Jazz Journalists Association
jja_icon82x150.jpg  Member Site / Office
These are the 2023 "Best of Jazz" lists and commentaries compiled by Members of the Jazz Journalists Association. They are displayed in the order received, with the most recent on top. 

It's up to each member to decide what to include in his or her post -- recordings, books, live performances or whatever -- how many choices to include, and how the post will be formatted.

Click the member's underlined name after the date to view that member's profile. You are invited to comment on the posts.


  • 10 Dec 2023 9:32 PM | Wilbert Sostre

    Best 5 Puerto Rico Jazz Albums 

    1. Sammy Figueroa - Searching for a Memory 

    2. Miguel Zenón & Luis Perdomo  - El Arte del Bolero Vol. 2

    3. Bobby Sanabria  - Vox Humana

    4. Carlos Henríquez  - A Nuyorican Tale 

    5. Chembo Corniel - Artistas, Músicos Y Poetas 

  • 10 Dec 2023 9:20 PM | Christopher Burnett

    Jazz Artistry Now | JAN Best of 2023

    JAN Editor Christopher Burnett’s favorite albums of 2023 list, with audio embeds, and reasons why. 10+1 favorite albums released in 2023 featuring the work of Seula Noh Jazz Orchestra, Johnathan Blake, Darcy James Argue, Patrick Cornelius, David Binney, Darden Purcell, Logan Richardson, Florian Arbenz, Greg Osby, Arno Krijger, The Count Basie Orchestra, Mikkel Ploug, Mark Turner, Matt Otto, Enzo Carniel, Hermon Mehari...

  • 08 Dec 2023 6:51 PM | Ralph A. Miriello
    My List of best in no particular order:
    • Billy Childs: The Winds of Change: Mack Ave Records
    • Nick Finzer: Dreams, Visions, Illusions: Outside in Music
    • Kenny Barron: The Source: Artwork Records
    • Tyshawn Sorey Trio: Continuing: PI Records
    • Rudy Royston & Flatbed Buggy: Day: Greenleaf Music
    • John Scofield: Uncle John's Band: ECM
    • Chris Potter: Got the Keys to the Kingdom: Edition Records
    • Gretchen Parlato and Lionel Loueke: Lean In: Edition Records
    • Steve Lehman and the Orchestre National De Jazz: Ex Machina: PI Records
    • Ralph Towner: At First Light: ECM
    • Sullivan Fortner: Solo Game: Artwork Records
    • Brad Turner: The Magnificent: Cellar Music Group
    • Denny Zeitlin: Crazy Rhythm Exploring George Gershwin: Sunnyside Records
    • Michael Blake: Dance with the Mystic Bliss: PM Records
    • Champian Fulton: Meet Me at Birdland: Champian Records
    • Brian Blade Fellowship Band: Kings Highway: Stoner Hill Records
    • Chuck Owens with the WDR Big Band: Renderings: Mama Records
    • Art Hirahara: Echo Canyon: Positone Records
    • Ryan Keberle & Collectiv Do Brasil: Considerado: Alternate Side Records
    • Pat Metheny: Dream Box: Modern records/BMG
    • Sammy Figueroa: Searching for a Memory: Ashe Records
    • Loren Stillman: Time and Again: Sunnyside Records
    • Nicole Zuraitis: How Love Begins: Outside in Music
    • Ambrose Akinmusire: Owl Song: Nonesuch Records
    • Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Dynamic Maximum Tension: Nonesuch Records
    • Mark Turner Quartet: Live at the Village Vanguard Giant Steps Arts
    • Claire Daly w/Geroge Garzone: Vu Vu for Francis: Self-Produced
    • Jim Snidero featuring Kurt Rosenwinkel: Far, Far Away: Savant Records
    • Geri Allen & Kurt Rosenwinkel: A Lovesome Thing: Motema Music
    • John Ellis Quartet: Bizet: Carmen in Jazz: Blue Room Music
    • Cecile McLorin Savant: Melusine: Nonesuch Music
    • Langren, Wollny, Danielsson, Haffner:4 Wheel Drive II: ACT Records
    • Michael Dease: Swing Low: Positone Records
    • Miguel Zenon & Luis Perdomo: El Arte Del Bolero Vol 2: Meil Music
    • J.D. Simo Trio: Songs from the House of Grease: Self-Produced
    • Rachel Ekroth: Humanoid: Sam First Records
    • Blue Cranes: My Only Secret: Butcher Records
    • Joshua Redman with Gabrielle Cavassa: Where We Are: Blue Note Records
    • Walter Smith II: Return to Casual: Blue Note Records
    • Rob Luft: Dahab Days: Edition Records

