Commentary: Best Jazz (and Other) Recordings of 2017

The range of recordings issued this year was remarkable, both in terms of their instrumentation and their artistic inspiration.


By Michael Ullman

This year, I have chosen Matt Wilson’s remarkable Carl Sandburg project, which I also heard live, as the record of the year. The others, a rich bunch, I have listed alphabetically. The range of recordings issued this year was remarkable, both in terms of their instrumentation (I have included solo discs, duets, trios, small band and finally big band music) and their artistic inspiration. Jane Ira Bloom’s magnificent set is inspired by Emily Dickinson; Rez Abassi by Pakistani music, and Rudresh Mahanthappa by what he calls Indo-Pak.

Record of the Year:

Matt Wilson: Honey and Salt: Music Inspired by the Poetry of Carl Sandburg, Palmetto

Rez Abassi: Unfiltered Universe, Whirlwind

Ambrose Akinmusire,: A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard, Blue Note

Jane Ira Bloom:  Wild Lines…Improvising Emily Dickinson, Outline

Bill Charlap: Uptown Downtown, Impulse

Anat Cohen: Happy Song, Anzic

Steve Coleman: Morphogenisis, Pi

Jack DeJohnette: Hudson, Motema

Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan: Small Town, ECM

Laszlo Gardony: Serious Play, Sunnyside Records

Fred Hersch: Open Book, Palmetto

Rudresh Mahanthappa: Agrima, produced by Mahanthappa

Christian McBride: Bringin’ It, Mack Avenue


Classic Savoy Be-Bop Sessions 1945-9 , Mosaic

Louis Armstrong: The Standard Oil Session, Dot Time

Dick Hyman: Solo at the Sacramento Jazz Festivals, 1983-1988, Arbors


Miguel Zenon: Tipico, Miel Music


Dominique Eade and Ran Blake: Town and Country, Sunnyside


San Francisco String Trio: May I Introduce to You, Ridgeway Records

By Milo Miles

This is a quite informal list. I have done a Best of 2017 Jazz ballot, but these were also selected from the favorite piles near the stereo set. “This is outstanding – yeah, I still adore this – holds up better and better …” And I just happened to stop at 22. The items near the top of the list are standouts among standouts, but this is not in any strict order. Comments about most of these can be found tucked away in my blog

Best of 2017 Albums


Various, Celebrate Ornette (Song x)

The Magnetic Fields, 50 Song Memoir (Nonesuch)

Various (and how), American Epic: The Collection (Lo-Max/Third Man/Columbia/Legacy)

Carl Craig, Versus (Infiné /Planet E)

Dominique Eade/Ran Blake, Town and Country (Sunnyside)

Courtney Barnett/Kurt Vile, Lotta Sea Lice (Matador)

Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet, Ladilikan (World Circuit)

Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan, Small Town (ECM)

Jaime Branch, Fly or Die (International Anthem)

The XX, I See You (Young Turks)

The New Pornographers, Whiteout Conditions (The New P’s LLC/Concord)

Jens Lekman, Life Will See You Now (Secretly Canadian)

Wadada Leo Smith, Najwa (TUM)

Orchestra Baobab, Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng (World Circuit)

Hermeto Pascoal & Grupo Vice Versa, Viajandro Comosom (Fardul)

John Langford, Jon Langford’s Four Lost Souls (Bloodshot)

Chuck Berry, Chuck (Dualtone)

Juana Molina, Halo (Crammed Discs)

Roscoe Mitchell, Bells for the South Side (ECM)

Nathaniel Braddock, Quadrille & Collapse (Invertabrata)

Alma Micic, That Old Feeling (Whaling City Sound)

Dori Freeman, Letters Never Read (self-released)

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