Joey Alexander, performing last year at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times
This was a strong year in jazz, especially in the genre’s various avant-garde wings, with outstanding releases from Henry Threadgill, the Mary Halvorson Octet, Steve Lehman, and Wadada Leo Smith. And Joey Alexander performed a duet with Kelsea Ballerini!
At the same time, jazz found ways to continue to seep out into the cultural mainstream, from David Bowie’s final album, “Blackstar,” to the film “La La Land,” to the way Kendrick Lamar’s extended musical ecosystem has embraced the Los Angeles jazz world.
Which maybe means that jazz’s center, such as it exists, is more up for grabs than ever. Though given the way individual artists are self-releasing albums — pulling away from the old traditional-label ecosystem — the could be a promising development.
To talk about this year’s jazz happenings, I spoke with Nate Chinen, a critic who covers the genre for The New York Times; Seth Colter Walls, who writes for Pitchfork and The Guardian; Kyla Marshell, a poet and writer who’s contributed to The Guardian and Revive Music; and Ben Ratliff, former don of the Popcast, returning for a victory lap.
Mary Halvorson on Guitar: Unflinching and Full of Grace
Review: Wadada Leo Smith and Vijay Iyer Share Their Influence Through Duets
On David Bowie’s ‘Blackstar,’ Turning to Jazz for Inspiration