New Jazz Releases – Favorites of 2023

Lakecia Benjamin

Well, this wraps another exciting year of jazz – America’s contribution to world culture.  Here are my favorite releases of the year.  Whether these are the best of the year is a subject for significant debate, but you can be sure that I find this to be an exciting, virtuosic and moving collection of wonderful releases.  My favorites of 2023 in order of release:

John Bailey – Time Bandits (Freedom Road Records, 01/13/2023).

Starting the year strong with a trumpet-led all-star quartet (George Cables, Scott Colley, Victor Lewis) playing straight-ahead jazz.

Lakecia Benjamin – Phoenix (Whirlwind Recordings, 01/27/2023).

Following up her 2020 Coltrane tribute with authority, Lakecia Benjamin renews her place as a rising player to watch.

Ben Wolfe – Unjust(Resident Arts, 02/03/2023).

Nicholas Payton, Immanuel Wilkins, Nicole Glover, Orrin Evans, Addison Frei, Joel Ross,  Ben Wolfe, Aaron Kimmel in twelve different configurations over an equal number of tunes – terrific.

Brad Mehldau – Your Mother Should Know: Brad Mehldau Plays the Beatles (Nonesuch, 02/10/2023). 

You know the tunes, but Mehldau makes them fresh with his amazing piano skills.

John D’earth Quintet – Coin of the Realm (Cosmology Records, released 02/14/2023). 

Bandstand-tested all-star quintet playing seven lovely post-bop lines by the godfather of the Central Virginia scene. 

Chris Potter – Got The Keys To the Kingdom (Edition Records, released 02/17/2023).

The third (and maybe best) live recording from the Village Vanguard by one of greatest performing tenor players.

Jane Bunnett & Maqueque – Playing With Fire (Linus Entertainment, 03/10/2023).

Still exciting after a decade together, Bunnett and her Cuban colleagues still thrill with their rhythmically-charged music.

Billy Childs – Winds of Change (Mack Avenue, 03/17/2023). 

LA-based Childs brings a cinematic feel to a suite of compositions for a great quartet (with Ambrose Akinmusire, Scott Colley, Brian Blades).

Chembo Corniel Quintet – Artistas, Músicos Y Poetas(Chemboro Records, released 03/17/2023).

Percussion-rich and rhythm-saturated, this terrific release is among the best Latin Jazz discs of the year.

Wayne Escoffery – Like Minds (Smoke Sessions, 04/14/2023).

Assisted by Gregory Porter and Tom Harrell, Escoffery’s big tenor tone anchors a beautifully expressive release.

Artemis – In Real Time (Blue Note, 05/05/2023).

No longer novel as an all-woman band, this fine collection of players (Ingrid Jensen, Alexa Tarantino, Nicole Glover, Renee Rosnes, Noriko Ueda, Allison Miller) delivers a strong sophomore set.

Avishai Cohen – Abraham Rodriguez Jr. – Iroko (Naive Records, released 05/05/2023).

Bass, percussion and two voices is all Israeli Cohen and Newyorican Rodriguez need to deliver a powerful and moving set.

Joe Farnsworth – In What Direction Are You Headed? (Smoke Sessions, releases 05/19/2023).

Much loved drummer and bandleader Farnsworth bring out a new band with fresh and exciting results.

Edward Simon – Femeninas: Songs of Latin American Women (Artist Share, released 05/31/2023).

Simon and vocalist Magos Herrera pay tribute to eight Latin-American women composers as a bookend to Terri Lyne Carrington’s New Standards, a highlight from last year.

Buselli / Wallarab Jazz Orchestra – The Gennett Suite (Patios Records, released 06/09/2023).

Recalling the massively important output from Gennett in the 20s (King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Hoagy Carmichael, Bix Beiderbecke), Indianapolis-based big band delivers a very modern set.

Johnathan Blake – Passages (Blue Note, released 08/11/2023).

