Here’s my rundown of the year’s best jazz releases, as published in Las Vegas City Life. I contributed the same list, minus the mini-reviews, to Jazz Times and Jazzhouse.org, home of the Jazz Journalists Association.
1. Fred Hersch Trio, Whirl (Palmetto) Hersch, bassist John Hebert and drummer Eric McPherson deliver piano-trio music as elegant as it is intimate; it simultaneously probes and swings hard.
2. Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden, Jasmine (ECM) The pianist and bassist make a natural-born duo, relaxing into beautiful, often moving conversations.
3. Mike Mainieri, Crescent (NYC) The vibraphonist is joined by German bassist Dieter Ilg and the late saxophonist Charlie Mariano for a set dominated by John Coltrane tunes.
4. John Ellis and Double Wide, Puppet Mischief (ObliqSound)The saxophonist turns in groove-intensive music hinting at everything from New Orleans brass bands to circus music and Fellini soundtracks.
5. Brad Mehldau, Highway Rider (Nonesuch) The pianist offers a two-CD set of imaginatively colored originals bolstered by guests and a chamber orchestra.
6. Cassandra Wilson, Silver Pony (Blue Note) The singer, expert at building hypnotic, jazz-rooted textures, brings an eclectic live-and-studio set including a deeply funky take on “St. James Infirmary.”
7. Lionel Loueke, Mwaliko (Blue Note) The guitarist again combines fluid jazz lines with West African rhythms, with guests including Angelique Kidjo and Richard Bona.
8. Esperanza Spalding, Chamber Music Society (Heads Up)The bassist-singer offers a swirling, all together unpredictable melange of classical, jazz, pop and world music.
9. Ken Berman Trio, Looking Forward (MMG) Inner rhythms, complex progressions and true interactivity characterize the California pianist’s collaboration with drummer Akira Tana and bassist Kai Eckhardt.
10. Jeff Berlin, High Standards (M.A.J.) The virtuoso electric bassist invigorates jazz standards, with pianist and double bassist Richard Drexler and former Pat Metheny drummer Danny Gottlieb.