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2008 Year in Review: Top 50 CDs

Mary Halvorson
Anat Cohen
Charles Lloyd Quartet (L to R: Lloyd, Reuben Rogers, Jason Moran and Eric Harland)

We compiled our top 50 CDs of 2008 from the year-end Top-10 lists by our critics. To see each voter’s ballot, log on to Only CDs released between Nov. 1, 2007, and Oct. 31, 2008, were eligible. Some discs may have slipped through the rules, however, as release dates weren’t always handy.

Original blurbs by Evan Haga, Lee Mergner and Jeff Tamarkin. Review excerpts by David R. Adler, Scott Albin, A.D. Amorosi, Thomas Conrad, Colin Fleming, Steve Greenlee, Geoffrey Himes, Mike Joyce, George Kanzler, Christopher Loudon, Bill Milkowski, Mitch Myers, William Ruhlmann, Jessica Sendra, Mike Shanley, Jeff Tamarkin, Perry Tannenbaum, Michael J. West, and Josef Woodard.

1. Charles Lloyd Quartet

Rabo de Nube (ECM)

The tenor saxophonist and flutist Charles Lloyd’s most recent ECM recording, the live album Rabo de Nube, is one of the best in his crowded discography, thanks in no small part to a band comprising phenomenal players who are decades Lloyd’s juniors. Drummer Eric Harland, bassist Reuben Rogers and, perhaps most important, the pianist Jason Moran may technically qualify as sidemen here, but they function as anything but.

Lloyd has had divine luck with pianists throughout his career, from his ’60s group featuring a young Keith Jarrett-the folkies’ and rockers’ favorite jazz combo-through groups graced with Michel Petrucciani, Bobo Stenson, Geri Allen and Brad Mehldau. Taking a slight detour from a leader career that may have gotten a bit too conceptually precious on 2006’s Artist in Residence, Moran proves an ideal foil: He matches the saxophonist’s skittering billows of notes with his own cackling lines on “Prometheus,” reiterates the leader’s melody with gentility on “Booker’s Garden,” crawls through thickets of world-groove on “Ramanujan,” and, on pieces like the stately, sacred-seeking “Migration of Spirit,” keeps Lloyd’s new-age temptations in check and aligns the band more with Impulse!-era courage. E.H.

2. Joe Lovano

Symphonica (Blue Note)

On his tribute albums, Lovano has shown a tendency to avoid sentimentality and take a rigorous approach to his musical heroes. It’s good to see he’s no less sparing of his own compositions. W.R.

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