1. Joe Lovano, "I'm All for You" (Blue Note). It was a very good year for jazz fans who enjoy listening to reed players with a genuine flair for interpreting standards. What makes Lovano's release so special, apart from his supremely confident tone and remarkably fluid improvisations, is the presence of jazz titan Hank Jones on piano.
2. Branford Marsalis, "Eternal" (Marsalis Music). Playing tenor and soprano saxes, Marsalis also conjures memories of some of the most assured exponents of swing-era lyricism on this lovely and often haunting ballads collection. Far and away, it's his most mature and affecting release yet.
Michael O'Sullivan's Top 10 Exhibits (The Washington Post, Dec 31, 2004)
The Year in Music (The Washington Post, Dec 31, 2004)
Richard Harrington's Top 10 (The Washington Post, Dec 31, 2004)
Geoffrey Himes's Top 10 (The Washington Post, Dec 31, 2004)
Mark Jenkins's Top 10 (The Washington Post, Dec 31, 2004)
Desson Thomson's Top 10 Films (The Washington Post, Dec 31, 2004)
. . . And the 10 Worst Films (The Washington Post, Dec 31, 2004)
The Best Bites of 2004 (The Washington Post, Dec 31, 2004)
Looking Back: Bugs, Bars, Poker and More (The Washington Post, Dec 31, 2004)
3. Don Byron, "Ivey-Divey" (Blue Note). Clarinetist Byron travels the standards route, too, inspired by Lester Young and Miles Davis recordings, among other vintage sounds. Any notions that Byron has suddenly opted for something safe and retro, however, quickly evaporate.
4. Peter Rowan and Tony Rice, "You Were There for Me" (Rounder). This pairing of bluegrass vets, a showcase for Rowan's expressive voice and Rice's exceptional guitar work, yields a string of inspired performances, thanks in no small part to a batch of terrific songs.
5. Holmes Brothers, "Simple Truths" (Alligator). Country, gospel, folk, blues, R&B, reggae -- it's all grist for the family mill, and this time around Hank Williams, Townes Van Zandt, Gillian Welch and Bob Marley are among the suppliers.
6. The Stanley Brothers, "An Evening Long Ago, Live 1956" (Legacy). Cozy, relaxed and revealing, what we have here is a rare after-hours radio session recorded in Bristol, Va., by the bedrock bluegrass siblings. Timeless and untarnished stuff.
7. Tom Russell, "Indians Cowboys Horses Dogs" (Hightone). You can add "plus Dylan" to the title, since Russell puts a fresh spin on two of his tunes here. Joe Ely and a few other rootsy fellow travelers are along for the ride. Even so, Russell's affection for the Old West and his storytelling finesse are reasons enough to keep coming back to this disc.
8. Patty Griffin, "Impossible Dream" (Ato). Singer-songwriter Griffin's recordings are so consistently impressive that it's hard to choose a favorite. But this offering, with its welcome blues and gospel shadings, is certainly in the running.
9. Eddie Pennington, "Walks the Strings . . . and Even Sings" (Smithsonian Folkways). Not only is this extraordinarily gifted guitarist a finger-style disciple of Mose Rager and Merle Travis, but he shares Travis's sense of humor and fun.
10. Dinah Washington, "The Complete Roulette Dinah Washington Recordings" (Mosaic). A definitive survey of Washington's final recordings, including some previously unreleased material, this five-CD box set frequently reveals the great soulfulness she exhibited in the two years before her death in late 1963.
Concert: "A Tribute to Shirley Horn" at the Kennedy Center, Dec. 11. Strictly speaking, this wasn't the best concert of the year. There were lots of performances during the salute, some far more enjoyable than others. Yet memory of the ailing jazz legend's triumphant return to the piano at the end of the evening won't fade anytime soon.