    Best Historical Releases:

    • Pharoah Sanders (live from 1977): Pharoah: Luaba Bop Records
    • John Coltrane w/Eric Dolphy: Evenings at the Village Gate: Impulse Records
    • Wes Montgomery/Wynton Kelly Trio: Maximum Swing: The Unissued 1965 Half Note Recordings: Resonance Records
    • Bill Evans Trio: Live in Copenhagen 1965: Elemental Music
    • The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Live from the Northwest: Brubeck Edition

    Best Debut Album: Jonathan Suazo: Ricano: Ropeadope

  • 08 Dec 2023 11:32 AM | Rob Shepherd

    Here are my ten favorite new albums of 2023. A full write-up on each of these, as well as my selections for numbers 11 through 25 can be found at PostGenre.


    1. Susan Alcorn and Septeto Del Sur - Canto (Relative Pitch

    2. Steve Lehman & Orchestre National de Jazz - Ex Machina (Pi)  

    3. James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet - For Mahalia, With Love (Tao Forms)

    4. Angel Bat Dawid - Requiem for Jazz(International Anthem)

    5. Anna Webber - Shimmer Wince (Intakt)

    6. John Zorn and Bill Laswell - Memoria (Tzadik)

    7. Wadada Leo Smith and Orange Wave Electric: Fire Illuminations (Kabell)

    8. Ingrid Laubrock - Monochromes (Intakt)

    9. Brandon Seabrook Epic Proportions- Brutalovechamp (Pyroclastic)

    10. Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, Shahzad Ismaily - Love in Exile (Verve)


    1. Various Artists - WaJazz: Japanese Jazz Spectacle Vol. II - Deep, Heavy and Beautiful Jazz from Japan 1962-1985 - The King Records Masters (Universounds) 

    2. Abdul Wadud - By Myself (Gotta Groove)

    3. John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy - Evenings at the Village Gate (Impulse!)


    Cautious Clay - Karpeh (Blue Note)


    Miguel Atwood-Ferguson - Les Jardins Mystiques (Vol. 1)  (Brainfeeder)


    Susan Alcorn and Septeto Del Sur - Canto (Relative Pitch)

  • 05 Dec 2023 4:36 AM | David Adler

    New Releases:

    Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Dynamic Maximum Tension (Nonesuch)

    Sullivan Fortner, Solo Game (Artwork)

    Angelica Sanchez Nonet, Nighttime Creatures (Pyroclastic)

    JD Allen, This (Savant)

    Daniel Santiago & Pedro Martins, Movement (Heartcore)

    säje, säje (säjevoices)

    Kris Davis, Diatom Ribbons: Live at the Village Vanguard (Pyroclastic)

    Lesley Mok, The Living Collection (American Dreams)

    Steve Lehman & Orchestre National de Jazz, Ex Machina (ONJ)

    Linda May Han Oh, The Glass Hours (Biophilia)


    Hasaan Ibn Ali, Reaching for the Stars: Trios/Duos/Solos (Omnivore)

    Sonny Stitt, Boppin’ in Baltimore: Live at the Left Bank (Jazz Detective)

    Luis Russell, At the Swing Cats Ball: Newly Discovered Recordings from the Closet, Vol. 1 1938-1940 (Dot Time Legends)


    säje, säje (säjevoices)


    Lesley Mok, The Living Collection (American Dreams)


    Sofia Rei & Jorge Roeder, Coplas Escondidas (Cascabelera)

  • 03 Dec 2023 7:00 AM | Gene Seymour
    • There’s been so much wonderful music out and about this year that I could have easily plucked a few more from my runners-up without losing any sleep. (A motif to which, as with others baked into this year’s blog, we shall, in roundabout manner, return.) And not to sound like a broken record, as it were, but you wonder why with so much talent and achievement coming from so many directions and from so many generations, jazz remains an afterthought, a marginal presence in the global marketplace. Unless I’m mistaken, nobody’s yet asked Esperanza Spalding – sorry, esperanza spalding – to headline a Super Bowl halftime show. Or even an NBA All-Star Weekend.  At least, she headlines this list, or, more accurately, shares top billing.

