#1. Maria Schneider Orchestra
A Concert in the Garden ArtistShare
A lush, gorgeous, soaring set of sounds. You could get into the "is it classical or is it jazz" argument, but don't. Just listen.
#2. Charlie Haden (with Gonzalo Rubalcala)
Land of the Sun Verve
An understated and shamelessly beautiful set of songs from (mostly) Mexican composer Marroquin.
#3. Jeff Johnson
Near Earth Origin Records
Bassist Johnson leading a bass/sax/drums trio on a melodic and approachable free set that feels spirtually salubrious. Music distilled to its pure essence.
#4. Jerry Gonzalez Y Los Piratas Del Flamenco
Jerry Gonzalez Y Los Pirata Del Flamenco Sunnyside
An odd but captivating mix of American jazz, with Jerry Gonzalez' trumpet, and gypsy flamenco. Spare, simple and simply lovely.
#5. Steven Bernstein
Diaspora Hollywood Tzadik
Jazz with a Jewish tinge; a murky, wee hours atmosphere with lots of muted trumpet/bass clarinet musings. Berstein has crafted a dark, different and very interesting sound here.
#6. Raphe Malik, Joe McPhee and Donald Robinson
Malik's trumpet conversing with McPhee's pocket trumpet and soprano sax, in a fairly cordial manner, all things considered. This is definitely "out there", but in a facinatingly measured way.
#7. Satoko Fujii Trio
Pianist Satoko Fujii's best work is either with her quartet or her trio. It's hard to decide. This one makes a case for her trio with bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Jim Black. The thirty-four minute title track is a sprawling, energizing and always surprising masterpiece of free jazz.
#8. Fred Hess Quartet
The Long and Short of It Tapestry Records
A freewheeling pianoless quartet (sax/trumpet/bass/drums) blowing with an energetic abandon, superb chops, high spirits and humor.
#9. Jody Sandhaus
A Fine Spring Morning Consolidated Artists Productions
A gorgeous voice and flawless delivery on some well-chosen lesser-known songs from the pens of some of the better-known songwriters, with wonderfully understated piano trio accompaniment. It's been a fantastic year for lady vocalists, but this is the finest I've heard this year.
#10. Matt Jorgenson + 451
Hope Origin Records
Two saxophones and a rhythm section sounding mainstream and modern at the same time, with covers of Coldplay and Mingus tunes, along with some forward-looking originals