2020: The Year’s Top-Rated Albums

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Carla Bley (left), Steve Swallow and Andy Sheppard recorded Life Goes On for the ECM label.

(Photo: Caterina di Perri/ECM)

Kurt Rosenwinkel Bandit 65, Searching The Continuum (Heartcore)

Because jazz remains a mostly acoustic music, the striking thing about guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel’s Bandit 65 is how overwhelmingly electronic it sounds. Rosenwinkel, fellow guitarist Tim Motzer and drummer Gintas Janusonis all are credited with “electronics.” The range of tones and textures are so deep and beguiling that it’s easy to get lost in the sheer lushness of the sound. Doing so, however, would be a bit like missing the forest for the trees, because the real genius of Searching The Continuum is that each of these tracks was spontaneously conceived of and recorded live.

Emilio Solla Tango Jazz Orchestra, Puertos: Music From International Waters (Avantango)

The high concept that drives Puertos: Music From International Waters has no right to work. Dedicating each song to a different port seems like a hokey idea lifted out of the era of stereo demonstration LPs. But what moves Puertos beyond a simple pastiche is that Emilio Solla has invested heavily in each of the pieces here. It’s the difference between seeing each city from the deck of a ship and exploring the back alleys of each place. The thread running through the various ports is how imperialist conquests, the slave trade and immigration mixed with native traditions to create distinctive yet linked music from Cadiz to Buenos Aires and New York.

FOUR-AND-A-HALF-STAR ALBUMS (New)

Jonathan Barber & Vision Ahead, Legacy Holder (Vision Ahead Music)

Marc Copland, And I Love Her ([Illusions] Mirage)

Chick Corea, Plays (Stretch)

Frisell/Lage/Riley, John Zorn: Virtue (Tzadik)

Jimmy Heath, Love Letter (Verve)

Sigurd Hole, Lys/Mørke (Elvesang)

Laubrock/Davis, Blood Moon (Intakt)

Wynton Marsalis, The Ever Fonky Lowdown (Blue Engine)

Ron Miles, Rainbow Sign (Blue Note)

Hedvig Mollestad, Ekhidna (Rune Grammofon)

Nous, Nous II (Our Silent Canvas)

Aaron Parks, Little Big II: Dreams Of A Mechanical Man (Ropeadope)

Redman/Mehldau/McBride/Blade, Round Again (Nonesuch)

Eric Revis, Slipknots Through A Looking Glass (Pyroclastic)

Michele Rosewoman’s New Yor-Uba, Hallowed (Advance Dance Disques)

Felipe Salles Interconnections Ensemble, The New Immigrant Experience (Tapestry)

Sara Serpa, Recognition (Biophilia)

Walter Smith III & Matthew Stevens, In Common 2 (Whirlwind)

Kevin Sun, The Sustain Of Memory (Endectomorph)

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