The jazz community was more active this year than in recent memory, or so it seems. That is because of the number of new albums that Phil’s Picks received this year from various jazz labels and acts. In all, more than 30 jazz albums in 2022. That is a much larger number of albums than ever received in the jazz category by Phil’s Picks. The jazz covered this year ranged from Afro-Latin to big band to more intimate music, meaning there was quite a bit for jazz fans to take in this year, too.
As with each other Phil’s Picks list, this list features the year’s top 10 new albums in the given category and five honorable mention titles, for a total of 15 records. This list was anything but easy to assemble considering just how many albums were received this year. No disrespect is meant to any act featured in this list, as each has its own positives.
Without any further ado here is Phil’s Picks 2022 Top 10 New Jazz Albums.
PHIL’S PICKS 2022 TOP 10 NEW JAZZ ALBUMS
Danilo Perez – Crisalida
Taurey Butler – One Of The Others
Tom Collier – The Color of Wood
Yellowjackets – Parallel Motion
Doug MacDonald and L.A. All-Star Octet – Overtones
Doug MacDonald – I’ll See You In My Dreams
Amos Gillespie – Unstructured Time
Chris Torkewitz – NY Ensembles
Matt Hall – I Hope To My Never
Nicholas Payton – The Couch Sessions
Bobby Watson – Back Home In Kansas City
San Nelson’s New London Big Band – Social Hour
Lisa Hilton – Life Is Beautiful
Paxton/Spengler Septet – Ugqozi
Tony Monaco – Four Brothers
That’s it for this list but as the final hours of the day tick away there is still so much left to do. There is still World Music to focus on and the year’s top new indie albums and albums overall, plus all of the year’s top new movie and TV content. Pray for me and stay tuned!
Early this month, saxophonist Chris Torkewitz released his debut album, NY Ensembles through Goschart Music. The 10-song record is a unique addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums in large part because of its featured arrangements, which will be discussed shortly. The liner notes that are featured with the record add even more engagement and entertainment for listeners. They will be discussed a little later. The record’s production puts the finishing touch to its presentation and will also be examined later. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album. All things considered, they make NY Ensembles not only one of the year’s most unique jazz albums, but one of the year’s best jazz albums, too.
NY Ensembles, the debut album from saxophonist Chris Torkewitz, is an exceptional addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums. That is due in no small part to the album’s featured arrangements. The arrangements are divided up into two distinct sections. The first section is composed of a group of chamber jazz compositions. The second group of songs, which totals four songs, just like the first section, is unique from the songs in the first section. That is made clear in the songs’ sounds and stylistic approach. Case in point is ‘FIlou,’ the first of the songs in the record’s second “set.” The use of the muted trumpet alongside the subtle guitar line, the drums, and the other horns and woodwinds, presents the song as something akin to so many swing style jazz compositions from the 1960s. The wonderful sense of nostalgia that it will being audiences is so appealing, to say the least. By comparison, ‘Noticias,’ which is one of the chamber orchestra compositions, is more along the lines of a modern classical composition. The use of the strings alongside what sounds like a bass clarinet makes the song in whole sound like something that could be used as the soundtrack for maybe some arthouse cartoon. The unique, semi-frenetic piano line adds even more to that sense. The six-minute plus composition is a stark contrast to the more direct jazz leaning of ‘Filou’ and even to the album’s other chamber orchestra compositions and jazz works. Taking into account the contrast of these two songs and the contrast that they and the rest of the album’s entries have from them and from one another, the whole therein makes the overall musical content featured here a strong starting point for the album.
Building on the solid foundation formed by the musical content is the content featured in the album’s liner notes. The information presented in the liner notes is extensive to say the very least. Right from the outset, Torkewitz points out that the whole purpose of dividing the album into two distinct sections was to reflect his moving from one “world” to another when he moved from Germany in 2007 to New York City. In other words, the album in whole is really an artistic expression of that change in cultures, sort old world to the new. Torkewitz puts his education – which includes a Doctorate in Musical Arts from the Manhattan School of Music and a professorship at a university in Germany – on full display as he writes about each song’s background. Case in point is his brief but concise discussion about ‘Epilogo,’ another of the chamber jazz compositions. He notes here, the composition’s “fugue-inspired concentrated form.” In addressing ‘One For You,’ the last of the jazz orchestral pieces, Torkewitz waxes philosophical, noting that the song was inspired by thoughts about “where is home?” He posits that home becomes home over time, and that it is not just home right away, leading to a composition that reflects the moods and thoughts people feel over that time. It is a brief discussion, but so deep. It is certain to help audiences appreciate that song even more. As if all of that is not enough, there is even an in-depth biography of Torkewitz included in the booklet that was crafted by jazz journalist and historian Scott Yanow. There are even pictures of Torkewitz with his fellow musicians as a proverbial cherry on top to finish everything off.
The impact of the content featured in the liner notes is that it makes NY Ensembles even more engaging and entertaining, building on the successes of the album’s musical content. It is not the last of the record’s important elements, either. The production that went into the album’s creation puts the finishing touch to the presentation. The production that went into this album is important to note because of its ability to bring out the best in each musician’s performance. Whether it be in the chamber compositions or in the jazz orchestra works, each performer’s part is accented just enough and balanced expertly with that of his and her counterparts. When the expert sound balance in the production is considered along with the record’s primary and secondary content, the whole therein makes NY Ensembles a complete success.
NY Ensembles, the debut album from saxophonist Christ Torkewitz, is an impressive addition to this year’s field of new jazz records. It is an equally impressive start for Torkewitz. That is proven in part through its arrangements, which are smartly composed works that provide so much musical diversity from the record’s start to its end. The background provided on the record in the extensive liner notes adds even more to the record’s enjoyment. The production that went into the record’s presentation rounds out its most important elements in that it brings out the best in each musician’s performance and balances everything expertly. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album. All things considered, they make NY Ensembles among the best of this year’s new jazz albums.
NY Ensembles is available now through Goschart Music. More information on the album is available along with all of Torkewitz’s latest news at: