The Village Voice Jazz Best of 2010 List (texts by Francis Davis)

Jason Moran Tops Himself
The adventurous Ten headlines the Voice’s Fifth Annual Jazz Critics’ Poll

It wouldn’t be exaggerating much to say that Jason Moran’s only competition in the Fifth Annual Village Voice Jazz Critics’ Poll was Jason Moran. Ten, his first trio album in seven years, won Album of the Year in a landslide, but that’s not all. The pianist figured prominently on the runner-up, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Bunky Green’s Apex, and Charles Lloyd’s Mirror, which finished fourth—only a surprise No. 3 showing from rising guitarist Mary Halvorson kept him from a hat trick. Add Paul Motian’s Lost in a Dream, on which Moran and saxophonist Chris Potter are virtually the veteran drummer’s co-leaders, and that gives the 2010 MacArthur Fellow four appearances in the Top 10—a fete unprecedented in this poll’s short history and unlikely to be equaled anytime soon.
Mary HalvorsonVijay IyerPaul MotianArts, Entertainment, and MediaI wanted this year’s poll to do the impossible, to go some way toward restoring my faith in the democratic process following November’s dismal midterm elections. And in its modest way, it did. With Moran and drummer Nasheet Waits varying the dynamics and dancing around the beat while bassist Tarus Mateen holds fast to it, Ten easily passes the most crucial test facing any piano-trio album: You never find yourself wishing for horns. It’s an extremely worthy winner, and listening to it again as I write, not only do I feel guilty about its absence on my own ballot, I find myself applauding my colleagues for showing smarts I evidently lack.

Since the poll’s 2006 inception, I’ve come to think of my wrap-up as akin to a State of the Union. Starting with that first year’s overwhelming evidence of the mainstream widening to accommodate Ornette Coleman without him so much as meeting it halfway, the results of each subsequent poll have revealed an encouraging new trend: in ’07, something approaching equality for jazz women behind winner Maria Schneider; in ’08, how this country’s changing ethnic demographics are letting jazz go global without leaving home; last year, signs of a long-needed infusion of young blood. This year? Well, Ten is the second consecutive piano-trio winner, following Vijay Iyer’s Historicity, and joining it in the Top 10 are Keith Jarrett’s duets with bassist Charlie Haden, and solo efforts by Iyer and Geri Allen. But a list dominated by pianists strikes me as coincidence rather than as a harbinger of anything in particular.

What might be more significant is that with the majors having all but abandoned jazz until further notice, independents are enjoying a boom, albeit one probably more aesthetic than financial. Pi Recordings claimed four spots in the Top 20, as many as Blue Note and Nonesuch combined placed in the Top 50, the only majors to appear there. ECM enjoyed its usual good showing, although this year’s overall winner might be Clean Feed, a relatively new Portuguese label fast becoming this era’s Soul Note/Black Saint in terms of both quality and prolificacy—a staggering two dozen of its 2010 releases received votes, led by Chris Lightcap’s Big Mouth at No. 12 and Bay Area bassist Lisa Mezzacappa, who tied singer/songwriter Gregory Porter for Best Debut. But along with the perseverance of these indie labors of love, the logical takeway from a Top 10 featuring two women, as well as four musicians under 40 (including Mahanthappa and Iyer, both native-born Americans of Indian descent), is that the trends suggested by previous years’ results genuinely were trends, not just blips. Which I’d say confirms this annual survey’s worth beyond providing readers and participants alike with a catch-up shopping list.

