Best Jazz Albums of 2023

Historic Jazz Music Year: 2022’s Top Albums

The year 2022 saw the genre of jazz continue to evolve and redefine itself, pushing the boundaries and showing up in new forms identifiable only by the most basic strands of their DNA. From Indigenous celebrations to hip-hop fusion, the subcultures within jazz churned out inspired work, with many of the year’s top albums reflecting this diverse and innovative spirit.

1. Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah, ‘Bark Out Thunder Roar Out Lightning’
Formerly known as Christian Scott, Chief Adjuah’s “Bark Out Thunder Roar Out Lightning” is a hard break from traditional jazz, celebrating Indigenous identity, resilience, and resistance. It marks a departure from Adjuah’s usual trumpet-centric style, instead embracing the call-and-response Black Indian repertoire and adding new rallying cries over a unique mix of instruments.

2. Jaimie Branch, ‘Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((World War))’
Jaimie Branch’s third studio record with her quartet, Fly or Die, serves as a rousing and generous parting gift following her sudden passing in 2022. The album showcases Branch’s declarative trumpet style and unrefined-yet-rewarding singing voice, urging listeners to love, agitate, and put themselves on the line.

3. Kassa Overall, ‘Animals’
Kassa Overall’s work blends jazz and hip-hop, delving into themes of romance, selfhood, social programming, and mental Health. Featuring collaborations with artists such as Danny Brown, Nick Hakim, and Laura Mvula, Overall’s unique style seamlessly blends the core elements of jazz and contemporary hip-hop.

4. Ambrose Akinmusire, ‘Owl Song’
Ambrose Akinmusire’s “Owl Song” showcases a transformative year for the artist, incorporating elements of improvisation and open-air arrangements with master musicians Bill Frisell and Herlin Riley. The album captivates listeners with its cozy yet unadorned sessions, featuring eight original tunes.

5. Zoh Amba, Chris Corsano, Bill Orcutt, ‘The Flower School’
Playing from the heart, Zoh Amba’s tenor saxophone work embodies the spirit of avant-garde jazz, combining mordant electric guitar and pummeled drums for a captivating 30-minute musical journey.

6. Jonathan Suazo, ‘Ricano’
Jonathan Suazo’s “Ricano” features a robust Latin orchestra with vocals, a forceful horn section, and multiple percussionists playing instruments from the Dominican and Puerto Rican traditions. Inspired by soul-bop and Puerto Rican jazz hybrids, Suazo’s work captivates audiences with its vibrant and energetic style.

7. Mendoza Hoff Revels, ‘Echolocation’
A captivating display of intense focus and peak intensity, “Echolocation” brings together a talented group of musicians playing at the height of their powers, drawing inspiration from jazz legends and rock pioneers alike.

8. Micah Thomas, ‘Reveal’
Micah Thomas’s third LP showcases the pianist’s acrobatic and modest approach to music, featuring an acoustic trio format that highlights his ability to escalate the action without raising the volume.

9. Matana Roberts, ‘Coin Coin Chapter Five: In the Garden’
Matana Roberts’s ongoing “Coin Coin” series honours the artist’s maternal ancestors through hymn-like songs, modernizing their voices with a mix of strings, horns, and percussion, as well as occasional synths from Kyp Malone, the album’s producer.

10. Enji, ‘Ulaan’
The third release from Mongolian-born singer Enji blends cool jazz with echoes of her home country’s “long song” tradition, creating a unique and unpretentious sound that captures the essence of jazz in a fresh and original way.

This diverse array of albums reflects the continued evolution and innovation within the jazz genre, showcasing its ability to adapt and thrive in new and unexpected forms. Whether through Indigenous celebrations, hip-hop fusion, or avant-garde experimentation, jazz continues to push the boundaries of musical expression and creativity.

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