Thursday, June 20, 2024

My favorite musical discoveries of 2023

Software DevelopmentMy favorite musical discoveries of 2023

Another year, and again I feel the desire to share a top half-dozen of
what my quirky musical tastes ran into this year. As usual, my musical
journeys are focused on the interaction of jazz and world music, and include
material you’re not likely to find on most popular lists. I include links to
pages on Bandcamp so you can have a listen to
see if any of these also appeal to you

Badinyaa Kumoo by Sona Jobarteh

sample track: Musolou

The kora is a distinctive instrument of West Africa, with a sound that
reminds me both of the harp and the lute. Not just is Sona Jobarteh the
first female griot kora player, she is also an adventurous singer and
composer, mixing the ethereal sound of the kora with the ever-inventive
rhythms of West Africa.

The New Day Bends Light by Erica Seguine and Shon Baker Orchestra

sample track: States

I’ve been digging more into the world of modern big-band jazz,
discovering more bands finding ways to ways to exploit the traditional
large-scale jazz orchestra. The New Day Bends Light includes a
inspirations from British folk reels and
and tango, in the collaborative work of Erica Seguine and Shon
Baker. The album is produced by Darcy James Argue, a well-regarded
bandleader whose new album, Dynamic Maximum
Tension, would have been my pick had the die rolled even.

Kinva is a piano trio that blends the modern jazz trio approach with
Ukrainian folk music. Pianist Anastasia Litvinyuk and drummer Igor Gnydyn
were pioneers of jazz in Lviv before they hurriedly left for Poland after
the invasion with their young daughter. Given these events, the way their music
melds these styles brings an extra poignancy.

Flower on Fire by Afro-Andean Funk

sample track: Wake Up

A mix of African funk and traditional music of the Andes, with plenty
of inspiration and collaboration from the broader world of music. The band
is led by the collaboration between Peruvian Araceli Poma and the American bassist
Matt Geraghty. If you enjoy these foot-tapping rhythms then another album
to look at is Vapor by Bixiga 70.

Cloud Horizons by Kathryn Tickell and The Darkening

sample track: Caelestis

I’ve been listening to Kathryn Tickell since the 90’s, when she
appeared on the music scene playing the rarely seen Northumbrian
smallpipes. But what’s kept me listening to her over the years is more
than that distinctive sound, but the way she’s constantly pushed the
boundaries of British folk music. Her latest band is no exception, and
this album is a splendid mix of traditional styles and modern developments.

My tastes in jazz often lead me to music that is as much about texture
as it is about melody, but I rarely go further into the world of ambient
music. An exception this year is Andrew Tuttle, which I could best
describe as an ambient bluegrass. It’s a distinctive soundscape of banjos
and slide guitars, and I would never have placed its source as being

When I write these annual posts, I prefer to suggest music that I
suspect most readers won’t have come across. This does fit my listening,
as I don’t listen to much music that’s anywhere near the mainstream. But
this year I do have to mention a new album by a mainstream artist I’ve
been following for as long as I’ve been paying attention to music: i/o by Peter Gabriel. He’s released the album gradually
over this year, and I’m glad to see that age hasn’t hindered his ability
to compose and perform some great music. It’s been two decades since he
last released an album. This gives me hope that another British
composer/performer, who had a duet on a past album of his, will also break
her too-long silence.

As usual, my main sources for this music has been Dave Sumner’s monthly
columns on best jazz on Bandcamp
Daily, and James Catchpole’s OK Jazz
podcasts. But recently a new, or rather old, source has appeared
for me. Back in the 2000s, when I had a trip to Britain, I’d always hunt
out a copy of the magazine Songlines, for its coverage of world music and
included CD. I got out of the habit, but this year finally rediscovered
the Songlines online presence, and bought a
subscription so I can enjoy its suggestions again.

Annual Musical Discoveries

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