By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Freedom and Form
1. WILLIAM PARKER QUARTET: Sound Unity (AUM Fidelity) Balance and teamwork distinguish every album on this list, but only a great bassist can hold your attention up against this much firepower on trumpet, sax, and drums.
3. TOMMY SMITH & BRIAN KELLOCK: Symbiosis (Spartacus) Duets, tenor sax and piano, standard stuff exquisitely rendered.
4. CRAIG HARRIS: Souls Within the Veil (Aquastra) Heavy with history and horns, sprightly with African percussion, sublime resistance against the oppression of black souls.
5. FME: Cuts (Okka Disk) Stands for Free Music Ensemble, but it's really Ken Vandermark's post-punk power trio, where freedom reverts to form.
7. DENNIS GONZÁ SPIRIT MERIDIAN: Idle Wild (Clean Feed) Loquacious Oliver Lake fleshes out this quartet's healing music for distressing times.