The Best Modern Jazz Music of 2012

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


2012 was a great year for modern jazz music. Here are our picks for the best albums of the year.


It’s hard to believe that 2012 is already coming to a close. This year has been an amazing one for modern jazz, with a wealth of excellent new releases. Here are some of the best albumsof 2012.

The Best Jazz of 2012

The past year has been an excellent one for jazz fans, with a wealth of new releases to choose from. So we’ve decided to take a look at some of the best modern jazz albums of 2012.

Kenny Garrett – Seeds from the Underground

Albums don’t come much more varied than Garrett’s Seeds from the Underground. On it, the alto saxophonist celebrates the thirty years he’s spent in music with an expansive set that could only have been made by a musician of his stature and experience. The double album features two very different sides. The first is full of post-bop originals, while the second is dedicated to Garrett’s reworkings of standards by Horace Silver, Duke Ellington, and Joe Henderson. It’s an ambitious project, but one that Garrett pulls off with ease.

One of the most striking things about Seeds from the Underground is the level of energy that Garrett and his band bring to each track. Even on the more subdued numbers, there’s a sense of forward momentum that keeps things interesting. This is true of both the originals and the covers; in Garrett’s hands, even well-worn standards like “Stardust” sound fresh and exciting.

Garrett has always been a master of melody, and Seeds from the Underground is no exception. Each track features memorable hooks that will stay with you long after the album is over. This is perhaps best demonstrated on “Horizon,” where Garrett weaves his saxophone around a simple piano melody to create something both beautiful and complex.

With Seeds from the Underground, Kenny Garrett has delivered one of the best jazz albums of 2012. It’s an accomplished work that displays his immense talent as both a composer and a saxophonist. If you’re a fan of modern jazz, this is an album you need to hear.

Terence Blanchard – Magnetic

On his 13th studio album as a leader, trumpeter Terence Blanchard forgoes the electronics that spiced up previous releases in favor of a return to straight-ahead jazz. The result is one of his best albums in years. Blanchard’s playing is as lyrical and inventive as ever, but it’s the chemistry between him and his bandmates that really makes this album sparkle. Pianist Lionel Loueke, bassist Derrick Hodge, and drummer Kendrick Scott have been playing together for more than a decade, and it shows in the way they interact with each other on this record. From the gospel-tinged opener “Rebirth” to the hard-hitting closer “The Last Goodbyes,” Magnetic is a tour de force from one of the finest jazz ensembles working today.

Vijay Iyer – Accelerando

It would be easy to make a case for Vijay Iyer’s Accelerando as the best jazz album of 2012. It’s a brilliant solo piano recording, and Iyer is one of the most inventive and interesting pianists working today. But what really makes Accelerando special is the way it incorporates elements of Indian classical music into Iyer’s modern jazz sensibility. The result is an album that is intensely beautiful, deeply soulful, and absolutely unique.

Ambrose Akinmusire – The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier to Paint

Ambrose Akinmusire’s The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier to Paint is a strikingly modern jazz record. It’s got the energy and immediacy of post-bop, the intimacy of chamber music, and the expansive grandeur of an orchestral work. It’s also got a bit of hip-hop flavor thanks to Akinmusire’s collaborators, including rappers Kweli and Elzhi. The result is a jazz record that feels fresh and new, yet still steeped in tradition.


In conclusion, these are some of the best modern jazz albums of 2012. They represent a wide range of styles and approaches, but all are united by a common sense of energy and invention. We hope you’ve enjoyed exploring this year’s list, and we look forward to seeing what the next year brings.

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