Top 10 CDs of the 1990s

in alphabetical order

1)8 Bold Souls, SIDESHOW (Arabesque Jazz AJO103) [from 1991]. Led by mult-reedist Ed Wilkerson Jr., this Chicago octet runs through Wilkerson's memorable compositions by mixing the speed of a small group with the color of a big band.

2)Fred Anderson, CHICAGO CHAMBER MUSIC (Southport S-SSD 0043) [from 1996]. Two CDs worth of the pioneering AACM founder/tenor saxophonist working out with two trios. Passionate, committed playing that belies his 69 years.

3)Peter Brötzmann, THE CHICAGO OCTET/TENTET (Okka Disk OD12022) [from 1997]. Bombast at its best, the brawny German reedist leads this mostly American, horn-heavy aggregation through a three CD program that could melt the amps of any so-called heavy metal band.

4)Urs Leimgruber/Jöelle Léandre/Marilyn Crispell/Fritz Hauser, QUARTET NOIR (Victo cd067) [from 1998] Interplay at its finest. Recorded live at Quebec's Festival International de Musique Actual de Victoriaville, it shows what happens when an American pianist (Crispell) and a French bassist (Léandre) add their talents to two (German)s to create a completely otherworldly slice of free improvisation.

5)Myra Melford, ALIVE IN THE HOUSE OF SAINTS (hat Art CD 6136) [from 1993]. No shrinking violet, pianist Melford bangs out her own modern compositions with the strength you would expect from a 1920s boogie-woogie pioneer, followed every step of the way by bass and drums.

6)Pino Minafra, SUDORI (Victo CD 034) [from 1995] A six piece supergroup, this band highlights the state of Italian jazz in the 1990s: bluesy, zany, humorous, percussive and romantic. Trumpeter Minafra's band is one reason his country has become the one to watch for new directions during the next century.

7)William Parker & In Order To Survive, THE PEACH TREE (Aum Fidelity AUM 10/11) [from 1997/1998]. A quartet that epitomized the evolving free jazz tradition. Made up of powerhouse bassist Parker, drummer Susie Ibarra, saxophonist Rob Brown and unheralded, but magnificent, pianist Cooper-Moore, IOTS should have been as popular as the Dave Brubeck Quartet, if the rest of the jazz world ever put aside the 1950s for the 1990s.

8)Ivo Perelman, EN ADAIR:TRADITIONAL JEWISH SONGS (Music & Arts CD 996) [from 1996]. The incendiary Brazilian tenor saxophonist took an unsentimental look at his roots aided and abetted by Parker, Crispell and drummer Gerry Hemmingway. By doing so he proved that material from any tradition can be transformed into throbbing, ecstatic intensity in the right hands.

9)Glenn Spearman, THE FIELDS (Black Saint 120197-2) [from 1994]. A link between the 1960s and the 1990s, tenor saxophonist Spearman, who died of cancer last year, showed that vital, ear-wrenching music could be made on the West Coast. With his double trio of two saxes, two drums, bass and piano, this "suite" is as exhilarating as "Ascension" or "Free Jazz".

10)Cecil Taylor, QU'A LIVE AT THE IRRIDIUM VOL. 1 (Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1092) [from 1998]. The master architect of free jazz recorded this disc more than 40 years after from his first record. With sympathetic sidemen like free-bassist-of-choice Dominic Duval, barreling along to keep up, the pianist shows that at 70 he can still turn up the heat and breaks through into the stratosphere.