With so many seemingly determined to destroy all that is good in the world, music's ability to provide strength, create hope, invigorate, provoke thought, ignite sparks of imagination and life affirmation, break down barriers and reveal the beauty of human diversity, among many other things, has seemed as important as ever. Here's a list of 20 new releases as well as a handful of old/vault/reissues from the first six months of 2022 (and one from late 2021) that, on one level or another, have managed to do so (Entries kinda, sorta ranked by order of preference, but by no means set in stone):
- Mary Halvorson: Amaryllis (Nonesuch Records) – The terrific band on Amaryllis provides a purposeful, and exciting, thrust to much of the music, coupled with rich textures and solo outings that twist, turn, probe and encircle the blossoming compositions. A stand-out album in what is an already remarkable discography. [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, May. 23., 2022].
- Andrew Cyrille, William Parker, Enrico Rava: 2 Blues For Cecil (TUM Records) – Three masters of modern music pay homage to Cecil Taylor, whom they all have had stints playing with, not by revisiting his music, but by finding common ground along their own, unique paths. Masterfully restrained in their collective expression, the trio avoids sudden outburst or forceful blows in favor of deep reverberation, creating something truly majestic and magnificent in the process. [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, Feb. 31., 2022].
- John Zorn: New Masada Quartet (Tzadik [released late 2021]) – The latest version of the Masada Quartet, now a sax, guitar, bass and drums combo, finds new ways to combine familiar Zorn elements like klezmer, Coleman, drive, propulsion, unruliness, hooks and joy. [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, January 3., 2022].
- Zoh Amba: O, Sun (Tzadic) – My predisposition for sax, bass and drums trios, coupled with my immense admiration for all things William Parker, made me very curious about O Life, O Light, Vol.1, (577 records) by young tenor saxophonist Zoh Amba. And while it showcases her admirably developing a personal voice along a path first traveled by Albert Ayler, on the wonderful, daring O, Sun she reveals a richer, more diverse palette that combines the rough and crude with the delicate and gentle. Album debut of the year (so far). [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, June 13., 2022].
- Alexander Hawkins Mirror Canon: Break a Vase (Intakt Records) – From bits and pieces, as the cover says, the immensely talented pianist and composer Alexander Hawkins and a terrific cast of musicians probe, turn, twist, stretch the compositional framework, at times seemingly breaking it into tiny fragments, only to put it back together in a fascinating, and surprising, ways. [Reviewed for Jazznytt #262, Spring 2022].
- Nduduzo Makhathini: In the Spirit of Ntu (Blue Note) – South African pianist and composer Nduduzo Makhathini's best album to date, which finds him in great company perfecting a synthesis of the rich South African jazz tradition and adventurous, American predecessors like Andrew Hill and Don Pullen. [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, June 20., 2022].
- Jacob Garchik: Assembly (self-released) – A digital only release by trombonist and composer Jacob Garchik (who also plays on the above-mentioned Mary Halvorson album). Music that is full of hooks as it is tricks, establishing a pattern one moment before pulling the rug from under you, and scurrying off in another direction the next. I find it utterly delightful.
- Moskus: Papirfuglen (Hubro) – Few Norwegian ensembles fit the idea of jazz as a toolbox rather than a set of guidelines better than Fredrik Luhr Dietrichson, Hans Hulbækmo and Anja Lauvdal of Moskus. Papirfuglen is further proof of this, where rather than aiming to fully develop melodic, thematic and rhythmic ideas and fragments, they allow the elements to ebb and flow, disappear and reappear, reveling in the music's fragmentary nature, and as such playing up the beauty and wonder of the the unfinished, that which has not not yet been revealed, and the inconclusive. [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, March 21., 2022].
- Erlend Viken, Jo Berger Myhre, Thomas Pohlitz Strønen: Djupet (OK World) – A reworking of Viken's and Berger Myhre's commissioned work for the 2020 Ultima Festival, Djupet weaves and flows through strands of Norwegian folk music, improvisation and electronic dance music, revealing mysticism and depth along the way. [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, March 28., 2022].
- Luke Stewart's Silt Trio: The Bottom (Cuneiform Records) – Following the idea of taking cues from the past in order to move forward, the tireless, brilliant bassist Luke Stewart joins forces with DC saxophonist Brian Settles and ace drummer Chad Taylor, connecting the dots bewteen, among other things, blues tinged landscapes and "fire music" throughout the decades with open mindedness and elasticity. [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, January 24., 2022].
- Myra Melford’s Fire and Water Quintet: For the Love of Fire and Water (RogueArt) [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, April 11., 2022].
- Lisa Ullén, Elsa Bergman, Anna Lund: Space (Relative Pitch Records) [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, March 7., 2022].
- Eri Yamamoto, Chad Fowler, William Parker, Steve Hirsh: Sparks (Mahakala Music) [Reviewed for Jazznytt #263, Summer 2022].
- Oren Ambarchi / Johan Berthling / Andreas Werliin: Ghosted (Drag City)
- Billy Mohler: Anatmoy (Contageous Music)
- Amalie Dahl’s Dafnie: Dafnie (Sonic Transmissions Records) [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, May 16., 2022].
- Max Johnson Trio w/Anna Webber and Michael Sarin: Orbit Of Sound (Unbroken Sounds)
- TEIP Trio: TEIP Trio (Sonic Transmissions Records)
- Emmeluth / Knedal Andersen / Skavhaug Nergaard: The A-Z of Microwave Cookery (Astral Spirits)
- Ches Smith: Interpret It Well (Pyroclastic Records) [Reviewed for Jazznytt #263, Summer 2022].
- Cecil Taylor: The Complete, Legendary, Live Return Concert (Oblivion Records) [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, February 28., 2022].
- Albert Ayler: Revelations: The Complete ORTF 1970 Fondation Maeght Recordings (Elemental Music) [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, May 2., 2022].
- Peter Brötzmann, Milford Graves, William Parker: Historic Music Past Tense Future (Black Editions) [Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet in Klassekampen, February 28., 2022].
- Sirone: Artistry (Moved By Sound)
- Pere Ubu: The Lost Band (Ubu Projex)