Here are ten jazz records and five not-jazz records I really enjoyed this past year:
1. Ben Wendel - Simple Song (Sunnyside)
A collection of nine intricately composed and arranged, yet highly accessible original compositions - as well as an arrangement of John Coltrane's "Lonnie's Lament" and a beautifully orchestrated version of Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing" - featuring Wendel on soprano and tenor sax as well as melodica and bassoon.
2. Ben Allison - Think Free (Palmetto)
A perfect sythisis of jazz, rock and country music that's easy on the ears yet contains enough harmonic twists and turns to keep things interesting.
3. Chris Potter - Ultrahang (Artistshare)
The latest chapter by Potter's electric and eclectic quartet features a combination of original material and covers of songs by Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell performed by guitarist Adam Rogers, keyboardist Craig Taborn and drummer Nate Smith.
4. Gary Burton - Quartet Live (Concord)
Gary Burton + Pat Metheny + Steve Swallow + Antonio Sanchez. = good music, but some serious demerits for the gaudy cover art.
5. Dave Douglas - A Single Sky (Greenleaf)
The first of two recordings by the prolific trumpeter on my list, this one features arrangements by Douglas and Jim McNeely performed by the Frankfurt Radio Bigband (featuring some killer tenor solos by Tony Laktos) ...
6. Dave Douglas - Spirit Moves (Greenleaf)
... while this one features the five-piece brass ensemble Brass Ectasy performing nine original compositions plus covers of Otis Redding and Steve Cropper's "Mister Pitiful" and Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." Douglas' trumpet is joined by french horn, trombone, tuba and drums, played by Vincent Chancey, Luis Bonilla, Marcus Rojas and Nasheet Waits respectively.
7. Sam Yahel - Hometown (Positone)
Primarily known for his organ work, Yahel switches to piano on a collection of tunes by composers ranging from Thelonious Monk & Duke Ellington to John Lennon & Bebel Gilberto.
8. Kendrick Scott - Reverence (Criss Cross)
A collection of compositions by iconic jazz composers - Shorter, Heath, Pearson, Hancock, Dorham, Coleman, etc - given a modern spin by a quintet featuring saxophonist Walter Smith, guitarist Mike Moreno, pianist Gerald Clayton and bassist Derrick Hodge.
9. Le Boeuf Brothers - House Without A Door (Le Boeuf Brothers)
I don't know much about these twin brothers but I really like the music they create.
10. Joshua Redman - Compass (Nonesuch)
The saxophonist mixes and matches two bassists and two drummers in a variety of configurations on a collection of mostly original music. He calls this ensemble a "Double Trio" and seeing them perform live was a highlight of the year.
Some music that isn't jazz that caught my ear this year:
Brian Blade - Mama Rosa (Verve)
U2 - No Line on the Horizon (Interscope)
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest (Warp Records)
Death Cab For Cutie - The Open Door EP (Atlantic)
Super 400 - Sweet Fist (Rock Ridge Music)