Best of 2018

— Compiled by András Goldinger


John Coltrane, BOTH DIRECTIONS AT ONCE: The Lost Album (Impulse) – Masterful rediscovered sessions from March 6, 1963, with the classic quartet (McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones).

Miles Davis & John Coltrane, THE FINAL TOUR (Columbia, 4CDs) – The quintet w Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb

Charles Lloyd & the Marvels w Lucinda Williams, VANISHED GARDENS (Blue Note) – Saxophone titan meets vocal titan, with Bill Frisell on guitar

Ry Cooder, THE PRODIGAL SON (Fantasy) – Originals & old gospel songs in Ry’s fashion—outstanding

Van Morrison & Joey DeFrancesco, YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY (Columbia) – Van teams with Hammond B-3 organ player Joey DeFrancesco for swinging standards

I’m With Her, SEE YOU AROUND (Rounder) – The trio of Sarah Jarosz, Aiofe O’Donovan & Sara Watkins

Bombino, DERAN (Partisan) – Electric guitarist and singer leading the Tuareg music renaissance.

Orquesta Akokán, ORQUESTA AKOKÁN (Daptone) – Classic Afro-Cuban big band music


Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong, CHEEK TO CHEEK: The Complete Duet Recordings (Verve) - Perfection

MORE BLOOD, MORE TRACKS: The Bootleg Series Vol. 14 (Columbia) – Revealing alternate versions of the songs from Blood on the Tracks 

The Beatles, THE BEATLES (WHITE ALBUM) & ESHER DEMOS (Capitol, 3 CDs) – Acoustic Esher demos released for the first time (along with the re-mastered double album)

Prince, PIANO & A MICROPHONE 1983 (Warner Brothers) – Previously unreleased home recordings

COMPLETE CUBAN JAM SESSIONS (Craft, 5CDs) – Classic mambo, rumba, & cha-cha-cha, c. 1956-1964


Janelle Monáe, DIRTY COMPUTER (Bad Boy) – Fantastic pop songs—sex, politics & everything else

Kaia Kater, GRENADES (Smithsonian Folkways) – A Grenadian explores her roots

Leon Bridges, GOOD THING (Columbia) – “Old-school soul” revival done right

John Prine, THE TREE OF FORGIVENESS (Oh Boy) – His first album of new material in 13 years.

Joan Baez, WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND (Concord) – Ms. Baez continues in her long song journey

Magos Herrera & Brooklyn Rider, DREAMERS (Sony) – Nueva canción,

Mitski, BE THE COWBOY (Dead Oceans)


Bettye LaVette, THINGS HAVE CHANGED (Verve) – Making some Bob Dylan songs her own

Alejandro Escovedo, THE CROSSING (Yep Roc) – A concept album on immigration

Kacey Musgraves, GOLDEN HOUR (UMG) – The finest country pop

Richard Thompson, 13 RIVERS (New West) – The master guitarist & singer/songwriter still powerful after 50 years

Rosanne Cash, SHE REMEMBERS EVERYTHING (Blue Note) – A new set of songs by Ms. Cash

Cat Power, WANDERER (Domino Records) – Cat Power (Chan Marshall) returns.


Cécile McLorin Salvant, THE WINDOW (Mack Avenue) – The vocalist’s duets with pianist Sullivan Fortner

Makaya McCraven, UNIVERSAL BEINGS (International Anthem) – The drummer with 4 different groups—from London, New York, L.A. and Chicago

Sons of Kemet, YOUR QUEEN IS A REPTILE (Impulse) – Tenor sax, tuba & two drummers from London

Joshua Redman, STILL DREAMING (Nonsuch) – Redman, Ron Miles, Scott Colley & Brian Blade (sax, trumpet, bass, drums) in a tribute to Old & New Dreams

Ambrose Akinmusire, ORIGAMI HARVEST (Blue Note) – Powerful combo of trumpet/string quartet/drums/some rap

Andrew Cyrille, Wadada Leo Smith, Bill Frisell, LEBROBA (ECM) – Drums, trumpet, electric guitar—three masters

Rudy Royston, FLATBED BUGGY (Greenleaf) – Melodic tunes for drums, clarinet, accordion, cello, & bass.


Mary Halvorson & Bill Frisell, THE GIRL WITH THE FLAXEN HAIR (Tzadik) – Electric guitar duets

Mary Halvorson, CODE GIRL (Firehouse 12) – Ambitious songs with  guitar, voice, trumpet, bass & drums

Julian Lage, MODERN LORE (Mack Avenue) – Guitarist Julian Lage’s Telecaster trio

Jamie Saft, BLUE DREAM (Rare Noise) – A straight-ahead quartet album of blues & ballads, w Saft on piano, Bill McHenry on tenor, Brad Jones on bass, and Nasheet Waits on drums.

