Anyone grumbling about what a terrible year 2006 was for music can't have been looking very hard. In fact, once I started going back over all the amazing stuff I heard this year, it was difficult to pare down my list to the top 100. Here are 10 of my faves.
1 KAHIL EL'ZABAR'S RITUAL TRIO Big M - A Tribute To Malachi Favors (Delmark)
Master percussionist Kahil El' Zabar, bassist Yousef Ben Israel, saxophonist Ari Brown and violinist Billy Bang pay homage to departed Art Ensemble bassist Malachi Favors with a spiritually uplifting set for the ages.
2 SOLOMON BURKE Nashville (Shout! Factory)
The King of Rock 'n' Soul is joined by Emmylou Harris , Dolly Parton , Gillian Welch and Patti Loveless to make the country record of the year, bar none.
3 BORIS Pink (Southern Lord)
Atsuo , Wata and Takeshi momentarily ease off the Melvins-inspired doom drone to show they can still kick out the jams sludge-metal-style.
4 DABRYE Two/Three (Ghostly International)
Adventurous Ann Arbor beatmaker Tadd Mullinix enlists the fire-spitting skills of MF Doom , Guilty Simpson and Vast Aire to produce the only hiphop album that couldn't have been released in any other year but 2006.
5 HOWE GELB 'Sno Angel Like You (Thrill Jockey)
Okay, this desert dweller from Arizona walks into a recording studio with an Ottawa gospel choir.... The punchline is that Tucson's finest had to come to Ontario to make his best-ever record.
6 RADIO CITIZEN Berlin Serengeti (Ubiquity)
Poets of Rhythm groove-scientist Niko Schabel and sidekick scorcher Bajka transform busted bits of spiritual jazz, deep funk and blaxploitation themes into some next shit freesoul. And here I thought Bajka couldn't top her Das Goldenes Zeitalter throwdown.
7 MAURICE EL MÉDIONI & ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ Descarga Oriental (Piranha)
Drawing on the inspiration of ancient Andalusia - where Arabs, Jews, Muslims and Christians lived in harmony - Algerian piano maestro Maurice El Médioni hooks up with New York percussionist Roberto Rodriguez for a dazzling cross-cultural exchange.
8 EXAMPLES OF TWELVES The Way Things Were (Impossible Ark)
Nostalgia 77 bassist enhances the sound of his own Examples of Twelves octet with a stellar quartet and succeeds in bringing the brash sound of Neil Ardley's New Jazz Orchestra into the 21st century. Quite a trick.
9 KYRA AND TULLY (Buster)
Kingston-based twosome Kyra Walker and Michael "Tully" Pearson craft a beautifully understated marvel of handmade folk invention that sounds every bit as sweet the silver-embossed cardboard package looks.
10 AMY WINEHOUSE Back To Black (Island/Universal)
The unlikely pairing of hard-drinking diva Amy Winehouse with Brooklyn b-boy Mark Ronson shouldn't have worked, but it does, and the world of modern R&B is all the better for it.