April is Jazz Appreciation and Awareness Month, inviting us not only to appreciate past masters and sources of the genre, but how it is being approached and disseminated further in the current year. One will find that with an attentive ear to new strides made by leading performers, and an open mind to departures from tradition or expectation, the jazz world and sphere of influence grows deeper, more complex, and more beautiful with each passing year. As music academics, we are often exposed only to the heroes of the 1950s and 60s in the classroom, or the next generation big band leaders of the 1970s in ensemble settings. But, just as education and performance of the music has continued into 2022, so has innovation.
Each Friday of the year, major record labels release dozens of new albums. This creates staggering figures of new music to sift through, should one have an interest, but the search may be refined through personal taste and preferred outlets of information. I normally find myself searching by record label first, as there are more independent record labels now, many of them for jazz and modern music, than there ever have been. Though it is also more difficult than ever to attract profit from record sales in this way, the sources of new music have been completely decentralized through independent release, granting artists a maximum of freedom in more ways than just composition and performance - they control promotion, packaging, and tour information.
Presser Library also hosts a myriad of jazz periodicals, each with a unique lens on modern music and providing exposure for emerging artists. A familiar entry is Downbeat Magazine, a historically important jazz periodical, but Presser also has access to JazzTimes online and in hard copy, as well as a favorite of mine for new release news and recommendations, Jazziz, also available online and in hard copies. After a year of publication, the library will bind together the issues for a year and safely store them in a section for periodicals on the first floor of Francis Harvey Green Library. These can be searched through the library catalog or found on the shelves. In similar fashion, and for the occasion, I have to share a list of newly released albums that I believe to best describe the state of jazz in 2022.
5. Dave Gisler Trio with Jaimie Branch and David Murray - See You Out There (Intakt)
High energy free jazz with a punk rock aesthetic, endlessly fun. Jaimie Branch, trumpeter, is also celebrated for her "Fly or Die" and "Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise", social outcries blended with her unique brand of freely treated grooves and emotional outburst. Interestingly aligned with David Murray, modern giant of the genre, known for his collaborations with Coltrane alumni.
4. Immanuel Wilkins - The 7th Hand (Blue Note)
One of the most prolific jazz labels, Blue Note, established in 1939, continues to be an excellent source of modern music. Upper Darby-raised and residing in Philadephia, this is 23-year-old Wilkins' second release on Blue Note, both to critical acclaim. In an interview session featuring himself and our own Dr. Jacob Cooper, Wilkins revealed collaboration with his quartet and various dance studios, continuing to enrich the outreach and applications for modern jazz music. Especially prolific on this album is the side-length "Lift".
3. Emile Parisien - Louise (ACT)
An interesting label, ACT releases often fuse world music and folk elements as well as modern classical, blurring what can be considered a jazz release. This release however features Manu Codija's electric guitar work to create a much heavier listening experience, weighted and crushing at times, best shown on the title track, gorgeous and tragic.
2. Ilaria Kapalbo - Karthago (Bluenord)
A previously unknown leader and label, rising bassist Ilaria Kapalbo assembles leading musicians in the infinitely creative Scandinavian jazz scene. Her first album as a leader paints images of the historic Mediterranean city, Carthage in English, best captured in the groove and catharsis of the title track and the nostalgic closing track, "What Remains of Those Days". Also featured on this record in trombonist Mats Aleklint, known for his work with other European groups such as the Fire! Orchestra and Angles.
1. Alexander Hawkins Mirror Cannon - Break a Vase (Intakt)
An ensemble begun from Anthony Braxton sessions from the year prior, Hawkins adds percussionist Richard Olátúndé Baker and saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings (Sons of Kemet, Shabaka & the Ancestors) to his ensemble of Otto Fischer on guitar, Neil Charles on bass and Stephen Davis on drums. Steeped in spectralist influence, each track yields an entirely new sonic treatment to the ensemble featuring Hawkins' extended piano technique thickened by Baker's talking drum and ensemble grooves. Favorite tracks are "Stamped Down, or Shovelled", "Faint Making Stones", and the concluding and alienating "Even the Birds Stop to Listen", but each track is a standalone statement of the unique sonic capabilities of each instrument. This release is among the most astonishing work I have heard in modern jazz and serves as a beacon of where the genre is headed.