These may not have been the best CDs of the year, but they're the ones I played the most.
1. Pete Belasco, Deeper (Comedia): Sublime falsetto vocals and some of the best sax going. Romantic, mellow, sexy.
2. Chris Botti, When I Fall in Love (Columbia): Botti makes the album he was destined to - romantic, standard ballads. Superb trumpet playing.
3. Peter White, Confidential (Columbia): No one makes sweet acoustic pop sound as smooth as the veteran guitarist.
4. Ronny Jordan, After 8 (N-Coded): Guitarist Jordan mixes his acid-jazz and experimental instinct with smooth pop grooves.
5. Ottmar Liebert, La Semana (SSRI): His first album in a few years, and it's more welcome flamenco pop-jazz. No one better at setting a mood.
6. Norman Brown, West Coast Coolin' (Warner Bros.): No one channels George Benson as well as Brown, who sings and plays as good as the master.
7. Paul Brown, Upfront (GRP): Years of producing No. 1 smooth jazz songs obviously rubbed off for the gutarist and vocalist.
8. Boney James, Pure (Warner Bros.): Boney writes some great music, and knows how to select soulful vocalists to inject some R&B magic.
9. Steve Oliver, 3D (Koch): The guitarist/scatter/singer consistently produces top-notch material that's as memorable as it is listenable.
10. Bob Baldwin, Brazil Chill (A440): This CD is by far the pianist's best. Top-notch playing and a samba swing make this the CD to play to escape by.
There was lots of quality smooth jazz in 2004. Here are some more titles worthy of your collection:
Swing Out Sister, Where Our Love Grows (Shanachie)
Brian Bromberg, Choices (A440)
Renee Olstead, Renee Olstead (143)
Bebel Gilberto, Bebel Gilberto (Six Degrees)
Keiko Matsui, Wildflower (Narada)
Braxton Brothers, Rollin' (Peak)
Euge Groove, Livin' Large (Narada)
Anita Baker, My Everything (Blue Note)
Maximum Grooves, Coast to Coast (Telarc)
Mindi Abair, Come As You Are (GRP)
Jamie Cullum, twentysomething (Verve)
Theo Bishop, Newport Nights (Native Language)
Michael Lington, Stay With Me (Rendezvous)
Torcuato Mariano, Diary (215)
Gerald Albright, Kickin' It Up (GRP)
David Benoit/Russ Freeman, Benoit/Freeman Project 2 (Peak)
Eric Darius, Night on the Town (Higher Octave)
Ed Johnson and Novo Tempo, Movimento (Cumulus)
James Vargas, James Vargas (Trippin 'N Rhythm)
Wayman Tisdale, Hang Time (Rendezvous)
Soul Ballet, DreamBeatDream (215)
Fattburger, Work To Do (Shanachie)
Queen Latifah, The Dana Owens Album (Vector)
Gary Goin, Going Places (Compendia)
Rafe Gomez, The Groove Boutique: Volume One (Tommy Boy)
Vernon Neilly & G-Fire With Mark Whitfield, G-Fire II (Boosweet)
Pavlo, Fantasia (Justin Time)