By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
By Harley Oliver Brown
Here are my own picks. The numbers in parentheses indicate their standing in the poll.
1. Abbey Lincoln, Abbey Sings Abbey(Verve). Spare settings dominated by pedal steel and accordionevocative of both country rock and cabaretput nothing in the veteran singer's way, so that the honesty and directness of her voice and lyrics go straight to the heart. (1 vocal, 10 overall)
2. Tyshawn Sorey, That/Not (Firehouse 12). A nearly 45-minute piano piece built around the repetition of a single phrase would be provocation enough. But the performances featuring the young drummer with a quartet including trombonist Ben Gerstein manage the neat trick of expansion without sprawl, a surefire recipe for great free jazz. (1 debut, 32 overall)
3. Jewels and Binoculars, Ships With Tattooed Sails(Upshot). Dylan as if reconceived by an Ornette Coleman triorangy and rife with sprung rhythms, but emphasizing those surprisingly shapely melodies above all. (24)
4. Maria Schneider,Sky Blue (ArtistShare). Orchestra is this non-player's only instrument, and no one alive today plays it with greater feeling or finesse. The guiding principle this time around is the metaphor of flight, and both the writing and the solos take wing. (1)
5. Matthew Shipp, Piano Vortex (Thirsty Ear). Falling into a blues groove at precisely those moments bass and drums refuse to makes this at once the pianist's freest trio effort and his most bracingly straight-ahead. (30)
6. Joshua Redman, Back East (Nonesuch). The year's best Sonny Rollins in absentia, in the same way my #3 is the best Ornette or Dylan, with Redman trying pianoless trio on for size and finding it a perfect fit. (8)
7. Charles Tolliver, With Love (Blue Note). New York's other premier big band, Basie to Schneider's Ellington, but incorporating Coltrane's modes and Blakey's hard bop. (27)
8. Uri Caine, Plays Mozart (Winter & Winter). We've come a long way from facile efforts at swinging the classics. Even more so than previous entries in the series, this proves there's nothing too dated about those allegros and andantes that can't be fixed by a little postmodern mischief. (60)
10. Harry Allen & Joe Cohn, Music From "Guys and Dolls"(Arbors). The kind of Broadway-meets-jazz album they don't make anymorethough few sparkled like this even when they did. The tenor saxophonist and guitarist exploit every opportunity for counterpoint implicit in Frank Loesser's great score, though the vocals by Eddie Erickson and Rebecca Kilgore are the real treat. (37)
Honorable Mention: Carla Bley, The Lost Chords(ECM/Watt); Anthony Braxton, 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 (Firehouse 12); Anat Cohen, Noir (Anzic); Champian Fulton with David Berger & the Sultans of Swing, Champian (Such Sweet Thunder); Indigo Trio, Live in Montreal(Greenleaf); Steve Lehman, On Meaning (Pi); Rafi Malkiel, My Island (Raftone); Bill Mays, The Inventions Trio (Palmetto); Trio M, Big Picture (Cryptogramophone); Sam Yahel, Truth and Beauty (Origin).
Rara Avis: Steve Lacy & Roswell Rudd, Early and Late(Cuneiform); Frank Foster, Well Water (Piadrum). Vocal:Lincoln. Debut:Sorey. Latin: Roswell Rudd & Yomo Toro, El Espiritu Jibaro(Sunnyside). Reissues:Lionel Hampton, The Complete Victor Sessions, 1937-1941 (Mosaic); Chu Berry, Classic Columbia and Victor Sessions(Mosaic); Sun Ra, Disco 3000 (Art Yard).