2006 was unadventurous for mainstream jazz


NEW YORK - Judging by the stasis on the jazz charts from year to year, one would think jazz was in need of resuscitation, a sentiment echoed by the well-intentioned rallying cry "Keep Jazz Alive" that spearheads jazz public-radio fund drives.

But for jazz aficionados who like their music melodically sublime, harmonically sophisticated and rhythmically alert and jarring, the death knell for the idiom rings prematurely. There's still vibrancy in a feast of 2006's forward-looking jazz projects -- none of which charted. As for Billboard's year-end recaps, its deja vu all over again when comparing 2005's rundown with this year.

At No. 1 on this year's Top Jazz Albums chart is "It's Time" by crooner Michael Buble. And the chart-topper in 2005? Buble, of course, with his now-platinum CD.

Jazz players in the trenches could very well be salivating over his sales.

Then again, given the singer's straight-down-the-middle fare, they're probably happy to be right where they are -- even if they sell CDs in the hundreds or thousands versus hundreds of thousands.

Runners-up on this year's recap are, again, familiar names from 2005.

Vocalist/pianist Diana Krall is No. 2 on the Top Jazz Artists recap while three of her albums -- "Christmas Songs," "From This Moment On" and "The Girl in the Other Room" -- rank respectively at No. 2, No. 5 and No. 21 on the Top Jazz Albums recap.

Chris Botti ranks at No. 3 on the Top Jazz Artists tally on the strength of three titles on the year-end Top Jazz Albums recap: "To Love Again: The Duets" at No. 3, "When I Fall in Love" at No. 10 and "Live: With Orchestra and Special Guests" at No. 22.

A significant newcomer to the upper reaches of the year-end roll call is vocalist Madeleine Peyroux, whose new album "Half the Perfect World" winds up at No. 7 on the Top Jazz Albums tally while her 2004 release "Careless Love" is No. 12.

Like last year, jazz titans Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane continue to find strong footing this year with two historic live CDs released in 2005.

"At Carnegie Hall" by the Thelonious Monk Quartet With John Coltrane ranks at No. 6 on the albums recap, and Trane's own "One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note" is No. 24 for.

On the Top Contemporary Jazz Albums recap, there's more monotony. Once again, Kenny G holds down the No. 1 spot, this time with "The Greatest Holiday Classics," and commands three of the top 10: "At Last... The Duets Album" at No. 8 and "The Essential Kenny G" at No. 9.

Significant charting titles that offer considerably more musical depth: Herbie Hancock's jazz-flavored "Possibilities" at No. 2, Kirk Whalum's smart "Performs the Babyface Songbook" at No. 7 and the Rippingtons' "20th Anniversary" at No. 20.