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Jazzwise Albums of the Year 2023

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    Posted: 21 Dec 2023 at 6:06am

 With the world still recovering from the traumas of the pandemic – now overshadowed by two bloody wars, not to mention the ever-worsening climate crisis – it’s little wonder there’s a deep sense of catharsis, reflection and experimentation running through Jazzwise's 2023 Albums of the Year.

Topping the New Releases chart, Joshua Redman’s collaborative album spotlights the beguiling vocals of Gabrielle Cavassa and provides a necessary and bewitching balm in troubled times. It struck a chord with many writers – as did the daring creativity of three extraordinary women musicians: Cécile McLorin Salvant, Lakecia Benjamin and the sadly-departed Jaimie Branch. Shakti’s swansong too, is a memorable example of their transcendent, unique take on Indo-jazz fusion.

As always, each writer submits their top 10 choices in both categories, with 10 marks given for a number one, down to one point for a number 10, then we do the math!

Albums of the Year: Nos 1-20...

1

Joshua Redman

where are we

Blue Note

‘The New Orleans-based, Californian-bred vocalist Gabrielle Cavassa is quite a sensation, someone who sounds like she could have been influenced by Portishead’s Beth Gibbons as well as Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan... What is something of a diversion for Redman turns into one of the unexpected big hits of 2023.’ Selwyn Harris

Read the Jazzwise review

2

Cécile McLorin Salvant

Mélusine

Nonesuch

'Beautifully recorded at The Bunker Studio and Brooklyn Recording, Brooklyn, Salvant continues to confound and delight at every turn.' Peter Quinn

Read the Jazzwise review

3

Lakecia Benjamin

Phoenix

Whirlwind Recordings

'Since her 2012 debut Retox Benjamin has been an impressive soloist with the chops to hold the biggest of stages, but, as this accomplished release proves, she has the equally important ability to make records in which socio-political content sits very well with musical nouse. Like the magical creature that is born of the ashes, Benjamin is on metaphorical fire...' Kevin Le Gendre

Read the Jazzwise review

Jaimie Branch

Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war))

International Anthem

'This album is a superb addition to a small but brilliant legacy: as a final statement, they don't come much better than this. It's a glorious listen, rather than the melancholy one I expected...' Kevin Whitlock

Read the Jazzwise review

5

Shakti

This Moment

Abstract Logix

'McLaughlin's western heritage shows him integrating the well-tempered scale and the harmonies that flow from it into to the harmony implied by raga, and at one point even weaving a couple of mischievous blue notes into the flow, while Mahadevan's voice, steeped in the complexities of Konokol, goes beyond anything heard before in jazz, with moments that can only be described as ‘high-tech scat’. This is my Album of the Year, since it is one of the finest albums of the last quarter-century...' Stuart Nicholson

Read the Jazzwise review

6=

Tyshawn Sorey

Continuing

Pi Recordings

'Very few jazz piano-trios in that long-honed method's brilliant history can have played with quite this spellbinding equilibrium of understatement and simmering power...' John Fordham

Read the Jazzwise review

6=

Espen Eriksen with Andy Shepherd

As Good As It Gets

Rune Grammofon

'Playing a set of seven Eriksen originals, Eriksen’s song writing ability often gets overlooked, but his compositions draw the listener into his music, his melodies finely tuned to stimulate those areas of the brain implicated in reward and emotion...' Stuart Nicholson

Read the Jazzwise review

8

Brad Mehldau

Your Mother Should Know: Brad Mehldau Plays The Beatles

Nonesuch

"Mehldau’s highly expressive touch and use of rubato and dynamics are nothing less than exemplary and unexpected twists add a new dimension to the material without abstracting the original songs. It’s a recipe that’s likely to satisfy both jazz lovers and fussily dedicated Beatles fans alike." Selwyn Harris

Read the Jazzwise review

9=

Hedvig Mollestad

Weejuns Weejuns

Rune Grammofon

'This live double album captures the trio improvising extensively, with written-in hooks and riffs keeping the three oriented. But otherwise, the trio race and rail against each other, urging yet often contemplative...' Andy Robson

Read the Jazzwise review

9=

Bobo Stenson

Trio Sphere

ECM

"This session – made at Lugano’s Italian-Swiss radio studio – catches the immediacy of a group that approaches every session afresh, yet demonstrates years of shared understanding of one another’s playing." Alyn Shipton

Read the Jazzwise review

9=

Johnathan Blake

Passage

Blue Note

'Running through this varied and absorbing record are Johnathan Blake’s reflections on and tributes to his late father, the violinist John Blake Jr, who died in 2014. After a solo drum memory of fellow percussionist Lawrence Leathers, the band launches into ‘Passage’ which has a long alto solo by Wilkins at its core, but an equally strong and direct contribution from Virelles...' Alyn Shipton 

Read the Jazzwise review

12=

Mette Henriette

Drifting

ECM

"Drifting may remind you of a dream, or an embrace, or a preoccupied woodland wander a lot more than a wild bop-blasting night in a jazz club, but that's what the unique Mette Henriette is all about." John Fordham

Read the Jazzwise review

12=

BlankFor.ms/Jason Moran/Marcus Gilmore

Refract

Red Hook Records

'This is trio music hinged on the immediacy of a finger on a laptop as well as a piano, and, as is the case in the work of roughly comparable artists, such as Gerald Cleaver, Ikue Mori and Tyondai Braxton, man and machine appear to be as close as body and soul...' Kevin Le Gendre

Read the review

14=

Ambrose Akinmusire

Beauty Is Enough

Origami Harvest

'Courageous, creative work from an artist who continues to boldly grow in stature...' Kevin Le Gendre

Read the review

14=

Rob Luft

Dahab Days

Edition

'Luft has already reached the point where his lush, melodic music sounds like no one else’s. It’s neither cautious nor introspective. Instead, it encourages us to look outwards, freed from time and place, to be continually inspired by curiosity and optimism. The whole album is a thrilling voyage of discovery...' Peter Jones

Read the review

14=

Billy Valentine and the Universal Truth

Billy Valentine and The Universal Truth

Flying Dutchman/Acid Jazz

'Valentine has gone into classic 1970s soul territory with an album that is classily helmed...' Kevin Le Gendre

Read the review

17=

Pat Metheny

Dream Box

BMG

'This album is an unqualified success and an important addition to his distinguished discography...' Stuart Nicholson

Read the review

17=

James Brandon Lewis

Red Lily Quartet “For Mahalia, With Love “

Tao Forms

'Playing a repertoire associated with Mahalia Jackson, arguably the greatest exponent of the Negro spiritual tradition, Lewis captures the intensely emotive character of timeless standards such as ‘Let My People Go’, but most importantly, has found a personal route into this very specific vocabulary...' Kevin Le Gendre

Read the review

17=

Matthew Halsall

An Ever Changing View

Gondwana

'In Halsall’s jazz, the dancefloor and the meditative retreat merge in mutual rhythmic recognition...' Nick Hasted

Read the review

20

Alex Hitchcock Dream Band

Live In London

Whirlwind Recordings

'It’s impossible to do justice in a short review to a long album as varied and richly satisfying as this. Suffice to say that the composer is an unabashed modernist. He has developed the knack of writing tunes whose shape is hard to discern at first, but which gradually assume recognisable form as they approach the end...' Peter Jones

Read the review

from www.jazzwise.com



Edited by snobb - 21 Dec 2023 at 6:10am
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