Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Top Ten - Finally

I know I'm about 2 months late, but I thought I'd go ahead and give myself a little bit of closure and finally publish a Top-10 list. I know most people are beyond caring about this sort of thing, but I started thinking back about how I wished that I had made lists in 2008 and 2009, and didn't want to feel the same way a year from now. So, for myself more than anyone else, here I provide with you a list of my 10 favorite jazz CDs of 2010:

1) The Claudia Quintet - Royal Toast

2) The Bad Plus - Never Stop

3) Stephan Crump Rosetta Trio - Reclamation

4) Guillermo Klein - Domador de Huellas

5) Mary Halvorson - Saturn Sings

6) Dan Weiss Trio - Timshel

7) Mike Reed's People, Places and Things - Stories and Negotiations

8) Paul Motian - Lost in a Dream

9) Avishai Cohen - Introducing Triveni

10) Polar Bear - Peepers

When I look at this list, I feel a little embarrassed that there are no Latin, straight-ahead, or free jazz albums to be found. Well, the Guillermo Klein album is technically a Latin jazz album, but it's far removed from the traditional grooves that define the genre. The Mary Halvorson and Mike Reed discs have their free-ish moments, but the compositions steer the ship more than the improv on these recordings. A good portion of the Avishai Cohen swings, but it's nowhere near a proper straight-ahead album.

I can only conclude that my tastes, right now, tend towards music that doesn't fit neatly into any box. Maybe that's a good thing, maybe it's a bad thing, probably it's a little of both. It's telling that my overall number 1 album of the year, hands-down, was not anything by a jazz musician, but The Age of Adz by indie singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens. Parts electronica, classical, folk, avant-garde noise and rock and roll, the music is a genre unto itself. I guess, at this point, that's what my ears are most looking for. Maybe that'll change soon, but for now, the harder to describe, the better.


  1. Yours looks like the Obscure Top Ten of 2010. I thought the Bad Plus was good, but not Top Ten. Where were these in your thoughts? Esperanza Spaudling "Chamber Music Society", Cassandra Wilson "Silver Pony", Paquito D'Rivera "Tango Jazz - Live at JALC", Dave Holland/Pepe Habichuela "Hands", Bobby McFerrin "VOCAbuLarieS", Lenny White "Anomaly", Mulatu Astatke "Steps Ahead", Brad Mehldau "Highway Rider", Barbra Streisand "One Night Only at the Village Vanguard", Trombone Shorty "Backatown", Dee Dee Bridgewater "Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie With Love From Dee Dee", Dave Holland Octet "Pathways", Ella Fitzgerald "Twelve Nights In Hollywood", Pat Metheny "Orchestrion". I included all music from 2010, even if re-issued. The Ella set was the top collection in 2010, because of what it represents historically, and the way it sounds. I don't want to be critical, but if your #1 album of the year is Sufjan Stevens, your list here is just about meaningless, especially since you tell us your favorite album of the year can't even be on this list.

  2. Anon:

    Thanks for your feedback! I'm not being intentionally obscure in my picks, but as a radio person, I receive a huge amount of music, both obscure and mainstream. I then have a wider selection from which to choose, which might include albums that flew under the radar of the average jazz consumer.

    And I don't know how obscure my picks really are: if you check out the Village Voice jazz critics poll, which includes input from 120 different critics, you'll find 6 of my top 10 among their top 50.

    Of the releases you listed, I, ironically, have only heard about half of them. So to me, they are the "obscure" ones! I liked Mehldau and Trombone Shorty, but I'm growing a little restless of Dave Holland as of late. I appreciate what his band does, and I payed a good chunk of change to see them live this past year, but I'm becoming less interested in his music as time goes on. Dee Dee and Esperanza are solid, but just didn't move me as much. I'm not a fan of Orchestrion. I'm intrigued and extremely impressed by the idea, but couldn't get into the music.

    This is all just personal opinion. I'm not arguing that my way is the right way. I referred to the list as "my 10 favorite jazz CDs of 2010," not "the best jazz of 2010."

    As far as your comment about Sufjan Stevens, I didn't include his album in the list because it's definitely not jazz. But I mentioned it to make an honest point about the fact that I do tend to like music that doesn't fit neatly into any sort of box, even the increasingly large box we call "jazz." Again, I'm being very clear that this list is about my personal opinion, and you are totally free to disagree with it.

    Thank you again, so much, for your feedback. I really appreciate it!

  3. I don't think it's easy to elaborate a Top Ten anyway, and, because of that, I see no reason for criticism. It's YOUR list and you are free to decide. Nothing to argue, and my sugestion to Anonymous is why don't you elaborate YOURS? and that's all.
    Thanks a lot for your music, Lucas, and keep going...

  4. To me, the whole point of these top 10 lists is to discover new music. If a list like this includes several recordings that I enjoyed and 2 or 3 I've never heard of, then score! I've just discovered 2 or 3 recordings I might find worth listening to. What fun is it if the list includes only the best known artists and a bunch of recordings that you've already heard? Not much fun in my opinion. Besides, most of these recordings could hardly be labeled obscure if you've been following jazz over the last year.

  5. Thanks for the kind words, Ulises and Charles, and I'm glad my list will lead you to check out some new music. I hope you like what you hear!

  6. Wow - this awesome. I really want to discover more recent jazz!