The Best Jazz Albums of 2008

Here’s my list of the 10 best jazz albums of 2008. An elaboration, with 30-second sound clips illustrating my points, will appear tomorrow in my column in Slate. (Some of you may notice that I’ve mentioned most of these CDs in this blog through this year.)

Sonny Rollins, Road Shows, Vol. 1 (Doxy Jazz)

Shirley Horn, Live at the 1994 Monterey Jazz Festival (Concord/ Monterey Jazz Festival)

Frank Kimbrough, Air (Palmetto)

Rudresh Mahanthappa, Kinsmen (Pi Recordings)

Carla Bley Big Band, Appearing Nightly (ECM/Watt)

Paul Bley, About Time (Justin Time)

David Murray & Mal Waldron, Silence (Justin Time)

Wynton Marsalis & Willie Nelson, Two Men with the Blues (EMI)

Steve Bernstein, Diaspora Suite (Tzadik)

Jeff Gauthier, House of Return (Cryptogramophone)

I was also among the New York critics asked to contribute to Francis Davis’ annual Village Voice jazz poll. I submitted the same list to Francis. But he also asked each of us for our favorite debut album, favorite vocal album, and top three reissues. (The Sonny Rollins and Shirley Horn albums, cited above, were recorded several years ago but were never released, so they’re regarded as “new.”) Here are my picks for those categories:

Best Debut: Noah Preminger, Dry Bridge Road (Nowt Records)

Best Vocal: Shirley Horn (see entry in Best 10 of 2008)

3 Best Reissues:

Anthony Braxton, The Complete Arista Recordings (Mosaic)

Nina Simone, To Be Free (Sony Legacy)

Maria Schneider, Coming About [remastered] (ArtistShare)

More on some of these a bit later.

Eugene Holley, Jr.'s picture

Nice list Fred! You always had good taste - all the way back to the "Tower Records" days in DC!Keep up the good work.Sincerely,Eugene Holley, Jr.

Eugene Holley, Jr.'s picture

Nice list Fred! You always had good taste - all the way back to the "Tower Records" days in DC!Keep up the good work.Sincerely,Eugene Holley, Jr.

David Schwartz's picture

Fred, I'm surprised that your "reissues" list did not include any titles from the Music Matters or Analogue Productions Blue Note reissue series mastered by Steve Hoffman/Kevin Gray on 45rpm vinyl. They are classic albums perfectly mastered.

Fred Kaplan's picture

To David Schwartz - You have an excellent point. The list I prepared for the Village Voice was not meant for audiophiles; the list of reissues was supposed to focus on records that have been out of print for a while and whose release is a significant event. But yes, I will focus more in this glob on the nice vinyl slabs from Analogue Productions, Classic Records, and the others - some, in fact, I'll be highlighting very soon.

Iris's picture

Thank you for helping jazz stay in the public view. It's such a wonderful art form and a pity that the majority of young people have no idea how moving and expressive it is.Speaking of young people, there is a 16-yr-old jazz vibraphonist in Atlanta who is amazing. Her name is Amy Levin and she's got a 4-song CD available called "What I Did Over My Summer Vacation..." She recorded it at age 15 and sounds like an adult - very much in the Milt Jackson tradition. Her website is By the way, I also prefer vinyl to digital.

scribalartz's picture

I like your list...however I think you should consider EARFOOD by Roy Hargrove. While I would agree its not his best effort, it certainly speaks to how good his best effort will

ari arthur's picture

face it man, you like overblown saxophones. the best? the best is what one likes.

Manisha's picture

Fred, I am sad you overlooked Deepak Ram's Steps. His music seems to have converted many of my 20s-something friends over to jazz, w/o the aid of unrequited love.

Tony's picture

Won't argue with most of your picks, and I am sure there are others that could be added, but I do have to disagree with your Marsalis/Willie Nelson pick. Nowhere in the same league as the others on the list. As for the Classic "audiophile" issue, it should be about the music, not some purported improvement in sound. Instead of endlessly recycling Blue Notes, I prefer to look around and see what is happening NOW.

Tony T.'s picture

Where the hell is Dave Holland's "Pass It On" ? "The Suitcase" by Steve Khan ?