Wonderful first-call quintet (Immanuel Wilkins, David Virelles, Joel Ross, Dezron Douglas, Johnathan Blake) pays tribute to the leader’s father.

Miguel Zenón & Luis Perdomo – El Arte Del Bolero, Vol. 2 (Miel Music, releases 08/25/2023).

A reprise appearance for bandmates Zenon and Perdomo, in a duet to play touching boleros from the Great Latin-American Songbook.

Jaimie Branch Fly or Die Fly or Fly or Die ((world war)) (International Anthem, released 08/25/2023).

The third (and last) outing for the recently deceased trumpeter and her signature band is the best yet.

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society – Dynamic Maximum Tension (Nonesuch, released 09/08/2023). 

Four releases and four Grammy nominations in 15 years, Argue is patiently building a significant and important discography.

Mark Turner – Live At The Village Vanguard (Giant Step Arts, releases 09/08/2023).

The first live recording for perhaps the most important tenor player since Michael Brecker.

Clark Sommers – Feast Ephemera (Irabbagast Records, releases 09/15/2023).

Chicago bassist’s maiden voyage in composition for a twelve-piece large ensemble is a rousing success.

Shuteen Eredenebaatar – Rising Sun (Motéma Music, released 09/15/2023).

Newly arrived on the international scene from her home in Mongolia, Eredenebaatar has delivered a stunning debut.

Miho Hazama – m_unit: Beyond Orbits(Edition Records, released 09/23/2023).

Celebrating ten years with her thirteen-piece ensemble, Hazama continues to grow as a significant voice in composing for large ensembles.

Allison Miller – Rivers In Our Veins (Royal Potato Family, released 10/06/2023.

To an ensemble of long-term collaborators (Ben Goldberg, Carmen Staff, Jenny Scheinman, Todd Sickafoose), Miller adds Jason Palmer on trumpet for a suite of compositions honoring America’s waterways.

I find it interesting to review year end lists from critics and websites whose opinion I respect.  I love seeing the diversity of opinion.  The following is a consensus list of the high points of jazz releases in 2023 from many points of view.

Darcy James Argue – Dynamic Maximum Tension (Nonesuch)

Jamie Branch – Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war)) (International Anthem)

Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Chapter five: In The Garden (Constellation)

Cecile McLorin Salvant – Mélusine (Nonesuch)

Jason Moran – From Dancehall To The Battlefield (Yes Records)

Chris Potter – Got The Keys To the Kingdom: Live At The Village Vanguard (Edition)

Aroof Aftab / Vijay Iyer / Shahzad Ismally – Love In Exile (Verve)

Yussef Days – Black Classical Music (Brownswood)

Alabaster DePlume – Come With Fierce Grace (International anthem)

Aaron Diehl – Zodiac Suite (Mack Avenue)

Sulivan Fortner – Solo Game 

Mette Henriette – Drifting (ECM)

Irreversible Entanglements – Protect Your Light (Impulse!)

Darius Jones – Fluxxit Vancouver (WE Jazz)

Steve Lehman – Ex Machina (Pi Recordings)

Brad Mehldau – Your Mother Should Know – Brad Mehldau Plays The Beatles (Nonesuch)

Mendoza Hoff Revels – Echolocation (AUM Fidelity)

Meshell Ndegeocello – The Omnichord Real Book (Blue Note)

Kassa Overall – Animals (Warp)

Tyshawn Sorey – Continuing (Pi)

My favorites for 2023 will be featured on the first edition of Jazz at 100 Now! of 2024. Please join us on January 2, 2024 from 9:00 – Noon.

Russell Perry, Jazz at 100 Now!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Become a Sponsor

Underwriting WTJU is a way to broadly share information about your business. It’s also a way for your business or organization to gain community-wide recognition for your support of WTJU’s community mission.

Underwrite a Program


Your gift nourishes our community and helps bring people together through music.

Underwrite a Program