The day after Thanksgiving traditionally launches the holiday shopping season, a four-week countdown that defines the success or failure of the retail year. In the spirit of the season, I'm going to spend the next ten days counting down my Top Ten Jazz CDs of 2005.
This will mark the first time I've published a critic's choice. I intend to write them every year; but for one reason or another, I never seem to get beyond selecting the albums. Usually I spend too much effort trying to make sure I haven't overlooked some hidden gem; and before I know it, it's February. As I post this, however, I've already written all ten entries...so this year will be different.
Every critic always says, "There were so many great albums, it was hard to choose ten." That's kinda the point, no? If it were easy to pick out the crème de la crème, it wouldn't be worth making a list. The exercise is only valuable if you've spent the past year listening intently to what various artists have contributed and separated the wheat from the chaff. If you can't speak with experience and expertise, you might as well simply post sales figures.
Having said that: The purpose of this list isn't to be clever, nor to surprise, nor to prove how elite I am by praising a bunch of obscure albums. Don't be surprised to find names you recognize on a Top Ten list: Those names have become recognizable for good reason.
One last caveat: I didn't try to pick good Christmas presents. Several of these would probably make great presents; but there are also a few which, it's safe to assume, most jazz fans already own. My only aim was to review what's been released during the past year, and evaluate: Who really had something to say?
Over the next ten days, I'll answer that question.