Best Jazz of the Year (and the Decade)

My annual piece on the Best Jazz Albums of the Year appears in today’s edition of Slate (for which I write a regular column, though usually on foreign and military policy). This time, I also drew up two lists of the Best Jazz Albums of the Decade—one for new recordings, the other for previously unreleased historical recordings (treasure troves of which were excavated this past 10 years). Readers of this blog may recall reading about most of these albums in this space.

In the Slate piece (see the External Link below), I included 30-second sound clips for each of the best albums of 2009. For the list here, I will place two asterisks (**) next to those recordings with excellent sound quality, one asterisk (*) next to those with quite good sonics.


  1. *Ella Fitzgerald, Twelve Nights of Hollywood (Verve)
  2. **Keith Jarrett, Paris/London: Testament (ECM)
  3. *Jim Hall & Bill Frisell, Hemispheres (ArtistShare)
  4. *Steve Kuhn Trio w/ Joe Lovano, Mostly Coltrane (ECM)
  5. *Fly, Sky & Country (ECM)
  6. *Dave Douglas’ Brass Ecstasy, Spirit Moves (Greenleaf)
  7. *Nellie McKay, Normal As Blueberry Pie (Verve)
  8. *Masada Quintet, Stolas: The Book of Angels, Vol. 12 (Tzadik)
  9. The Bad Plus, For All I Care (Heads Up)
  10. *Ran Blake, Driftwoods (Tompkins Square)


  1. *Ornette Coleman, Sound Grammar (Sound Grammar, 2006)
  2. **Jason Moran, Modernistic (Blue Note, 2002)
  3. Wayne Shorter, Footprints Live (Verve, 2002)
  4. John Zorn’s Bar Kokhba Sextet, 50th Birthday Celebration, Vol. 11 (Tzadik, 2005)
  5. **Keith Jarrett Trio, The Out of Towners (ECM, 2004)
  6. **Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra, Sky Blue (ArtistShare, 2007)
  7. *Bill Frisell With Dave Holland and Elvin Jones (Nonesuch, 2001)
  8. **James Carter, Chasin’ the Gypsy (Atlantic, 2000)
  9. *Ted Nash, Sidewalk Meetings (Arabesque, 2001)
  10. **Geri Allen/Dave Holland/Jack DeJohnette, The Life of a Song (Telarc, 2004)


  1. Dizzy Gillespie & Charlie Parker, Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945 (Uptown, 1945/2005)
  2. *Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane, At Carnegie Hall (Blue Note, 1957/2005—also available as Classic Records LP)
  3. Sonny Rollins, Road Shows, Vol. 1 (Doxy, 1980-2007/2008)
  4. Bill Evans, The Last Waltz: The Final Recordings, Keystone Korner, September 1980 (Milestone, 1980/2000)
  5. *Ella Fitzgerald, Twelve Nights in Hollywood (Verve, 1961-62/2009)
  6. *Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric Dolphy, Cornell 1964 (Blue Note, 1964/2007)
  7. *Andrew Hill, Passing Ships (Blue Note, 1969/2003)
  8. Art Pepper, Unreleased Art, Vol. 2: The Final Concert (Widow’s Taste, 1982/2007)
  9. *Stan Getz, Bossas & Ballads: The Lost Sessions (Verve, 1989/2003)
  10. *Shirley Horn, Live at the 1994 Monterey Jazz Festival (Concord, 1994/2008)

Scott Atkinson's picture

A few more for best of the decade, because what would a 'best of' list be without someone saying "But what about..."William Parker - O'Neal's Porch (which, in fairness, may have been issued in its original edition before 2000. Aum Fidelity put it out in 2002.)David D. Ware - Live In The WorldRoberta Gambarini + Hank Jones -You Are ThereEnrico Pieranunzi trio - Live in ParisVijay Iyer - ReimaginingDave Douglas Quintet - Live @ The Jazz Standard, complete book

Fred Kaplan's picture

Thanks for the comment. Clearly there are lots of runners-up to any Top-10-of-the-Decade list. On a different day, in a different mood, I might have come up with five other albums to fill out the bottom half of the list and not felt bad about the choice....Fred

Bill's picture

Best Jazz Album 2009:Improvisations (Duo) 2008-Anthony Braxton & Maral Yakshieva;accessible and beautiful...

Vik's picture

No Vijay Iyer or Miguel Zenon? Iyer won the Village Voice Jazz Poll this year.

jazzfan's picture

Fred,While I very well could find a few things to nitpick regarding your Top Ten lists, overall I'm just overjoyed that you are true jazz listener rather then an audiophile who likes jazz.For what it's worth, my selection for jazz group of the decade:Jewels and Binoculars

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