The 2010 Voice Jazz Critics’ Poll: The Results

Jazz Album of the Year
1. Jason Moran Ten (Blue Note)
2. Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green Apex(Pi)
3. Mary Halvorson Quintet Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12)
4. Charles Lloyd Quartet Mirror (ECM)
5. Henry Threadgill’s Zooid This Brings Us to, Vol. 2 (Pi)
6. Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden Jasmine(ECM)
7. Steve Coleman & Five Elements Harvesting Semblances and Affinities(Pi)
8. Vijay Iyer Solo (ACT)
9. Geri Allen Flying Toward the Sound (Motéma)
10. Paul Motian Lost in a Dream (ECM)
11. Dave Holland Octet Pathways (Dare2)
12. Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth Deluxe(Clean Feed)
13. Brad Mehldau Highway Rider(Nonesuch)
14. Myra Melford’s Be Bread The Whole Tree Gone(Firehouse 12)
15. James Moody4B(IPO)
16. Randy Weston & His African Rhythms Sextet The Storyteller (Motéma)
17. Mostly Other People Do the Killing Forty Fort (Hot Cup)
18. Marc Ribot Silent Movies (Pi)
19. Fred Hersch Trio Whirl(Palmetto)
20. Regina Carter Reverse Thread (E1)
21. Claudia Quintet Royal Toast(Cuneiform)
22. Danilo PerezProvidencia(Mack Avenue)
23. Christian Scott Yesterday You Said Tomorrow (Concord)
24. Nels Cline Singers Initiate(Cryptogramophone)
25. Microscopic Septet Friday The Thirteenth: The Micros Play Monk(Cuneiform Records)
26. Tomasz Stanko Quintet Dark Eyes(ECM)
27. Michael Formanek The Rub and Spare Change (ECM)
28. Rudresh Mahanthappa & Steve Lehman Dual Identity(Clean Feed) “My preference for this stand-off with a fellow altoist near Mahanthappa’s own age comes down to their shared belief in the value of stridency (the legacy of Jackie McLean) and the sharper edge that Liberty Ellman’s guitar lends the rhythm section.”- Francis Davis
29. Mike Reed’s People, Places & Things Stories and Negotiations(482 Music)
30. Tom Harrell Roman Nights(High Note)
31. Irene Kral Second Chance (Jazzed Media)
32. Bill Charlap & Renee Rosnes Double Portrait (Blue Note)
33. Steve Lacy November (Intakt)
34. William Parker Organ Quartet Uncle Joe’s Spirit House (Centering)
35. Ideal BreadTransmit: Volume 2 of the Music of Steve Lacy(Cuneiform)
36. Billy BangPrayer for Peace(TUM)
37. John Escreet Don’t Fight the Inevitable(Mythology)
38. Parker/Guy/Lytton + Peter Evans Scenes in the House of Music (Clean Feed)
39. Jason Adasiewicz Sun Rooms (Delmark)
39. Kris Davis-Ingrid Laubrock-Tyshawn Sorey Paradoxical Frog (Clean Feed)
41. William ParkerI Plan to Stay a Believer: The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield(AUM Fidelity)
42. Guillermo KleinDomador de Huellas: Music of “Cuchi” Leguizamon (Sunnyside)
43. Lee Konitz New Quartet Live at the Village Vanguard (Enja)
44. Nels Cline Dirty Baby (Cryptogramophone)
45. Wadada Leo Smith & Ed BlackwellThe Blue Mountain’s Sun Drummer(Kabell)
46. Esperanza Spalding Chamber Music Society (Heads Up)
47. Either/Orchestra Mood Music for Time Travellers (Accurate)
48. Bad Plus Never Stop (E1)
49. Chucho Valdes & the Afro.Cuban Messengers Chucho’s Steps (Four Quarters)
50. Pat Metheny Orchestrion27
Critics were asked to list 10 albums in descending order, with 10 points awarded for their #1, 9 for #2, etc. (On ballots where choices were listed alphabetically, each received 5.5 points.) The first bold number indicates total points; the number in parentheses is the tally of ballots on which a CD appeared, which was used as a tiebreaker.

Jazz Reissue of the Year
1. Henry Threadgill/Air The Complete Novus and Columbia Recordings(Mosaic)
2. Miles Davis Bitches Brew: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (Columbia/Legacy)
3. Stan Getz & Kenny Barron People Time: The Complete Recordings (Sunnyside)
4. Ahmad Jamal Trio The Complete Argo Sessions 1956–62 (Mosaic)
5. John Carter & Bobby Bradford The Complete Revelation Sessions (Mosaic Select)
6. Philly Joe Jones & Dameronia Look, Stop and Listen (Uptown)
7. Duke Ellington The Complete 1932–1940 Brunswick, Columbia, and Master Recordings (Mosaic)
8. Sun Ra Heliocentric Worlds (ESP-Disk)
9. Nat King Cole Riffin’ (Hip-O-Select)
9. Jemeel Moondoc The Muntu Recordings (No Business)
Critics were asked to list three reissues in descending order, with three points awarded for #1, 2 for #2, and 1 for #3. The first bold number indicates total points; the number in parentheses tallies ballots on which a CD appeared, which was used as a tiebreaker.

