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Steve Greenlee's top 10 jazz CDs of 2010

Who rocked the music world this year? Globe critics choose their favorite 10 albums -- and highlight some noteworthy surprises

By Steve Greenlee
Globe Staff / December 19, 2010

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WILLIAM PARKER “I Plan to Stay a Believer: The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield’’ It took the prolific bassist nine years to assemble this rich set, but it’s a superb example of how a pop songbook can be turned into meaningful jazz.

NELS CLINE SINGERS “Initiate’’ Guitarist Cline has performed and recorded in many contexts, some thoughtful and quiet, others loud and abrasive. On “Initiate,’’ he and his trio (which does not include any singers) lay it all on the line.

MIKE MAINIERI “Crescent’’ The vibraphonist, joined by alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano and bassist Dieter Ilg, craft a beautiful two-disc tribute to John Coltrane that is the year’s most beautiful jazz album.

CHARLES LLOYD QUARTET “Mirror’’ In pianist Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Eric Harland, the great saxophonist has found comrades to help further his philosophy that restraint can be more powerful than flexed muscles.

RUDRESH MAHANTHAPPA AND BUNKY GREEN “Apex’’ Two exceptional saxophonists — one an up-and-comer, the other an unheralded master — collaborate on an inspired, often fiery set.

SHERMAN IRBY QUARTET “Live at the Otto Club’’ On his first live album, the largely unknown saxophonist makes music that is both intimate and immediate. This record just feels like a jazz club.

OLIVIER MANCHON “Orchestre de Chambre Miniature, Volume 1’’ This must be what Gunther Schuller had in mind 53 years ago when he coined the term “third stream,’’ referring to a hybrid of classical and jazz.

KURT ROSENWINKEL STANDARDS TRIO “Reflections’’ The technical dazzle that the guitarist usually displays is reined in, the menu consists entirely of ballads, and the band is stripped back to a trio. An essential disc in the jazz-guitar-trio subgenre.

MATTHEW SHIPP “4D’’ A solo work that feels like the avant-garde pianist’s major statement. Every aspect of his style is collected here: his angular compositions; his deep, lower-register rumblings; his spiky staccato attacks.

ERIK TELFORD “Kinetic’’ A stunning debut from a young trumpeter that represents everything that is right with contemporary jazz.

BIGGEST SURPRISE BRYAN AND THE HAGGARDS “Pretend It’s the End of the World’’ Who knew that Merle Haggard wrote jazz tunes? Not even Merle Haggard. But tenor saxophonist Bryan Murray and his motley crew of collaborators knew it, because they seamlessly transformed the country legend’s music into post-bop and free jazz.