious debut, the pair deliver a brilliant live offering compiled from two years of performances.

Enjoy the View

David Sanborn / Joey DeFrancesco / Bobby Hutcherson

Enjoy the View

A swinging hard bop and soul-jazz-inflected date that harks back to classic '60 and '70s Blue Note albums.

Mbókò

David Virelles

Mbókò

The ECM debut by this up-and-coming pianist offers a bold jazzman's take on Afro-Cuban ritual music that is at once striking and deeply moving.

Venezuelan Suite

Edward Simon / Edward Simon & Ensemble Venezuela

Venezuelan Suite

Pianist/composer/arranger Edward Simon and his Ensemble Venezuela create a vibrant meld of jazz and Venezuelan folk forms.

The Signal

Elizabeth Shepherd

The Signal

On her return to original material, the Canadian pianist and songwriter delivers a striking new direction. Lionel Loueke guests.

Live at the Hillside Club

Erik Jekabson / John Santos

Live at the Hillside Club

Adventurous, organic music performed in front of a warmly receptive audience by a band that never fails to swing

Chameleon

Harvey Mason, Sr.

Chameleon

The journeyman drummer reimagines his '70s funk-jazz roots.

Anthem for a New Day

Helen Sung

Anthem for a New Day

The adept jazz pianist delivers her first quintet album, featuring trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and others.

Alive

Hiromi / The Trio Project

Alive

On her third album with this trio, the pianist delivers genuine surprise with advanced compositions and colorful grooves.

Verdi 2.00

I Compani

Verdi 2.00

Returning to the world of Italian opera, Bo van de Graff and company celebrate Verdi's 200th birthday in freewheeling Dutch jazz style.

Beating the Teens: Songs of Steve Lacy

Ideal Bread

Beating the Teens: Songs of Steve Lacy

Edgy, experimental group once again pays homage to the late forward-thinking jazz saxophonist.

Forever Young

Jacob Young

Forever Young

On his third ECM date, the Norwegian guitarist showcases a fine new quintet with Trygve Seim and pianist Marcin Wasilewski's trio.

City Folk

James Farm

City Folk

The quartet's sophomore offering builds on the strengths of its debut with tunes that meld near pop accessibility with modern jazz sophistication.

All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller

Jason Moran / Meshell Ndegeocello

All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller

A marvelous tribute that still retains its own shape and coherency.

Face Forward, Jeremy

Jeremy Pelt

Face Forward, Jeremy

Pelt pushes the boundaries of jazz with deep fusion and electronica influences.

Beautiful Life

Jimmy Greene

Beautiful Life

A jazz saxophonist's loving tribute to his daughter who was killed in the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012.

Gathering Call

John Medeski / Matt Wilson Quartet

Gathering Call

A joyous mix of the jazz tradition, both avant-garde and swinging, that makes the most of Wilson and Medeski's influences.

To Future Memories

Juhani Aaltonen

To Future Memories

To Future Memories is a marvelous offering -- Its roots may lie in outside jazz, but its discipline and songlike qualities are numerous and profound.

The Art of Conversation

Kenny Barron / Dave Holland

The Art of Conversation

Subtle, beautifully performed collaboration between the influential jazz pianist and bassist.

Dance Without Answer

Klaus Gesing / Glauco Venier / Norma Winstone

Dance Without Answer

The trio's third offering poignantly juxtaposes provocatively reimagined covers against their trademark originals.

Krokofant

Krokofant

Krokofant

This Norse sax-guitar-drums power trio delivers an exciting debut that walks the line between electric jazz, prog rock, and metal.

Inti

Machine Mass

Inti

Now featuring Dave Liebman, the freewheeling trio still sounds like a larger band thanks to mastery of live electronics and looping.

Lathe of Heaven

Mark Turner Quartet / Mark Turner

Lathe of Heaven

Inspired by Ursula K. Le Guin's dystopian novel, Turner delivers this deeply thoughtful pianoless quartet recording.

I've Been to Many Places

Matthew Shipp

I've Been to Many Places

On this captivating solo outing, the pianist revisits and re-envisions some of his musical travels and juxtaposes them with bracing new tunes.

Thumbscrew

Michael Formanek / Tomas Fujiwara / Mary Halvorson / Thumbscrew

Thumbscrew

Three top avant jazzers with decades of experience among them create a distinctive band identity on Thumbscrew's 2014 debut.

