The Los Angeles Times Names Origami Harvest Best Jazz Album of 2018

Ambrose Akinmusire in 2017. (Peter Van Breukelen / Redferns)

Ambrose Akinmusire in 2017. (Peter Van Breukelen / Redferns)

Best of 2018: In jazz, powerful voices demand being heard

Though often associated with being a form that emphasizes the instrumental, some of my favorite recordings in jazz this year also include the human voice, though maybe not in a way that’s often associated with vocal jazz.

Maybe as a result of not wanting any mistakes made about musical intention at a time of upheaval, records such as “Origami Harvest,” “Your Queen Is a Reptile” and “Heaven & Earth” made their messages explicit or expand the reach of, say, a trumpet with phrases that lingered as strong as any melody.

“America, Americana. America, nah,” was one weary refrain on Ambrose Akinmusire’s record, an album whose restless examination of race and identity lingered as much as his intricate compositions, while a voice from London’s Sons of Kemet answered the nationalist fervor dividing their country and ours with a defiant promise from the son of an immigrant, “I'll be here when your cities are sediment, and only your borders and fences are left” before culminating with a repeated promise, “I’m still here.”

Whether in words or music, the best of 2018’s music all but demanded to be heard.

1. Ambrose Akinmusire, “Origami Harvest” (Blue Note)

A trumpeter so in command of his voice that his instrument sometimes disappears on this album, Akinmusire created an arresting mix of hard-hitting rhythms, orchestral strings and plaintive rhymes (delivered by Kool A.D., formerly of Das Racist) about race, identity and police brutality. Few albums felt as immersive, haunting and timely.