The following selection is our definitive “Best Jazz Albums of 2022” list. As you are about to discover, 2022 was another great year for jazz!
First, all the jazz clubs and venues suddenly reopened, and it was possible to see and listen to the music we love and the artists we worship live again! It is hard to believe that less than one year ago, the music scene was non-existent. This is such a relief! Now that we deeply understand the fragility of this ecosystem, it feels important—and even better—to go out and enjoy what is definitely not a given.
Second, the number of astonishing releases was large enough to make it really hard to select only 20 albums! This is great for us: the jazz world survived the pandemic. Now, the jazz world is trying to find a sustainable model for everyone. Ted Gioia has a strong analysis of this matter in The Honest Broker. His projections are somehow positive and encouraging: now that the issues have been pointed out, the solutions should appear. So, let’s all hope for them!
The selection is–as last year–divided into albums featuring solos, duets, trios, quartets, quintets, and larger ensembles, with three selections per category, for a total of 18 albums. We also added one category for “Artist of the Year”, and one for “Archive of the Year”, thereby adding two albums to the final selection, for a grand total of 20 albums that sum up how great 2022 was for jazz:
Bordeaux Concert is Keith Jarrett’s last solo concert in France. It was part of his 2016 world tour, from which ECM already released Munich 2016 on November 1, 2019, and Budapest Concert on October 30, 2020. Here are all the solo concerts from that period.
The concert was held at the Auditorium de l’Opéra National de Bordeaux on July 6, 2016. Keith Jarrett improvised a 13-part suite that was gracefully reviewed by Francis Marmande for Le Monde the following day: “Keith Jarrett levitates in Bordeaux: tense, relaxed, unexpected.” (Review in French).
Jarrett was really pleased with the audience and clearly gave it back. Bordeaux Concert is a beautiful release, and the perfect way to complete your collection. If you never listen to Keith Jarrett, then lucky you! You are about to step into something so amazing!
Keith Jarrett: piano
Release date September 30, 2022
You may know Johan Berthling as part of Angles (3, 9, 10, …), Goran Kajfeš Subtropic Arkestra, or even FIRE!
On Björnhorn, Berthling decided for the first time—after being featured on 100+ recordings—to go solo. The album was beautifully recorded with the help of Daniel Bengtson at his Rymden studio in Stockholm, Sweden, where they had the willingness and the ability to go deep into capturing the whole spectrum of the double-bass sound.
The focus was placed on the listening experience, rather than on any extravagant techniques. The structure of bow/no bow is even noticeable if you hover over the album, and the Haden piece “For Turiya” serving as a midpoint marks how personal this album is, like a deep breath in—or maybe more like a sigh—once you realize how close this song is to his heart.
The structure clearly emphasizes the quality of the composition and the music. The sound is just striking in clarity and depth, as well as darkness. The outcome is astonishing.
Johan Berthling: double bass
Release date May 20, 2022
Here is the recording of a solo concert played on July 7, 2019, in Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan, by Lao Dan (see his Discogs ↗ page). The music is raw, intense, and beautiful, as in many solo saxophone albums we discovered this year. Yet, it offers something extra, something of a unique world, a unique balance of what could be jazz tinged with Chinese folklore, coming partly from the dizi but also from Lao Dan’s roots.
Lao Dan: alto saxophone, dizi
Release date March 1, 2022
(Division 81 Records)
On Cosmic Transitions (2021, Division 81 Records)–which should have ranked 4th on the 2021’s best albums released by a quartet– saw Isaiah Collier and Michael Shekwoaga Ode having a solo exchange; that exchange inspired 2022’s amazing duet release, Beyond.
The opening track featuring Jimmy Chan is relaxed and might mislead you; however, the tempo and intensity start to build beautifully and inexorably from the second track all the way through to the end of the album. The music has the same cosmic focus as Cosmic Transitions, and it looks even further inward to somehow communicate the uncommunicable, the conscience of something that must be beyond what is visible but is made tangible through music.
Isaiah Collier: saxophones, world instruments; Michael Shekwoaga Ode: drums | Featuring Jimmy Chan: gong, singing bowls, world instruments, vocals (track 1)
Release date June 10, 2022
Wadada Leo Smith
The Emerald Duets
“With these artists, I believe I have created a magnificent collection of music, with some unusual moments offering a feeling like nothing I have ever achieved before in a recording. I hope this large project can contribute something unique and make a lasting impact in the literature of duet music.”
