2020: The Year’s Top-Rated Albums


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

(Photo: Caterina di Perri/ECM)

Chicago Underground Quartet, Good Days (Astral Spirits)

Gerald Clayton, Happening: Live At The Village Vanguard (Blue Note)

Rob Clutton with Tony Malaby, Offering (Snailbongbong)

Harry Connick Jr., True Love: A Celebration Of Cole Porter (Verve)

Sylvie Courvoisier Trio, Free Hoops (Intakt)

Eddie Daniels, Night Kisses: A Tribute To Ivan Lins (Resonance)

John Daversa Quintet, Cuarentena: With Family At Home (Tiger Turn)

Michael Dease, Never More Here (Posi-Tone)

Chano Dominguez & Hadar Noiberg, Paramus (Sunnyside)

Michael Doucet, Lâcher Prise (Compass)

Dave Douglas, Dizzy Atmosphere: Dizzy Gillespie At Zero Gravity (Greenleaf Music)

Dave Douglas, ENGAGE (Greenleaf Music)

Nick Dunston, Atlantic Extractions: Live At Threes (Out Of Your Head)

Sinne Eeg & The Danish Radio Big Band, We’ve Just Begun (BFM Jazz)

Wayne Escoffery, The Humble Warrior (Smoke Sessions)

Maria Faust Sacrum Facere, Organ (Stunt)

John Fedchock NY Sextet, Into The Shadows (Summit)

Nuphar Fey, Serenity Island (Hypnote)

Joe Fiedler’s Big Sackbut, Live In Graz (Multiphonics)

Amina Figarova Edition 113, Persistence (Amfi)

Fire! Orchestra, Actions (Rune Grammofon)

Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda, Four (Long Song)

Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York, Entity (Libra)

Futurebirds, Teamwork (Easy Sound)

Hal Galper, The Zone: Live At The Yardbird Suite (Origin)

Jan Garbarek/The Hilliard Ensemble, Remember Me, My Dear (ECM)

Marshall Gilkes Trio, Waiting To Continue (Alternate Side)

Yuri Goloubev, Two Chevrons Apart (Basho)

Wolfgang Haffner, Kind Of Tango (ACT)

Tigran Hamasyan, The Call Within (Nonesuch)

Jeff Hamilton Trio, Catch Me If You Can (Capri)

Joel Harrison +18, America At War (Sunnyside)

Eddie Henderson, Shuffle And Deal (Smoke Sessions)

Fred Hersch, Songs From Home (Palmetto)

François Houle 4, Recoder (Songlines)

Jasper Høiby, Planet B (Edition)

Julia Hülsmann Quartet, Not Far From Here (ECM)

Peter Hum, Ordinary Heroes (Self Release)

Jason Kao Hwang, Human Rights Trio (True Sound)

Irreversible Entanglements, Who Sent You? (International Anthem/Don Giovanni)

Jack Mack & The Heart Attack, Live From Centennial Park—Atlanta 1996 (Free Roll)

Teresa James & The Rhythm Tramps, Live! (Jesi-lu)

Tomas Janzon, 130th & Lenox (Changes)

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, The Music Of Wayne Shorter (Blue Engine)

The Jimmys, Gotta Have It (Brown Cow)

Jimmy Johnson, Every Day Of Your Life (Delmark)

Booker T. Jones, Note By Note (Edith Street)

Andrea Keller, Transients: Volume 2 (Self Release)

Eva Kess, Sternschnuppen: Falling Stars (Neuklang)

Amirtha Kidambi/Lea Bertucci, Phase Eclipse (Astral Spirits/Monofonus Press)

Quin Kirchner, The Shadows And The Light (Astral Spirits)

Mark Knoop, Tim Parkinson: Piano Music 2015–2016 (All That Dust)

Kirk Knuffke, Brightness: Live In Amsterdam (Royal Potato Family)

Diana Krall, This Dream Of You (Verve)

Joachim Kühn & Mateusz Smoczynski, Speaking Sound (ACT)

Kuzu, Purple Dark Opal (Aerophonic)

Miranda Lambert, Wildcard (RCA Nashville)

Nils Landgren/Jan Lundgren, Kristallen (ACT)

Brian Landrus, For Now (Blueland)

Ingrid Laubrock, Dreamt Twice, Twice Dreamt (Intakt)

Jimin Lee, Strange Flower (Mirrorball)

Lauren Lee, Windowsill (eyes&ears)

James Brandon Lewis/Chad Taylor, Live In Willisau (Intakt)

Harold López-Nussa, Te Lo Dije (Mack Avenue)

Harold Mabern, Mabern Plays Mabern (Smoke Sessions)

Rudresh Mahanthappa, Hero Trio (Whirlwind)

Nduduzo Makhathini, Modes Of Communication: Letters From The Underworlds (Blue Note)

Jason Marsalis, Jason Marsalis Live (Basin Street)

Brian Marsella, Gatos Do Sul (Tzadik)

Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet, When Angels Fall (Whirlwind)

Christian McBride Big Band, For Jimmy, Wes And Oliver (Mack Avenue)

Zara McFarlane, Songs Of An Unknown Tongue (Brownswood)

Ross McHenry, Nothing Remains Unchanged (First Word)

John McLaughlin/Shankar Mahadevan/Zakir Hussain, Is That So? (Abstract Logix)

