Stereogum’s never run a year-end jazz list before, so here’s some advice if you’re dipping into the genre for the first time: When you hear an album you like, make a list of the band members. Chances are some or all of them will have made albums under their own names, maybe with some of the folks you’ve already heard and probably with others. Check those albums out, and if you like what you hear, keep making connections. Jazz is like a globe-spanning spiderweb; everyone’s constantly trying to learn something new from their peers. Elder statesmen stock their bands with players half their age, young upstarts come out of nowhere and become in-demand sidemen, scenes that have been bubbling in one city (or one country) for years all of a sudden become subjects of national/global attention.
Just follow the lines, and don’t limit yourself to records. Get out to shows. Jazz is a live music above all, and almost any night at a club, you can hear something you’ll never hear again.