W. Kim Heron
Oustanding Jazz of the Year
1 Sonny Rollins Road Shows Vol. 2 (Doxy): His serial soloing on "Sonnymoon for Two," his meeting with Ornette Coleman, justifies the whole live disc, and pretty much its placement here.
2 Miles Davis LIVE in Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1 (Sony Legacy): A vital three-CD, one-DVD live sampling of the classic '60s quintet (Herbie, Tony et al.) at an improvisational fever pitch beyond the already impressive Plugged Nickel recordings of 1965.
3 Miguel Zenon Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook (Marsalis Music): Island classics going back as far as the 1920s are filtered through the innovative Argentine-born arranger Guillermo Klein, who contrasts dreamy woodwinds and alto saxophonist Zenon's stirring quartet. Fresh.
4 Ran Blake Grey December: Live in Rome (Tompkins Square): The broodingest pianist ... and, once you settle down, mesmerizing. Includes a don't-miss-the-melodies-medley of "Let's Stay Together" and "Brazil" and a lovely Abbey Lincoln tribute.
5 Craig Taborn Avenging Angel (ECM): On first listen, a worthy entry into the tradition of pristine ECM solo piano discs. On closer listening, a real innovation, sometimes angular and aggressive, marked with hard-driven bass motifs.
6 Jimmy Owens The Monk Project (IPO): The trumpeter's sharply arranged pieces for septet (mostly) are a reminder of how little Monk recorded with more than four pieces — and how much potential still remains in his songbook. The consummate Kenny Barron has the piano seat.
7 James Carter Organ Trio At the Crossroads (Emarcy): Yes, the Roberto Sierra-composed Caribbean Rhapsody is great, but this disc, with its nods to jump blues, gospel and the avant-garde, was the one that stayed in my player.
8 Steve Coleman and Five Elements The Mancy of Sound (Pi): A founder of the '80s M-Base goes for broke, baroque and the high math of Afro-Cuban rhythms. Worthy successor to 2010's Harvesting Semblances & Affinities.
9 Tyshawn Sorey oblique-1 (Pi): The drummer cites influences from Bartók to Braxton, Mingus to Steve Coleman and Henry Threadgill; makes good on them too.
10 Wadada Leo Smith Heart's Reflection (Cuneiform): At their outset, the Chicago avant-garde and Miles Davis' Bitches Brew suggested parallel musical universes. This founder of the former is one of the masters of the space-time-aesthetics portal connecting it to the latter (on a double-CD this time).
Some other notables: Keith Jarrett Rio (ECM), BB&C [Berne, Black and Cline] Veil (Cryptogramophone), Gretchen Parlato Lost and Found (Obliqsound), Orchestre National de Jazz Daniel Yvinec Shut Up and Dance (Bee Jazz), Muhal Richard Abrams Sound Dance (Pi), Kurt Elling The Gate (Blue Note), Gerald Cleaver/Uncle June Be It as I See It (Fresh Sounds New Talent), Aaron Goldberg and Guillermo Klein Bienestan (Sunnyside), Charles Lloyd/Maria Farantouri The Athens Concert (ECM), Donald Harrison, Ron Carter, Billy Cobham This Is Jazz (Half Note), Konitz/Mehldau/Haden/Motian Live at Birdland (ECM), Miles Davis Bitches Brew Live (Sony Legacy), initial three releases of the Beneath Detroit series, The Creative Arts Collective Concerts at the Detroit Institute of Arts 1979-1982 (Geodesic).
Best Reissue: Julius Hemphill Dogon A.D. (Arista Freedom/ International Phonograph): Out of print since the '70s, long-clamored for, an indispensable blueprint for putting some funk in a post-Coltrane universe (without Milesian electrification). Bonus: restoration of the missing session track, "The Hard Blues."