The Top Ten Jazz Albums of 2022

Celebrating yet another year of supreme sonic innovation

Mary Halvorson (Image: Nonesuch)

In our post-genre world, a musician well-versed in jazz’s skill set possess the ability to work in whatever style they please.

But to perform jazz at the highest level requires utter dedication from all involved. The players on this list are the best of the best. One unifying theme is their ability to blend the traditional with the avant-garde.

That tension between the harmonious and discordant, between swing and free imbues these records with an addictive quality that cannot be underestimated.


10. Mark Turner Return to the Stars (ECM)

Saxophonist Mark Turner reconvenes his quartet and releases his latest on ECM, a label he’s called home since 2009’s trio recording Sky and Country. Return to the Stars possesses the meditative quality one would expect from the label, but there’s an underlying sophistication that demands the listener’s attention.



9. Immanuel Wilkins The 7th Hand (Blue Note)

For his sophomore album, Immanuel Wilkins channels Coltrane as both a spiritual and musical mentor. This is no cheap imitation though, Wilkins continues to develop his own voice and seems to foreshadow a brilliant career to come.



8. Melissa Aldana 12 Stars (Blue Note)

From winning the Monk competition to a Grammy nomination, Melissa Aldana has skyrocketed in to the jazz worlds upper echolons. Despite her well-deserved renown on the saxophone, she has more to offer than just virtuosity. 12 Stars is just as much about composition as it is chops, but both aspects reward repeated and deep listening.



7. Tyshawn Sorey Trio Mesmerism (Yero7)

Best known for his avant-garde work, including the sprawling triple-album Pillars, drummer/composer sidesteps expectations with Mesmerism, a piano trio album packed full of standards. Yet it is a testament to Sorey’s mastery that this album feels just as vital as his more outre work.

Tyshawn Sorey Trio Mesmerism, Yero7 2022


6. Jeff Parker Eric Revis Nasheet Waits Eastside Romp (Rogue Art)

A trio with no leaders, Parker, Revis, and Waits perform with a telepathy that is hard to explain given that they’ve never played together before. They nimbly dance between soul and skronk, always one step ahead of the listener.

Jeff Parker Eric Revis Nasheet Waits Eastside Romp, Rogue Art 2022


5. Nate Wooley and Columbia Icefield Ancient Songs of Burlap Heroes (Pyroclastic Records)

Trumpeter Nate Wooley reassembles his all-star ensemble to once again contemplate nature on a monolithic scale. Ancient Songs of Burlap Heroes transcends genre and sees ambient and field recordings smashing head-on against free improv to construct a powerful record that doesn’t sound like it was made by humans.



4. Mostly Other People Do the Killing Disasters, Vol. 1 (Hot Cup Records)

Moppa Elliot’s long-standing subversive jazz ensemble has made a career of undercutting tradition and being completely unpredictable. Reduced to a trio for this record, old-school piano jazz gets blasted by electronic intrusions, like natural disasters destroying the routine of day-to-day life. They excel at both the inside and out and there’s not a dull moment to be found.



3. Will Bernard Pond Life (Dreck to Disk)

Jazz often thrives when the composer knows when to let the players shine. With a group that includes John Medeski, Tim Berne, Chris Lightcap and Ches Smith it’s probably an easy decision. Pond Life is a masterclass in both performance and execution and it is difficult to think of a way to make this any better.


VIDEO: Will Bernard “Pond Life”


2. Anteloper Pink Dolphins (International Anthem)

The loss of Jamie Branch cannot be overstated. It’s up to us to make the most of the work that we have. Anteloper is Branch’s collaboration with drummer Jason Nazary and represents another example of her forward-facing vision. Pink Dolphins sees the duo combining jazz with electronica and beat culture just as Miles combined the genre with rock and funk. R.I.P. Jamie Branch 1983-2022.



1. Mary Halvorson Amaryllis (Nonesuch)

Mary Halvorson epitomizes all the characteristics that earned the above records their spot on this list. Virtuosity combined with compositional brilliance, the ability to work both straight ahead and outside conventional jazz. Amaryllis is her most fully-realized record to date and that is saying a lot. Her work continues to represent modern jazz at its best. 


VIDEO: Mary Halvorson “Amaryllis”




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Todd Manning

Todd Manning is a recovering musician who mostly writes about Metal and Jazz various places around the internet, including Burning Ambulance, Cvlt Nation and No Clean singing. He lives in Indianapolis, IN.

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