Friday, January 25, 2013

Best of 2012

Another new year, another chance to reflect on all of the music, good or bad, that was released in the past 12 months. Though this ritual has become clockwork for Internet-savvy music fans like myself, I must admit that I still get excited when poring over the many best-of lists that clog up my RSS feed in December and January.

Of course, the excitement of reading about so much great music is quickly met by an urge to hear what all that vaunted music actually sounds like. That's where AccuJazz comes in. We've created an entire "Best Jazz of 2012" channel playing nothing but the most critically-acclaimed jazz from last year.

To make the BEST "Best of" channel, we had to find the best critics' list to help craft our playlist. The list to end all lists is Francis Davis' critics poll, originally printed in the Village Voice and now hosted by This year, Davis asked 119 jazz critics from around the world to rank their top albums from 2012. He then aggregated the results into one huge list that reflects the closest thing to a critical consensus on 2012 jazz.

As he did in 2009, the unstoppable Vijay Iyer topped this year's list. The winning album, Accelerando, is his trio's follow-up to 2009's Historicity, and like its predecessor, Accelerando searches for the Platonic ideal of jazz that is simultaneously modern and traditional, mainstream and avant-garde. Along with typically knotty Iyer originals, the album includes covers of songs by avant-garde jazz titans Henry Threadgill and Herbie Nichols and also includes left-field song choices from Flying Lotus, Michael Jackson and '70s disco group Heatwave. Iyer's trio has developed a synergistic playing style that is completely their own (and which I was fortunate enough to have witnessed live in October -- it was amazing).

Filling out the rest of the top 3 are excellent albums by avant-garde veterans -- Sam Rivers and Wadada Leo Smith, respectively. Further on down the list things get much more diverse, with Robert Glasper’s zeitgeist-defining jazz/R&B hybrid, “Black Radio,” Chick Corea and Gary Burton's shimmering standards  and some decades-old, newly unearthed live recordings from Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans.

Head on over to to listen to these albums and many, many more, on our "Best Jazz of 2012" channel. As with all AccuJazz channels, it's free and available 24/7. Happy listening!