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For the better part of this year, I haven't been able to shake a certain phrase from the back of my mind. It was written by the pianist and composer Vijay Iyer in the liner notes to his brilliant trio album Accelerando: "[T]his album is in the lineage of American creative music based on dance rhythms."
It's one of the more precise descriptions I've encountered for my favorite jazz records, in this year or any. None of them sing the blues the same way. But deep down, they all feel how rhythm is fundamentally movement. They all represent the utmost levels of creativity. They all plug into the wisdom of a tradition which precedes them, and they all aim to build upon it.
Here, in alphabetical order, are my top ten albums in the great lineage of jazz and improvised music of 2012.