Charles McPherson, Jazz Dance Suites (Chazz Mack)

Brad Mehldau, Suite: April 2020 (Nonesuch)

Maria Mendes, Close To Me (Justin Time)

Anne Mette Iversen Quartet +1, Racing A Butterfly (Brooklyn Jazz Underground)

Nicole Mitchell & Lisa E. Harris, EarthSeed (FPE)

Mute, Mute (Fresh Sound New Talent)

The Necks, Three (Northern Spy)

Marius Neset, Tributes (ACT)

Marius Neset, Viaduct (ACT)

Maciej Obara Quartet, Three Crowns (ECM)

Arturo O’Farrill/The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Four Questions (Zoho)

Kassa Overall, I Think I’m Good (Brownswood)

Keith Oxman, Two Cigarettes In The Dark (Capri)

Junius Paul, Ism (International Anthem)

Ralph Peterson & The Messenger Legacy, Onward & Upward (Onyx)

Charlie Porter, Immigration Nation (OA2)

Ryan Porter & The West Coast Get Down, Live In Paris At New Morning (World Galaxy/Alpha Pup)

Ilya Portnov, 3 (Self Release)

Tineke Postma, Freya (Edition)

Dafnis Prieto Sextet, Transparency (Dafnison)

Rava/Herbert/Guidi, For Mario (Live) (Accidental)

Tomeka Reid Quartet, Old New (Cuneiform)

Reverso, The Melodic Line (Out Note)

Steph Richards, SUPERSENSE (Northern Spy)

Jason Robinson, Harmonic Constituent (Playscape)

Roomful of Blues, A Roomful Of Blues (Alligator)

Charles Rumback, June Holiday (Astral Spirits)

Jeff Rupert/George Garzone, The Ripple (Rupe Media)

Angelica Sánchez/Marilyn Crispell, How To Turn The Moon (Pyroclastic)

Marta Sánchez Quintet, El Rayo De Luz (Fresh Sound New Talent)

John Scofield, Swallow Tales (ECM)

Matthew Shipp, The Piano Equation (Tao Forms)

Lisa Marie Simmons, NoteSpeak (Amori E Tragedie In Musica) (Ropeadope)

Six Organs of Admittance, Companion Rises (Drag City)

Sonar With David Torn, Tranceportation (Volume 1) (RareNoise)

Dave Specter, Blues From The Inside Out (Delmark)

Anders Svanoe, Solo Flight: State Of The Baritone, Vol. 4 (Irabbagast)

Shabaka And The Ancestors, We Are Sent Here By History (Impulse)

Gary Smulyan, Our Contrafacts (SteepleChase)

Son of Goldfinger (David Torn/Ches Smith/Tim Berne), (Congratulations To You) (9 Donkeys)

Tyshawn Sorey And Marilyn Crispell, The Adornment Of Time (Pi)

Luciana Souza, Storytellers (Sunnyside)

Kandace Springs, The Women Who Raised Me (Blue Note)

Leni Stern, 4 (LSR)

Cecilie Strange, Blue (April)

Swamp Dogg, Sorry You Couldn’t Make It (Joyful Noise)

Rachel Therrien, Vena (Bonsaï)

Brianna Thomas, Everybody Knows (Breathline)

Thumbscrew, The Anthony Braxton Project (Cuneiform)

Thundercat, It Is What It Is (Brainfeeder)

David Tranchina Large-ish Ensemble, The Ogre (Big Ego)

Rebecca Trescher, Where We Go (Enja)

Trio Grande, Trio Grande (Whirlwind)

Manuel Valera New Cuban Express Big Band, José Martí En Nuevo York (Greenleaf Music)

Gary Versace, All For Now (SteepleChase)

Will Vinson, Four Forty One (Whirlwind)

Alexander von Schlippenbach, Slow Pieces For Aki—Piano Solo (Intakt)

Marcin Wasilewski Trio/Joe Lovano, Arctic Riff (ECM)

Waterless Hills, The Great Mountain (Cardinal Fuzz/Feeding Tube)

Bobby Watson, Keepin’ It Real (Smoke Sessions)

Anna Webber, Rectangles (Out Of Your Head)

Ben Wendel, High Heart (Edition)

Lucinda Williams, Good Souls Better Angels (Thirty Tigers/Highway 20)

Martin Wind/Philip Catherine/Ack van Rooyen, White Noise (White Noise)

Norma Winstone & John Taylor, In Concert (Sunnyside)

Warren Wolf, Reincarnation (Mack Avenue)

Stephane Wrembel, Django L’Impressionniste (Water Is Life)

Eri Yamamoto Trio & Choral Chameleon, Goshu Ondo Suite (AUM Fidelity)

Alice Zawadzki, Within You Is A World Of Spring (Whirlwind)


Tony Allen/Hugh Masekela, Rejoice (World Circuit)

Dr. John & The WDR Big Band, Big Band Voodoo (Orange Music)

Ibrahim Ferrer, Buenos Hermanos (World Circuit)

Myra Melford/Zeena Parkins/Miya Masaoka, MZM (Infrequent Streams)

Lennie Tristano, The Duo Sessions (Dot Time)

This story originally was published in the January 2021 issue of DownBeat. Subscribe here.

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