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