Ethan Iverson & Mark Turner, TEMPORARY KINGS (ECM) – Piano & tenor sax chamber jazz duos

Don Byron & Aruán Ortiz, RANDOM DANCES AND (A)TONALITIES (Intakt) – Clarinetist (& sax) & piano duets

Myra Melford’s Snowy Egret, THE OTHER SIDE OF AIR (Firehouse) – Pianist Myra Melford’s quintet

Dave Holland, UNCHARTED TERRITORIES (Dare2) – Bassist w Evan Parker, Craig Taborn & Ches Smith on drums

Kamasi Washington, HEAVEN AND EARTH (Young Turks, 2CD) –  Epic group sound of the new tenor on the scene

Wayne Shorter, EMANON (Blue Note, 3CD+book) – Great music by Shorter’s Quartet (pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade), plus a hardbound graphic novel by Mr. Shorter (for special order).

JD Allen, LOVE STONE (Savant) – Tenor with bass, drums, guitar play ballads

On the Sunnyside label

Adam Nussbaum, THE LEAD BELLY PROJECT – Lead Belly tunes w 2 electric guitars, sax & drums

Luciana Souza, THE BOOK OF LONGING – Vocalist sets poems to music

John Raymond & Real Feel, JOY RIDE – Flugelhorn trio featuring electric guitar & drums

Walking Distance featuring Jason Moran, FREEBIRD – Radically reworking Charlie Parker


Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Polina Leschensko, DEUX: BARTÓK POULENC RAVEL (Alpha) – The violinist & pianist’s fearless & ferocious performances

Igor Levit, LIFE (Sony, 2CDs) – The pianist’s superb juxtaposition of Bach, Busoni, Liszt, Rweski, & Evans

Barbara Hannigan, VIENNA, FIN DE SIÈCLE (Alpha) – The soprano’s lieder recital of Wolf, Schoenberg, Webern, Zemlinksky, Alma Mahler, and Berg

PETER GARLAND: MOON VIEWING MUSIC (Cold Blue Music) – A spare, meditative work for gongs

BACH: Violin Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2, Partita No. 1 (Decca) – Hilary Hahn returns to Bach

BACH: CELLO SUITES: SIX EVOLUTIONS (Sony) – Yo-Yo Ma’s third recording of the opus

BACH: Six Suites for Viola Sol (ECM) – Kim Kashkashian plays the Cello Suites arranged for viola.

Danish String Quartet, PRISM 1: Beethoven Shostakovich Bach (ECM) – The first of five albums linking late Beethoven & Bach

MUSIC IN A COLD CLIMATE: Sounds of Hansa Europe (Delphian,) – Music played in the heyday of the Hanseatic League of northern Europe

BACH: MAGNIFICATS (Hyperion) – Bach & sons, with Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen, director (and also playing harpsichord and organ) with countertenor Iestyn Davies

MOZART: SONATAS FOR PIANOFORTE & VIOLIN VOL 1 (Harmonia Mundi) – Isabelle Faust & Alexander Melnikov

SHOSTAKOVICH: QUARTET NO. 2 & PIANO QUINTET (Alpha) – The Belcea Quartet and Piotr Anderszewski

Ruby Hughes, HANDEL’S LAST PRIMA DONNA: GIULIA FRASI IN LONDON (Chandos) – Soprano salutes a fellow singer in 18th-century London

Lucile Richardot, PERPETUAL NIGHT: 17th Century Ayres and Songs (Harmonia Mundi) – Mezzo

Ian Bostridge & Antonio Pappano, REQUIEM, THE PITY OF WAR (Warner Classics) – Tenor recital 

Marion Rampal & Quatuor Manfred, BYE BYE BERLIN (Harmonia Mundi) – Soprano explores the music of Berlin between the wars

TCHAIKOVSKY: SYMPHONY NO 6 “PATHÉTIQUE” (Sony) – Teodor Currentzis conducts MusicAeterna

RACHMANINOV: Études-Tableaux (Hyperion) – Steven Osborne’s “thrilling” recital is receiving raves. 

DESTINATION RACHMANINOV: Piano Concertos 2 & 4 (DG) – Daniil Trifonov begins his Rachmaninov journey

STRAVINSKY: THE RITE OF SPRING (Hyperion) – Duo pianists Marc-André Hamelin and Leif-Ove Andsnes

CHOPIN: Ballades & Nocturnes (Sony) – Leif Ove Andsnes

SCARLATTI: SONATAS (Erato) – Harpsichordist Jean Rondeau

Jakob Lindberg, NOCTURNAL (BIS) – Lutenist plays Britten, Dowland, Anthony Holborne and John Johnson.

