Ten of my favorite musical things from 2008, in roughly descending order of favoriteness.
1. Leny Andrade at Birdland
Half the ten items here are concerts, nightclub shows, or other performances, and the August night when I heard Andrade with a small band at Birdland was the most sublime evening of the year for me. Andrade, the Brazilian jazz singer, has never sung with more heart and wisdom.
2. Fred Hersch and the Pocket Orchestra at the Jazz Standard
Delicate chamber jazz from one of the most vital and resourceful composers in the music.
3. Mary Halvorson at Le Poisson Rouge
A hard-to-classify jazzish guitarist out of Brooklyn, Halvorson makes witty, surprising music, and the show I saw at Le Poisson Rouge was even better than the CD it was meant to plug.
4. "Die Soldaten"
Bernd Alois Zimmermann's daunting, cacophonic 12-tone opera, majestically staged in the Park Avenue Armory. A brilliant production of a thorny work.
5. Shogu Tokumaru, Exit (CD)
Wonderful, vaguely childlike experiments in sound from an inspired pop doodler. We can consider this my guilty-pleasure choice; it's the CD on this list I play most often.
6. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (CD)
In which the Beach Boys meet the Grateful Dead on a good night. I know that sounds awful. This is not.
7. Hank Williams, The Unreleased Recordings (CD boxed set)
Three full CDs of rare Williams, singing for early-morning radio audiences in 1951. Leon Wieseltier sent me this, and I'm in debt.
8. Jo Lawry, I Want to Be Happy (CD)
A young jazz singer from Australia made a beautiful debut with this warm, swinging album.
9. Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song (CD)
Much hyped and almost worthy of all the praise.
10. Karen Oberlin at the Metropolitan Room
Yes, yes, yes--I'm married to her. But ... should that stop me from saying that her show of Yip Harburg songs was one of the smartest, deepest performances I saw this year?
If so, here's an alternative:
10. Jim Hall and Bill Frisell, Hemispheres (CD)
Duets by simpatico masters from two realms of jazz guitar.
David Hajdu is the music critic for The New Republic.
By David Hajdu