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Monday, January 1, 2024

Album of the Year 2023

We are pleased to announce the Free Jazz Blog's top albums of 2023. Last week, we presented the top 10 recordings of the year, drawn from the contributions of all the Free Jazz Blog reviewers and then held an internal vote for the top album of the year.

  1. This year, the top spot goes to the impressive Portuguese saxophonist Rodrigo Amado for his effort with his new quartet "The Bridge". The group incorporates the masterful piano playing of Alexander von Schlippenbach with the tough-as-nails / delicate-as-a-flower rhythm work of bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Gerry Hemingway.

    Rodrigo Amado The Bridge - Beyond the Margins (Trost, 2023)

    Stuart Broomer, in this review, states:
    More than mere expectation, there’s an air of excitement about the group, though its members go about their business with an involvement in the developing music so acute that it resembles a kind of omni-directional, omni-temporal relaxation and tension at once, in which the relaxation/ tension of great achievement accompanies the realization of the event.

    Astute readers may remember that Amado also took the top spot back in 2015 with This Is Our Language featuring Joe McPhee, Kent Kessler, Chris Corsano. Between then and now, Amado has released a string of ever more impressive albums that have underscored his status as a top torch bearer of Free Jazz.

  2. Coming in next is the Fire Orchestra - Echoes (Rune Grammofon). Saxophonist Mats Gustafsson's latest opus finds the large ensemble digging into deep, hypnotic grooves laced with enchanting counter melodies and spine realigning blasts of bari sax .

    In his review, Martin Schray writes:
    Echoes might be Fire! Orchestra’s most ambitious work so far as well as it presents their largest line-up, counting a cast of no less than 43 members. It’s a two-hour work of epic dimensions: full of energy, violence and beauty; historical musical awareness, outstanding musicianship, otherworldly free jazz, beauty, improvisational and compositional daring, sheer fun and more. Simply another masterpiece.

  3. In third place we have Irreversible Entanglements - Protect Your Light (Impulse). The fourth album find the musically and lyrically hard hitting quintet moving to the Impulse label and expanding on their musical vision.

    William Rossi says:
    If you're new to the quintet, this Impulse! debut is the best place to start: a joyous, bittersweet, thought provoking, teeth gritting, endlessly relistenable album, more approachable but with no hint of "selling out" or softening their politics and ethos in favor of a larger audience. A triumph.

And so, we begin 2024! Once again, we thank all of you, our readers, writers and musicians for your visits, comments, focused criticism and trust, allowing us to share our enthusiasm for the musical challenges that we all thrive on.

Happy New Ears!

The Free Jazz Collective