The Best Jazz Recordings of 2013

As usual around this time of year, I have a column in Slate (where I usually write about foreign and military policy), listing my picks for the 10 best jazz albums of the year and, in this case, the two best jazz reissues. Here’s the list, and regular readers might recall that I’ve reviewed almost all of them in this blog-space (or in Stereophile magazine) over the past twelve months:

Maria Schneider & Dawn Upshaw, Winter Morning Walks (ArtistShare).
Darcy James Argue & Secret Society, Brooklyn Babylon (New Amsterdam).
Marc Cary, For the Love of Abbey (Motema Music).
William Parker, Wood Flute Songs, Anthology: Live, 2006–12 (AUM Fidelity).
Dave Douglas, Time Travel (Greenleaf Music).
Steve Coleman & Five Elements, Functional Arrythmia (Pi Recordings).
John Zorn, Dreamachines (Tzadik).
Matthew Shipp, Piano Sutras (Thirsty Ear).
Ben Goldberg, Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues (BAG Production).
Preservation Hall Jazz Band, That's It! (Columbia).

Clifford Jordan, The Complete Strata-East Sessions (Mosaic Records).
Jim Hall, Live Vol. 2–4 (ArtistShare).

My Slate column also contains some text and strategically selected 30-second soundclips from each album. As a bonus for this blog’s readers, here is the order in which I would have listed these same 10 albums, if the criterion was strictly sound quality: Winter Morning Walks, Time Travel, Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues, For the Love of Abbey, Dreamachines, Piano Sutras, Brooklyn Babylon, Wood Flute Songs, Functional Arrythmia, That’s It!

I should add a few remarks. First, all of these albums sound quite good; the first three are up to audiophile standards.

Second, I would have ranked That’s It! higher up, again for sound quality, except for the excessive, ill-advised artificial reverb. I should also note that it’s also available as an LP, which sounds better. (The bass is extraordinary.)

Third, it may be interesting to note that only one of these 12 albums comes from a major jazz label (That’s It! from Columbia). The others are from very small labels, several of them (ArtistShare, Greenleaf, Tzadik, and BAG) artist-owned. Does this reflect a decline of the (relatively) big labels or simply my taste (and the big-label publicists would add, my poor taste)?

In any case, Happy Listening and a Happy New Year!