Creating new jazz music during quarantine can be especially challenging. Since it requires multiple musicians to get together in a small room and that would go against the SOPs, there aren’t many jazz records that were recorded this year.

However, that didn’t stop old and new jazz performers from providing us with new jazz content on a consistent basis that was recorded prior to the lockdown being imposed. In a year that felt full of adversities, these albums were able to provide a glimpse of hope and happiness to its listeners.

·      Omega by Immanuel Wilkins

23-year-old alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins debuted with a suite of 10 compositions this year. Omega is produced by Jason Moran, and also has Micah Thomas on piano, Daryl Johns on bass and Kweku Sumbry on the drums, as Mr. Wilkin’s worked the quartet.

Each one of these compositions is packed with ideas that will make you think about various things. However, the music moves with such grace that the chances of getting overwhelmed by them are next to nil. The reason this album works so well is because it thrives thanks to the buoyant and up-to-date sense of swing. Whereas, the nation’s racial ills were also clearly kept in mind while composing this album.

·      8: Kindred Spirits by Charles Lloyd

One of the very few jazz elders who’ve managed to sustain popularity while maintaining their credibility among purists of the genre is Charles Lloyd. He continues to see success without compromising on the blessed-our sound that was popular among the festivalgoers in the 60s.

A live recording that was made on account of Lloyd’s 80th birthday last year in his hometown of Santa Barbara shows that this veteran jazz artist is still in his top form. The recording has Lloyd moving through his classic material such as Dream Weaver (1966) to the more recent tear-jerking La Llorona without faltering. The way Lloyd lets moments of intensity build up organically in unexpected places is truly phenomenal.

·      Secrets Are The Best Stories by Kurt Elling

Quickly becoming one of the most acclaimed entries in Kurt’s already compelling discography, Secrets Are The Best Stories boasts of emotional depths portrayed through the lyrical depth and stellar performances. Panamanian pianist Danilo Pérez partnered up with Elling for the first time, and the aesthetic sensibility that the pair shared can be felt throughout the album.

The centerpiece of the album, Beloved, truly represents the heart of the album in a structural and dramatic sense. Altoist Miguel Zenón’s powerful contribution makes it even better. However, the highlight of the album may be Stays. Peréz’s use of bitonality in this piece evokes a deep sense of unease as Elling discovers the reason behind his elderly neighbor avoiding him in a chilling note from history. Overall, there isn’t much worth missing in this album.


So what are you waiting for? Take a break from the pandemic, and go immerse yourself in these amazing albums if you haven’t already.