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Introduction

Every year when I sit down to write my list of albums of the year I start with a preamble explaining that the list is only based on the small subset of that year’s releases which I have actually heard. 2010 is no exception.

Indeed, my CD buying this year has been partly shaped by Fopp selling a lot of classic 60s Blue Note albums at ludicrously cheap prices. Over the summer, I was mainly spending my cash on gems by the likes of Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter and Stanley Turrentine rather than on contemporary stuff. One of these albums, Tony William’s rather patchy Spring, contains unquestionably the best single track I’ve heard this year: “Love Song”, which as well as some lovely tenor playing from Sam Rivers has what I think is one of Herbie Hancock’s finest recorded solos.

Looking at other people’s “best of” lists, I see that there are recordings by, among others, Django Bates, Vijay Iyer, Jason Moran, Esperanza Spalding and Henry Threadgill which crop up fairly regularly. But I’ve not heard them, so I can’t possibly judge them.

As usual, I found myself buying a number of self-released albums at gigs. None of them quite made it into the top ten, but I’ll give honourable mentions to Euan Burton and Tom Gibb’s Forgotten Things, Stewart Forbes’ belated debut (at the age of umpty-um!) High Five, Graeme Stephen’s Vantage Points and Will Vinson’s The World (Through My Shoes). None of them will change the course of jazz history, but they’re all very enjoyable.

Okay, to business. I found it fairly easy to come up with a top ten this year: sometimes it’s a struggle to think of more than eight or nine standout records; sometimes it’s difficult to cut the list down from a dozen or so; but this year it seemed naturally to come out at ten. More precisely, I found it easy to draw up a list of five albums which struck me as the best, and then another find another five which for one reason or another don’t quite make it to the very top, but are still better or more interesting than most of the other stuff I’ve heard.

The silver medallists will go up tomorrow, followed by my top five the next day.

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