Anat Cohen, Claroscuro (Anzic Records). As jazz goes more international, it is only proper that a Tel Aviv-born clarinetist based in New York should play music from Brazil, France, Cuba, and South Africa, with some New Orleans sass thrown in. Only Anat Cohen, a master storyteller on reeds, can pull it off like this.
Chick Corea / Eddie Gomez / Paul Motian, Further Explorations (Concord Jazz). This double-CD collection is a sonic feast. Pianist Chick Corea is wickedly formidable, whether teasing out a classic bop tune or waxing all cosmic. Giants stare back at him from the bass and drums.
Joey DeFrancesco / Larry Coryell / Jimmy Cobb, Wonderful! Wonderful! (High Note). Organ jazz is practically a Philly art form, and nobody does it better than Joey DeFrancesco. The Philly-born wunderkind, now just past 40, joins with a fellow Miles Davis alum, drummer Jimmy Cobb, linking the Kind of Blue generation with the late 1980s zeitgeist. Guitarist Larry Coryell is the welcome wild card.
Orrin Evans, Flip the Script (Posi-Tone). The CD by Philly-based pianist Orrin Evans' trio ranges from high-jazz modernism to the R&B of Gamble & Huff's Sound of Philadelphia. The constant is Evans, flying across the keys and using chords like fresh kindling.
Amit Friedman Sextet, Sunrise (Origin). A product of the expanding Israeli jazz scene, reed man and composer Amit Friedman made one of the happier recordings of the year. A dozen originals deliver winsome melodies with jazz heft and hints of world music.
Fred Hersch Trio, Alive at the Vanguard (Palmetto Records). This two-disc set is a kind of audio Facebook tour through pianist Fred Hersch's many "likes," from saxophonists Ornette Coleman, Wayne Shorter, and Sonny Rollins to drummer Paul Motian and pianist Thelonious Monk.
Adam Kromelow Trio, Youngblood (Zoho). Pianist Adam Kromelow is just a year out of the Manhattan School of Music, yet his CD sounds big and scary good. His trio with drummer Jason Burger and bassist Raviv Markovitz focuses on the leader's originals, and dares to indulge in free jazz. The result is often poetic, especially on Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street," which resonates long after it ends.
Pat Martino, Alone Together: With Bobby Rose (HighNote). Legendary guitarist Pat Martino personally recorded these eight tunes with another South Philly guitarist, Bobby Rose, in 1977 and 1978, but released them only this year for the first time. Martino is dialed in to create cosmic climaxes. The playing shows both a simplicity and a force that are mesmerizing.
Brad Mehldau Trio, Ode (Nonesuch). Pianist Brad Mehldau and his trio have been together for much of the last seven years, and their work has evolved into this melodic and daring set. No one else could make these liquid beauties.
Kurt Rosenwinkel, Star of Jupiter (Wommusic). Guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel invites you into his crystalline world. His two-disc set of originals is big into repeating figures that create mystery and a kind of fantasy world. This sector of the galaxy hasn't seen such a workout since Sun Ra claimed Saturn as his birthplace.