1. Bill Frisell
“Big Sur” Frisell showed his uncanny knack for evocative Americana-jazz fusion in this set of pieces for his guitar plus violin, viola, cello, and drums, inspired by the vistas, weather, and wildlife of the title locale.
2. Jamie Baum
“In This Life” The virtuoso flutist confirmed her status as a masterful composer with these 11 pieces for her Septet +,
synthesizing her love of the rhythms and melodies of South Asia (particularly those of singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan) with orchestral jazz harmony.
3. Cécile McLorin Salvant
The now 24-year-old Thelonious Monk
Vocal Competition winner covered a wide variety of material from early in the last century (“Nobody,” 1905) to her own up-to-the-minute title tune with technique, interpretive imagination, and a plush voice that were to die for. She sang at the Regattabar in November.
4. Fred Hersch/Julian Lage
“Free Flying” The now 58-year-old pianist and 25-year-old guitarist finished each other’s musical sentences and otherwise seemed to be creating their own language as they went. Their Scullers show in November did not disappoint.
5. Gilad Edelman
“My Groove, Your Move” The title comes from a Hank Mobley tune, and this disc is hard bop all the way. But huge-toned alto saxophonist Edelman (23 at the time of this recording) makes every familiar move sound fresh.
6. Craig Taborn
“Chants” In the 2000s, Taborn made a name for himself as a Fender Rhodes specialist. His acoustic piano trio with bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver (at the Regattabar in May) extended the vocabulary of that familiar format into another realm.
7. Darcy James Argue’s
“Brooklyn Babylon” The young composer and his Secret Society orchestra first presented “Brooklyn Babylon” as a multimedia event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, then knocked out the audience at the Regattabar in May with their broad palette of colors as well as cyclical rhythms that had as much to do with Steve Reich and Philip Glass as with Count Basie.
8. Patricia Barber
“Smash” In her first album since 2008, the singer-songwriter-pianist was as cool, witty, and compelling as ever. She debuted the new disc and her new band at the Regattabar in January.
9. Roswell Rudd
“Trombone for Lovers” Only avant-garde legend Rudd would include R&B standard “Green Onions” and a four-part suite based on the labor anthem “Joe Hill” under this album title. No matter. Working with a variety of players and singers, he made it all of a piece.
10. Gregory Porter
“Liquid Spirit” The singer and songwriter’s personal fusion of the jazz and gospel traditions and his charismatic, powerful delivery made his Blue Note debut a standout.
“A Different Time” Having plowed the almighty groove with Medeski Martin & Wood for more than two decades, the multi-keyboardist stepped out with a solo-acoustic-piano
album that was meditative,
nuanced, and sublime. He played the ICA Dec. 12.
Jon Garelick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.