Best Jazz Albums of 2012

Listen to Music

A previously unreleased live recording from the 1970s by a short-lived outfit that nonetheless managed to be one of the lastingly influential jazz groups of the era – the "European quartet" of Keith Jarrett (above), with the young Jan Garbarek on sax.

5 Sleeper
Keith Jarrett

Loose, exuberant, tender and edgy, it's timeless.

4 Confirmation
Django Bates

The follow-up to last year's Charlie Parker tribute, Beloved Bird, and just as good, a set by freewheelingly virtuosic pianist Bates – this time mixing some poignant originals with Parker classics. Young Danish bass and drums team of Petter Eldh and Peter Bruun are flawless foils for their unpredictable boss.

3 Wasted & Wanted
Michael Wollny's [em]

One of German indie Act's most original pianists is Wollny, with the bass-and-drums trio he calls [em]. Everyone makes genre hybrids now, but Wollny's improv treatments of Mahler and Schubert, his chord-punching funk playing, and the group's collective spirit are turning them into European stars.

2 Landing Ground
Laura Jurd

British student trumpeter/composer Jurd stretched critics and musicians' repertoire of superlatives with this sophisticated and technically awesome session for her jazz group and a string quartet – on memorable originals with folk and contemporary-classical connections, delivered with the assurance of a budding trumpet-improv original.

1 All There, Ever Out
Alexander Hawkins Ensemble

Ruggedly experimental free-jazz, classical, South African townships bop, Hammond-organ blues – Oxford pianist Hawkins splices it all, withidiosyncratic tributes to Thelonious Monk and Art Tatum thrown in.

Powered by article was written by John Fordham, for The Guardian on Thursday 13th December 2012 22.01 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010