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 year, renowned jazz drummer Al Foster celebrated a big milestone when he celebrated his 79th birthday. That was back in January. Now as the year slowly inches toward its end, Foster has another reason to celebrate. That reason is his brand-new album, Reflections. His second for Smoke Sessions Records and his seventh as a bandleader, the 11-song record is an enjoyable collection of originals and covers. The covers pay tribute to the likes of Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, and Joe Henderson (all of whom he has worked with during his expansive career) while the originals offer their own share of engagement and entertainment. Among the most notable of the covers is that of Rollins’ ‘Pent-up House,’ which comes early in the album’s hour-plus run. To be precise, the album clocks in at one hour, seven minutes. Among the most notable of the album’s originals is ‘Six,’ which comes just at the album’s midpoint. It will be examined a little later. Another notable addition to the album is its finale, ‘Monk’s Bossa,’ which obviously pays tribute to another legendary jazz artist, Thelonius Monk. All three songs noted here are key in their own way to the album’s presentation. When they are considered alongside the rest of the album’s entries, the whole becomes a thoroughly enjoyable offering that every jazz fan will find enjoyable.
Reflections, the latest album from famed drummer Al Foster, is an enjoyable presentation that any jazz aficionado will find enjoyable. That is proven throughout its blend of originals and covers. Among the most notable of the record’s covers is that of Sonny Rollins’ ‘Pent-Up House.’ Rollins’ original was featured as part of his 1956 album, Sonny Rollins Plus 4. Foster and his fellow musicians – Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Chris Potter (saxophone), Kevin Hays (piano), and Vicente Archer (bass) – stay true to the source material here. Right from the song’s outset, Payton leads the way with his light but still energetic performance. Given, Rollins’ original tops the eight-minute mark while Foster and company’s take on the song is much shorter at five minutes, five seconds, but it still pays the fullest possible tribute to the work of Rollins and his then band mates. Potter’s work on saxophone takes the place of the solos from the original and does so quite well at that. There are also some solos in the original performed by Foster’s fellow famed drummer Max Roach that are omitted in the updated rendition, but that is beside the point. This group’s take will still leave listeners fulfilled by its finale. It is just as enjoyable in its own right as the original song.
Among the most notable of the album’s originals is ‘Six,’ which serves as part of the record’s midpoint. Composed by Payton, the eight-minute-plus composition starts out in a very subtle, contemplative fashion before giving way to a more vintage funk style approach. That throwback style is evident through the use of the horns and keyboards. Foster’s equally funky time keeping pairs with those instruments to really give the song the sense of a work from the likes of Stevie Wonder. Considering the amount of information in the album’s expansive liner notes, it is difficult to know for certain if there is any discussion on the song, though many of the other songs are discussed. That aside, the song is still such an enjoyable work. The pairing of Payton and Potter alongside Hays (whose work on the keyboards really adds even more to that feeling) really makes the composition all the richer. It stands out so starkly from any of the album’s other works, original and otherwise and it just one more of the notable additions to the album. ‘Monk’s Bossa,’ which serves as the album’s finale, is one more interesting original featured as part of the album’s body.
‘Monk’s Bossa’ is an interesting work what with its sort of lounge style presentation. Hays leads the way with his work on the keys here while Foster’s light touches on the toms expertly compliments that work. That is because his playing is so gentle. He adds just enough, making sure to let Hays have his moment here. Potter and Payton each get their own moments to shine, too, making the most of their performances, too. The whole of the performances makes this song just as enjoyable as any other in the record. When it is considered along with the other songs examined here and with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes Foster’s latest album engaging and entertaining and another welcome addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums.
Al Foster’s newly released album, Reflections, is an aptly titled record that so many jazz fans will find enjoyable. That is proven throughout its hour-plus body through its originals and covers alike. The songs examined here do well in their own right to make that clear. When they are considered with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes Reflections another welcome addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums.
Reflections is available now through Smoke Sessions Records. More information on this and other titles from Smoke Sessions Records is available at:
Musician/composer Nicholas Payton is keeping himself somewhat busy this year. The famed trumpet player was featured on Verve Records’ recently released Louis Armstrong tribute record, A Gift To Pops, last month along with a number of other equally well-known jazz musicians and performers. Along with that recording, Payton allegedly has a new EP coming, with its full information under consideration. While audiences wait for the record’s release, Payton has another record, his new album, Smoke Sessions, for audiences to enjoy. The hour-plus record (one hour, seven minutes to be exact) was released Oct. 29 through Smoke Sessions Records. The record is a wonderful addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums, too. That is evidenced from the beginning to the end of the 10-song record. The album’s opener, ‘Hangin’ In And Jivin’’ is just one of the ways in which this is shown. It will be discussed shortly. ‘Q Is For Quincy,’ which comes a little later in the record’s run, is another example of what makes the album so enjoyable. It will be discussed a little later. Much the same can be said of ‘Gold Dust Black Magic,’ too. That song will also be examined later. When it and the other songs noted here are considered along with the rest of the album’s works (originals and covers alike), the whole proves to be a successful new offering from Nicholas Payton that every jazz fan will agree deserves so much attention.