                  But then, I often wonder whether music, any music, has much of a place in people’s lives these days. If whatever I’ve been seeing lately on Saturday Night Live’s musical guest shots are any indication, presentation and fashion are what matter more than whatever sounds are being made. (I know, I know, whatever the hell am I doing watching Saturday Night Live lately in the first place? Can’t blame COVID anymore, even if it doesn’t seem to have gone away after all…) So maybe it’s no longer just jazz –whatever people believe it to be – that’s getting hit in the face; it’s all the other genres that are now all merely boutiques. There are now college curricula in Hip-Hop History in case you haven’t heard.

                  Maybe this explains why lately I’ve been thinking about the way past generations, including mine, used to buy records. Briefly: you went to whatever outlet or department store had people you could trust, and you hung out, browsed, and maybe something was playing in the background that made you go, “What’s that?” The people you trusted were happy to not only tell you, but bring out a fresh copy of the thing that turned our head and you decided you needed to take this “ride” home. And then you shared it with other people who trusted you and maybe if there were little people in your house, they would hear it and start getting ideas…

                  My origin story. If you’re reading this, it’s probably yours, too.

                  I don’t know what the equivalent of this process is today unless you count tweets and Bandcamp messages in whatever in-box you reserve for such intelligence. I only know it’s not the same and neither is the world that make those earlier, more haphazard encounters possible.

                  All I know is that the Good Stuff still somehow makes it out and about. Think of me, then, as that guy in the department store or record outlet – whatever that is – tilting his head at the turntable in the corner. Like that? There’s some more over here…





    • 1.)   Fred Hersch & esperanza spalding, Alive at the Village Vanguard (Palmetto) – You need to give this one to the wisenheimers in your life demanding to know what’s so special about jazz, or even what jazz is. It’s possible these people at least remember hearing Barack Obama profess affection for Spalding while he was still president; maybe they’ve heard or even seen live performances of her varied bands showcasing her upright bass, acrobatic vocals, and varied ensembles. For this bare-bones live set at jazz’s Holy Dive with the redoubtable pianist Hersch, Spading left her bass at home and what results from their collaboration – which I’ve been labeling “Herschsperanza,” and try and stop me from obtaining a copyright! – may be the grandest, most insurgent act of her still-ascendant career. Traditional pop standards are blown up, rewoven, and all-but terraformed into audacious counter-narratives through the interaction of Hersch’s polymorphic variations and Spalding’s serpentine, uproarious digressions. From Ira Gershwin’s lines of “But Not For Me” (“I was a fool to fall and get that way/Hi-ho, alas, and also lack-a-day”), Spalding extrapolates the following strain of vocalese: Oh, me. Oh, my. What a sad case I seem to be. It's my fault, letting love to lead the way. I should know that there'll be skies of gray. I can't say I've seen too many, but they say that Russian plays do boast of many gray skies, all right - and then some words I don't really understand because it's, like, old English - hi-ho, alas, and lackaday. That's how I feel, confused about the whole situation…” She carries this willed ingenuity into smart-alecky battle against Bobby Troup’s ring-a-ding lyrics on Neal Hefti’s “Girl Talk, which in her hands becomes a twelve-minute proto-feminist interrogation of male presumptiveness, at one point, veering into issues of “economic sustainability. Reduce, Reuse. Recycle…Am I lying?” while still riding the song’s theme and changes as if she were on a thoroughbred leading the Preakness by a length-and-a-half. Charlie Parker’s “Little Suede Shoes,” in like fashion, weaves a dream of dancing in suede shoes just as Hersch’s “Dream of Monk” becomes, with Spalding’s vocals, a clarion call for diligent, if circumspect weirdness. These tracks were culled from a three-night engagement, and I bet those in attendance felt as you will when this album ends: wishing these two crazy kids never stop.

