Despite Covid, the tumultuous election, and the lack of live performances, 2020 resulted in a large assortment of very good jazz CDs being released. Do not let anyone try to convince you that CDs are extinct or passé. Even with all of the difficulties, CDs continued to pour out on a regular basis. Relatively few recordings were actually made after February 2020 (other than one-man band efforts, trio dates where everyone kept their distance, or overdubbed sessions) but luckily there was a big backlog of recordings from 2019 to contend with and enjoy.
Here are the 35 new releases (covering many different approaches and styles) and 20 sets of reissues/historic music CDs that made the biggest impression on me in 2020, listed in alphabetical order by artist. Since I do not focus exclusively on cutting-edge music, this list is certainly much different than any other lists that others will compile of the top 2020 recordings. Every one of these recordings is highly recommended. Of course there are scores of other worthy releases from all over the world that could have made this list; I could have easily listed 100 in each category. No matter how much one tries to listen to every possible jazz recording, it is impossible to hear them all, but I’m doing my best! Suffice it to say, get these recordings and then tell me what was left out. I’ll look forward to hearing them in 2021.
Broadway baby Susannah Blinkoff (aka Susannah B) grew up in Manhattan in a cradle of creativity. Her childhood was filled with music and theater. Her dad Richard Blinkoff was a fashion photographer and her mother, Carol Hall, a renowned Broadway composer/lyricist. Susannah's new record, Girl Gone Wilder! is a tribute to legendary composer Alec Wilder, whose career spanned four decades. Wilder wrote/co-wrote songs tailor-made for his famous friends during the 1940's and 50's, including: Peggy Lee, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Bennett and others.
The debut single "Crazy In The Heart" is the perfect swinging soundtrack for cocktails! Buzz-Music praises Susannah's interpretation as a "refreshing yet nostalgic time capsule of musical brilliance." Susannah has taken many of Alec's acclaimed jazz standards and re-recorded them with a fresh, retro-pop vibe and updated tone. She has also assembled a band of first-rate musicians who have played with Rufus Wainwright, Paul McCartney, John Legend, Lady Gaga, Lucinda Williams and Alanis Morissette, to name a few.
A nod to the legendary jazz composer, Susannah's cleverly titled Girl Gone Wilder! paints a "verbal portrait of Wilder as complex, emotional, and lonely" which was illustrated with strong performances of songs that reflected those traits.
In an exciting departure from pop music, Susannah has taken on the challenging jazz genre. Reviewers congratulate Susannah for bringing a "familiar sound and fusing it with her stunning vocal ability," which she puts to best use on Girl Gone Wilder!
Read more about Alec Wilder on Wikipedia.