Nicholas Payton’s latest album, Smoke Sessions, is a great addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums. Its mix of modern and vintage jazz sounds and styles make that clear from song to song. The record’s opener, ‘Hangin’ In And Jivin’’ is just one of the many songs that serves to support the noted statements. According to information provided in the album’s expansive liner notes, this song is “one of three new songs Payton composed for Smoke Sessions.” The notes add that the very title is a tribute to the timeless sitcom, Good Times. The nearly eight-minute opus opens with a solid combo from the rhythm section of bassist Ron Carter and drummer Karriem Riggins. Payton’s work on piano here actually sounds somewhat like DJ Jellyfish’s hit song, ‘Shake It Just A Little Bit.’ Whether that was intentional is unknown, but this critic caught the similarity. There is no mention in the album’s liner notes so one is left to assume that the connection was unintentional. Either way, that solid almost hip-hop type rhythmic mix throughout the song, against Payton’s lighter piano line makes the song even more interesting. The whole of the group’s work makes the song conjure thoughts of an upscale jazz club, people eating finger sandwiches, taking in the sounds as they talk. It is just such a wonderfully relaxing composition in whole and just one of the record’s most notable works. Just as notable in this record is the later entry, ‘Q Is For Quincy.’
‘Q Is For Quincy’ originally appeared on Payton’s 2015 album, Letters according to the album’s liner notes. The notes make a point to address the communication between Carter and Payton and how that played into the song’s ultimate outcome. Carter is quoted as saying he appreciated Payton’s understanding and appreciation of how certain instruments interplay with one another in any composition. That understanding is in full display here as is evidenced in the pairing of Payton’s work on the piano and Riggins’ equally light brushwork on the snare while he keeps time on the hi-hat. Carter’s bass work meanwhile is so subtle but still cuts through just enough because of the balance in the other noted performances. It really comes into play here and gives the whole a nice subtle accent so to speak on the foundation formed by Payton and Riggings. The collective musicians’ work here is a wonderfully enjoyable modern jazz composition that has such an infectious swing that throws back to another age of jazz. It all makes the song so enjoyable in its own right and yet another example of how much the album in whole has to offer audiences. ‘Gold Dust Black Magic’ is yet another example of what audiences have to look forward to here.
The liner notes for ‘Gold Dust Black Magic’ make a point to address the various styles and sounds that combine throughout the song, which was composed in January. That diversity is noted right from the song’s opening bars. The use of the keyboard, with its unique sound and light, percussive approach, conjures thoughts of the keyboard-driven jazz compositions that famed composer Vince Guaraldi wrote for the 1960s and 70s Peanuts TV specials. The swing from Payton’s performance on trumpet makes for an interesting contrast to the other noted sound and approach. The varied time signatures also noted in the liner notes are just as clear, too. The whole once again creates a work that is just as unique to the album as the other songs examined here and the rest of the album’s works. When the whole of that content is considered together, the collected material makes Smoke Sessions a wonderful musical experience for any jazz aficionado.
Nicholas Payton’s recently released album, Smoke Sessions is a positive new offering from the veteran jazz musician/composer. From beginning to end, it has plenty to offer audiences. That is evidenced through the originals and covers. Each of the songs examined here do well to support the noted statements, too. When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes Smoke Sessions a must hear for any jazz aficionado.
Smoke Sessions is available now. More information on the album is available along with all of Nichols Payton’s latest news at:
Covers albums, like greatest hits albums, are among the most overly used records in the music industry. Regardless of genre, there are almost as many covers and hits albums in stores and online every year as there are albums of new music from artists across the genres. The problem with these albums is that it’s obvious that they are nothing more than fillers used for the purpose of contractual obligations. One listen through their track listings proves this. For all of the forgettable covers and hits albums that pollute store shelves and online outlets each year, there are thankfully those diamonds in the rough that actually stand out among the masses. Those hidden gems show that for all of the space fillers that are out there, there are those artists that take covers albums, hits albums and tribute records with at least a certain amount of seriousness. One of those hidden gems that has been revealed in 2014 comes from veteran performer Dr. John in the form of his Louis Armstrong covers/tribute album Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch. This thirteen-track record is more than just a collection of covers from one of the greatest names in the industry. The covers included on this record exhibit not only the spirit of Satchmo, but also the very creative spirit of music itself. While the songs on this record are largely full-blown re-imaginings of Armstrong’s original works, the creativity used in each song will lead this record to grow on even the most hardline of Louis Armstrong fans. And it all starts right off the top with Dr. John’s re-imagining of Armstrong’s greatest hit, ‘What A Wonderful World.’ Dr. John’s jazzy cover of ‘I’ve Got The World on a String’ will most certainly impress audiences as it’s one of the few songs on this record that stays close to the original work. The addition of blues great Bonnie Raitt doesn’t hurt the song, either. And his collaboration with the famed Dirty Dozen Brass Band on ‘When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You’ is the perfect closer for this record. As impressive as these songs prove to be in the long run, they’re only part of what makes Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch such a rare release. The album’s other ten tracks are worth their own listen, too. And in hearing all thirteen tracks on this disc, any listener will agree that this record definitely stands out as one of this year’s truly rare covers/tribute albums worth hearing.