Best Vocal Album
1. Cassandra Wilson Silver Pony (Blue Note)
2. Irene Kral Second Chance (Jazzed Media)
2. Esperanza Spalding Chamber Music Society (Heads Up)
4. Theo Bleckman I Dwell in Possibility (Winter & Winter)
5. Dee Dee Bridgewater Eleanora Fagan (1915–1959): To Billie with Love from Dee Dee (Emarcy)
6. Rebecca MartinWhen I Was Long Ago (Sunnyside)
7. Catherine Russell Inside This Heart of Mine (World Village)
8. Norma Winstone Stories Yet to Tell (ECM)

Best Debut
1. Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait & Switch What Is Known (Clean Feed)
1. Gregory Porter Water(Motema)
3. Eric HarlandVoyager, Live by Night (Space Time)

Best Latin

1. Chucho Valdes & the Afro-Cuban Messengers Chucho’s Steps (Four Quarters)
2. Guillermo Klein Domador de Huellas: Musica del Cuchi Leguizamon(Sunnyside)
3. Conrad Herwig The Latin Side of Herbie Hancock(Half Note)
4. Danilo Perez Providencia (Mack Avenue)
5. Paquito D’Rivera Panamericana Suite (MCG)
For Best Vocal, Debut, and Latin albums, critics were asked to name one album apiece, with no point system.

This poll has become my labor of love—my equivalent of social networking, and, for a couple weeks once the ballots start filling my inbox, just about my only social life. Along the way this year, in addition to a hundred or so albums I might otherwise not ever have known existed, I also got word of layoffs and cutbacks, a corneal abrasion, a nagging heel injury, the death of a mother, the birth of a daughter, and the loss of James Moody to pancreatic cancer. Thanks to this year’s 120 participants for keeping me up to date: David R. Adler, Scott Albin, Clifford Allen, A.D. Amorosi, Larry Applebaum, Chris Barton, Nick Bewsey, Larry Birmbaum, Paul Blair, Larry Blumenfeld, Philip Booth, Michael Bourne, Shaun Brady, Marcia Breton, Christian Broecking, Stuart Broomer, Brent Burton, John Chacona, Nate Chinen, Fred Cisterna, Troy Collins, Thomas Conrad, J.D. Considine, Owen Cordle, Lawrence Cosentino, Michael Coyle, Francis Davis, Steve Dollar, Laurence Donohue-Greene, Alain Drout, Ken Dryden, Donald Elfman, Steve Feeney, Colin Fleming, Ken Franckling, Phil Freeman, David Fricke, Richard Gehr, Andrew Gilbert, Ted Gioia, Lars Gotrich, Kurt Gottschalk, Steve Greenlee, George Grella, James Hale, Ed Hazell, Don Heckman, Tad Hendrickson, Andrey Henkin, W. Kim Heron, Geoffrey Himes, Eugene Holley, Lyn Horton, Tom Hull, Peter Hum, Robert Iannapollo, Josh Jackson, Patrick Jarenwattananon, Willard Jenkins, Martin Johnson, George Kanzler, Fred Kaplan, Larry Kart, Mark Keresman, Bill King, Elzy Kolb, Art Lange, Will Layman, Devin Leonard, Aidan Levy, John Litweiler, Martin Longley, Suzanne Lorge, Kevin Lynch, John McDonough, Shaunna Morrison Machosky, Jim Macnie, Howard Mandel, Peter Margasak, Bill Milkowski, Dan Morgenstern, John Murph, Russ Musto, Marc Myers, Michael G. Nastos, Dan Ouellette, Ted Panken, Thierry Peremarti, Bob Porter, Doug Ramsey, Derk Richardson, Joel Roberts, Chris Robinson, Britt Robson, Jim Roberts, Michael Rosenstein, Lloyd Sachs, Gene Seymour, Mike Shanley, Bill Shoemaker, Hank Shteamer, Slim, Chip Stern, Zan Stewart, Jeff Stockton, W, Royal Stokes, Mark Stryker, John F. Szwed, Jeff Tamarkin, Neil Tesser, Ludwig Van Trikt, George Varga, Andrew Velez, Seth Colter Walls, Jason Weiss, Michael J. West, Kevin Whitehead, K. Leander Williams, Josef Woodard, Ron Wynn, and Scott Yanow.

+ There are no comments

Add yours

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.