Top 10 jazz albums of 2008.

Pop, jazz, and classical.
Dec. 18 2008 6:51 AM

Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2008

Crowned by one immortal recording.

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But, all the same, very satisfying.

8. Wynton Marsalis and Willie Nelson's Two Men With the Blues (EMI), is sheer delight, a seamless weave of jazz, country, and, above all, lightheaded blues, recorded live at Lincoln Center. Willie's voice has its break points, but he carries the spirit of the songs and he's having such infectious fun. Wynton firms up my long-held impression that he blows his freest jazz trumpet when the setting's most casual:

The whole band is tight and high-spirited.

9. Steven Bernstein's Diaspora Suite (Tzadik). This is the fourth and most ambitious Diaspora-themed album by trumpeter-composer Bernstein, on John Zorn's Tzadik label. Not simply "Jewish music," it has influences from everywhere. The first track opens with an electric guitar riff and bongo backup, straight out of Marvin Gaye:

before a klezmer clarinet comes punching in:

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But no one strand dominates. Dark, bluesy, and you can dance to it.

10. Jeff Gauthier's House of Return(Cryptogramophone) is the year's surprise, a sinuously pleasing blend of rich melancholy, off-centered swing, and hazy blues,