The task of selecting a top 10 CD list continues to get more difficult as new technologies enable musicians to record and distribute their works more easily. I now average well over one CD a day in the mail, and artists point me to downloadable recordings on the Web in addition to those. I know some of my colleagues receive at least twice that much music—not a situation I envy. As a music journalist, you do your best to keep up, but the reality is you just can't hear everything. I rely on colleagues and music-savvy friends outside the industry to tip me to worthy recordings that have caught their ears, and I listen intensely—meaning at least a dozen times each, and in some detail (often through headphones as well as without)—to probably 25 or 30 recordings that I've been assigned to review. Then, there are obvious releases—addressed in an earlier post: Ornette Coleman, Dave Holland, Keith Jarrett, et.al.; musicians of the first rank whose work always deserves a listen—to check out. Anyway, suffice to say, it's a lot of listening, but I don't fool myself that I've heard nearly everything worthy of note. With that long-winded proviso, here's my list for 2006, as of today. You never know what else might catch my ear by year's end. These are in alphabetical order.
Andy Biskin Quartet – Early American: The Melodies Of Stephen Foster (Strudelmedia)
Ornette Coleman – Sound Grammar (Sound Grammar)
Mark Feldman – What Exit (ECM)
Gordon Grdina/Gary Peacock/Paul Motian – Think Like The Waves (Songlines)
Frank Kimbrough – Play (Palmetto)
Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project – Simpático (ArtistShare)
Brad Mehldau Trio – House On Hill (Nonesuch)
Francisco Mela – Melao (Ayva)
Trio Beyond – Saudades (ECM)
Tomasz Stanko Quartet – Lontano (ECM)
If you're interested in what other jazz journalists fell in love with this year, check out the Jazz Journalists Association annual Top 10 compendium, which will be posted shortly at our website.