–Wadada Leo Smith
On June 21, 2022, Smith received the VISION Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award in a celebratory and expansive concert at Roulette in Brooklyn.
Wadada Leo Smith: trumpet; Pheeroan akLaff: drums (DISC 1); Andrew Cyrille: drums (DISC 2); Han Bennink: drums and percussion (DISC 3); Jack DeJohnette: drums, piano, Fender Rhodes (DISCS 4 and 5)
Release date June 17, 2022
Michael Bisio & Matthew Shipp
Flow Of Everything
10 years after Floating Ice (2012, Relative Pitch Records), here comes Flow of Everything the second studio duet album by Michael Bisio and Matthew Shipp.
On Fundacja Słuchaj‘s webpage, there is the following statement regarding this release: “Nothing says more than listing names of artists! Great bass virtuoso Michael Bisio and legendary piano wizard Matthew Shipp’s second time together.” Yes: this is a beautiful duet piano-bass free-jazz improvisation by amazing musicians who perfectly complement each other-
Michael Bisio: bass; Matthew Shipp: piano
Release date January 21, 2022
Andrew Cyrille, William Parker, Enrico Rava
2 Blues For Cecil
All the music on this album is pure pleasure, procured by amazing musicians who have properly mastered their instruments. Every breath, percussion, and vibration they execute acts like an isolated note celebrating life in its most perfect jazz form, and together, celebrating all the possibilities created by Cecil Taylor.
“The three musicians share one major link in their respective careers. Namely, they all have at different times been members of the Cecil Taylor Unit or other ensembles of the legendary late pianist and bandleader Cecil Taylor. Rava, Parker, and Cyrille first performed together as a trio in a tribute to Cecil Taylor, with Taylor himself present, at the Whitney Museum in April 2016 as part of an exhibit/program under the heading “Open Plan: Cecil Taylor.” 2 Blues For Cecil was recorded on February 1 and 2 at Studio Ferber in Paris following the trio´s concert on December 31, 2020, under the heading “Tribute to Cecil Taylor” as part of the Sons d’hiver festival in Paris.”
— TUM Records
Andrew Cyrille: drums; William Parker: double bass; Enrico Rava: flugelhorn
Release date January 21, 2022
It sounds like the very essence of all their two previous releases was brought to life and developed. The trio is as tight as ever; they are Punkt.Vrt.Plastik unconditionally and purely, playing the music that is so beloved on their studio albums. Their interpretation that evening perfectly captured their energy.
“The album’s “laboratory” aspect demanded that the compositions remain separate, musically “uncontaminated” by one another. Yet clearly, for the musician on stage as for the friendly experiencer, live performance does not behave the same way as an album: it cannot be stopped, started, rewound, shuffled, and so on. Here, then, we witness the trio forging different architectures from those we know from the tunes’ studio incarnations. The tight woven fabric is stretched, and now the light now shines through the fibres.”
–Alexander Hawkins, liner notes
Kaja Draksler: piano; Petter Eldh: bass; Christian Lillinger: drums
Release date March 18, 2022
David Murray Brand New World Trio with Brad Jones and Hamid Drake
When three jazz masters get stuck in south Europe due to a world lockdown, they manage to make the best out of it: they take the opportunity to play together for the first time, to perform a few concerts, and to crystalize this fabulous moment–Seriana Promethea–in a nearby studio.
The music is amazing; the musicians are exceptional; the entire album is just pure pleasure, and it is not even that Seriana Promethea pushed its way into the currently good jazz landscape—no, it seems it just appeared here, in this sunny, joyful, jazzy place, rooted in greatness, far from the public eye, where it just grew up, finally catching us by surprise, but so naturally that we just can’t get enough of it.
David Murray: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Brad Jones: bass; Hamid Drake: drums
Release date May 20, 2022
Rob Mazurek Quartet
Father’s Wing is a tribute to Mazurek’s late father. Through an hour of music dispersed amongst nine tracks, the quartet beautifully connects to the other side.
