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The Best in Jazz from the Recent Past and the Near Future, on The Checkout

Courtesy of Artists
Tomeka Reid, Thundercat, Kris Davis, Branford Marsalis, Nududuzo Makhathini, & Thana Alexa

During the wintertime, there’s always an avalanche of music-related storylines hitting our Inbox. Between the results of 2019 NPR Jazz Critics Poll and a shovel-load of exciting releases on the horizon, writers Francis Davis, Nate Chinen and I have you covered.

We begin this music-saturated discovery podcast with Davis guiding us through the final tally of last year’s poll. A total of 140 journalists voted on their favorite jazz releases; you can see all the ballots, including mine, and an accompanying essay by Davis.

Credit TJ Huff
Anna Webber, who placed 6th in the NPR Jazz Critics Poll

The results of the poll were staggering and unprecedented — in Davis’ words, they “provided surprise after surprise.” Not only did it skew toward younger and relatively emerging artists; for the first time, women appeared a whopping six times in the top 11. 

Canadian-born pianist and composer Kris Davis took home first place for her album Diatom Ribbons. As it happens, Davis will be presented on our next Checkout Live at Berklee webcast on Feb. 5.

Davis will join drummer Terri Lyne Carrington (who appears on Diatom Ribbons, and finished 20th in the poll herself) and bassist Linda May Han Oh (who finished 29th) in a special performance at the Red Room at Café 939, also featuring students from the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, which Carrington founded.

For the second half of the conversation, Nate Chinen and I pick out some music and exciting events coming this year, including The Checkout’s new partnership with The Jazz Gallery in New York. The series, and the Jazz Gallery’s 25th anniversary season, kick off with reedman and composer John Ellis revisiting his commission The Ice Siren, featuring vocalists Gretchen Parlato and Miles Griffith. (I’ll give a related talk 30 minutes before the show.)

See below to reference all the music featured in this program:

The Very Little Thing, Kris Davis, Diatom Ribbons(Pyroclastic)
Old New, Tomeka Reid Quartet, Old New(Cuneiform)
Neither When Nor Where, Taylor Ho Bynum, 9-tette, The Ambiguity Manifesto(Firehouse 12)
Clockwise, Anna Webber, Clockwise(Pi Recordings)
Life Filtering From The Water Flowers, Branford Marsalis Quartet, The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul(OKeh)
Crepuscule with Nellie, Chick Corea Trilogy feat. Christian McBride and Brian Blade, Trilogy 2(Universal)
Nisa, Abdullah Ibrahim, The Balance(Gearbox)
Lazy Afternoon, Jeremy Udden, Three In Paris(Sunnyside)
Paul’s Call, George Coleman, The Quartet(Smoke Sessions)

Checkout Playlist of forthcoming releases in 2020

Go Away, Jeff Parker The New Breed, Suite For Max Brown(International Anthem)
Just One of Those Things, Tom Oren Trio, Recorded on The Checkout Live at Berklee
Yehlisan’uMoya, Nduduzo Makhathini, Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworld(Blue Note)
Both Are True, Webber/Morris Big Band, Both Are True(Greenleaf)
Goddess, Chris Dingman, Embrace
Black Qualls, Thundercat (Brainfeeder)
ONA, Thana Alexa, ONA
Nord at NAMM 2020, DOMi and JD Beck (YouTube)
I Need Your Love, José James, No Beginning No End 2 (Rainbow Blonde)

Subscribe to The Checkout on SpotifyStitcherApple Music, and Google Play.


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For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.