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ELEVEN FOR ‘11

Jazz’s top albums of 2011

The Donny McCaslin trio, with Ted Poor on drums and Hans Giawshnig on bass.

Paul Burnett/The New York Times

The Donny McCaslin trio, with Ted Poor on drums and Hans Giawshnig on bass.

1. JACQUES COURSIL

“Trails of Tears’’ The nearly forgotten trumpeter, now in his 70s, returns with a haunting, mournful song cycle that memorializes the forced relocation of Native Americans in the 1830s. Absolutely stunning.

2. MATANA ROBERTS

“Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens De Couleur Libre’’ Another case of music meeting history. The saxophonist and vocalist manages to evoke both John Coltrane and Abbey Lincoln in a bruising album that confronts the slavery in Roberts’s ancestry. Painful and powerful.

3. MATANA ROBERTS

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“Live in London’’ A completely different sort of record from perhaps the most exciting young saxophonist in jazz. Here she is in concert with a blazing quartet that never lets up. The opening number, “My Sister,’’ is a 27-minute tour de force.

4. LEE KONITZ, BRAD MEHLDAU, CHARLIE HADEN, PAUL MOTIAN

“Live at Birdland’’ Sometimes a band of all-stars can sound as though they have been playing together all their lives. Unfortunately, this will be one of Motian’s last recordings, as the drummer died in November.

5. JAMAALADEEN TACUMA

“For the Love of Ornette’’ Ornette Coleman returns the favor for all the work that electric bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma has provided over the years in the saxophonist’s band. Funky, catchy, and free.

6. DONNY MCCASLIN

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“Perpetual Motion’’ No saxophonist is more deserving of wider recognition than McCaslin, and this acoustic-electric effort may be his best yet. It’s bop, it’s funk, and it’s rock, all in one.

7. THE FOUR BAGS

“Forth’’ What a strange lineup for a jazz quartet: trombone, accordion, guitar, and woodwinds. But what vibrant, compelling music. This is as hip as chamber jazz gets. To drive the point home, the quartet even covers a song by the French electronic duo Air.

8. LANDRUS KALEIDOSCOPE

“Capsule’’ Brian Landrus, who leads this quintet, plays baritone saxophone and bass clarinet. Those may be unusual lead instruments, but it all sounds completely natural. This is a very modern, very organic sort of jazz fusion, with no regard for the boundaries that separate jazz, rock, pop, and R&B.

9. JD ALLEN TRIO

“Victory!’’ If saxophonist JD Allen has a guiding principle, it is this: Get in and get out. His trio’s tunes are short and snappy; they run two, three, four minutes apiece. And they make every explosive second count.

10. CINQUE

“Catch a Corner’’ Organist Joey DeFrancesco is the best-known member of this funky quintet, which put out the tightest soul-jazz recording of the year. You want to party where these guys party.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

LUIS CONTE

“En Casa de Luis’’ Percussionist Luis Conte has gigged with a slew of A-listers - Ray Charles, Pat Metheny, and Madonna among them - but has put out precious few records under his own name. Here is the result of his pent-up energy: a dynamite set of Afro-Cuban numbers that feature him making use of every piece of percussion imaginable, with liberal use of overdubs allowing him to showcase his dexterous abilities.

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