This year's "Big Chief Dreaming," Soul Note, from John Tchicai, who played alto saxophone on Coltrane's landmark "Ascension" and Archie Shepp's free jazz classic "Four for Trane," is a CD I would recommend to anyone dubious about, but looking to ease into, freely improvised jazz and to anyone who thinks jazz is stagnant.
It matches "Garage" by The Thing, which I wrote about recently, in its thought-provoking complexity but is more lyrical and accessible. "The Queen of Ra," by guitarist Garrison Fewell, who co-leads with Tchicai, and Fewell's "X-Ray Vision" are a perfect examples of that.
Meanwhile, the interplay among Tchicai on tenor sax and bass clarinet, Fewell and Italian Tino Tracanna on tenor and soprano saxes (he's excellent) is interesting throughout and, bass and drums completing the spare ensemble, needs to be. "Basetto" and "Yogi in Disguise" are highlights. I'm putting this disk on my 2005 favorites list.