What sort of a year did jazz have in 2011? On the evidence of my Top Ten, a very varied and fascinating one. The human voice did wellLiane Carroll and Kaz Simmons produced beautiful, engaging and honest recordings that stir the emotions in very different ways. Finland did alright too, thanks to superb albums from Iiro Rantala and Verneri Pohjola. And the '50s and '60s also manage to claim two of the Top Ten spots, with retrospectives from Joe Harriott and Jan Johansson that should help to expand the reputations of both musicians. Instruments of the year? Well, the clarinet family might lay claim to that award. It's been a good year for the ursine community as wellwho can resist Bears In Cowboy Hats, especially when (ably assisted by Daniel Bennett) they create such a life-affirming mix of jazz and Americana?
So here, in my humble opinion, are ten of the best of 2011:
I love jazz because it's sophisticated, international, atmospheric yet free, cool and warm.
I was first exposed to jazz through the sultry voice and flawless swing of my mother.
I met Mark Murphy, David Linx, Kurt Elling, and Youn Sun Nah.
The best show I ever attended was Youn Sun Nah in Paris.
The first jazz record I bought was Native Dancer by Wayne Shorter and Milton Nascimento
My advice to new listeners: open your mind and your ears, forget about structure, feel the textures.
Go see live music and keep buying CDs!