Favorite jazz listening for 2019

Most of all, I discovered jazz guitarist Mary Halvorson this year.  Start with Code Girl or Meltframe, or of course YouTube.

This year I also enjoyed:

Myra Melford’s Snowy Egret, The Other Side of Air.

Makaya McCraven, Universal Beings.

Two out of three picks being women is unusual for jazz, but for the better.  I will note that I do not select on the basis of “quotas,” so what I list is truly what I am recommending.

I’ll also stick by my view that current times are the very best for jazz, ever, even though jazz is no longer culturally central and Miles Davis is dead.  Your ability to see an amazing jazz concert for less than $50 — often much less — and from top-quality seats has never been greater.  Jazz music represents an amazing arbitrage opportunity (unlike paying through the nose to see either Taylor Swift or Boomer classic rock groups), at least if you know what you are doing and you have access to the proper cities, most of all NYC but by no means only.


Today, Los Angeles and London have the best jazz scenes. The talent is there. Agreed that not having to fight Ticketmaster makes being a fan that much easier.

I think that Jazz is like a fine wine. Over priced, over analyzed, over hyped and still tastes like crap. I think it is a kind of virtue signaling. To me jazz sounds like a grouping of discordant sounds that defy the definition of music.


De gustibus non est disputandum, I guess. I do think someone who disparages an entire genre of music and an entire class of beverage in one comment has taste that's rather questionable, however.

"To me jazz sounds like a grouping of discordant sounds"

Jazz has more sophisticated harmonies than the simplistic chord combinations typically found in rock or folk music. It may not be for everyone but it's far from non-musical. Should you ever be interested, there's lots of more accessible jazz--you could start with Dave Brubeck's Time Out, for instance.

I feel the same way about rap AND beer. So that is TWO classes of beverage and TWO genres of music. Wait! I don't like vodka, rum and whiskey either. I'm not too crazy about hard rock.

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I think the easiest way to explain the appeal of jazz to non-listeners is to think of it in terms of sports, where it is the combination of track & field-esque soloist feats and free-flowing, quick-witted adaptation featured in non-stoppage team sports such as soccer and basketball.

Not many musicians from other genres can solo off the cuff as jazz musicians can, especially while being mindful of what the other jazz musicians are playing simultaneously.

Of course, I'm only speaking about tonal jazz with the above.

Music taste is certainly subjective and, by all means, you should not listen to music which you don't like. And I believe that most people genuinely don't like jazz. But please take a minute to reflect that the only person who is responding to "signalling" is you and that your comment is (intentionally?) insulting and condescending to jazz lovers.

My girlfriend and I love jazz. We have only around 6 friends who do. Our love of jazz impresses no one: in fact, most roll their eyes and some call us "elitists." But believe me, we genuinely love it.

Good response! You said your piece, put me in my place and was reasonable in your argument. Good on you. I agree with you too I might add that "you should not listen to music which you don't like." I will admit that Jazz sounds so bad to me that I did not believe people actually like it.

More than you can guess - I didn't spend my life with jazz; rather, I grew up with the Rolling Stones and The Who. In the last few years I've been deeply involved with this genre and learned to love it. I started in the 50's and 60's with the well known greats like John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Ornette Coleman. Soon I realized that so many young and incredibly talented musicians live jazz today and they really showed me how versatile this style of music can be. Musicians like Matana Roberts, Makaya McCraven or Shabaka Hutchings enliven the genre today with influences from so many other styles.
I love jazz and will definitely grow old with it - well: I'm not quite young already!

OK, here is the thing I simply do not understand: Music to me is something that is occasionally nice to listen to but often irritating. I cannot possibly think in terms of "spending my life with it" or "growing old with it". I could say that about sex or chocolate but not music. What is it that hooks you??? I also would struggle to actually name a singer or tell you anything about them. Ditto for actors/actresses. What is it that makes you even care about the person who sings/plays. I mean is it the music you like or is it knowing the singers life story or what. It all sounds like an addiction to me.

Anon, your feelings about music and acting are yours, and valid. But you have to at least recognize you are the outlier here, and that most of us appreciate music and drama in a deeper way.

I am just not sure I am an outlier. I think that from your position I appear to be far from your view on music but it is actually kinda strange to have this cult approach to music and musicians. Perhaps those who you spend time with share your views but certainly not the vast majority of people who are more involved with work and family.

