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Robin Lloyd's top 5 historic jazz releases of 2021

Louis Armstrong album cover
Mosaic Records
Louis Armstrong album cover

So many recently discovered and previously unreleased jazz collections were produced this year. Here are my top five picks, in no particular order and based solely on my personal taste.

The Complete Louis Armstrong Columbia and RCA Victor Studio Sessions 1946-1966 is a seven-CD, limited-edition boxed set featuring all 29 of Armstrong’s 1946-1947 RCA recordings alongside three classic albums and singles from Columbia Records.

Mosaic Records is well known for producing great historical collections, and the bonus here is the 40+ mostly unpublished photos from the collections of the Louis Armstrong House Museum, and the 30,000-word essay written by Armstrong biographer Ricky Riccardi, which has been Grammy-nominated for Best Album Notes.

In Harmony: Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller
The trumpet-and-piano duet concert recordings from 2006 and 2007, featuring the brash young Roy Hargrove and the humble pianist Mulgrew Miller, are a definitive study in the joy of performing music. These brothers-in-music express their appreciation for each other's talents with love and humor, and the listener is enriched by it.

Nina Simone: The Montreux Years is a two-CD or LP set from BMG/Montreux Sounds, who are combing through Montreux Jazz Festival founder Claude Nob's stash of concert recordings.

Nina Simone's appearances at Montreux are legend. The selected performances on this set run from her 1968 debut to her last concert there in 1990, and show the emotional range that Simone was known for: from sweet and playful to sad and introspective to offended and furious.

Mingus at Carnegie Hall Deluxe Edition
The original "Mingus At Carnegie Hall" 1974 concert recording had only two long tracks ("C Jam Blues" and "Perdido") from the concert — one track per LP side. This new edition restores the original running order of the concert with over 72 minutes of unreleased material and gives a broader picture of the genius bassist/composer Charles Mingus and his ensemble. The deluxe three-LP set features never-before-seen photos by the original photographer, Gosta Peterson, and new liner notes by jazz historian and producer Michael Cuscuna, with additional notes by composer and arranger Sy Johnson. It's also available as a two-CD set from Rhino Records.

A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle
John Coltrane's spiritual suite was thought to have been recorded live only once — in France in 1965. The recently unearthed tapes recorded by saxophonist and educator Joe Brazil at Seattle's Penthouse Club that same year present an extended composition with additional musicians and make it clear that "A Love Supreme" was a continually evolving work.

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.