1. Black 47 - New York Town
This CD was in a close race with #2 but Black 47 wins out because of the emotional content of some of the songs, especially "Orphans Of The Storm" in which the subject dies in the World Trade Center. Larry Kirwan said this is his love letter to his adopted home town.
2. Madeleine Peyroux - Careless Love
Speaking of better late than never, in 2004 Peyroux released only her second CD, a long EIGHT YEARS after her debut. The good news is that it's even better than her first one! Peyroux is a great singer, with great arrangements. She ranks among the best interpreters of other people's songs and she makes excellent choices with her cover material while co-writing only one of her own tunes. Some of this stuff isn't really "pure" jazz but it all works well.
3. Nellie McKay - Get Away From Me
This CD is hard to describe but the assessment that McKay is "a cross between Doris Day & Eminem" is accurate. Maybe she should do a hip-hop version of "Que Sera Sera" on her next album. Her debut CD is eclectic, weird, and wonderful though she needs to make an effort to clean up her potty mouth.
4. Peter Cincotti - On The Moon
Much of what I said about Madeleine Peyroux holds true here except that Cincotti writes more of his own material than she does and he plays very fine jazz piano in concert. Peyroux is more of a singer (even though she does play acoustic guitar). This too is his second release but he didn't wait eight years to release it. You need to hear Cincotti's jazz version of "Bali Hai." Yes, it's the song from South Pacific but this version really swings. Cincotti covers everything from the "St.Louis Blues" to Goffin and King. He needn't apologize for any of it.
5. Los Lobos - The Ride
The Wolves latest CD is musically diverse once again. Their Mexican heritage is apparent as ususal and the music is colored even more by a slew of guest artists: Dave Alvin, Elvis Costello, Richard Thompson, Tom Waits, Bobby Womack and more.
Honorable mention goes to Johnny A, Los Lobos's covers EP, and a fantastic Christmas CD by Chris Isaak.