The four musicians manage to contribute their individuality, and all the power of their instruments, to shape a unique sound that is strongly archaic and filled with a heaviness even as it is alight with sweetness and hope. The mixture of raw acoustics sounds with a touch of electronics is perfectly serving the album. It stirs the feeling of being at the border of two worlds, without knowing which one you are a part of.
Rob Mazurek: piccolo trumpet, electronics, bells; Kris Davis: piano; Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: double bass; Chad Taylor: drums
Release date February 4, 2022
Whit Dickey Quartet
TAO Forms is releasing another gem, astonishing music, inspired by the source:
“I conceived this album off of a vibration that I felt some 15 years ago, while obsessively listening to the title composition of John Coltrane’s Crescent. It began to have mathematical meaning to me. While listening to Crescent and A Love Supreme, I tried to rhythmically anticipate each instrument of the classic quartet — drums, bass, horn, and piano — while keying into the mantra/vibration. I began to hear how each instrument embodied the mantra in subtly different ways. On this album, I came into the studio with a plan to tap into the drum part of the mantra, and let the quartet rise from there. Listening back, I was quite happy with what I heard. I play with lots of deliberate bass drum punctuation, leaving room for inventive thematic development from the Yang frontline of Malaby and Shipp. Drums and bass are comparatively Yin here. The pieces came into sequence naturally in suite form. Out of the devastation of ‘Supernova’ and ‘Doomsday Equation’ comes new life with ‘Swamp Petals’ and ‘Starship Lotus’.”
Whit Dickey: drums, direction; Tony Malaby: tenor saxophone; Matthew Shipp: piano; Brandon Lopez: bass
Release date October 21, 2022
(D)IVO Saxophone Quartet
This album will dry you out. It is intense and somehow brutal, but it offers epic music, thereby fulfilling the highest expectation of free jazz; it is surprising and provocative, but it also enriches the listener’s experience.
It seems impossible to grasp how much talent and inspiration were needed to achieve such perfection in these four saxophones’ alignment, as well as in their non-alignment. How is it possible? Maybe this is like looking up to the celestial bodies gravitating around each other through forces that are elusive to us, and yet there it is, magnificent and—thankfully for us—here for a very long time.
Ivo Perelman: tenor saxophone; Tony Malaby: soprano saxophone; Tim Berne: alto saxophone; James Carter: baritone saxophone
Release date February 18, 2022
Terry Lyne Carrington
New Standards Vol. 1
Did you ever felt it was hard to find sheet music by women jazz artists? Drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, also the founder and artistic director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, just fixed it with the book she has created “New Standards: 101 Lead Sheets by Women Composers” (Berklee Press).
To celebrate this event, here are 11 songs of her selection released on this “New Standards Vol. 1.” It features a dream quintet with Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Kris Davis on piano, Matthew Stevens on guitar, and Linda May Han Oh on bass, plus quite many impressive guests artists!
Terri Lyne Carrington: drums; Nicholas Payton: trumpet; Kris Davis: piano; Matthew Stevens: guitar; Linda May Han Oh: bass
Release date September 16, 2022
For The Love Of Fire And Water
“In the world of improvised music, so-called supergroups sometimes feel almost quotidien. After all, there are so many remarkable artists in the space and understandably, they often want to collaborate. Yet the group that acclaimed pianist and composer Myra Melford has assembled here — with Mary Halvorson on guitar, Ingrid Laubrock on soprano and tenor saxophone, Tomeka Reid on cello, and Susie Ibarra on drums and percussion — invigorates that tired cliche? with fresh meaning. Each has an impressive catalog as a bandleader and collaborator, and Melford had worked with all of them previously, but never together. The result is a gathering of some of the most compelling improvisers working today.”
Myra Melford: piano, melodica; Mary Halvorson: guitar; Susie Ibarra: drums, percussion; Ingrid Laubrock: tenor and soprano saxophones; Tomeka Reid: cello
Release date April 8, 2022
Voices of Bishara
This year, the one-of-a-kind London jazz scene produced another gem. The musicians are exceptional, and the music is edited Makaya McCraven’s way. It is as tight as it is essential. The album is only 27 minutes long, but every powerful second of it counts.