I often use a sports analogy when discussions about likes and dislikes about music crop up. Ask a person who loves basketball what their least favorite sport is and often they will mention baseball. I ask them why they don't like baseball and they like basketball and they usually say the same things. Baseball is slow and everyone is standing around and everyone isn't engaged on every play etc,etc,etc. I then ask them if they ever played baseball and the usual answer is no. I've taken many people to a baseball game in my life and once I explained the strategy and pointed out that everyone on every play has somewhere to move and go. I've shown them the cat and mouse game )mental game) played between the pitcher and hitter and usually they are amazed once they understand whats happening as far as a strategy goes. It becomes much more interesting to them.
I believe more often than not this like-dislike thing has to do with expectations. You go to a baseball game and when you don't get a basketball game you don't like it. You had an expectation going in and when it wasn't met you dismissed it.
I would ask anyone who likes a certain kind of music what it is or does that they like. Then ask them what it is about ------------ that they don't like.

Recent transplant to LA from NYC. What venues or musicians here would you recommend? Miss the NY jazz scene and if it's secretly better out here I'd like to learn more.

You can have a great time on the cheap at Twin Jazz. I wouldn't recommend eating there, but you can listen to some pretty decent jazz and enjoy a bottle of decent wine for about 35 dollars.


Universal Beings was released in 2018, not 2019 if that matters.

I would add Chicago and Lisbon as having great jazz scenes. NYC has lost its primacy.

seriously? chicago's jazz scene is pitiful compared to new york.

This list lacks white men. Time for a quota.

Dieser Liste fehlen weiße Männer. Zeit für eine Quote.

My favorite so far is Fire! Orchestra's Arrival, though its not purely jazz.

I enjoyed Melford the most in the 90s when she was young and avant-garde and would hit the piano strings from the inside of the piano.

A good indication of how NYC is over for jazz is the fact when Melford plays there she is usually in The Stone which is a non-profit venue run by John Zorn which uses a college auditorium.

That's the typical story of NYC, once supreme and now second tier. A has-been city.

Kyle Nasser's Persistent Fancy... great jazz album.

Mingus A Um [sic]. {Title of Mingus LP for those who ain't don't be "down" wit it].
Why listen to new "music" when Mingus and a handful or others already did it?
I must concede some of the youngsters have excellent technical abilities, however as a matter of musical reality, the space of musical possibilities is limited and coming up with anything "new" that is also pleasing to the ears is increasingly difficult (hence doesn't happen often). I'm not saying there aren't superb musicians out there now (Uehara Horomi is one notable example), just that the combination of (1) new and (2) good, is increasingly hard to attain. Instrumental Technque is relatively easy to obtain, but doesn't always yield musical results.
Given that, I applaud Tyler's efforts to keep his ears open.

Meet Viola Smith, the World’s Oldest Drummer: Her Career Started in the 1930s, and She’s Still Playing at 106 ---

I was moved seeing/hearing Luigi Grasso (saxophone) at the Hot Club, a small room in Lyon, last month.

JAZZ IS DEAD...and smells funny.

All of Halvorson's stuff is good -- I mean, all of it back to the Anthony Braxton days -- but I think the first album of hers I heard was _Saturn Sings_ and I still think it's a killer. _Reverse Blue_ probably gets the most listens from me.

None of the listed albums is from 2019. The heading does say “favorite listening,” which is accurate, but if the point is that this is a great time for jazz, it’s not a good sign. I happen to think that 2019 was not a great year for jazz albums.

It was a great year for listening to jazz albums.

No argument there. I rather listen to Dexter Gordon or Miles Davis than watch Presidential debates or impeachment hearings.


It's just considerate under a mutually unidentifiable trait, which was Eric Clapton focused on for five decades.

I recommend Ari Hoenig for anyone that enjoys excellent drumming and poly-rhythm. Look up "Arrows and Loops" on Youtube, enjoy it, then buy the whole album "Lines of Oppression". Not from 2019. Still great.

Just paid $160 per ticket to take part in another Elton John farewell tour. I think this will be the fourth final tour of his I will attend. I may have to start listening to jazz instead. Can’t be any worse of a decision.

My favorite jazz singer is Fiona Hill.

(I submit that this is actually a pretty good joke, b/c Fiona Hill is a very good jazz name.)

None are on Amazon Music!

As someone who knows nothing about jazz and has never really deliberately listened to it, where would be the best place to start? What are the two best "classic" albums, and two best modern albums to start with?

1. Miles Davis: Kind of Blue
2. John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman
1. Tomasz Stanko: Litania
2. Vijay Iyer: Solo

What do you want to hear? If you're coming from rock, the Mahavishnu Orchestra is something like a jazz version of heavy metal. Kind of similar but for funk would be Herbie Hancock's Headhunters.

For a more traditional jazz sound, Dave Brubeck's Time Out is a classic album that's easy to get into and sounds "like jazz should." Similar would be Sonny Rollin's Saxophone Colossus, which has a real saxophone in a smoky club at midnight kind of feel to it.

