More than a decade after his death, The Chairman of the Board remains a heavy hitter on the charts. Frank Sinatra occupies two slots within the Top Traditional Jazz Albums chart for 2009: “Seduction: Sinatra Sings of Love” (Frank Sinatra Enterprises/Reprise) was No. 7 on that year-end chart, and “Live at the Meadowlands” (Frank Sinatra Enterprises/Concord) sits at No. 11. He was the fourth bestselling traditional jazz artist of the year, on the strength of seven posthumous releases spanning six different imprints.
And his influence looms yet larger: As was true for several years running, the traditional jazz genre was fully dominated by vocalists, all of whom in some way draw upon Sinatra's blend of jazz chops and pop appeal. Listings 1 through 13 represent either singers or pianists best known as vocalists, such as Diana Krall (“Quiet Nights,” on Verve/VG) and Harry Connick, Jr. (What a Night! A Christmas Album,” on Columbia/Sony Music). Two trumpeters round out the list, through albums buoyed mightily by star-powered vocals: Wynton Marsalis shows up at No.14 via sustained enthusiasm for his collaboration with a familiar voice, Willie Nelson, (their “Two Men With the Blues,” on Blue Note/BLG was No. 5 last year). And trumpeter Chris Botti's “Italia” (Columbia/Sony Music), at No. 15, enlisted the services of singers Andrea Bocelli, Paula Cole, and even, through posthumous sampling, Dean Martin).
If there is a current chairman, in terms of traditional jazz sales, it's Michael Buble, who tops the chart for the third year running. His 2007 release, “Call Me Irresponsible” (143/Reprise/Warner), maintained its hold at No. 1 for two years, and his “Crazy Love” was this year's pacesetter.
Botti and singer Melody Gardot were notable for crossover achievements. Botti straddled the traditional jazz and contemporary jazz album charts, his “Chris Botti: In Boston” topping the latter list. Gardot, a singer whose “Worrisome Heart” landed at No. 7 on last year's traditional jazz chart, and whose “My One and Only Thrill” came in at No. 10 this year (both on Verve/VG), also took the 15th slot on the Smooth Jazz Songs with “Who Will Comfort Me.” After Botti, the contemporary jazz albums chart was largely dominated by seasoned veterans, from Boney James at No. 2 and Kenny G at No. 3 through George Benson at No. 10, though young bassist/singer Esperanza Spalding's star continued to rise: Her self-titled Heads Up debut landed at No. 7 last year, this year rising to No. 4. Meanwhile, sales for Herbie Hancock's “River: The Joni Letters” (Verve/VG) continued to flow: With an unexpected 2008 Grammy Award for “Album of the Year” no doubt feeding its current, the 2007 release climbed from No. 10 on 2007's Top Contemporary Jazz Albums chart to No. 1 in 2008, and this year came in at No. 13.
Columbia topped the Traditional Jazz Album Imprints tally with 9 charting titles, and Concord extended its reign on the Top Contemporary Jazz Labels chart with 16 charting titles and top sales in the category. Concord's traditional jazz imprints also combined to score 27 charting albums in 2009, coming in at fourth in overall sales on that chart. Heads Up seemed most attuned to the smooth jazz pulse, with 14 charting songs and top spot among the imprints on that chart.
For 2009, it seems, the song remains the same: Vocalists rule the jazz charts.
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