Before conservatories formalized the study of jazz performance, young players who wanted to get an education had to jump on the bandstand with their elders. The mantra was simple: learn by not dying. For listeners, hearing master-class groups of distinguished instructors and eager, top-of-their class improvisers is still one of the best experiences going. (And it's a way even for established musicians to keep their educations going: see pianist Ethan Iverson's new trio with drum eminence Albert "Tootie" Health.)
Our mix incorporates cuts from eight albums found on our Top 25 Jazz Albums of 2013 list. The selections here are mostly different from those chosen on past playlists: So check out pianist Craig Taborn's contribution to veteran bassist Dave Holland's new group ("Spirals"); get into the way that Angelica Sanchez's piano commingles with the tart trumpet work of avant-vet Wadada Leo Smith. Elsewhere, up-and-coming guitarist/composer Julian Lage brings tunes and riffs to vibes-master Gary Burton's new album. And hear how, in Chick Corea's new band, the beats are driven courtesy of Marcus Gilmore (a young drummer known from several other clutch contemporary groups). Enjoy!