From the hundreds of hours (willingly) spent listening to Jazz this year, I’ve come up with some of my favorite albums that caught my ear and gave me the most pleasure dj’ing and shedding more light on the artists and their albums. I highlighted some of todays Jazz artists who continue to move the genre forward, through their own unique style, and are also students of Jazz. Here are my top 5 favorite albums of 2022. Class is in session.
1: Todo Es, Elemento
Based in Seattle, WA, and Jazz Caliente favorites, the influences of Todo Es’ 2nd album Elemento range from the Latin Jazz of Cal Tjader and Charlie Byrd to Brazilian Samba and Bossa Nova, interpreted through their unique instrumentation: Rebecca Garcia – vocals; Daniel Miller – guitar; Stephen Yamada-Heidner – vibraphone and steel drum; Dan Hensley – trumpet and flugelhorn; Tor Dietrichson – percussion; and John Lilley – acoustic and electric bass. A large repertoire of original material combines Afro-Cuban, Caribbean and Brazilian sounds with contemporary improvisation as heard on their recent album Elemento: a breezy 55 minute stroll through Brazil. WARNING: Their music has been known to cause spontaneous dancing. Listen to ‘Elemento’ here!
2: Blues & Hues New York, Clifford Lamb, Weberworks 2022
Ever hear the sound and fortitude of New York City played by someone based in Oakland, California? That’s what pianist Clifford Lamb does on his 2nd album for his Blues & Hues series, in which he explores, through music, the cultures of the different cities where the group of artists record. The first was done in New Orleans. The bulk of this current project was finished in New York, with Carl Allen on drums, Christian McBride on bass, Wayne Escoffery on sax and Jeremy Pelt on trumpet.
3: Uptown in Orbit, Emmet Cohen, Mack Avenue 2022
2022 was a very busy year for the young pianist, Emmet Cohen. Since his debut Mack Avenue release Future Stride, Cohen has toured the world consistently – bringing the joy of music to people in need during a global pandemic — all while hosting weekly livestream concerts from his home in Harlem, NY. These livestreams provided a sense of community and a home to the displaced musicians of New York, reminiscent of the 1920s rent parties. On Uptown in Orbit, his sophomore release for Mack Avenue, Cohen brings the tradition of jazz to the forefront while providing the modern twist needed for the current times. Featured on this release is trumpeter/educator Sean Jones, saxophonist Patrick Bartley, bassist Russell Hall and drummer Kyle Poole.
4: In These Times, Makaya McCraven, Nonesuch 2022
Easily the most unique album I’ve heard all year. A fitting adjective that describes “beat scientist” and drum master, Makaya McCraven. Although this album is “new,” the truth it’s something that’s been in process for a very long time, since shortly after he released his International Anthem debut In The Moment in 2015. Dedicated followers may note he’s had 6 other releases in the meantime, but In These Times is the album McCraven’s been trying to make since he started making records. And his patience, ambition, and persistence have yielded an appropriately career-defining body of work.
5: Linger Awhile, Samara Joy, Verve 2022
One of the freshest voices in todays Jazz scene, and simply not because of her age. Samara Joy is a truly a throwback singer. At just 22 years old, her Verve debut Linger Awhile shows that with a voice, tone, and phrasing that harkens back to the most legendary jazz vocalists, Samara belongs in the company of iconic label-mates from Ella Fitzgerald to Sarah Vaughan to Billie Holiday. Samara is remarkably savvy on TikTok and Instagram, fostering a community of devoted followers through fully organic means. She is poised to be a household name, synonymous with timeless jazz music.