1. "When the Sun Goes Down: The Secret History of Rock & Roll" (RCA). This four-disc roots music anthology not only enlightens, entertains, amuses and moves you, thanks to the likes of Meade Lux Lewis, Alberta Hunter, Leadbelly, Bukka White, Gus Cannon's Jug Stompers and numerous others, it almost mocks the notion that subsequent generations could ever trump this stuff.
2. Solomon Burke: "Don't Give Up on Me" (Fat Possum). What do you get when you put a legendary vocalist in the studio with a much younger producer and a batch of unlikely songs? Another uneven Johnny Cash album? Mercifully, soul man Solomon Burke delivers something far more consistent and compelling with the help of producer Joe Henry and contributions from Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Tom Waits.
3. The Dave Holland Big Band: "What Goes Around" (ECM). After a 15-year absence, Holland's Big Band returns, brimming with talent and sounding as nimble as the bassist's far better known quintet. That's no coincidence, since the smaller group inspired this multifaceted and challenging collection penned and arranged by Holland.
4. Dee Dee Bridgewater: "This Is New" (Verve). Bridgewater is arguably the most theatrical jazz vocalist around, and that's all to the good when she's paying tribute to Kurt Weill. The joy she exudes while mining Weill's music is unmistakable, as evidenced by "Alabama Song" and a totally unhinged "Mack the Knife." Further elevating the performances are a series of imaginatively tailored, mood-enhancing arrangements for a nine-piece ensemble.
5. Patty Griffin: "1000 Kisses" (Ato). Candid, intimate and sparsely arranged, Griffin's latest CD is an emotionally unvarnished gem. Even Bruce Springsteen's "Stolen Car," one of three cover tunes on the album, turns out to be an inspired choice, but it's the originals that leave the most lasting impressions.
6. Linda Thompson: "Fashionably Late" (Rounder). In a remarkable comeback after 17 years, the British folk icon reclaims her heartachingly expressive voice and first-rank status with this frequently haunting collection of songs. And it doesn't hurt that Van Dyke Parks, Rufus Wainwright and even ex-hubby Richard Thompson turn out for the occasion.
7. Susan Tedeschi: "Wait for Me" (Cool Tone/Artemis). Tedeschi's vocal talent truly blossoms as she moves, time and again, beyond conventional blues forms to embrace myriad soul, pop, rock and gospel influences. Like Bonnie Raitt, an obvious influence, she accomplishes the task with power, grace and a blues-rooted sensibility.
8. Various Artists: "None but the Righteous: The Masters of Sacred Steel" (Ropeadope). A terrific primer that both reveals and celebrates the great spiritual thrust of sacred steel guitar music, this 17-track anthology, drawn from recent Arhoolie recordings, features performances by Aubrey Ghent, the Campbell Brothers, Glenn Lee and other key exponents.
9. John Coltrane: "Legacy" (Impulse). This four-CD set offers a multi-label perspective of Coltrane's work, arranged in thematic episodes by his son, fellow saxophonist Ravi Coltrane. Some shortcuts are taken, naturally -- anyone who wants to hear "A Love Supreme" in its entirety should pick up Impulse's recent and definitive "Deluxe Edition" reissue. Yet the performances here -- which range from early collaborations with Miles Davis and landmark sessions with Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison to beyond -- vividly chart Coltrane's growth and genius. Too bad about the chintzy packaging, though.
10. Johnny Smith: "The Complete Roost Johnny Smith Small Group Sessions" (Mosaic). This year served up an embarrassment of riches for jazz guitar aficionados, what with boxed sets devoted to Charlie Christian, Eddie Lang and Grant Green. Yet filling the biggest void was this eight-CD compilation, a testament to Smith's extraordinary range, meticulous-to-sublime touch and glorious, glorious sound.
Best concert: Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra at the Lincoln Theatre, July 27. "It's not often we get to be in the presence of genius," said conductor David Baker, saluting renowned big-band arrangers Bill Holman and Bill Russo during this rare treat. Their inspired handiwork was demonstrated throughout the evening by a series of diverse, colorful and often challenging orchestrations devised for Stan Kenton and other big-band luminaries.