Every year the list gets longer and more heterogeneous. There are blockbusters and obscure little gems, loud jazz and quiet jazz, hip hop and kora music, some of it downright unclassifiable. Which is fine. "Junku," a 1984 track anthologized on Herbie Hancock
's spectacular box set below, is in fact both
hip hop and kora music! In an interview with the New York Times
earlier this year, Hancock said, "The thing that keeps jazz alive, even if it's under the radar, is that it is so free and so open to not only lend its influence to other genres, but to borrow and be influenced by other genres. That's the way it breathes." And when Hancock was accorded presidential honors a few weeks later, rapper Snoop Dogg (heard on the Robert Glasper
record listed below) told those assembled, "Herbie, we love you. Thank you for creating hip-hop."
These are the records I kept listening to all year (in alphabetical order). I don't pretend that they're the best of the year. Indeed, I'm still discovering great records from 2012, 2011, and so on, and I'm sure that there will be more great 2013 releases I haven't heard yet. (In fact, there are a few late-2012 discs on this listsee if you can spot them.) When you're listening for the kind of cross-pollination Hancock is referring to, you have to consider lots of records at once. Listen to them in combinations of three or four, and you'll be as sanguine as I am about the vibrancy of the sceneor scenes.