My Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2011

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Well, it’s that time of year again – time for people who are vested with some semblance of cultural authority to compile “best of” lists for various things – in my case it’s for two jazz critics polls. This was perhaps the hardest top 10 jazz list I’ve put together.  After nailing down this list’s top three records, I was seriously considering another 15-20 albums for the final seven spots – the field is that deep this year.

A couple observations before I hit you with the list: first, this is easily the farthest “out” any year-end best of list I have ever put together, and as you’ll see, there isn’t a single straightahead album on it; second, you’ll notice the absence of several albums that other critics have lavished with praise, e.g. discs by Sonny Rollins, Joe Lovano, Ambrose Akinmusire, Tierney Sutton; third, I admit it – this list can be considered pretty damn weird.  Last year I asked a fellow critic friend and mentor of mine if I was completely nuts for having a best of list that was pretty far outside the mainstream (his own list was also singularly unique).  He told me – with a hint of sarcasm – that I have a “valuable outside perspective.”  Whether or not my perspective is valuable or not is debatable, but what isn’t is its relative outside-ness.

So, here’s my outside perspective of the top 10 jazz albums of 2011…..

1. Colin Stetson, New History Warfare, vol. 2: Judges

2. Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Coimbra Concert

3. Craig Taborn, Avenging Angel

4. Claudia Quintet +1, What is the Beautiful?

5. Rudresh Mahanthappa, Samdhi

6. Matana Roberta, Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens De Couleur Libre

7. Miguel Zenon, Alma Adentro

8. Muhal Richard Abrams, Sound Dance

9. Steve Coleman, Mancy of Sound

10. Allen Lowe, Blues and the Empirical Truth

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