© 2024 WRTI
Your Classical and Jazz Source
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Best Jazz Albums Released in 2024 (So Far)

Vibraphonist and composer Joel Ross, whose album 'Nublues' is among the best jazz releases of 2024.
Bruce Bennett
Vibraphonist and composer Joel Ross, whose album 'Nublues' is among the best jazz releases of 2024.

The evidence of a live and healthy music scene rests in the productivity of its creators and the engagement and support of its patrons. And there’s an incredible abundance of great new albums already available this year. For starters, try these.

Morgan Guerin, Tales of the Facade

Although Morgan Guerin has dazzled audiences with his technical prowess for the last several years, his greatest goal is always to serve the song. As the title of his new album suggests, Tales of the Facade is about acknowledging and dismantling layers. One shining example is “Peace of Mind,” a smart, catchy tune that could easily fall into virality if boosted by the all-seeing algorithm. As a producer, Guerin sets unique accompaniment to showcase vocalists Georgia Anne Muldrow, Zacchae’us Paul, Melanie Charles, and Kokayi in ways that reflect the album’s central theme. He makes music to echo his evolution as a human, and his discoveries elevate him as a stalwart among a new generation of multi-instrumentalists.

Joel Ross, Nublues

Vibraphonist Joel Ross’ fourth album as a leader will continue to earn him fans for the foreseeable future. He is raising the bar as a thoughtful composer who crafts melodies to engage each of his band members into collective exploration and infectious energy. Nublues finds Ross stretching out on some familiar terrain, including John Coltrane’s “Equinox” and “Central Park West,” and Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence.” In the case of that Monk tune, fiery solos and an all-consuming out-chorus tag casts the performance as one of Ross and alto saxophonist Imanuel Wilkins’ best moments on record.

Vanisha Gould & Chris McCarthy, Life’s a Gig

Vocal duet albums can easily run the risk of mundanity. Reducing the margin of error depends on mastery of three main characteristics: material, tone, and the navigation of space. Gould and McCarthy check all the boxes. Life’s a Gig reveals a musical trust to rival many of today’s top working bands. Check the duo’s versions of “Aisha,” “No Moon at All,” and a Gould original, “Fall in Love with Me.” Melancholia mixed with a hint of optimism is the sweet spot of this duo’s prowess.

Vijay Iyer, Linda May Han Oh, Tyshawn Sorey, Compassion

While pianist Iyer has topped polls and critics’ lists for well over a decade, his latest trio album, Compassion, may have flown a tad under the radar. Spending time with Iyer, bassist Linda May Han Oh and drummer Tyshawn Sorey is rewarding. The title track — along with “Ghostrumental,” “Free Spirits,” and a reimagining of Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed” — reveal something new with each play. Given the recent passing of pianist Ahmad Jamal and the sidelining of Keith Jarrett, it’s encouraging to herald a strong new dispatch from a working trio with a unique musical vocabulary that’s ever-changing.

Sam Fribush Trio, People Please

People Please will dare anyone with a pulse to remain still. Sam Fribush is well versed in the Hammond organ tradition, and he’s chosen drummer Calvin Napper to join the fun that he and guitarist Charlie Hunter have begun. Here the groove is the center of all attention — not to be diluted with cleverness or needless pyrotechnics. For these musicians, sitting in the pocket has less to do with remaining in one place. The good feeling is a result of energy, discipline, and a clarity in the beat. As a result, “Hot Boutique,” “Ok Boomer” and “Return for Deposit” are the perfect motivation to get moving. If you need a jolt, trust these grooves.

Greg Bryant has been a longtime curator of improvisational music as a broadcaster, writer, host and musician. As a young child, he began absorbing the artistry of Miles Davis, Les McCann, Jimmy Smith, James Brown, Ornette Coleman, Weather Report, and Jimi Hendrix via his parent's record collection. He was so moved by what he was experiencing that he took pride in relaying all of his discoveries with anyone who would listen.