3. Mulatu Astatke: Mulatu Steps Ahead (2010)
The Ethiopian vibraphonist and composer put out a great record with backing from members of the Boston-based Either/Orchestra and The Heliocentrics from London. The arrangements also include traditional Ethiopian instruments: washint, masenqo, krar, begena. The sounds are startlingly ethereal, especially considering the size of these ensembles. One track lists 18 individual musicians, and yet this is intimate music, music that feels like it could have been made in my living room. I was mightily impressed with the musicality of everyone involved in this record, and it was an easy one to place high on my list of favorites this year.