Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Best Jazz of 2011, According to the Critics

Click here for our Best Jazz of 2011 Channel.

The best jazz album of 2011, according to the 122 people who participated in this year's Rhapsody Jazz Critics' Poll (formerly the Village Voice Jazz Critics' Poll), was made by an artist who first came to prominence in the 1950s. Road Shows, Vol. 2, by Sonny Rollins, won in a landslide. Rollins also received recognition from much higher powers than jazz critics, receiving the Kennedy Center honors from the president. Interestingly, the Rhapsody poll's No. 2 spot belongs to one of the youngest musicians on the list, 29-year-old trumpet phenom Ambrose Akinmusire. Akinmusire's exhilarating Blue Note Records debut, When the Heart Emerges Glistening, seemed to appeal to more traditional- and progressive-minded voters alike.

The rest of the list is typically diverse, ranging from quintessential New York free improvisation (David S. Ware's Planetary Unknown) to R&B-inflected modern jazz (Terri Lyne Carrington's Mosaic Project) and many well-conceived experiments in fusing jazz with ethnic musics from around the globe (Amir ElSaffar's Inana Suite, Vijay Iyer's Tirtha and Miguel Zenon's Alma Adentro). There are also an eye-opening six-and-a-half solo piano discs (the half being one disc of Matthew Shipp's double-disc Art of the Improviser).

To bring you, the listener, the best of what jazz had to offer in 2011, we're continuing in our annual tradition of creating a channel based on this definitive crtitics' list. Just click here to start listening. Our channel is playing 42 out of the 60 albums on the list, with programming weighed more heavily towards the highest-ranking albums. Therefore, you'll hear more Sonny and Ambrose than Starlicker (a great Chicago trio that came in 58th place).

As for my personal favorites, you can listen to my Staff Picks channel to hear my top 30 albums. I'll be posting a blog soon about the selections.

What were your favorite albums released in 2011? Do you agree with the critics? Do you think important albums got snubbed? Leave your opinions in the comments, or talk to me on Twitter.

Again, click here to start listening to the Best of 2011 Channel.

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