Dr. John’s new Louis Armstrong covers/tribute album Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch is one of 2014’s rare covers/tribute albums that is actually worth audiences’ attention. And it isn’t just because it is from one of the most respected names in the music industry today. That is proven right off the top with his cover of Armstrong’s most beloved of songs, ‘What A Wonderful World.’ Dr. John collaborated on this cover with gospel greats The Blind Boys of Alabama and fellow New Orleans native Nicholas Paton. At first listen, the song will most certainly leave some audiences scratching their heads. That is because it is a completely re-imagined take on the classic tune. Rather than taking the safe route here, Dr. John and company give the song a decidedly upbeat almost gospel-style turn, making it into more of a celebratory song than the more reserved piece which audiences have come to know. Of course that is thanks to the inclusion of The Blind Boys of Alabama on this take. It may not grab some audiences at first. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. That’s because it will grow on said audiences that give the song more than one chance. Those audiences will realize that the more celebratory tone, as different as it may be, actually works when one takes into consideration the song’s lyrics. Armstrong once sang on this song of all of the things that make the world so, well, wonderful. Audiences that take that into consideration will in turn appreciate this rendition for the surprisingly positive re-working that it proves to be in the long run. And in doing so, it will lead audiences to give this album’s other songs just as much of a chance, too.
If the re-imagining of ‘What A Wonderful World’ doesn’t win over listeners, then perhaps his duet with fellow blues legend Bonnie Raitt on ‘I’ve Got The World on a String’ will. This hybrid jazzy/bluesy cover comes as close to the original as possible without actual mirroring said song. Raitt and John both pay proper tribute to Armstrong in this take. Audiences that are familiar with both artists’ style will be pleasantly surprised by their ability to balance the song’s jazz roots with their own bluesy addition to the composition. Audiences that have heard Tony Bennett and k.d. Lang’s Armstrong covers album won’t be able to ignore the comparison to their covers here. That’s because both Raitt and John exhibit a true reverence for Armstrong’s work here more than anywhere else on the album. That reverence will most certainly have purist Armstrong fans dancing arm in arm and *ahem* cheek to cheek (bad pun fully intended here).
Dr. John’s duet with Bonnie Raitt on his cover of ‘I’ve Got The World on a String’ is without a doubt this record’s peak moment. Coming in a close second is the cover of ‘When You’re Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You).’ The song, which features Dr. John’s fellow New Orleans musicians in The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, closes out the album. And such a song proves to be the perfect way to close out such an imaginative collection of covers. The song’s run time comes in at just under three minutes. To be exact, it clocks in at two minutes and forty-two seconds. Dr. John takes a back seat throughout most of the song, letting the members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band have the spotlight instead. For those audiences that are less familiar with the work of the band, this song is a wonderful first impression from its members. Those that are more familiar with the band’s body of work will be just as impressed with the ability of the band members to mix its trademark Dixieland sound with a more Latin-tinged sound. The end result is one more truly creative and original cover of one more of Armstrong’s most beloved works.
The collaboration with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band as the final number for Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch proves to be the perfect way to close this record. That is because it once more exhibits Dr. John’s respect for Louis Armstrong’s legacy and Armstrong himself. Just as with all of the songs that come before it, it pays homage to Armstrong’s legacy by balancing the song’s original sound with something of a more original arrangement. In this case, it doesn’t stray too far from the original tune. Because it doesn’t, it is sure to leave listeners with that warm, happy feeling of nostalgia. And what better way to go out after such an intriguing musical ride than with that warm, happy feeling? By the song’s end, audiences will agree that having heard it and the album’s other songs, Ske-Dat-De-Dat is anything but another run-of-the-mill covers album. It is one of the most creative covers/tribute albums released by any artist to date.
Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch is available now online and in stores everywhere. Fans can order it online now direct from Dr. John’s official Facebook page and website at http://www.facebook.com/DrJohn and http://www.nitetripper.com. Audiences can also purchase Dr. John’s new album at any of his upcoming live performances. Fans can check out Dr. John’s tour itinerary now on both sites as well. They can also keep up with all of the latest news and updates from the man himself on both sites. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.