013: My favorite jazz albums of 2022!
A wide-ranging selection: folkloric influences and field recordings, South African spiritual jazz, New Age meditations, roving live sets, spacey grooves, and more.
I had hoped to get this out before we entered 2023, but it didn’t shake out that way – and that’s okay! As with my general list of 2022 favorites, I’ve eschewed traditional rankings in favor of chronology; I like the path it creates through time. I compiled this list for myself and all of you, but also for the 17th Annual Jazz Critics Poll. The 2022 results haven’t been updated yet but I linked it anyway in case anyone wants to explore previous years.
As always, thanks for reading and following! I love you all.
Jeremiah Chiu & Marta Sofia Honer, Recordings from the Åland Islands (International Anthem, March 11) • Listen.
If I hadn’t decided to write a separate jazz list, this album would have easily appeared in the general one. But even though I decided to put it here, this exquisitely dreamy music skirts the idea of genre altogether. Jeremiah Chiu and Marta Sofia Honer use modular synths, viola, piano, organs, and field recordings taken on the Åland Islands in the Baltic Sea to create impressionistic music that hums with texture, a transportive and elemental experience.
Tumi Mogorosi, Group Theory: Black Music (Mushroom Half Hour/New Soil, July 8) • Listen.
This album, led by South African drummer-composer Tumi Mogorosi, is brilliant and revelatory, deep spiritual jazz with a phenomenal choir. (More choirs in jazz, please!) Guitarist Reza Khota endeared me almost immediately, tiptoeing toward a Sonny Sharrock-esque explosiveness that is my preferred form of jazz guitar.
Rich Ruth, I Survived, It’s Over (Third Man Records, August 12) • Listen.
Ecstatic, spacey, groovy jazz. A bit of an outlier in terms of style for Third Man, I would’ve guessed this to be an International Anthem release. RIYL Joe Henderson’s 1974 The Elements (my favorite record of his and one of my favorite albums of all time), Eddie Hazel’s rock guitar, and zoning out.
Makaya McCraven, In These Times (Nonesuch/International Anthem, September 23) • Listen.
Percussionist-composer Makaya McCraven just gets better and better. I selected Deciphering the Message for my 2021 jazz list, a brilliant execution of beat-building with classic Blue Note tracks. This record has been much longer in the making, eleven expansive songs that were created over the course of 7+ years. Ambitious and expressive, In These Times is uniformly excellent and a striking artistic statement. My favorite collaborator on the album is harpist Brandee Younger, whose Somewhere Different also appeared on my 2021 jazz list.
Mali Obomsawin, Sweet Tooth (Out Of Your Head Records, October 28) • Listen.
My favorite debut of the year! Composer and arranger Mali Obomsawin plays bass and hand drum but they also sing, and their voice lends this music an even deeper, more resonant power. The album is infused with Obomsawin’s background as a member of the Abenaki First Nation; my favorite track is “Wawasint8da,” a Catholic hymn depicting Jesus’ descent into Hell to save non-Catholic souls, translated from Latin into the Abenaki language by early French Jesuit priests who lived among them. As befitting such a topic, the music is gorgeous chaos in the vein of Albert Ayler. RIYL Matana Roberts and Yazz Ahmed!
Jeff Parker ETA IVtet, Mondays at The Enfield Tennis Academy (Eremite Records, October 28) • Listen.
Jeff Parker rules; I interviewed him over Zoom about Suite For Max Brown and he had to stop for a moment to make his daughter lunch and it was really sweet! He’s almost too prolific to keep up with, but I’m so glad that I decided to spend time with this one. This collection of live free improv, compiled from 10+ hours of two-track recordings made between 2019 and 2021, has a hypnotic, roving quality that brings krautrock to mind – kosmische jazz!
Surya Botofasina, Everyone’s Children (Spiritmuse Records, November 4) • Listen.
Surya Botofasina was a student of Turiyasangitananda (Alice Coltrane) and grew up in the Sai Anantam Ashram; his mother is the harpist Radha Botofasina, who was also a disciple of Turiyasangitananda. (She is one of his collaborators on this album, too.) This heady background shaped Botofasina well, as "Surya's Meditation" is a New Age masterpiece and "Beloved California Temple" is gorgeous piano-driven cosmic jazz.
Tom Skinner, Voices of Bishara (International Anthem/Brownswood Recordings/Nonesuch, November 4) • Listen.
You might know drummer Tom Skinner from Sons of Kemet (Shabaka Hutchings plays tenor sax and bass clarinet on Voices) or the Smile (yes, the Radiohead one). (He also performed on Greenwood’s soundtrack for The Master, which I only mention because that movie rules and I need to rewatch it.) Voices of Bishara is a stunner, pulling in the groove, spirit, and artistry of various jazz traditions to say something new, which is both hard and cool. “Red 2” is the track that made me stand up straighter, majestically mournful in a cinematic way.
Patricia Brennan, More Touch (Pyroclastic Records, November 18) • Listen.
I’ve been following Patricia Brennan ever since I had the pleasure of interviewing her for the fourth issue of Maggot Brain. She is a vibraphonist/marimba player whose work is scintillating, haunting, playful, imaginative, and incredibly fresh. Her album Maquishti was my favorite jazz debut last year; 2022’s More Touch is just as fantastic.
Balance, Conjure (Two Rooms Records, December 9) • Listen.
The brilliant sax/piano duo Balance is the apogee of contemporary Detroit jazz. (You can learn a bit more about pianist Michael Malis and saxophonist Marcus Elliot in two pieces I wrote for Metro Times a few years ago: an interview in advance of the release of their first album, which is also excellent, and another story previewing a performance of theirs at the Detroit Public Library, which remains to this day one of my favorite live jazz experiences.) One of the reasons I love Detroit so much is its impressive legacy of independent jazz and these two composers are not only keeping the torch alive, but igniting it with gentle strength and elegant creative power.
In lieu of listing even more great albums from 2022, check out the 250+ comments on this wonderful thread instead.
P.S. How are the living legends of jazz this cute? (Ron Carter posted this photo with Herbie Hancock, taken by his wife Quintell Williams Carter, yesterday.)