Best Jazz Albums Of 2022

2022 started off really well. A bunch of great albums came out in January, including alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins’ The 7th Hand; bassist Luke Stewart’s The Bottom; the Matthew Shipp/Michael Bisio duo Flow Of Everything; 2 Blues For Cecil by the trio of trumpeter Enrico Rava, bassist William Parker, and drummer Andrew Cyrille; John Zorn and Bill Laswell’s first collection of duos, The Cleansing; and Historic Music Past Tense Future, an archival recording by Peter Brötzmann, Parker, and Milford Graves. I hosted a streaming event on New Year’s Day, the Burning Ambulance Festival, that included performances from bassist William Parker, saxophonists Muriel Grossmann, Rodrigo Amado, and Patrick Shiroishi, pianist Lisa Ullén, drummer Gard Nilssen’s trio Acoustic Unity (see the list below), and many other musicians from the worlds of jazz, avant-garde improv, noise, and electronic music. In February, my book Ugly Beauty: Jazz In The 21st Century, which I’d spent most of 2021 writing, came out. The year held incredible promise.

And in fact, it turned out to be a very strong year for jazz. There were a lot of major deaths, unfortunately; we lost saxophonists Pharoah Sanders, Charles Brackeen; trumpeter Jaimie Branch, pianists Ramsey Lewis, Fred Van Hove, cellist Abdul Wadud, organist Joey DeFrancesco, vibraphonist Khan Jamal; and three key figures from Miles Davis’s electric era: bassist Michael Henderson, percussionist James Mtume, and Betty Davis, the funk singer who introduced Miles to Jimi Hendrix, changed his personal style, and inspired two key albums, Filles de Kilimanjaro and Bitches Brew. But every month saw a string of impressive albums that pushed the music forward, and key reissues and archival releases, the most notable of which, for me anyway, were Cecil Taylor’s The Complete, Legendary, Live, Return Concert At The Town Hall NYC November 4, 1973, Albert Ayler’s Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings, the Pyramids’ AOMAWA: The 1970s Recordings, and bassist Sirone’s Artistry.

Writing this column all year allowed me to talk to some brilliant musicians and folks working in and around jazz, including saxophonist Nubya Garcia; Markus Müller, author of a history of the FMP label; pianist Nduduzo Makhathini; Moor Mother; Thyrone Tommy, director of the movie Learn To Swim; drummer, educator, and activist Terri Lyne Carrington; bassist Eric Revis; and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt. Their thoughts and perspectives gave me a lot to think about, and expanded my own ideas about jazz — I hope they did the same for you.

But let’s get to it. Here are the best jazz albums of 2022, and 10 runners-up, listed alphabetically.

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