    • 2.)   Matthew Shipp, The Intrinsic Nature of Shipp (Mahakala) –Three years ago, Shipp wrote an intriguing essay/manifesto, “Black Mystery School Pianists” (Monk, Herbie Nichols, Mal Waldron, Andrew Hill, Hassan Ibn Ali, to name a few examples) who each cultivated willfully idiosyncratic styles constituting “the subconscious of the jazz idiom…a secret code, passed through an underground way of passage, a language outside the mainstream.” Shipp’s own body-of-work over the last quarter-century so exemplifies this subversive counter-tradition he’s defined that it’s tempting to think of him as its apotheosis, especially when weighing the considerable assets of this latest solo album, which could be a kind of hypertext to his essay. The performances here feel at once more expansive and more challenging than usual. While he can still pile on the tone clusters with his customary intensity, as on the aptly named “Crystal Structures,” Shipp here lets more air and space flow and settle in his thematic extensions as with the graceful and intricate “That Vibration” and in his enigmatic montage of fugitive riffs on “The” – yes, that’s what it’s called and whatever mood he’s in, there abides in Shipp a punkish “what’s-it-to-you” impertinence hat, oddly and appropriately, makes him more endearing, whether  he’s throwing down the sledgehammer on “The Bulldozer Poetics” or letting his ruminative side reach for deeper, wider tonal combinations on “Tune Into It.” Shipp cherishes his “Mystery School” progenitors for giving him permission to be as mad, bad, glad, and unpredictable as he wants, and needs, to be. However far he continues to expand on this tradition (and there’s a lot about this album that suggests a transition, even a breakthrough), this school won’t close with him. And times being what they are, I think the school will only increase its enrollment because there’ll always be outliers in America’s backyards and basements searching, as Shipp once did, for affirmation that it’s not only O.K. to be as weird as Thelonious, Herbie, and the rest, it’s necessary.
    • 3.)   Jason Moran, From the Dancehall to the Battlefield (Yes) – Visionary badass James Reese Europe (1881-1919) helped make the American Century possible, though you likely never heard of him. He journeyed from his native Alabama to New York in his early 20s to write and conduct show music, then organized the Clef Club, an ambitious collective of Black musicians, whose dance orchestra, 125 members strong, performed a significant recital at Carnegie Hall. His ensembles bent the angularities of ragtime closer towards the looser, more propulsive syncopations shaping the jazz to come. He fought in World War I and organized the 369th Infantry Band, better known as the “Hellfighters.” He hadn’t been back home in Harlem for very long before he was stabbed to death, at just 38, by a drummer incensed with the boss’s criticisms of his on-stage deportment. You would think that a legend of this magnitude yielded dozens of contemporary tribute albums by now, if not a whole Netflix series. But you would also figure that Moran, an artist of comparable vision, would leap to the forefront of an eclectic parade in Europe’s honor, carrying the Hellfighter’s legacy across the century by seamlessly fusing Europe’s arrangement of “Ballin’ the Jack” with the late Geri Allen’s rousing standard “Feed the Fire.” A similar, even greater melding of different eras is executed with Europe’s paean to fallen soldiers, “Flee as a Bird to Your Mountain” transitioning to Albert Ayler’s “Ghosts” with solicitousness and intelligence towards both forms of 20th century modernism. Throughout, Moran’s wide-ranging pianistic gifts and crafty showmanship honors tradition and extends its possibilities with neither undue solemnity nor gratuitous flourish and his various ensembles, anchored by longtime trio mates bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits and including David Adewumi on trumpet, Reginald Cyntje and Chris Bates on trombones, Logan Richardson on alto sax, Brian Settles on tenor sax, Darryl Harper on clarinet, José Davila (about whom more later) on tuba, acquit themselves on “Clef Club March,” “Castle House Rag,” “St. Louis Blues” and “That Moaning Trombone” with discipline and energy that would have mightily pleased the demanding Europe. (Available on vinyl and from Bandcamp.)
    • 4.)   Henry Threadgill Ensemble, The Other One (PI) – The best jazz book I read this past year is Easily Slip Into Another World (Knopf), Threadgill’s autobiography, written with Brett Hayes Edwards. If you only knew Threadgill’s music, for which he’s already received the Pulitzer Prize, you could have surmised he had an extraordinary life. But…wow! Growing up musical in Chicago and helping create the seminal Association for the advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) before touring with an evangelical preacher in the mid-1960s and then heading off to Vietnam, hoping to survive jungle combat and racism…And even these experiences, however vividly rendered, are no less significant than all his spellbinding insights into modernism, improvisation, and using time and space to extend harmonic possibilities. Not that you couldn’t retrieve some of those same insights from listening to this three-movement composition, “On Valence,” conducted by Threadgill, rendered by an arresting 12-member combination of musicians, including pianist Davis Virelles, violinist Sara Caswell (about whom more later), violist Stephanie Griffin, cellists Christopher Hoffman and Mariel Roberts, and Threadgill’s longtime tuba player Jose Davilo. Even bassoonists Sara Schoenbeck and Adam Cordero are given opportunities to break off into their own intricate, elegantly woven musings. The 16-minute “Movement II” is a tour-de-force of roiling, extemporaneous interplay of the string section with saxophonists Alfredo Colón, Noah Becker, and Peyton Pleninger Each movement and subsection can be heard as episodes in an edge-of-the-seat pursuit thriller and its myriad arcane pleasures may be more accessible. But then, even at its most abstract and inscrutable, Threadgill’s music, in any configuration, finds a way of inviting you in. At the precipice of 80, Threadgill’s compositional powers seem, if anything, more formidable than ever. And as both his book and this album prove, he’s a helluva storyteller, too.
    • 5.)   Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Dynamic Maximum Tension (Nonesuch) – So let’s see: Buckminster Fuller, Levon Helm, Mae West, Bob Brookmeyer, Alan Turing…The far-flung subject matter for this wild and, yes, somewhat wooly program of inspirational big-band adventures comes across like a code waiting to be deciphered. Indeed, the first track on the second disc, a tribute to Turing, whose genius helped break down the Nazis, is entitled “Codebreaker” and its opening bars dare you to write out whatever combination of words and numbers its beat is tapping out – except you’ll be too busy digging that beat to care whether it means anything or not. The pleasures are constant, the inventions surprise. “Dymaxion,” a portmanteau of the album title, was coined by Fuller the merry futurist and the rhythmic mischief makes you alert to possibility and transfiguration throughout from “All In,” a tribute to charter Secret Society member Laurie Frank, to “Last Waltz for Levon,” which honors the memory of the late drummer for The Band to “Wingèd Beasts,” whose silky, tendril-like design is reminiscent of Brookmeyer’s arrangements for Gerry Mulligan’s big bands. Elsewhere, Cecile McLorin Salvant (about whom more later) drops by for “Mae West: Advice,” to have her impudent fun with Paisley Rekdal’s dada-like lyrics mimicking La West’s saucy bon mots (“…date a cad and canoodle/be éclat on a cot…”) As brainy as Argue’s music is, thematically and conceptually, it never fails to hit and sustain a solid groove, even on the epic, near-35-minute “Tensile Curves,” an anthology of tension-release motifs, time signatures, and riff extensions inspired by Duke Ellington’s “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue.” Once again, you’ll be tempted to take the track apart, shove its fragments beneath an ontological microscope, and probe for methodology by virtue of its sheer dimension. But as with everything else in this bountiful, sunny exhibition of relentless virtuosity and cheeky intelligence, you’re better off just letting the orchestrations wash over and carry you along with its most of its mysteries intact and undisturbed. Not for nothing, after all, does Argue’s 18-piece aggregation roam the Earth as a “Secret Society.”

