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With the sheer amount of artists heard and undiscovered, it's impossible to narrow down the list to a just a few releases. But one thing that holds true, whether it's technical ability, progressiveness, or music that touches the spirit; it's all about the re-spinability that these recordings garnered on my music players throughout 2010.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.