Best Jazz Albums of 2010


Happy New Year Everyone!


Last year, I was one of the earliest to come out with my “Best Of” jazz list for the year.  This time around, I’ll be one of the latest. This is partially by design and partially due to the other little things that life throws at you.


I’ve also decided to change the title of the list. It will not be called “Best Jazz of 2010”. Due to the myriad ways that artists and promoters can now get their art before the listening public, I know that, as much as I’ve managed to hear over these last 12 months, there is something outstanding out there that has escaped me.  So instead, we’ll call this list “Outstanding Jazz Albums of 2010”. (The title above is for search purposes) This allows for the fact that somewhere, there’s a CD, LP or mp3 file that likely belongs on this list, but somehow I have yet to hear it. Are these all of the best releases of the year? Only time will tell, but they are my pick for what I loved, out of what I got to hear.


The list is split between the top dozen discs, and then another 13 which are also worth a listen or two (or six). That last baker’s dozen includes a 2009 release that I managed not to get around to until last September, when my 10 year-old son randomly handed it to me as we were killing time in a chain music store awaiting our movie show time.  I thought about amending the 2009 listing to add it, but I decided to heed Dr. Emmett L. Brown’s sage advice about messing with the past and leave the ’09 list as is. 


So here are my top 12 Outstanding Jazz Albums of 2010, listed in alphabetical order by title.




 III – Walter Smith III (Criss Cross)

 The third time is definitely the charm for this young tenorman as he has produced his most powerful and fully realized album yet. The group is solid, with top-notch support from Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet and Jason Moran on piano. The compositions, mostly by Smith are also quite strong. III manages to be classic and thoroughly modern at the same time.










Decisive Steps – Tia Fuller (Mack Avenue) 


 Ms. Fuller is known to most in the pop music world for her role as the saxophonist in mega-star Beyonce’s all woman band.  Outside of that lucrative gig, she has been faithful to her jazz roots and never so much as she is here on Decisive Steps.  With impressive takes on standards (“My Shining Hour”; “I Can’t Get Started”) and boundary stretching originals, like the title track, Ms. Fuller proves that she more than deserves a share of the spotlight.







Home – Aaron Goldberg (Sunnyside) 


 This Harvard man brought the goods on this disc. He’s spent a lot of time with Joshua Redman and many others and it shows in the wealth of ideas that he explores on this disc. With first class support from Ruben Rogers, Eric Harland and Mark Shim, Goldberg has created an outstanding statement. Check out his deconstruction of “Isn’t She Lovely” and breathless originals, like “The Rules”. You’ll feel right at Home.







Live – Geri Allen and Timeline (Motema) 










Live at Smalls – Peter Bernstein Quartet (SmallsLive)










The Next Phase – Willie Jones III (WJ3)










Pathways – Dave Holland (Dare2)










Ten – Jason Moran (Blue Note)










Triple Play – Russell Malone (MaxJazz)










Unsung Heroes Brian Lynch (Hollistic Music Works)









Water – Gregory Porter (Motema)










Yesterday You Said Tomorrow – Christian Scott (Concord Jazz)











Here are an additional thirteen Outstanding Jazz Albums that are definitely worth checking out. Twelve are from 2010 and one is the 2009 disc that I slept on until this past fall:


Boiling Point – Brandon Wright (Posi-Tone)

Clarinetwork-Live at the Village Vanguard – Anat Cohen (Anzic)

The Cycle of Love Maurice Brown (Brown)

Dandelion Clock – Sarah Manning (Posi-Tone)

Free Fall Melissa Aldana (Inner Circle)

Gettin’ Blazed – Jermaine Landsberger (Resonance)

The Groover – Mike LeDonne (Savant)

Handful of Stars – Adam Schroeder (Capri)

Mwaliko – Lionel Loueke (Blue Note)

A New Promise – Sheryl Bailey (MCG Jazz)

Roman Nights – Tom Harrell (HighNote)

Sing! – Fay Claassen (Challenge)

Urbanus – Stefon Harris and Blackout (Concord) – Released in 2009 


Tracks from all of these CDs will be featured on Curt’s Café WebJazz Radio, daily from Noon – 6 p.m. (EST), through January 16, 2011, on our Outstanding Jazz of 2010 special.  Click here to listen now.  We’re also adding fresh tracks from familiar and not so familiar artists, to start the New Year off right. 

Best wishes for a Happy New Year, to all. I hope you can start the year off by going out to hear some good, live jazz.  If not, buy or legally download a jazz album, performed by an artist you aren’t familiar with. There’s plenty of great jazz out there, by living artists who need your support.  Start the New Year off in a spirit of discovery.

Until the next time, the jazz continues.


One Response to “Best Jazz Albums of 2010”

  1. digging it, much research to be done

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