Dee Dee Bridgewater - Red Earth
Multiple award-winning vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater delivers an astounding masterwork complete with an entrancing set of original compositions and four reworked jazz classics on Red Earth. It is her ode to Mali and Africa -- the story of a lost child finding her way home. Singing in the spirit that calls on her African and Malian ancestry and with reverence for jazz vocalists such as Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald at their best, Bridgewater exudes the artistic depth she is revered for around the world. Recorded in Mali and featuring some of its most respected artists, this ambitious concept recording explores Malian and other African jazz roots on such songs as "Bani" (Bad Spirits), "Sakhodougou" (The Griots), "Oh My Love," and "Massane Cissé" (Red Earth). Read More >>

Avishai Cohen - After the Big Rain
Avishai Cohen's After the Big Rain is an ambitious, earthy, and endlessly surprising work that finds the trumpeter/composer melding post-bop, avant-garde jazz, African folk music, and electric soundscapes. Having been a force on the downtown NYC jazz scene since the '90s, Cohen has made a name for himself as an adventurous, forward-thinking musician performing in various ensembles that mixed everything from klezmer and free jazz to swinging hard bop and post-rock. Read More >>

Scott Colley - Architect of the Silent Moment
As a quintessential first-call sideman in modern jazz, bassist Scott Colley has played with the very best. Here he gets to show that he can assemble a group of simpatico musicians and write compositions that have originality accented by a timeless quality. Colley is fond of mixing meters and using unconventional time signatures. His usage of harmonica, trumpet, and alto saxophone for a front line works quite well. The introductory "Usual Illusion" starts electronic and loopy, then goes into a clarion call 15/8 melody, while 9/8 ostinato time informs the brilliant "Strip Mall Ballet," the unquestioned highlight of the CD. Read More >>

Dave Douglas Quintet - Live at the Jazz Standard
Live at the Jazz Standard showcases trumpeter Dave Douglas -- on cornet this time! -- and his quintet performing live at the NYC club the Jazz Standard on various nights in December of 2006. Joining Douglas here are tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, Fender Rhodes specialist Uri Caine, bassist James Genus, and drummer Clarence Penn. Originally released as complete download-only sets on Douglas' own Greenleaf Label website, here Douglas has pruned the sets down to 18 cuts over two discs. Furthermore, he's also focused the album on original compositions never before released on album. Read More >>

Manu Katche - Playground
Drummer Manu Katche's sophomore effort for ECM is, in some ways, an extension of his nearly brilliant debut Neighbourhood, issued by the label in 2004. The former recording listed such ECM standard bearers as trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and veteran saxophonist Jan Garbarek on the front line and a rhythm section comprised of pianist Marcin Wasilewski and bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz (from Stanko's group). Playground keeps the rhythm section intact, but Mathias Eick and Trygve Seim, on trumpet and saxophones respectively, make up the front line. While there can be no denying the lyrical power of the former unit, this one feels more like a band. Read More >>

Grachan Moncur III - Inner Cry Blues
The subtitle of Inner Cry Blues is "Dedication Album, Volume 1." Of the six cuts, here four are dedicated to jazz legends: "G Train" for Duke Ellington, "A for Pops" for Louis Armstrong, the two-part suite "Sonny's Back" for Sonny Rollins, and, of course, "Blue Rondo" for longtime friend and collaborator the late Jackie McLean. This is one of those Moncur dates that walks the tightrope. It walks the inside line of post-bop and modal jazz a lot. In fact, it never strays far from them. But the sense of space, color, and texture in his compositions pushes their boundaries a bit. Read More >>

David Murray & the Black Saint Quartet - Sacred Ground
David Murray has been collaborating in one way or another with poet, novelist, and cultural critic Ishmael Reed (co-founder of the Before Columbus Foundation) since 1980. Sacred Ground is performed with his brilliant Black Saint Quartet that includes drummer Andrew Cyrille, bassist Ray Drummond, and pianist Lafayette Gilchist (who replaced the late John Hicks). Murray had scored the soundtrack for Marco Williams' brilliant film Banished, about the dozen or so American counties in the South and Midwest that expelled -- often violently -- thousands of blacks between Reconstruction and the Great Depression. Murray's appetite for investigation was whetted and he continued his own independent thinking and research. He asked Reed to participate in the project by writing poems for Cassandra Wilson to sing. Those two songs bookend this set. Read More >>

Christian Scott - Anthem
Anthem is, at least in part, a true emotional response to the continued suffering in 2007 of Christian Scott's fellow New Orleanians two years after Hurricane Katrina. It's a completely different record than its predecessor but even more forward looking, inclusive, and full of chancy moves. It begins somberly with the title track, which introduces something of a suite that includes the various themes of the entire album. Whereas Rewind That had a late-night, after-hours relaxed vibe, Anthem feels different, from the very first notes of "Litany Against Fear." Read More >>

Charles Tolliver Big Band - With Love
On the first new release from the Mosaic subsidiary of Blue Note, veteran trumpeter Tolliver finally makes the long awaited big-band recording of the group that has played occasionally in New York City, revived from the remnants of his legendary '70s Music Inc. Orchestra. A bit of the old repertoire ("Mournin' Variations" and "Right Now") and a few former members (Billy Harper, Howard Johnson, Stanley Cowell, Cecil McBee) remain from the group that made powerful albums for the Strata East label. The current 16-piece ensemble, at least for this two-day session, has a rougher edge. Read More >>

Kenny Werner - Lawn Chair Society
Pianist Kenny Werner's Lawn Chair Society is a cerebral mix of acoustic jazz, electronic elements, and generally expansive improvisation that comes and goes in terrifically unexpected directions. Inspired by a varied mix of artists from Radiohead to In a Silent Way-era Miles Davis, Werner has crafted a forward-thinking album that stands uniquely alone from other similarly minded electro-acoustic jazz projects. In fact, while Werner does reference funky, '70s fusion on Lawn Chair Society -- especially in the James Brown-inspired "New Amsterdam" -- this is by no means a funk album. Read More >>

Other notables by individual editors:

Al Campbell
Fred Anderson & Hamid Drake - From the River to the Ocean
Billy Bang - Above and Beyond: An Evening in Grand Rapids
Carla Bley - The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu
Ari Brown - Live at the Green Mill
Steve Coleman - Invisible Paths: First Scattering
His Name Is Alive - Sweet Earth Flower: A Tribute to Marion Brown
James Blood Ulmer - Bad Blood in the City: The Piety Street Sessions
David S. Ware - Renunciation

Matt Collar
Ralph Alessi - Look
Fred Anderson & Hamid Drake - From the River to the Ocean River
Omer Avital - Arrival
Billy Bang Quintet - Above and Beyond: An Evening in Grand Rapids
Ingrid Jensen & Nordic Connect - Flurry
Wynton Marsalis - From the Plantation to the Penitentiary
Roscoe Mitchell - Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3
Sam Yahel - Truth and Beauty

Thom Jurek
David Binney - Oceanos
Johnny Blas - Indestructible Spirit
Terence Blanchard - A Tale of God's Will
Carla Bley - The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu
Build an Ark - Dawn
Kurt Elling - Nightmoves
Lafayette Gilchrist - Three
Tom Harrell - Light On
Timo Lassey - The Soul & the Jazz of Timo Lassey
Antonio Sanchez - Migration
James Blood Ulmer - Bad Blood in the City: The Piety Street Sessions
David S. Ware - Renunciation

Steve Leggett
David "Fathead" Newman - Life
Preservation Hall Jazz Band - Made in New Orleans: The Hurricane Sessions