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Top 10 Jazz Albums 2012

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1. An Attitude for Gratitude Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts (Palmetto).

What do an 80-year old Tin Pan Alley tune, a 1970s fusion classic, "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and a Carl Sandburg poem about bubbles have in common? They're all (along with some choice originals) vehicles for Wilson and his compassionate quartet to make music that's both instantly accessible and richly rewarding. Give thanks.

2. The Guest House Trio M (Enja/Yellow Bird).

The cooperative trio of Myra Melford, Mark Dresser and Matt Wilson shares a musical vocabulary that embraces blues, free improvisation, Zimbabwean pop and the classical avant-garde. They make it all hang together through empathetic interplay on compositions inspired by everything from the mystic poetry of Rumi to the sublime comedy of Don Knotts.

3. Blue Moon Ahmad Jamal (Jazz Village).

 An OK album -- if you like your music with lots of joy and beauty and groove. ("Damn!" a listener we know said of Jamal's recent Center Arts appearance; "that was so good, I think it added a year to my life!") At 83, the maestro writes and plays at peak power, with able assists from an all-star band of veterans Reginald Veal, Herlin Riley and Manolo Badrena.

4. Accelerando Vijay Iyer Trio (ACT Music).

 This was the year that Iyer's apotheosis was made official (with wins in five, count ‘em, five categories of the DownBeat Critics Poll, for starters). And with this album, his trio raised its already elevated game to a higher level, too, solving the equation of "time divided by time" and making odd meters oddly danceable. (They work their calculus on a broad array of rhythms, from Flying Lotus to Heatwave to Ellington at his most soulful.)

5. Further Explorations Chick Corea, Eddie Gomez and Paul Motian (Concord Jazz).

 The live performances that fill this double-CD are culled from a two-week stand at New York's Blue Note with tunes drawn from the Bill Evans repertoire plus some originals. The music is alive with spontaneity, passion (some simmering, some fiery) and playfulness. Gomez's bass sings, Corea is a keyboard wizard and Motian's musical drums weave it all into a gorgeous tapestry.

6. Live at Kitano Frank Kimbrough Trio (Palmetto)

7. Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans Ryan Truesdell (ArtistShare)

8. Be Good Gregory Porter (Motéma)

9. Sunrise Masabumi Kikuchi Trio (ECM)

10. And a four-way tie -- we kid you not! -- for 10th place:

Imaginary Room Adam Baldych and the Baltic Gang (ACT Music)

Claroscuro Anat Cohen (Anzic)

Union Square Ben Allison, Michael Blake, and Rudy Royston (A-Beat)

Number Five Tom Harrell (HighNote)

 

Redwood Jazz Alliance members host Bright Moments, Friday's at 8 p.m. on KHSU-FM along with jazz concerts in Arcata and Eureka

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