    • 6.)   Cecile McLorin Salvant, Mélusine (Nonesuch) – She keeps raising the stakes on her range of expression, her repertoire, and her conceptual prowess, both as a vocalist and as a maker of albums. Once again, she shows her fearlessness in not doing the same thing twice with this daring, almost imposing array of French chanson and other music woven around the record’s eponymous half-woman-half-serpent mythic figure from the 14th century. (The short version: she turned into a dragon and flew away after her duplicitous lover came upon her snake-like part.)  The song cycle fashioned to tell her story begins with “Est-Ce Ainsi Que Les Hommes Vivent” (“Is This the Way Men Live?”) with lyrics by Louis Aragon and music by Leo Ferre, which is followed closely by Charles Trenet’s “La Route Enchantée” and eventually to Mélusine posing the musical question, “Dites Moi Que Je Suis Belle” (“Tell Me I’m Beautiful”), carrying echoes of Salvant’s “Look at Me” from her 2015 For One to Love. Which is as good a prompt as any to how the singer’s gifts as a composer meld so seamlessly with those of the French composers she honors here, most especially in the startlingly gorgeous title song, which she performs bilingually with only Daniel Swenberg’s acoustic guitar as backup. It would be tempting to say that Salvant, like her heroine here, has taken flight it weren’t for the fact – yes, an irrefutable fact – that she is already her own mighty legend, soaring several hundred miles above any vocalist in any medium you can name.
    • 7.)   Sara Caswell, The Way to You (Anzic) – One of those cases where a seasoned, resourceful instrumentalist is matched with a first-rate supporting cast (vibraphonist Chris Dingman as special guest star!) and a far-flung itinerary of genres and styles. And what you get is an album that refuses to sit quietly on the shelf all year long. Caswell’s clear tone, fluid dynamics, and agile phrasing on the violin is something you needed all year round, whether to paint sonic landscapes you can imagine drifting by your car window (“South Shore”), pull your coat in frisky, breathless give-and-take on a crowded dance floor (“7 Anéis”), tear off an aromatic slice of classic hard bop (“Voyage” by Kenny Barron – about whom more later), or bathe the senses in balladry, by turns probing (”Stillness”), impassioned (“O Que Tinha De Ser,” “On the Way to You”), and pastoral (“Warren’s Way”). Caswell led her working quartet of bassist Ike Sturm, drummer Jared Schonig, and guitarist Jesse Lewis for a project that, if the album notes are to be believed, took 17 years to put together. She’s very busy; her dance card has names like the aforementioned Threadgill, Spalding and Argue, and prominent jazz bandleaders crowded all along the genre waterfront in pursuit of her services. I speak here only for myself, but I hope it doesn’t take as long for a follow-up to materialize, even though I don’t expect to get tired of this one.
    • 8.)   Kenny Barron, The Source (Artwork) – The first thing to mention is the gorgeous acoustics. I’ve never actually been to the Théâtre d’Athenéé in Paris, but after diving deep into this solo recital countless times over the past year, the place is as familiar to me as my family’s basement rec room (where, by the way, I first heard Barron’s piano comping on Joe Henderson’s 1967 album, The Kicker.) As with his immediate surroundings, Professor Barron conveys an imposing, but expansive familiarity in his playing. And yet, as much as you think you may already know about the Strayhorn-Ellington standards, “Daydream” and “Isfahan,” Barron burrows deep within the contours of their melodies rather than spin into virtuosic inventions. The corners, this approach insists, is where you find the gold. He also reasserts his primacy as an interpreter of Monk’s music, speaking fluent Thelonious (while remaining his elegant. dryly romantic self) on “Teo” and “Well, You Needn’t.” But it’s in Barron’s own beautiful and haunting compositions where what once seems familiar is transformed into something you never heard before. “Dolores Street, SF” comes across a landscape huge enough to contain both possibility and loss and he has you on the edge of your seat wondering how, or if, it reaches resolution. The Brazilian-inflected “Sunshower” has a different, downward trajectory that puts for its own bittersweet lyricism while the jocular “What If?” and the eerie “Phantoms” are reinvigorated by Barron’s authoritative progressions. The master, all told, is in wondrously durable voice and leaves you waiting for more surprises, alone or with others.