The Jazz Composer's Orchestra: Update

Michael Mantler / Nouvelle Cuisine Big Band

The Jazz Composer's Orchestra: Update

Forty-five years after the original, the composer profoundly re-envisions his tunes for a new generation, adding period material never before recorded.

Room

Nels Cline / Julian Lage

Room

An excellent conversational meeting between two very different jazz guitarists that juxtaposes energy and ideas in ten colorful presentations.

Macroscope

Nels Cline Singers

Macroscope

The Nels Cline Singers fifth album shows that they're still making some of the most interesting, adventurous, genre-smashing music of the early 21st century.

Free Souls

Nicola Conte

Free Souls

The Italian bandleader and composer creates a classic-sounding, seamless integration of jazz, Latin, Brazilian, and soul.

Riomar

Nils Wogram's Root 70

Riomar

Swinging, expressive, harmonically advanced chamber jazz from Wogram's longstanding quartet and three empathetic string players.

Kin <-->

Pat Metheny / Pat Metheny Unity Group

Kin <-->

The group's stellar sophomore effort showcases a quintet as informed by lyric feel, and emotional expression as sophistication.

Southern Comfort

Regina Carter

Southern Comfort

On her fine Sony debut, the violinist explores the folk traditions of the American South.

Sentimentale

Richard Galliano

Sentimentale

On his debut for Resonance Records, the iconic accordionist and his quintet deliver a gorgeous program of international jazz standards and originals.

Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project

Rufus Reid

Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project

Using Catlett's art as inspiration, Reid composed these songs that touch upon swinging post-bop and gospel, spirituals, and classical music.

Undeletable

Simple

Undeletable

A simply irresistible high-energy avant jazz-rock quartet album from Belgium, suitable for retaining on hard drives everywhere.

The Lagos Music Salon

Somi

The Lagos Music Salon

On her OKeh debut, the American vocalist and songwriter delves deeply into her direct experience with Nigerian music and culture.

Joy in Spite of Everything

Stefano Bollani

Joy in Spite of Everything

Using his decade-long trio and special guests Mark Turner and Bill Frisell, the Italian pianist delivers an excellent collection of colorful new material.

Rising Son

Takuya Kuroda

Rising Son

The jazz trumpeter's funky, soul- and hip-hop infused Blue Note debut produced by vocalist Jose James.

Inevitable Western

The Bad Plus

Inevitable Western

Six months after their rigorous reading of The Rite of Spring, the Minnesota trio returns to its own musical universe with a bracing set of originals.

Spinning Jenny

The Bureau of Atomic Tourism

Spinning Jenny

The transatlantic sextet of avant electric jazz heavyweights careens between chaos and calm on its freewheeling second live album.

Sister Cities

The Ocular Concern

Sister Cities

The Portland creative jazz quintet -- plus strings and bandoneon -- defy expectations with an appealing, wide-ranging stylistic blend.

Inner Fire

The Souljazz Orchestra

Inner Fire

Here the Canadian sextet and friends deliver their most sophisticated recording to date, yet never sacrifice groove for ambition.

Afro Physicist

Theo Croker

Afro Physicist

The trumpeter's vibrant, '70s jazz fusion-infused third album, with production and vocals from Dee Dee Bridgewater.

Extended Circle

Tord Gustavsen / Tord Gustavsen Quartet

Extended Circle

The pianist's quartet expands its physicality and harmonic palette on this compelling set without sacrificing its lyric core.

Project Elo

Tumi Mogorosi

Project Elo

A fully realized, beautifully played, inspiring modern jazz that uses the music's post-1960 history to craft a statement as timeless as its spiritual subject.

The Great Lakes Suites

Wadada Leo Smith

The Great Lakes Suites

These dynamite suites are fantastically performed by the composer, Henry Threadgill, Jack DeJohnette, and John Lindberg.

Field Notes

Wil Blades

Field Notes

Field Notes extends the B-3 trio tradition by using the rudiments of greasy tuneology in tandem with a wider jazzman's palette of colors and textures.

If You Knew Her

Zara McFarlane

If You Knew Her

The second album from the jazz producer, songwriter, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist is richer, more imaginative than her MOBO-nominated debut.