Philly-born organist Joey DeFrancesco paid tribute to Michael Jackson on his latest CD, "Never Can Say Goodbye," but local jazz fans seemed to be saying nothing but goodbye this year.
One of the city's most significant homes for the music, Ortlieb's Jazzhaus, went dark in April after 23 years.
The scene also lost several guiding lights, beginning with Edgar Bateman in May. The death of the great drummer drew the curtain on a life spent far too often behind it, with lengthy gaps - decades at times - between recordings and performances, though he'd been more active in recent years thanks to collaborations with saxophonist Bobby Zankel.
The past few months saw the passing of two local legends whose importance can be measured as much by the younger musicians they inspired as by their own contributions. Pianist Sid Simmons, longtime anchor of the house band at Ortlieb's and its crucial jam session, died in November, followed a month later by organ great Trudy Pitts.
The impact of both continues to be felt in the work of those they've mentored. Zankel has paid tribute to Simmons in recent performances by his big band, the Warriors of the Wonderful Sound, through which the altoist and bandleader lends expertise to younger generations.
About to enter their 20th-anniversary year, the Warriors welcomed their first outside collaborator in 2010 - a suite composed by Indian-American saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa. They will premiere music by alto innovator Steve Coleman in the spring.
Orrin Evans has cited both Pitts and Simmons in his own efforts to keep the jam-session tradition alive. It's part of his Monday-night happy-hour sessions at World Cafe Live. 2010 was a particularly strong year for Evans, with two fine albums - his own trio tribute to saxophonist Bobby Watson and the second release by his collective group, Tarbaby - and the inauguration of his raucous Captain Black Big Band last winter.
That group evolved through a residency at Chris' Jazz Cafe, which survived to celebrate its 20th anniversary this year, with a slight makeover. The large sign hanging outside proclaims "JAZZ" in large, blue letters, a beacon on its relatively untraveled stretch of Sansom and, perhaps, a signal of hope for the music's future in the city.