“A ‘WELL TEMPERED’ BOUTTÉ” John Boutté
New Orleans native Boutté, best known for the theme to HBO’s “Treme,” is a deep, broadly skilled vocalist, and the small-band acoustic-jazz arrangements here show off the delicate fervor and swing of his sweet tenor — from “Nature Boy” and “Little Red Rooster” to Mardi Gras Indian staple “My Indian Red.”
“WAITING GAME” Terri Lyne Carrington & Social Science
The first of these two discs leans toward jazz-R&B fusion (with guest vocalists like Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Meshell Ndegeocello), addressing social justice issues. The second is an improvised, brooding, four-part instrumental suite, “Dreams and Desperate Measures,” featuring guitarist Matthew Stevens, pianist Aaron Parks, and bassist Esperanza Spalding. A gutsy achievement by bandleader, drummer, and Berklee prof Carrington.
“DIATOM RIBBONS” Kris Davis
Pianist/composer Davis is a fearless experimenter with sonics and form. Here her collaborators include Esperanza Spalding on vocals, saxophonists J.D. Allen and Tony Malaby, guitarists Nels Cline and Marc Ribot, and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. The pieces alternate whisper and roar, from pastel impressionism to rock backbeats, laid-back hip-hop, and gritty, broad-gesture free jazz.
“CRISTAL” Guillermo Klein y Los Guachos
This little big band (with players like Miguel Zenón, Bill McHenry, and Jeff Ballard) is the longtime canvas for Argentine-born pianist/composer Klein (who was for several years a regular on the Boston scene). Tango is the root for music that is infinitely varied.
“TRIO TAPESTRY” Joe Lovano
Working with free rhythms and the unhinged harmonies of tone rows, saxophone master Lovano’s new trio — with pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Carmen Castaldi — nonetheless creates utterances of hushed assurance, lyricism, and suspense, like overheard intimate conversation.
“KEEP TALKIN’” Yoko Miwa
Pianist and Boston favorite Miwa and her trio-mates (bassists Will Slater and Brad Barrett, drummer Scott Goulding) are here at their most rhythmically exuberant, from the title cut, through Mingus’s “Boogie Stop Shuffle” and Monk’s “In Walked Bud,” with infusions of pop lyricism from the Beatles and Joni Mitchell.
“COIN COIN CHAPTER FOUR: MEMPHIS” Matana Roberts
The latest installment in alto saxophonist, composer, and multimedia artist Roberts’s ongoing Coin Coin project of personal and social history — searing, mournful, defiant, with spirituals and country fiddle rubbing shoulders with raucous free jazz, leavened by Roberts’s even-voiced “wordspeak” recitations.
“PARLOUR GAME” Jenny Scheinman/Allison Miller,
Here’s the casual intimacy of old-time “parlour music” folky tunefulness informed by witty jazz sophistication and ensemble gamesmanship. Violinist Scheinman plays the singing lead lines on these 11 originals, joined by co-leader Miller on drums, pianist Carmen Staaf, and bassist Tony Scherr.
“SOME KIND-A-SHAKE” Tuba Skinny
Technically, these young New Orleanians are revivalists, playing ancient jazz and blues, but their scrappy immediacy transcends the museum diorama. Over 10 years, 10 CDs, busking on Royal Street, provoking dancers in the clubs, they’ve become essential NOLA listening, propelled by the superb cornettist Shaye Cohn.
“THREE IN PARIS” Jeremy Udden
In Paris, saxophonist/composer Udden connected with the spirit of a late New England Conservatory mentor — and longtime American expat — Steve Lacy. Playing with bassist Nicolas Moreaux and former Lacy bandmate John Betsch (drums), the Plainville native used four Lacy tunes as the core of this 10-song mix of quirky abstraction, melodic derring-do, and swing.
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Terri Lyne Carrington
A presence on the Boston scene since emerging as a prodigy four decades ago, Carrington capped an impressive year with the double-disc “Waiting Game” (one of 2019’s best) by her new band Social Science, with what the liner notes call “a message of wakefulness, inclusiveness, and noncompliance.” That followed her creation of the Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice at Berklee, in the wake of accusations of sexual misconduct by faculty members (and resulting dismissals). The institute’s Web page asks, “What would jazz sound like in a culture without patriarchy?” Clearly this multi-Grammy-winning drummer, bandleader, composer, and teacher sees music as a social force whose responsibilities don’t end in the classroom or on the bandstand.