Piano Standard to Piano Striver

Just 10 really good jazz albums in a year that had more than its share of them

1. THELONIOUS MONK QUARTET: Thelonious Monk Quartet With John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall (Blue Note) Monk on top of the world, Coltrane in the throes of discovery, and each inspiring the other's best efforts.

2. JOHN COLTRANE: One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note (Impulse) The Coltrane Quartet at its most ferocious, especially on the blistering title track.

3. PAUL MOTIAN/JOE LOVANO/BILL FRISELL: I Have the Room Above Her (ECM) Motian's apparently simple compositions are fodder for exquisite chamber interplay, and his drumming suggests the crawl of lengthening shadows.

4. VIJAY IYER: Reimagining(Savoy) Pianism is one reason to pay heed to this quartet outing, Iyer's strongest yet. Another is his rhythm concept— beguiling, befuddling, and legitimately new.

5. ROSCOE MITCHELL QUINTET: Turn (RogueArt) Gripping inside-out miniatures from an AACM elder, with a heavy next-generation crew.

6. CUONG VU: It's Mostly Residual (Artist Share) As trumpeter and composer, Vu favors darkness and warmth—which explains why this album provides such a hospitable setting for Bill Frisell.

7. PAT METHENY GROUP: The Way Up(Nonesuch) Metheny's billowing suite overcomes pretense with high musicianship and thematic coherence.

8. BEBO VALDÉS: Bebo de Cuba (Calle 54) The octogenarian Cuban expat continues a hot streak, abetted this time by New York's Latin-jazz elite.

9. BRAD MEHLDAU: Day Is Done (Nonesuch) Kicked into high gear by new drummer Jeff Ballard, the Mehldau trio renews its immediacy and focus.

10. ROBERT GLASPER: Canvas(Blue Note) Bright and buoyant reveries from this year's big arrival, whose trio shows serious promise.

 
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