1. FLOW -- Terence Blanchard
Weeks on chart: 8
Style: Hard trumpet-featuring bop with the funky core befitting a disc produced by Herbie Hancock.
Worldview: "What makes experiences . . . genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called 'flow.' A state of consciousness so focused . . . that it amounts to absolute absorption in an activity. . . . Everyone experiences 'flow' from time to time and will recognize its characteristics" (the liner notes).
Overall quality: Honors the spirit of late-'60s, early-'70s Miles Davis.
2. THE AMERICAN SOUL -- Bill Charlap
Weeks on chart: 4
Style: Late-night, instrumental, small-combo jazz renditions of 10 Gershwin classics.
Worldview: "From Broadway theaters to Harlem jazz clubs to Carnegie Hall, Gershwin proved that all the tributaries flowed into a larger mainstream, which, taken collectively, added up into something new, a distinctly American kind of music that the world had never heard before" (the liner notes).
Overall quality: Playful virtuosity best appreciated by those familiar with more traditional interpretations.
3. LISTEN HERE! -- Eddie Palmieri
Weeks on chart: 6
Style: Piano-driven, high-spirited, large-combo Latin jazz.
Worldview: "In essence, this recording highlights Mr. Palmieri's dedication to his Puerto Rican heritage, world culture, and his knowledgeable appreciation and critical evaluation of the cross-cultural and cross-generational family tree of world music. The result-vintage Eddie" (the notes).
Overall quality: A thoroughly enjoyable, piñata-busting introduction to the music that Mr. Palmieri has been performing and recording for the last 50 years.
4. MOMENTUM -- Joshua Redman Elastic Band
Weeks on chart: 9
Style: Tenor-sax bop rendered distinctive by prominent electric and electronic keyboard effects.
Worldview: That jazz remains the most hospitably accommodating of American musics, especially in terms of its styles (the covers include songs by the free-jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman ["Lonely Woman"] but also by Led Zeppelin ["The Crunge"], and Sheryl Crow ["Riverwide"]).
Overall quality: To paraphrase Duke Ellington, it must mean a thing 'cause it do have that swing.
5. DREAMING WIDE AWAKE -- Lizz Wright
Weeks on chart: 8
Style: Soulful, romantic, late-night vocal performances.
Worldview: That jazz remains the most hospitably accommodating of American musics, both in terms of its emotions (love, hope, loss, regret) and its styles (the covers include songs made famous by Herb Alpert, Joe Henry, Neil Young, the Youngbloods).
Overall quality: A muted luminosity infuses Ms. Wright's deceptively direct performances, setting them apart from those with whom she shares superficial similarities (Sade, Anita Baker).
In the spotlight
Thanks in large part to Sinéad O'Connor, the shorn or closely cropped female head in pop music has become associated with petulant rebellion and cranky confrontation. With the ascendance of the 25-year-old, Georgia-born Lizz Wright, however, the image's implications may undergo a change. Nowhere in her sophomore effort, Dreaming Wide Awake (Verve Forecast), does she strike an adversarial stance, and the only confrontations that take place occur between her head and her heart.
Although classified as "jazz," Ms. Wright's music is actually more akin to soulful folk, a kinship made obvious by covers of the Youngbloods' 1969 hit "Get Together" and Neil Young's 1972 "Old Man" (which takes on different meanings when sung by a woman). And, while the other songs deal mainly with romance and therefore risk luring to dreamland anyone who's heard a dozen love songs too many, the sparse elegance of her voice and instrumentation keep the music-and will keep sympathetic listeners-wide awake.