    • 9.)   Anat Fort Trio, The Berlin Sessions (Sunnyside) – The world as we know it has been all too much with Israeli pianist Fort, who was forced by the 2020 lockdown to be separated from bassist Gary Lang and drummer Roland Schneider after two decades of working together. Two-and-a-half years later, they reunited in Munich for a one-time gig and then headed for Berlin’s Hansa Studios to release what was apparently a metric ton of pent-up energy. In these sessions, you hear the joy, relief, and exuberance in being able to let chance take its course and play freely with whatever ideas and phrases materialize in their shared space. “First Dance” sets off a four-part, 16-minute suite of reacquaintance that gives the group a chance to loosen up, pitch, catch, and spin off each other’s ideas and, as the cliché goes, it’s as though they’ve never been away each other. Once they’re settled in, the trio settles in for another series of pieces written by Fort and inspired by pieces of eastern art at New York’s Rubin Museum, making “The Jain Suite” its own gallery of insinuating harmonic and tonal designs. The reunion spills over into another disc with a rollicking blend of Fort originals (“Wish Cloud,” “Fire Drill Blues”), a matched set of old (“All the Things You Are”) and (relatively) new (“Just The Way You Are”) pop standards delivered with conviction and affection, and even a little something from Level 42 (“The Sun Goes Down”) What made this trio session stand out so starkly from others released this year are two meditative pieces that seemed especially affecting given the violent upheavals in Fort’s homeland: “Oseh Shalom,” a rendition of composer Nurit Hirsh’s prayer for peace and “The World as a Human Being,” which comes across as both a somber lament for squandered opportunities and a defiant plea for renewal and resolution. At least, that’s what I heard. But, as a listener, I’m part of this collaborative process, too.


