Mark Saleski’s Jazz Favorites for 2010

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What kind of a year was it for music? It was so good that very often, I had a tough time figuring out what to listen to next. The proper cliché to be applied is “an embarrassment of riches.” Not only was it a great year for music, it was a great year for writing about it. I had an epiphany of sorts around the middle of the year and joined forces with Something Else! cohorts Nick Deriso and Pico. Together, we have ridden this year’s wave of sound.

What follows is my list of favorites for 2010. The entries are alphabetized, except for the final selection, which is my top pick. There’s no way for me to fashion a list that’s in preferential order, mostly because it makes no sense to the way I hear things. Is Nels Cline “better” than Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden? The question makes my brain hurt. It’s in English, but has no meaning for me. I admit that it’s weird to have a favorite, but then no second favorite. It sort of begs a question about what favorite even means. In my case, it’s just the record that I went back to time and time again, with subsequent listens revealing further joy. Isn’t that why we listen?

Abraham, Inc – Tweet Tweet

Combine traditional Klezmer with some killer jazz grooves and you’ve got Abraham, Inc. It will have you shakin’ random body parts.

Atomic Skunk – Portal

Atomic Skunk produces some gorgeous electronic/ambient music. Sure, it’s not jazz, but it’s not trying to be. Still, the level of inner detail is so high that categories are meaningless. Worth it for the very cool cover of the Dead’s “China Doll” alone.

Nels Cline – Dirty Baby

A massive collision of music and art, Nels Cline looked upon Ed Ruscha’s paintings as source material and composed some incredible music.

Either Orchestra – Mood Music For Time Travellers
The Boston area has known about the Either Orchestra for decades. Two & a half decades, in fact. If you think that big band music has vanished, then you need to check out this album.

Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica – The Unforgettable Sounds of Esquivel

When I think of Esquivel, I think “fun.” Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica pays fine tribute the the lounge-master.

Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden – Jasmine

The intimacy of this recording is just phenomenal. Two musicians come together to make a subtle statement of their shared histories.

Joan Jeanrenaud, PC Munoz – Pop-Pop

I’ve been a fan of Jeanrenaud for years. This collaboration with percussionist PC Munoz tries (and succeeds!) to combine “serious” music with light-hearted pop. One of the most thought-provoking discs of the year.

Pat Metheny – Orchestrion

What? A Pat Metheny record that’s not on the very top of my list? There’s a reason, which you shall soon discover. Orchestrion is Metheny’s love letter the the history of mechanized music making. Thank goodness for Pat’s Grandfather’s player piano, as it was the (indirect) inspiration.

Maria Neckam – Deeper

A vocalist on my jazz Top-10 list? Yes, I know it’s odd. On the other hand, you’ve never heard a jazz vocalist who sounds anything like Maria Neckam.

Jazz Recording of the Year

The Mary Halvorson Quintet – Saturn Sings

Mary Halvorson has become my new favorite guitar player. Her idiosyncratic technique is full of of odd angles, stops & starts, knotty clusters, swing, and bent chords. Is it possible to wear a CD out? Ask me a year from now. I’ve got a couple hundred more listens to get through.

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to, and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at
Mark Saleski
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