JazzChicago's Top Jazz Albums of 2010

Top Ten

by Brad Walseth

Top ten lists are idiotic, but they do serve a purpose. They obviously reveal more about the reviewer's own musical tastes than provide any accurate valuation of the "worth" of the hard working musician/composer's creations - painstakingly birthed as they are out of the artist's blood, sweat and tears. This is especially the case since the advent of easily accessible modern recording equipment, making it - I would venture to say - next to impossible to hear every recording released in a given year. In purusing the lists of other writers, I see an astonishing array of music that I somehow missed, despite the plethora of bulky envelopes cramming my mailbox on a near daily basis. The heartbreak of somehow not having been privy to hearing what seems some of the genarally agreed upon greatest releases of the year is tempered however, by the realization that I am able to share with the readers some exceptional recordings of their own - none of which are chopped liver - but some that seem to have been unfairly overlooked. You can always read the other lists to find recordings that bypassed me.

Veteran saxophonist Charles Lloyd's Mirror was an easy choice for my number one record of the year; with its haunting solos and stellar interplay between Lloyd and band members Jason Moran, Eric Harland and Ruben Rogers, this album is as close to perfection as 2010 saw. Meanwhile, pianist Brad Mehldau's ambitious, audacious epic Highway Rider is a sprawling and at times maddening endeavor that I believe will only grow in stature as a true musical record that is emblematic of our times.

After the first two selections, things get a bit murkier and cases could easily be made for rearranging the order on a daily, if not hourly, basis. It is a shame, really, that any size to the list be required (a top 27 for example?). But for now, I will just stop moving albums up and down and stick with what I have based on how I feel at this moment in time, and I feel strongly that no matter the order, all of these recordings listed are well worth your time to check out. This year's list includes a nice mixture of the old (Wadada Leo Smith and Ed Blackwell, Odean Pope, James Moody) and young (Singnam Singaratnam, Bartosz Hadala, Grege Ward, UOU), the well-known (Dave Holland, Paul Motian) and the should be better known (Gwilym Simcock, Soren Moller & Dick Oatts) and some true surprises (Luis Munoz). Of course, the selection for artist of the year was a no brainer: despite the fact I found his work with other artists somewhat more compelling than his own, with three recordings in the top ten, Jason Moran's selection was never in doubt. In the meantime, I urge you to support jazz and its artists by buying their work - at the same time helping to keep this important and interesting art form alive and well.

#1 - Charles Lloyd Quartet

Highway Rider
#2 - Brad Mehldau
"Highway Rider"
Lost in a Dream
#3 - Paul Motian, Chris Potter, Jason Moran
"Lost in a Dream"
The Clouds Above
#4 - Soren Moller & Dick Oatts
"The Clouds Above"
The Blue Mountain's Sun Drummer
#5 - Wadada Leo Smith & Ed Blackwell
"The Blue Mountain's Sun Drummer"
#6 - Luis Munoz
Hear You Say
#7 - The Ray Anderson Marty Erlich Quartet
"Hear You Say"
#8 - Jason Moran
#9 - Dave Holland Octet
Lost in New York
#10 - Suresh Singartanam
"Lost in New York"

#11 - Gwillym Simcock - "Blues Vignette"

#12 - Bartosz Hadala - "The Runner Up"

#13 - David Binney - "Aliso"

#14 - Greg Ward's Fitted Shards - "South Side Story"

#15 - Michael Formaneck - "The Rub and Small Change"

#16 - Odean Pope - "Dean's List"

#17 - Open Combo - "Large"

#18 - The Mark Lomax Trio - "The State of Black America"

#19 - Ellen Rowe - "Wishing Well"

#20 - James Moody - "4B"

#21 - EEA - "The Dark"

#22- Brian Landrus - "Forward"

#23 - UOU - "Home"

#24 - Bill Carrothers - "Joy Spring"

#25 - Marc Copland - "Alone"

Honorable Mention 2010 Recordings (in no particular order)

Find all reviews here.

