We’re now five um, three days into January, so all of the backward glancing and assessing of 2013 is supposed to be over with—but I’m perpetually behind in such matters. Next week I’ll finally post my 40 favorite albums, regardless of genre, of 2013. (You can all exhale!) But before I get to that I thought I’d go ahead and list my ten favorite albums of jazz and improvised music led by Chicagoans. (One of my fave jazz albums of last year was Circuitous and four of the band’s five members were local, but since the leader, pianist and composer Pandelis Karayorgis, is from Boston, it seemed wrong to include that here.) In theory, jazz recordings are merely fleeting documents of what musicians do live in front of audiences, but when I glance at my ballot for NPR’s jazz critics poll there’s a surfeit of composerly writing and meticulous arrangement. These are qualities that don’t turn up as much in Chicago jazz, where immediacy, improvisation, and edge feel like essential traits. For that reason some of the recordings might not offer the same richness of the more studio-oriented albums—that’s not a criticism, but it is the reason I felt compelled to recognize these terrific efforts here. Check them out after the jump.

1. Keefe Jackson’s Likely So A Round Goal (Delmark)
2. Wheelhouse, Boss of the Plains (Aerophonic)
3. Joshua Abrams Quartet, Unknown Known (Rogue Art)
4. Ken Vandermark’s Resonance Ensemble, Head Above Water (Not Two)
5. Matt Ulery’s Loom, Wake an Echo (Greenleaf)
6. Graham Stephenson & Aaron Zarzutzki, Touching (ErstAEU)
7. Rob Mazurek Octet, Skull Sessions (Cuneiform)
8. Ken Vandermark Topology Nonet, Impressions of Po Music (Okka Disk)
9. Clark Sommers, Ba(SH) (Origin)
10. Ari Brown, Groove Awakening (Delmark)

Today’s playlist:

Eyvind Kang, Grass (Tzadik)
Paul Desmond, Pure Desmond (CTI/Masterworks Jazz)
Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet, Apparent Distance (Firehouse 12)
Yabby You & Brethren, Deeper Roots: Dub Plates & Rarities 1976-1978 (Pressure Sounds)
Sam Pluta, Machine Language (Carrier)