My list of favorite jazz CDs from the past year starts with Louis Armstrong and ends with Christian Scott, two trumpeters from New Orleans born more than 80 years apart. Dip into it. Explore. Enjoy. I gave you my top 10 and slipped in a couple of extras.
1 Louis Armstrong: "Satchmo at the National Press Club: Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours" (Smithsonian Folkways). Recorded in performance just months before his death in 1971, this CD finds Armstrong having a great time, telling off-color jokes, cracking up his audience and spreading his special warmth. His trumpet is buttery and bright. His singing, especially, is alive with humor and soul. You can feel the love in the room. (Ditto for "Big Bands Live: Duke Ellington Orchestra," recorded March 6, 1967, in Stuttgart, Germany, before an adoring audience -- and newly rescued from the vaults by the SWR label. It's just a random night with Duke and the gang, outclassing the world with their earthy majesty.)
2"Black Radio," Robert Glasper Experiment (Blue Note): This is my album of the year, on which pianist Glasper merges jazz flow with tunes out of hip-hop and neo-soul. Among the guest artists: Erykah Badu, Yasin Bey (aka Mos Def), Bilal, Lalah Hathaway -- and the incredible Stokley Williams on "Why Do We Try," the album's best track.
3 Vijay Iyer: "Accelerando" (ACT). The pianist and his trio play with a levitating energy that swirls, entrances, entraps; the music sucks you in, lifts you up -- at all tempos, in all grooves. Like the trios of Herbie Nichols, Andrew Hill, Paul Bley and others, Iyer's band is slippery and mysteriously engaging. Holding down the drum chair here is Marcus Gilmore, Roy Haynes' grandson.
4 "Blue Moon," Ahmad Jamal (World Village). The 82-year-old pianist has created a CD that stands among his best, which is saying something. It merges obdurate persistence and deep beauty; listen to "I Remember Italy" as it gains traction across 13 minutes. The fantastic band includes bassist Reginald Veal, drummer Herlin Riley and percussionist Manolo Badrena.
5 "Twice Through the Wall," Curtis Macdonald (http://music.curtismacdonald.com). The young alto saxophonist's new EP is just 20 minutes long -- just enough to keep you hooked. It has a great flow to it, feels free, brings in trance-y melodies and vamps here, a touch of sneaky modern-jazz harmony or Coltrane roughness there. It's its own brand of free-bop, and you can feel the confidence of the excellent young band: drummer Adam Jackson, bassist Chris Tordini, pianist David Virelles and tenor saxophonist Jeremy Viner, whose solos are a bracing counterpart to Macdonald's exotic ice-cream flow. (More free-bop: "Sweet and Sour" by Daniel Humair, the Swiss master drummer, on the Laborie Jazz label. It's virtuoso madness, but on a tight leash, from his stealthy new quartet, with accordion, soprano saxophone and bass. )
6"Four MFs Playin' Tunes," Branford Marsalis (Marsalis Music). Burn, baby, burn. The saxophonist's long-standing quartet is juiced by Justin Faulkner, its young 46-limbed drummer.
7"The Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964-65," Charles Mingus (Mosaic). No one ever quite captured the midcentury sound and feel of the big city as well as the great bassist/composer. This new seven-disc set is a feast for Mingus lovers. Mosaic archaeologists discovered two hours of music that had vanished. This set is invaluable, showcasing Mingus' bands with Eric Dolphy, Jaki Byard, Dannie Richmond, Clifford Jordan, John Handy, Charles McPherson, Lonnie Hillyer and others.
8"Reunion: Live in New York," Sam Rivers Trio with Dave Holland and Barry Altschul (Pi Recordings): Saxophonist Rivers' trio was one of the key bands of the 1970s. If you were there for any of the many nights it played at Rivers' downtown Manhattan loft, Studio Rivbea, you know about its intensity, abandon and discipline -- its whip-snap way of going from ground-zero freedom to levitating swing. This stellar two-disc set, recorded in concert at New York's Miller Theatre in 2007, documents what was the first performance in more than 25 years by the saxophonist, bassist and drummer. It was also the trio's last performance; Rivers passed away last year at age 88.
9"Star of Jupiter," Kurt Rosenwinkel (Wommusic). The guitarist, a lodestar for the new jazz, has a new quartet with pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner, who is becoming ubiquitous. One hopes this will become a working band, delving further into the strong and alluring new tunes composed by Rosenwinkel for this two-disc set. He is under Wayne Shorter's spell; many of the tunes move and feel like Shorter tunes from the '60s and early '70s, though Rosenwinkel throws a curve here and there, with twisty/ornate melodic lines reminiscent of Frank Zappa.
10. "Christian Atunde Adjuah," Christian Scott (Concord). The young trumpet player is taking big strides and probably doesn't care what anyone thinks. This sprawling two-disc set feels like rock, like hip-hop, like some kind of big, powerful, youthful yearning. It could have used some pruning, but you can feel the band working out its concepts. Scott is playing some of the most brazen trumpet I've heard in years.
Contact Richard Scheinin at 408-920-5069., read his stories and reviews at www.mercurynews.com/richard-scheinin.