I second Miles Davis's Kind of Blue, and so will everybody else with any jazz knowledge. Actually, this is probably the jazz album most people start with, and for good reason.

If you want Big Band, Duke Ellington recorded several suites at the end of the 1960s that are very melodic and listenable--the Far East Suite is my personal favorite.

Those are pretty good.

One thing about jazz is, it's so many different things. Melford and (especially) Halvorson are probably not what most people would expect from the word "jazz." I'm listening to a Melford Snowy Egret thing right now that's sometimes "trad-ish," but other times more like modern classical music or prog-rock. It's the first thing that came up on YT and it's amazing:


"Chamber jazz" is a term you sometimes hear. It strikes me that people coming from the Bjork/Sylvian/post-rock sort of area might like a lot of this sort of thing.

I think a person coming from trad-rock might start with Weather Report or Bill Frisell first, even over MO or HH. Or if you specifically like Rush, at least listen the Bad Plus's version of Tom Sawyer - very funny, but also very good.


As a last point, at least a couple of people that I know, as they got older, found they gravitated away from the rock of their youth toward vocal jazz of the Peggy Lee (not the cellist from the same circles as Melford, the older one) variety. One of them really likes Doris Day and Nina Simone.

Thanks for the recommendations. For reference, my musical listening background is mostly electronic/ambient/dance stuff, but I'm really open to anything.

Heard Kenny Garrett's quintet play at the Blue Note last Friday. $35 for a table seat. I sat less than 2 ft away from Vernell Brown's piano, and shook his hand after the show. One of the best shows I've heard, of any genre, in the last decade. Golden age indeed!

so boring

Heh. Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons called it "horrible, horrible music."

The best jazz show (and best show period) I saw this year was hands down Jacob Collier. He's the kind of musician who pulls influences from absolutely everywhere and his musical imagination is basically unlimited.


Two albums I've gotten a lot of play out of this year:

Trilogy 2 by Chick Corea, Christian McBride and Brian Blade
and Brad Mehldau's Finding Gabriel

Love Makaya McCraven, making Chicago proud! https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=i6-SwIM7UEc

Chinese music sounds pretty good ( https://youtu.be/GndAiU2qoDI ), but I don't think it is fir Western tastes. My pals and I prefer listening to Brazilian musix.

It has always seemed odd to me that we call both Mary Halvorson's type of music and Art Blakey's type of music jazz. It seems like there needs to be another word for the content that Halvorson creates.

"Jazz music represents an amazing arbitrage opportunity (unlike paying through the nose to see either Taylor Swift or Boomer classic rock groups), at least if you know what you are doing and you have access to the proper cities, most of all NYC but by no means only."

Actually good music period is an arbitrage opportunity in this sense. For example, when Portishead came through town a few years ago, were tickets pricey? Did they sell out quickly? Did I have to sit hundreds of feet away? No and no and no. And look, I get the whole "de gustibus non est disputandum" thing, but that's crazy. (If you're into this sort of thing, maybe a greater indictment of Amercia's decline than Trump, even).

However, along with the upside (the very best in music is often relatively inexpensive and accessible) there is a downside: you may never be able to see some performers, or have to travel great distances, because they aren't popular enough and aren't likely to show up anywhere near where you live. Or for that matter, they've quit the music business....

Shout out for The Mattson 2 on their great album this year called Paradise!


I discovered 1970s Japanese jazz in 2019, does that count? The entire Scenery album by Ryo Fukui, Cat by Hiroshi Suzuki, and Jiro Inagaki and the Soul Media: Head Rock. Once these are in your YouTube algorithm, the gift keeps on giving.

Great recs! And I agree about live jazz. In fact, I'm much more inspired by live, vs recorded, jazz. Which jazz artists are 'must-sees' live?

Btw, I live in, and love Los Angeles but I think that our jazz scene is pretty lame. Many established, or up-and-coming jazz artists skip LA because they can't draw audiences. Our main jazz "club", Catalina, is in a terrible venue. There are some good smaller venues, like the Blue Whale.

We just went to see the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis at Symphony Center in Chicago.. Great show!

The meaning of the word "jazz" is provided by pointing to examples of it, according to Ludwig W.
Crucify me, but I do not consider Taylor Swift and Kanye West to be "jazz".

Also I might add that most "jazz" musicians would probably consider "jazz" to be a mentality (or, a manner of execution, or of transforming potentiality into actuality) rather than a genre. Of course, that is not how retailers and consumers view it.

Amen on the live jazz. The wife and I heard Ottmar Liebert last night for FREE (courtesy of our local JAZZ radio station, KRTU).

Dick Oatts, the most underrated alto player alive.

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