    • 10.)           Allen Lowe & the Constant Sorrow Orchestra, In the Dark (ESP) – These three discs celebrate (if that’s the right word) a more arduous recovery process. Lowe, a protean composite of saxophonist, bandleader, archivist, producer, composer, sound engineer, musicologist, cultural historian, and gadfly (still not sure whether he altogether approves of my using that last one) has had to somehow persevere through these myriad vocations while undergoing more than a dozen operations for cancer, including surgery for removal of a tumor from his sinus. This left Lowe with a debilitating case of insomnia in which he was at best able to doze for minutes at a time, said times being as early at 5 a.m. or as late as, well, 5 a.m. Throughout this harrowing time, Lowe somehow kept writing and composing music and, with the help of his faithful and highly adaptable musician friends – pianist (and fellow musicologist) Lewis Porter, clarinetist Ken Peplowski, altoist Aaron Johnson, drummer Rob Landis, bassist Kyle Colina, trombonist Brian Simontacchi, trumpeter Kellin Hannas, and baritone saxist Lisa Parrott – assembled a formidably eclectic bounty of recordings that manage to evoke several traditions of jazz and blues in ways that sound both cutting edge and mischievously retro in the manner of Lowe’s previous projects. (In case you need it, there’s even a tango called “Velasco’s Revenge.”) Scattered throughout are compositions prefaced by “In the Dark” suggesting they were written at those midnight-or-later hours when he couldn’t sleep. The rest of those titles suggest his moods of those moments; on the one hand, there are “Night Terrors,” “Tears,” and “; on the other, there’s “Dance of the Apparitions” and “Elvis Don’t you Weep.” Along with the tributes to Eric Dolphy, Barry Harris, Jelly Roll Morton, and Duke Ellington, there are other crafty gnomish tunes with such crafty gnomish titles as “Kickin’ the Bucket,” “Innuendo in Blue,” “Blues for Old Jews,” and “Do You Know What It Means to Leave New Orleans,” the latter of which could be a teaser for his long-awaited Louis Armstrong project. Yes, he’s working as you read this, despite the ongoing physical challenges and, lest one forget, he sounds pretty good on his tenor saxophone for somebody who’s been through as much as he has.




    HONORABLE MENTION: Tyshawn Sorey Trio, Continuing (PI), Myra Melford’s Fire & Water Quintet, Hear the Light Singing (RogueArt), Christian McBride’s New Jawn, Prime (Mack Avenue), Brad Mehldau, Your Mother Should Know: Brad Mehldau Plays the Beatles (Nonesuch), Kris Davis’s Diatom Ribbons, Live at the Village Vanguard (Pyroclastic), Orrin Davis, The Red Door (Smoke Sessions) Craig Taborn, Joëlle Léandre, Mat Maneri, hEARoes (RogueArt). 




    Fred Hersch & esperanza spalding, Alive at the Village Vanguard (Palmetto)

    Cecile McLorin Salvant, Mélusine (Nonesuch)

    Luciana Sousa & Trio Corrente, Cometa (Sunnyside)




    Miguel Zenon & Luis Perdomo, El Arte del Bolero, Vol. 2 (Miel Music)

    Luciana Sousa & Trio Corrente, Cometa (Sunnyside)

    Arturo O’Farrill, Legacies (Blue Note)




    Kurt Rosenwinkel & Geri Allen, Lovesome Thing (Motema)

    Ahmad Jamal, Emerald City Nights: Live at the Penthouse 1966-1968 (Jazz Detective)

    Sun Ra & His Arkestra, Jazz in Silhouette: Expanded Edition (Cosmic)

  • 30 Nov 2023 1:39 PM | Sanford Josephson

    Best of 2023 in no particular order

    Terell Stafford Between Two Worlds (Le Coq)

    Benny Benack Third Time's the Charm (La Reserve/Bandstand Presents)

    Sean Mason The Southern Suite (Blue Engine)

    Bill Mays Autumn Serenade (Sunnyside)

    Lafayette Harris, Jr. Swinging Up in Harlem (Savant)

    Jocelyn Gould Sonic Bouquet (Jocelyn Gould Music)

    Noah Haidu Standards (Sunnyside)

    Eric Alexander: A New Beginning-Alto Saxophone with Strings (HighNote)

    Isaiah J. Thompson The Power of Spirit (Blue Engine)

    Emmet Cohen ft Houston Person (Bandstand Presents)

    Diego Figueiredo My World (Arbors)

    Count Basie Orchestra Basie Swings the Blues (Candid)

    Kenny Barron The Source (Artwork Records)

    Joe Alterman Plays Les McCann: Big Mo and Little Joe (self-produced)

    Danny Jonokuchi Big Band Voices (Outside in Music)

    Mariel Bildsten Steppin' Out (Outside in Music)

    Mike LeDonne and Eric Alexander The Heavy Hitters (Cellar Music Group)

    Miki Yamanaka Shades of Rainbow (Cellar Live)

    George Coleman Live at Smalls Jazz Club (Cellar Music Group)

    Adam Birnbaum Preludes (Chelsea Music Festival Records)

    Aaron Diehl & the Knights Zodiac Suite (Mack Avenue)

    Louis Hayes Exactly Right (Savant)

    Lucy Wijnands Something Awaits (self produced)

  • 30 Nov 2023 10:23 AM | Virgil Mihaiu

    Among the festivals I was able to attend in 2023, I note first of all Montenegro’s JAM (=Jazz Appreciation Month), organised by Maja Popovic throughout that country during April. Its highlight was the concert by the marvellous group TRIGON, founded in Chisinau (Eastern Moldova) in 1992, and which continues to be active ever since under the direction of viola-virtuoso Anatol Stefanet.

