1. SONIC LIBERATION FRONT: Ashé a Go-Go (High Two) Yin and yang—fierce avant-sax and friendly folk songs united by shifty Afro-Cuban beats.
2. MATTHEW SHIPP: Harmony and Abyss (Thirsty Ear) Sums up the Blue Series with the return of the piano as the grandest rhythm instrument of all.
3. THE VANDERMARK FIVE: Elements of Style . . . Exercises in Surprise (Atavistic) The ideas come fast and furious with Vandermark’s acoustic machine in full gear.
4. DAVID MURRAY & THE GWO-KA MASTERS: Gwotet (Justin Time) A fast one from Guadeloupe, phattened up with Pharoah and the Latin Big Band.
5. CHARLIE HADEN: Land of the Sun (Verve) Down Mexico way, a land of enchantment and relaxed cosmopolitanism.
6. TRIAGE: American Mythology (Okka) Rust Belt saxman Dave Rempis breaks out.
7. JEWELS & BINOCULARS: Floater (Ramboy) Every now and then a scrap of Bob Dylan melody floats by like a leaf in a warm autumn breeze.
8. ZU & SPACEWAYS INC.: Radiale (Atavistic) Battle of the bands returns to the classics—Sun Ra and Funkadelic.
9. SATOKO FUJII QUARTET: Zephyros (NatSat) Her records range so widely you’re never sure where she’ll go next, but this rhythm section wants to rock out.
10. DON BYRON: Ivey-Divey (Blue Note) The most expansive album ever by the guy who started the clarinet’s return to jazz prominence.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 21, 2004