Lynn Baker Quartet - Azure Intentions
Stevens, Siegel & Ferguson - Six
Christian Scott - Yesterday You Said Tomorrow
Liam Sillery - Phenomenology
Steve Colson - The Untarnished Dream
Maurice Brown - The Cycle of Love
Brad Goode - Tight Like This
Avery Sharpe - Live
Bill Frisell - Beautiful Dreamers
Speak - Speak
Alper Yilmaz - Over the Clouds
Ryan Keberle - Heavy Dreaming
Nilson Matta's Brazilian Voyage - Copacabana
Erica Lindsay & Sumi Tonooka - Initiation
Fonda Stevens Group - Memphis
Geof Bradfield - African Flowers
Paul Austerlitz - Journey
Kurt Schweitz Drexel Project - Multivalent
Jon Gold - Brazil Confidential
Contact - Five on One
Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble - Blueprints
Amna Figarova - Sketches
Alexander McCabe - Quiz
Tomasz Stanko - Dark Eyes
Jason Adasiewicz - Sun Rooms
Iron Kim Style
Marc Mommaas- Landmarc
Brice Winston - Introducing
Eastern Boundary Quartet - Icicles
Adriano Santos Quintet - In Session
John Escreet - Don't Fight The Inevitable
Chie Imaizumi - A Time of New Beginnings
Hadley Caliman- Straight Ahead
Hadley Caliman & Dave Christlieb - Reunion
Dave Holland Pepe Habichuela - Hands
Joe Chambers - Horace to Max
Roscoe Mitchell & the Note Factory - Far Side
Chris Washburne - Fields of Moons
Hubert Nuss - Book of Colours
Luis Bonilla - Twilight
Peppe Merolla - Stick With Me
John Hollenbeck - Eternal Interlude
Prana Trio - The Singing Image of Fire


Vocal Album of the Year - Alison Ruble - "Ashland"
Runner up - Glawdys N' Dee - "Lynnaj"

Jazz Reissue of the Year:
Commitment - "The Complete Recordings 1981/1983"

Top Chicago Recordings (in no order)

Find all reviews here.

Geof Bradfield - "African Flowers"
Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble - "Blueprints"
Fred Anderson - "Black Horn Long Gone"
Alison Ruble - "Ashland"
Shawn Maxwell - "Maxwell's House"
John Goldman's Quandrangle - "Out of the Box"
Rich Corpolongo - "Get Happy"
Algernon - "Ghost Surveillance"
Donovan Mixon - "Culmination"
Ryan Cohan - "Another Look"
Glawdys N'Dee - "Lynnaj"
Kurt Schweitz Drexel Project - "Multivalent"
Matt Nelson - "Nostalgiamaniac"
Chris Greene - "Play Time"
Greg Spero - "Miles Over Radio"
Corey Wilkes - "Live - Kind of Miles"
Glawdys N'Dee - "Lynnaj"
Jason Adasiewicz - "Sun Rooms"
Sean Jelinek - "Common Tones"
Rob Clearfield - "A Thousand Words"

Brad Walseth's picks for Best Concerts of 2010

Find all reviews here.

1. Ahmad Jamal Trio with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra - Millennium Park
2. Tomeka Reid Hear is Now Trio - Preston Bradley Hall
3. Corey Wilkes Quartet with Kahil El Zabar - After Jazz Fest Party - Creative Arts Center
4. Joe Locke - Club Blu Jazz
5. Bad Plus - U of Chicago
6. Rhythm of Thunder, Dana Hall, Ernie Adams and Charles Heath at Hyde Park Fest
7. Ryan Cohan - Old Town School
8. James Sanders & Conjunto - Millennium Park
9. Loom & Blink - The Whistler
10. (tie) Brad Goode - Jazz Fest
& Pat Martino - Jazz Showcase

James Walker's picks for Best Concerts of 2010

Find all reviews here.

1. Rhythm of Thunder, Hall, Adams and Heath at Hyde Park Fest. Oct. 25
2. Tammy McCann Jazz City Columbus Park June 11
3. Nanette Frank , ETA Music Monday, Jan.11
4. Joan Collaso , Tribute to Nancy Wilson and Shirley Horn, DuSable Museum, Aug.15
5. Maurice Brown Effect, Green Mill , May 7
6. Dave Koz, Close Up 2 May 11
7. Charlie Johnson, Room 43(HPJS) May 23
8. Victor Goines, Room 43(HP) Oct 24
9. Pharez Whitted, Room 43 (HP) May 30
10. Marquel Jordan, Close Up 2 Feb. 13

Jazz Artist of the Year:
Jason Moran

For his work on three excellent albums in 2010:
Charles Lloyd's "Mirror," with Paul Motian and Chris Potter on "Lost in a Dream," and his own "Ten."

Chicago Jazz Artist of the Year: Ryan Cohan

Runner up: Tammy McCann

Ryan Cohan
Ryan Cohan
for "The River" concert and "Another Look" concert and CD.
Tammy McCann
Tammy McCann

Instrumental Song of the Year: Suresh Singaratnam - "Temporal Incursions"

Instrumental Solo of the Year:
Dick Oatts sax - "Butterfly"
(from Soren Moller & Dick Oatts - The Clouds Above)

Check out 2009's Top 10 CDs
Check out 2008's Top 10 CDs

Check out other recent CD reviews

Check out other recent concert reviews

Return to jazzchicago home