“I took a very liberal approach with the scissors and started going really hard into the edits between instruments. It breathed new life into the music. I was taking my cue from the great disco re-edits, people like Theo Parrish chopping up tunes and looping sections. I’m not a purist. I don’t want to get hung up on the past. It was really empowering to fuck it up a bit, to mess around with the music and see what happened. It felt right.”
Tom Skinner: drums; Kareem Dayes: cello; Nubya Garcia: tenor saxophone, flute; Tom Herbert: acoustic bass; Shabaka Hutchings: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
Release date November 4, 2022
Larger Ensemble Albums
In the Spirit of Ntu
** Album Of The Year 2022 **
It is, quite simply, magnificent. As Makhathini explains perfectly in this very interesting and detailed interview given to Apple Music: “This is me, summarizing my journey. This is the moment for a bird’s-eye view of the recurring themes and dialoguing that’s been taking place.” To say the least, this is a moving and astonishing outcome that manages to pave the way for jazz music’s beautiful future. Yet, while this music appears to be a way forward, it is also the fruitful ground from which all jazz music seems to come.
It is a combination of ancestral heritage and advanced jazz mastery in the making. This album feels so very right like it is connecting with our gut, or our soul, or some kind of hidden intelligence, so deeply rooted in us that we have forgotten it, yet In the Spirit of Ntu manages to find its way to it and massages it through emotional, positive vibrations.
Indeed, quite simply, magnificent, and for sure, the jazz album of 2022.
Nduduzo Makhathini: piano; Linda Sikhakhane: saxophone; Robin Fassie Kock: trumpet; Dylan Tabisher: vibraphone; Stephen de Souza: bass; Gontse Makhene: percussions; Dane Paris: drums | Special guests vocalists Omagugu and Anna Widauer, and saxophonist Jaleel Shaw.
Release date May 27, 2022
Chad Fowler, Ivo Perelman, Zoh Amba, Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Steve Hirsh
Amazing artists for an amazing release! The energy that emanates from this album is truly one of a kind, and to make things even better, Chad Fowler’s record label, Mahakala Music, also released a video documenting the recording of “Sentient Sentiment”↗.
“This record documents our second full day together, presented in order. From soulful balladry to demented rock music to an otherworldly march, the musical tension is palpable throughout. As is, I think, the pure joy of creation that animated our time together.”
Chad Fowler: stritch, saxello; Zoh Amba: tenor saxophone, flute; Ivo Perelman: tenor saxophone; Matthew Shipp: piano; William Parker: bass; Steve Hirsh: drums
Release date November 18, 2022
Two new suites by Mary Halvorson, Amaryllis and Belladonna, released on Nonesuch Records, with amazing musicians playing amazing music.
The suites have been described by the artist as “modular and interlocking.” For this list, we selected Amaryllis, but Belladonna will bring you nearly as much pleasure. Even if the two albums don’t need each other to stand alone, they were still conceived in the artist’s mind as one, with the last two tracks of the first album featuring the string quartet that takes over in the second one.
“Amaryllis features some of my favorite musicians on the planet. I started writing the music in 2020, when the world slowed and most activities came to a halt, and all I had was my guitar, a pencil, some staff paper, and a computer. The pleasure of imagining what the music might sound like kept me sane during that time and gave me a reason to push forward.”
Mary Halvorson: guitar; Patricia Brennan: vibraphone; Nick Dunston: bass; Tomas Fujiwara: drums; Jacob Garchik: trombone; Adam O’Farrill: trumpet | The Mivos string quartet
Release date May 13, 2022
Artist of the Year
2022 has seen Wadada Leo Smith celebrate 80 years with the release of two beautiful box sets on TUM: The Emerald Duets (5 CDs), and The String Quartets Nos 1–12 (7 CDs). However, 2022 has mainly seen three artists taking up much attention through a succession of astonishing releases: Jeff Parker, Mary Halvorsen, and Zoh Amba.
Jeff Parker released Eastside Romp (Rogue Art) and Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy (Eremite Records), while Mary Halvorson released Amaryllis and Belladonna (Nonesuch), as well as her many amazing contributions such as for For the Love of Fire and Water (Rogue Art).
