Yoko Miwa Trio
This year’s Live at Scullers Jazz Club was pianist Yoko Miwa’s fifth album since 2001, and it shows why she’s become a favorite at clubs around town: the lyricism and harmonies of Bill Evans, the funky drive of Oscar Peterson, and something all her own. That something is most evident in her original, “Wheel of Life,” with its circular structure matching the title, and a wistful melody touched by both elegiac sadness and regenerative optimism. Miwa also has a knack for unlikely covers: Aerosmith’s “Seasons of Wither” and the Velvet Underground’s “Who Loves the Sun,” both of which are given convincing turns as jazz standards. A former classical music student at Kobe Conservatory in her home town, she came to Boston to study at Berklee in 1997 after getting bitten by the jazz bug. Listening to Miwa with her fine longtime trio (bassist Greg Loughman and drummer Scott Goulding) makes us glad she decided to stick around.
Runners-Up: Jason Palmer, Agachiko, Brian Carpenter’s Ghost Train Orchestra