    Last spring I participated, as an emcee, in the Jazz in Church Festival, organized in the premises of the Evangelical Church in Bucharest by Cristian Moraru. A revelation of this festival was the recital of a "Eurasian" duo, made up of graceful Japanese performer Mieko Miyazaki, on the traditional instrument koto, and French saxophonist Franck Wolf.

    In June I was invited by Romania's Federation of Jewish Communities to participate in the 120th anniversary of Dadaism-coryphaeus Victor Brauner (b. Piatra Neamț 1903 - d. Paris 1966), which took place in the Baal Shem Tov Wooden Synagogue of Piatra Neamț. The main organiser was writer Emanuel Nadler, custodian of this Synagogue dating back to the Middle Ages. My contribution consisted in presenting CONSTRUCT, an artistic documentary film by Sorin Iliesiu about Marcel Iancu, close friend of Brauner and Tristan Tzara (the three of them launched the Dadaist movement in Zurich in 1916). The picture’s avant-garde-cum-free jazz soundtrack was conceived and performed by Andrei Tanasescu as a solo piano suite.

    Other memorable events: the tenth edition of the excellent Jazz Festival in the Bran Mediaeval Castle, located in southern Transylvania/central Romania (with Lia Doru Trandafir, Paul Tutungiu, Alex Priscu as deserving managers); the impressive recitals given by Azerbaijan’s Rain Sultanov/soprano sax & Shahin Novrasli/piano in some Transylvanian locations; the Romanian tour of Triosence led by pianist Bernhard Schuler, a group nicknamed "the New Faces of German Jazz" (organiser: Ciprian Moga); the 32nd edition of the Festival managed by Johnny Bota at the Timisoara Philharmonic; the Retracing Bartok concert performed by John Surman, Mat Maneri, Lucian Ban & Brad Jones in Timisoara (European cultural capital in 2023); the masterful recital of American vibraphonist Eldad Tarmu - together with bassist Johnny Bota and Hungarian drummer Gyorgy Jeszenszky – at Cluj’s Sala Urania. It was an emotional reunion, after at the beginning of the century Eldad had been a teacher for five years in Timișoara at Romania’s first Jazz Faculty. Last but nost least, two enticing performances by the Duo Alex Harding/bar s & Lucian Ban/p & el-p, put on by Thomas Mendel in Ban’s home-city Cluj.

  • 30 Nov 2023 5:15 AM | Jeroen de Valk

    My favorite albums for 2023 are, in no particular order: 

    - SUN RA / 'Paradiso 1970 Amsterdam' (Nederlands Jazz Archief) 

    - CHET BAKER / 'Blue Room' (same) 

    - TEUS NOBEL / 'After Hours' (TNMCD) 

    - VINCE MENDOZA & METROPOLE ORKEST / 'Olympians' (Modern Recordings/BMG) 

    - FRED HERSCH/ESPERANZA SPAULDING: 'Alive at the Village Vanguard' (Palmetto Recordings) 

    all the best, Jeroen de Valk / www.jeroendevalk.nl 

  • 29 Nov 2023 3:30 PM | Anonymous member

    My favorite 20 albums for 2023.

    • Áron Tálas - New Questions, Old Answers
    • ARTEMIS - In Real Time
    • Ben Wendel - All One
    • Billy Childs - The Winds of Change
    • Bobby Sanabria - Vox Humana
    • Chuck Owen - Renderings
    • Clark Sommers - Feast Ephemera
    • Darcy James Argue - Maximum Dynamic Tension
    • Hugues Mayot & L'Arbre Rouge - Invocations
    • Jalen Baker - Be Still
    • Kenny Barron - The Source
    • Lakecia Benjamin - Phoenix
    • Lauren Henderson - Conjuring
    • Leon Foster Thomas - Calasanitus
    • Nicole Zuraitis - How Love Begins
    • Peter Somuah - Letter to the Universe
    • Sammy Figueroa - Searching For A Memory (Busco Tu Recuerdo)
    • Tim Garland & Jason Rebello - Life to Life
    • Vince Mendoza - Olympians
    • Walter Smith III - return to casual

    Read my summary for the year in Jazz on 33third.org

© Jazz Journalists Association
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software