Yet, Bestofjazz.org’s Jazz Artist of the Year 2022 is Zoh Amba, a new voice on tenor saxophone and flute that took 2022 by storm with no less than four releases under her belt:
- O, Sun (Tzadik)
- O Life, O Light Vol. 1 (577 Records)
- Causa Y Efecto (Vol. 1) (577 Records), with Francisco Mela
- Bhakti (Mahakala Music)
All four albums are equally amazing, and it is really hard to select just one. However, we picked O Life, O Light Vol. 1 because it was released on 577 Records, and the label also had an amazing year, giving voice to new talents and impressive experimental albums.
O Life, O Light Vol. 1
“Growing up in the Appalachian mountains, Amba practiced saxophone to the forest that surrounded her home before she later traveled to study with David Murray in New York, and also at the San Francisco Conservatory Of Music & New England Conservatory in Boston. Today, her music is full of folk melodies, mesmerizing refrains, repeated incantations, and powerfully executed Free Jazz reminiscent of Albert Ayler. Her sound is courageous and bold, commanding her instrument with a loving force that soars from muted hums to squeaky trebles, producing a confident sound imbued with spirituality.”
Zoh Amba: tenor saxophone, flute; William Parker: bass; Francisco Mela: drums
Archive of the Year
The Complete, Legendary, Live Return Concert
The Complete, Legendary, Live Return Concert is the full recording of the live performance Cecil Taylor gave in 1973 after a five years hiatus, for which he reunited the Unit members, Jimmy Lyons on alto saxophone and Andrew Cyrille on percussion, plus the addition of Sirone on bass. The concert was recorded at the Town Hall, New York City on November 4, 1973.
The Complete, Legendary, Live Return Concert is a must-have, for the love of Cecil Taylor, of free jazz, unparallel achievements, individuality, and of challenging concepts.
And in a way, it is certainly comparable with Molly’s soliloquy in Ulysses by James Joyce. It is as extreme and demanding, as it is unique and timeless. In this case, all the thoughts of the musicians are thrown at you in a flow intentionally devoid of any structuring elements, unstoppable, frenetic, but delicious: “yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”
Cecil Taylor: piano; Jimmy Lyons: alto saxophone; Andrew Cyrille: percussion; Sirone: bass
Release date February 15, 2022
Best Jazz 2022
- Solo Albums
- Keith Jarrett – Bordeaux Concert (ECM)
- Johan Berthling – Björnhorn (Thanatosis Produktion)
- Lao Dan – Self-destruct Machine (Self-release)
- Duet Albums
- I AM – Beyond (Division 81 Records)
- Wadada Leo Smith – The Emerald Duets (TUM)
- Michael Bisio & Matthew Shipp – Flow Of Everything (Fundacja Słuchaj)
- Trio Albums
- Andrew Cyrille, William Parker, Enrico Rava – 2 Blues For Cecil (TUM Records)
- Punkt.Vrt.Plastik – Zurich Concert (Intakt Records)
- David Murray Brand New World Trio with Brad Jones and Hamid Drake – Seriana Promethea (Intakt Records)
- Quartet Albums
- Rob Mazurek Quartet – Father’s Wing (Rogue Art)
- Whit Dickey Quartet – Root Perspectives (TAO Forms)
- (D)IVO Saxophone Quartet – (D)IVO (Mahakala Music)
- Quintet Albums
- Terry Lyne Carrington – New Standards Vol. 1 (Candid)
- Myra Melford – For The Love Of Fire And Water (Rogue Art)
- Tom Skinner – Voices of Bishara (International Anthem)
- Larger Ensemble
- Nduduzo Makhathini – In the Spirit of Ntu (Blue Note)
- Chad Fowler, Ivo Perelman, Zoh Amba, Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Steve Hirsh – Alien Skin (Mahakala Music)
- Mary Halvorson – Amaryllis (Nonesuch Records)
- Artist Of The Year
- Zoh Amba – O Life, O Light Vol. 1 (577 Records)
- Archive Of The Year
- Cecil Taylor – The Complete, Legendary, Live Return Concert (Oblivion Records)
2022 – New Releases Month by Month
January, February, March, April, May, June, July, September, October, November, and December 2022.
Playlist “Best Jazz 2022”
Listen to our “Best Jazz 2022” playlist with all the monthly new-release selections and excerpts of the above albums (when available) for a total of 120 breathtaking tracks.
Thank you everyone for reading this article!
Thank you to all musicians—whether listed here or not—for creating music!