Dance-floor jazzman Nicola Conte exceeded already strong expectations on Rituals.
1 NICOLA CONTE
The jet-setting dance-floor jazz bad boy of Bari had already shown he could form a competent combo. The elegantly turned-out Rituals proves he's become an accomplished guitarist, songwriter, arranger, orchestrator and producer, too.
2 HEIDI HAPPY
Flowers, Birds And Home (Little Jig)
Straight outta Lucerne, Priska Zemp (aka Heidi Happy), Switzerland's tastiest export since Emmenthal, creates her career-best work that somehow manages to be both charmingly whimsical and deeply affecting in equal measure.
3 JOSE JAMES
The Dreamer (Brownswood)
In the absence of a new studio set from Andy Bey, Jose James's superbly crafted debut is the uncontested jazz vocal album of the year.
4 KARL HECTOR & THE MALCOUNS
Sahara Swing (Now Again)
Members of the Poets of Rhythm and Whitefield Brothers unleash the deep funk soundtrack to an elephant race from Egypt to Ethiopia, and we all win.
5 ENDLESS BOOGIE
Focus Level (No Quarter)
New York record fiends conspire to devise a mind-melting psych classic of their own, and succeed with this hard-chooglin' beast of an album.
6 ELIZABETH SHEPHERD
Parkdale (Do Right!)
The fast-rising Toronto jazz singer/pianist rises to a new level with a push from producer Ben Lamdin. West Queen West never sounded so enchanting.
7 HUMAN EYE
Fragments Of The Universe Nurse (Hook or Crook)
Against all odds and the advice of sub-atomic particle theorists, these Detroit dunderheads knock out something even more darkly demented than the Clone Defects at their most deranged.
8 AMADOU & MARIAM
Welcome To Mali (Because)
The dynamic duo of global music reconnect with irreverent producer Manu Chao to continue messing with Malian Afro-blues tradition, with magical results.
9 LARRY JON WILSON
If there's any doubt that this Heartworn Highways hombre is still the songwriter's songwriter to beat, this comeback corker recorded in motel vérité should clarify matters.
10 THE GOLDEN HANDS BEFORE GOD CONDUCTS INCREDIBLE MAGIC BAND & THE SPIRITS
Here (Pop Echo)
This ain't no Communist party and you ain't sleeping on their couch, but this wild-ass Windsor collective (now based in Montreal) can kick out the jams in stellar fashion.