Alexander Melnikov, FOUR PIECES, FOUR PIANOS (Harmonia Mundi) – Mr. Melnikov plays historical pianos in Schubert, Chopin, Liszt, and Stravinsky

BARTOK: Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2 (Ondine) –Christian Tetzlaff & Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra

Alisa Weilerstein, TRANSFIGURED NIGHT: Haydn & Schoenberg (Pentatone) – Cellist Alisa Weilerstein


HARMONIA MUNDI DEBUSSY SERIESNew recordings for the anniversary year featuring pianist

Alexander Melnikov, violinist Isabelle Faust, soprano Sophie Karthäuser, and the Jerusalem Quartet, among others


David Yazbek, THE BAND’S VISIT (Ghostlight) – Tony winner for Best Musical

Audra McDonald, SING HAPPY (Decca) – A splendid program of Broadway songs old and new w the NY Philharmonic

SPRINGSTEEN ON BROADWAY (Columbia) – Stories & songs (available Dec. 14)

A STAR IS BORN: Original Soundtrack (Interscope) – Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper


Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, BOHEMIANA VOL. 1: The Compositions and Arrangements of Dan Roberts (Bleebop) – DC’s own big band

The Messthetics, THE MESSTHETICS (Dischord) – The rhythm section of Fugazi plus electric guitar

THE THOUSAND INCARNATIONS OF THE ROSE: American Primitive Guitar & Banjo 1963 – 1974 (Craft) – Takoma Park’s John Fahey & his modern-day successors


VOICES OF MISSISSIPPI: Artists and Musicians Documented by William Ferris (Dust to Digital, 3CD/1DVD+book)

LISTEN ALL AROUND: The Golden Age of Central and Eastern African Music 1950 - 1957 (Dust to Digital, 2CD+book) – Hugh Tracey’s recordings from Congo, Kenya, Tanganyika, and Zanzibar




Neko Case, HELL-ON (Anti)

Pistol Annies, INTERSTATE GOSPEL (Sony) – The super-group of Ashley Mondroe, Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley

Ashley Monroe, SPARROW (Warner Nashville) – Another fine batch of songs

Mary Gauthier, RIFLES & ROSARY BEADS (In the Black) – Co-written with U.S. veterans

Anna & Elizabeth, THE INVISIBLE COMES TO US (Smithsonian Folkways) – Lovely duets

Tracey Thorn, RECORD (Matador) – Ms. Thorn has written a new set of songs

Meshell Ndegeocello, VENTRILOQUISM (Naïve) – covers some of the greatest R&B songs of the 1980s and 1990s

Courtney Barnett, TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL (Mom + Pop) – Miniature short stories full of snappy observations.

Lake Street Dive, FREE YOURSELF UP (Nonesuch) – Rachel Price’s powerhouse vocalist

Lori McKenna, THE TREE (Thirty Tigers) – masterful songs

Nathan Salsburg, THIRD (No Quarter) – Fine acoustic guitarist instrumentals

Jonny Greenwood, PHANTOM THREAD: SOUNDTRACK (Nonesuch)

Laurie Anderson & Kronos Quartet, LANDFALL (Nonesuch) – Meditations on Hurricane Sandy & other topics

Serpentwithteeth, SOIL (Secretely Canadian) – AKA Josiah Wise from Baltimore (thanks to Chris Richards of the Post, who wrote a great profile of the vocalist)



John Scofield, COMBO 66 (Verve) – More wonderful electric guitar w Bill Stewart, Gerald Clayton & Vicente Archer

Charlie Haden & Brad Mehldau, LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY (Verve) – Bass & piano duets from 2007

Wolfgang Muthspiel, WHERE THE RIVER GOES (ECM) – Guitarist with an all-star group (Brad Mehldau, piano, Larry Grenadier, bass, and Eric Harland, drums) recording.

Jacob Bro Trio, BAY OF RAINBOWS (ECM) – The guitarist’s atmospheric music, in a trio with Thomas Morgan, bass, and Joey Barron, drums.

Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette, AFTER THE FALL (ECM) – The “standards” trio from November, 1998

Marc Ribot, SONGS OF RESISTANCE 1942 – 2018 (Anti,) – Guitarist with vocal guests


BACH: SONATAS FOR VIOLIN & HARPSICHORD (Harmonia Mundi) –Isabelle Faust & Kristian Bezuidenhout

MOZART: VIOLIN SONATAS VOL 5 (Hyperion) – Vol. 5 w Alina Ibragimova & Cédric Tiberghien, piano.

HAYDN: PIANO SONATAS NOs 32, 40, 49 & 50 (Harmonia Mundi) – Paul Lewis

Steven Isserlis & Dénes Várjon, CHOPIN & SCHUBERT: Sonatas (Hyperion) – Cello & an 1851 Érard piano

Maurizio Pollini, DEBUSSY: PRELUDES II (Deutsche Grammophon, $16.98)

DAVID LANG: THE MYSTERY SONATAS (Cantaloupe) – Violinist Augustin Hadelich in Lang’s affecting and striking solo piece modeled after Biber’s Mystery Sonatas.

VIVALDI: The Four Seasons (Channel) - Rachel Podger and Brecon Baroque play a one-to-a-part take

Sandrine Piau, CHIMÈRE (Alpha) – Soprano sings German lied, French & in English

San Francisco Girls Choir, FINAL ANSWER (Orange Mountain) – A great collection of new works, politically charged

BACH: LUTE (Alpha) – Thomas Dunford, the young master lutenist

PAST MADE PRESENT: Music of Jessica Krash (Albany) – DC composer


LAMENT IN A DEEP STYLE 1929 – 1931 (Third Man) – Clarinetist Kitsos Harisiadis