I am of the opinion that 2009 has been an excellent year for creative music, jazz, folk and more (and I'm not alone.) To try and narrow down a "Top 10" has been fun and, in the end, an impossibility. Therefore, I've split up the list (the larger groups follow later this week.) The following is in no set order of preference.
Another trio CD that has caught just about everyone's ears is Vijay Iyer's "Historicity" (ACT.) Pianist Iyer, bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore create a swirling mass of melodies and rhythms that is challenging and seductive, mesmerizing and thoughtful.
Also on Clean Feed is the quiet and exploratory "Pieces of Old Sky" by trombonist Samuel Blaser's Quartet and the cool yet sparkling music of "Canada Day" created by drummer/composer Harris Eisenstadt and a empathetic quartet.
Among the other releases that caught my ears is the exciting and raucous "That's Gonna Leave a Mark" from the Matt Wilson Quartet (Palmetto), "Paris/London: Testament", a riveting solo piano release from Keith Jarrett (ECM) that is his most musical and emotional work in a long time, and "Spirit Moves", a modern brass band quintet known as Brass Ecstasy led by trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas (Greenleaf.) The joy emanating from this group's music is palpable and very seductive.
I'm already at 11 and there are even more so here's the rest of the list:
"It's a Gadget World" - Ron Horton (ABEAT Records)
"Luna Menguante" - Lucia Pulido (Adventure Music)
"Obsession" - Tessa Souter (Motema), featuring a smashing take on "Eleanor Rigby."
"Similar in the Opposite Way" - Jeff Albert Quartet (Forasound)
"Small Spaces" - Mike Baggetta Quartet (Fresh Sounds New Talent)
"Mosaic" - Kendra Shank Quartet (Challenge)
"The American Dream - Frank Carlberg (Red Piano Records), featuring Chris Cheek (saxes), John Hebert (bass) and the expressive vocals of Christine Correa.
"Esta Plena" - Miguel Zenon (Marsalis Music), a truly exciting blend of Puerto Rican roots music and jazz.
"Perennial - Rob Garcia 4 (BJU Records), great work from pianist Dan Tepfer and saxophonist Noah Preminger (whose playing is subtle and experimental yet aways musical.)
"Today on Earth" - Joe Morris Quartet (AUM Fidelity)