It can now be said without any doubt that the D.C. jazz scene is a community of strength and resilience. Even as venues come and go and neighborhoods change — sometimes with alarming rapidity — the District’s musicians continue to not only create stirring art but also to organize, ensuring the music has a future in venues and festivals that enrich their local community, and uphold a legacy.
Live jazz is still an integral part of the nightlife along the U Street Corridor, and the scene’s experimental side continues to push aesthetic boundaries, crafting bold new textures and bringing people together in nontraditional spaces. It’s with all this in mind that we have compiled our list of CapitalBop’s top D.C. jazz albums of 2018. It was a very fertile year for recorded music in the DMV, so a lot of thought and discussion went into the making of this list.A short note about our process is in order. As the bonds between Baltimore and D.C. musicians have grown stronger in recent years, we decided to include Baltimore-based artists like Todd Marcus and the Organix Trio in this year’s round-up. Similarly, with genre boundaries feeling all but meaningless these days, we took a permissive approach when deciding which albums to consider. Anything made by a musician trained in jazz — or generally aligned with the jazz and creative-music community — was fair game. Finally, as a member of our own editorial board, Luke Stewart, has become an undeniable force in creative music as a performer, we decided that it would be unrealistic not to place the two albums that he made or contributed to this year in the running. Stewart did not vote on those albums; instead, we re-weighted the ballots of the other four voters to give his albums an equal shot.
The breadth of the following list reflects the strong and diverse creative energies that are flowing across the D.C. area. Read on for a recap of 2018’s best D.C. jazz recordings — and get ready for an equally exciting 2019.
Editor’s note: Votes in this poll were cast by Jenna Henderson, Majeedah Johnson, Jamie Sandel, Jackson Sinnenberg and Luke Stewart. Each member’s best-of ballot counted equally, with the exception described above for Stewart’s projects.
Header image designed by Jamie Sandel.