Ahmad Jamal

Cem Kurosman

What defined the conversation around jazz this year? There’s no simple answer to that question, but trying is always a worthwhile struggle ­— especially in the company of my fellow jazz critics, who devote most of their waking hours to the subject.

Pianist Ahmad Jamal started his career as a child prodigy, moving on to quartets and then trios as his main voice for expression. The world would know about Ahmad with the 1958 LP Live At The Pershing, featuring the runaway jukebox hit "Poinciana." At 86, Ahmad Jamal is still expressing a vibrancy — this time with a love letter to an iconic city in Southern France, pulled together with longtime bassist James Cammack, drummer Herlin Riley and worldly percussionist Manolo Badrena.

Jean Marc Lubrano

Two brilliant pianists. Two ebullient Cubans. Two intrepid young Englishmen. Two lovable standards, in new colors. The math may not seem to add up in this edition of Take Five, but the music — five winning tracks from as many different acts — most certainly does. (But who's counting, anyway?)