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The Year in Jazz: Highlights From Our Critics' Panel at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem

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Cem Kurosman
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The Year in Jazz panelists: Eugene Holley, Jr., Nate Chinen, Michelle Mercer, Giovanni Russonello

What defined the conversation around jazz this year? There’s no simple answer to that question, but trying is always a worthwhile struggle ­— especially in the company of my fellow jazz critics, who devote most of their waking hours to the subject.

This year’s edition of The Year in Jazz, held on Dec. 12 at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, featured several friends whose work I really admire: Michelle Mercer, an author and regular contributor to NPR; Giovanni Russonello, who covers jazz and late-night television for The New York Times; and Eugene Holley, Jr., who writes for a range of publications, including DownBeat, Newark Bound and now WBGO.

We talked about our top albums of 2017, which encompass a healthy range of style — from the bristling expedition of flutist Nicole Mitchell to the soulful majesty of Ahmad Jamal. We also paid tribute to pianist Geri Allen, the most wrenching of our losses this year.

And we touched on the topic of gender inequality and sexism in jazz, which was in the foreground for much of this year, and not only in the weeks since the #MeToo movement took hold. “I just try to be very careful when I’m covering women,” said Mercer, “to make sure that I’m giving them that agency ­— the agency of creative vision, and of creative execution.” 

The audio above is an edited version of our panel, produced by Simon Rentner for The Checkout on WBGO. If you'd like to watch the raw footage from our web stream, you can also do so below.

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A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, Nate Chinen is editorial director at WBGO and a regular contributor to NPR Music.