I have never put so much effort and anguish into a year-end list of CDs as I did this time. That it was such a bloody mess trying to whittle them down to 10 can only mean that 2010 was an extraordinarily good year for recordings. God knows there were dozens on my shelf that I didn’t even get to —- today I took many of them out of the shrink-wrap for the first time. While I firmly resolve to listen to everything I can get my ears on in 2011, I’ll just get to the big ten of ’10.

  1. Christian Scott, Yesterday You Said Tomorrow (Concord Jazz)
    The What’s Going On of jazz, it showcases New Orleans trumpeter Scott’s fiery social conscience (plus an impossibly beautiful cover of Thom Yorke’s “The Eraser”) with a rock edge; more to the point, however, no album released this year was more moving.
  2. Vijay Iyer, Solo (ACT)
  3. Regina Carter, Reverse Thread (E1)
  4. Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes, Double Portrait (Blue Note)
  5. Jason Moran and Bandwagon, Ten (Blue Note)
    Ten, which marks Moran’s first decade as a bandleader, is the most immediately pleasurable album of his career, yet in the intellect department it never gives an inch….This most heady and refined of pianists is now, without warning, almost ingratiating in his desire to entertain and emotionally connect.
  6. Mary Halvorson Quintet, Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12)
    Mary Halvorson might be the most original jazz guitarist in a generation….But she’s a composer, too, and (despite lots of unique six-string work) that’s where the focus lies on her challenging but riveting second album, Saturn Sings. It’s an ideal balance of formal experiment and compelling listen.
  7. Rudresh Mahanthappa & Steve Lehman, Dual Identity (Clean Feed)
  8. Steve Coleman and Five Elements, Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (Pi)
    The most quietly influential jazz artist of the past 40 years, Coleman’s newest work is as fascinating as ever, though perhaps more esoteric; but you don’t have to have a theoretical grounding in what the hell’s going on here (and it’s not easy even if you do) to be completely beguiled and awestruck by his most recent music. In particular, the wordless vocals of Jen Shyu are tremendous.
  9. Geri Allen, Flying Toward the Sound (Motéma)
  10. Lucian Ban & John Hébert, Enesco Re-Imagined (Sunnyside)