The Best Jazz Albums of 2016

It's that time of the year again. Here are my picks for the 10 best new jazz albums of 2016—and the four best historical releases:

Henry Threadgill's Ensemble Double Up, Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi).
Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, Real Enemies (New Amsterdam).
Frank Kimbrough, Solstice (Pirouet).
Fred Hersch Trio, Sunday Night at the Vanguard (Palmetto).
Brad Mehldau Trio, Blues and Ballads (Nonesuch).
Wadada Leo Smith, America's National Parks (Cuneiform, 2 CDs).
Dave Douglas & Frank Woeste, Dada People (Greenleaf).
Krakauer's Ancestral Groove, Checkpoint (Table Pounding Records).
Kenny Barron Trio, Book of Intuition (Impulse!).
Matt Wilson's Big Happy Family, Beginning of a Memory (Palmetto).

Larry Young, In Paris: The ORTF Recordings (Resonance, 2CD/2LP).
Erroll Garner, Ready Take One (Sony, CD/2LP).
Sarah Vaughan, Live at Rosy's (Resonance).
Shirley Horn, Live at the 4 Queens (Resonance).

In Slate, where I write a regular column (though mainly on foreign policy), I recite this list and link to one track or a lengthy excerpt from each album.

For Stereophile readers (who may have read my blog-reviews of most of these albums over the past year), I offer the bonus of a sonic assessment. The remarkable thing is that all of the above albums sound at least pretty good. The Kimbrough, Mehldau, and Barron sound extraordinarily good, especially, I'd say, the Kimbrough, which was recorded at Sear Studio. The historical albums—all never-before-released in any format—also sound very good, the LPs (where available) more so than the CDs (surprise).

And happy listening for the holidays to one and all!

deckeda's picture

... normally would of course be music.

But in this case it might your surprise discovery that LPs can sound better than CDs. Now, just imagine the world that awaits.


casperghst42's picture

My two favourite albums from 2016 (which I feel is missing from the list) are;

Avishai Cohen - Into the Silence
Melanie De Biasio - Blackened Cities

I know ... but they have entertained me for many hours....

Tempo's picture

Thanks for the list. I'll check out the ones of which I don't know. I have and agree with the Mehldau, Hersch and Barron. A couple others I'm currently liking--but don't know if I'd call best of the year yet--are Uri Caine's Calibrated Thickness and Phronesis' Parallax. The historical release I've listened to most this year has been Bill Evans' Some Other Time, but I haven't heard the Garner yet. I suppose it's been a jazz trio kind of year for me. Happy groovin' holidays to everyone as well.

JRT's picture

Thanks for the list.

Allen Fant's picture

I concur- FK.
another banner year for Jazz ( I am counting since 2011).
The excellent material and releases keep coming. The Errol Garner,
Fred Hersch, Kenny Baron and Brad Mehldau discs are outstanding.
Always great to have another Bill Evans and Jim Hall (artistshare)
releases. Branford Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Will Calhoun, and so many others round out 2016.

SteveR1's picture

Still enjoying the radical left turn in the Miles Bootleg Series Volume 5.
The Freedom Jazz session reel is worth its weight in gold

Laurence Svirchev's picture

There is certainly a problem with the term "best jazz albums." There is so much great music that columns like this should confine themselves to suggestions on great music like the albums listed.
But I need to make another point: jazz long ago went international, it is no longer an American-specific idiom. This list does not include a single non-American. I will just mention names who could have made this list: Georg Graewe recording on the American label NuScope and Benoit Delbecq (French) & Francois Houle (Canada) recording on the Canadian Songlines label. Please expand horizons, not limit them.