1. Ornette Coleman, Sound Grammar (Sound Grammar). Old-school avant-garde, the kind that brings the noise, breaks down barriers, and still sounds sweet.
2. Jon Faddis, Teranga (Koch). Dizzy’s stunt double sums up all you can do with a trumpet.
3. World Saxophone Quartet, Political Blues (Justin Time). The great hornsmen of the apocalypse rant, rave, get funky, and party down.
4. Adam Lane’s Full Throttle Orchestra, New Magical Kingdom (Clean Feed). His grand melodic sweep reminds one of Mingus, as does his ability to kick ass.
5. Mario Pavone Sextet, Deez to Blues (Playscape). A dazzling upside-down cake swirled around the leader’s bass.
6. The Harry Allen–Joe Cohn Quartet, Hey, Look Me Over (Arbors). Glorious mainstream sax, with nods to Getz, Webster, and Joe’s dad, Al.
7. Odyssey the Band, Back in Time (Pi). All the kinkiness that James Blood Ulmer strained out of his straight-blues albums comes back in spades.
8. Adam Lane Trio, Zero Degree Music (CIMP). Avant-grunge, with a bass pulse driving Vinny Golia’s rapid-fire sax riffs.
9. Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra, MTO Volume 1 (Sunnyside). Old Testament Basie confronts the age of Prince and Wonder.
10. Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin, Stoa (ECM). Zen-funk minimalism, improvised section by unexpected section.
1. Fats Waller, If You Got to Ask, You Ain’t Got It
(Bluebird/Legacy). The pianist, the songwriter, and the entertainer, one disc for each.
2. Iréne Schweizer, Portrait (Intakt). Two decades of amazing piano improv, in bite-size chunks.
3. Andrew Hill, Pax
(Blue Note). His newfound fame uncovers a long-lost gem.
Diana Krall, From This Moment On
(Verve). The best new Sinatra act since the old Sinatra.
Bob Reynolds, Can’t Wait for Perfect (Fresh Sound New Talent). Rooted in funk—not swing—but reminds me of the brutish young Ben Webster.