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Nate Chinen's Favorite Music of 2022

Immanuel Wilkins' album <em>The 7th Hand</em> tops WRTI editorial director Nate Chinen's album list this year.
Courtesy of Blue Note Records/NPR
Immanuel Wilkins' album The 7th Hand tops WRTI editorial director Nate Chinen's album list this year.

There was so much music to process in 2022 – and so much of it warranted close listening. What I found myself gravitating toward was the sound of revelation, a word that I could apply to most of the albums and songs on this list, in different ways. We spent the year reintegrating and rehabilitating, finding a new way back to the old ways. Here is the best of what got me there — first albums, then the songs.


Immanuel Wilkins, The 7th Hand

Spirit is everything – catalyst and crucible, mother tongue and moral law — on The 7th Hand, the astonishingly assured second album by alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins. His balletic, instinctive quartet moves through this seven-movement suite in pursuit of divine surrender, proving how a blazing intensity of purpose can override the usual divisions of style.


Mary Halvorson, Amaryllis & Belladonna

Mary Halvorson has scaled up her operation before, but not the way she does on this pair of albums, which set her flint-sparking guitar against insightful compositions for Mivos Quartet (on Belladonna) and a six-piece wrecking crew (on Amaryllis). A few tracks merge the two groups, with Halvorson's declarative voice ringing clearly even in the moments when she isn't playing.


Rosalía, Motomami

The most daring pop album of the year is also among its most self-aware — a brash treatise on superstardom, sexual freedom and cultural license (and some attendant frictions). Rosalía, scarily self-possessed, holds the center of this vortex — singing in a voice that shifts easily from imploring to imperious, from playful to pained.


Tyshawn Sorey, The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism

During a year that saw him stretch in many ways, drummer-composer Tyshawn Sorey made an album that neatly inhabits the bounds of small-group jazz. That album was Mesmerism, featuring pianist Aaron Diehl, who takes a more unruly turn on this live three-volume set. Swinging mightily, Sorey strikes a deep rapport with alto saxophonist Greg Osby, an approving elder who needs no punches pulled.


Makaya McCraven, In These Times

The culmination of a years-long experiment in groove, In These Times just might be Makaya McCraven's manifesto, a persuasive argument for the idea of collective musical expression refined by a stylish curatorial hand. With more than a dozen collaborators, this record is a glowing tribute to the affinities between jazz and hip-hop — which McCraven sees as one music, forged in the same fire.


Danger Mouse & Black Thought, Cheat Codes

"Blackness is not a monolith," spits Black Thought, almost in passing, on the title track of his triumphant solo album. He's in spectacular form on Cheat Codes, and in excellent company: Danger Mouse is the ideal producing partner for him, with a vintage-distressed style that leaves just enough space for Black Thought's verbal pyrotechnics. Beyond the punchy flow and pithy allusions, this album has a lot to say about struggle and survival, an ever-shifting burden.


David Virelles, Nuna

For his first proper solo piano album David Virelles rummaged through his root system, a tangle of Chopin, Cuban changüí and so much more. The connections he makes are endlessly captivating and his command is casually staggering. If Nuna is, as Virelles puts it, "a metaphor for the piano as an ancient instrument," it's also the work of an artist peering past the visible horizon.


Cécile McLorin Salvant, Ghost Song

The glorious, gothic peculiarities of this era's leading song exploder have rarely been on more vivid display. Ghost Song finds Cécile McLorin Salvant in a bardic mode, singing intently of lost minds, phantom lovers and budding resentments; it's an emotionally complicated canvas, one that she fills with shadow and color.


Patricia Brennan, More Touch

More Touch, the stunningly realized second album by mallet percussionist Patricia Brennan, draws from a wealth of influences, including some from her native Veracruz, to shape a new sort of percussion quartet. Brennan's expertise on vibraphone and marimba find a perfect counterweight in the churn of two drummers, Mauricio Herrera and Marcus Gilmore.


Julian Lage, View With A Room

To be clear, there was nothing wrong with the Julian Lage Trio, which sets the magical poise of its namesake guitar hero against an earthy foundation of bass and drums. But Lage had a key insight heading into View with a Room: that the graceful American vistas of his pen could benefit greatly from the egoless mastery of fellow guitarist Bill Frisell.


Caroline Shaw / Attacca Quartet, Evergreen

In their follow-up to Orange, which earned every sort of accolade, Caroline Shaw and Attacca Quartet only deepen their bond. Much of Evergreen was inspired by the natural world, and Shaw brings organic sensitivity to her orchestrations and to her singing on an enchanting pair of songs.


Terri Lyne Carrington, New Standards Vol. 1

What grew out of a corrective project — the construction of a new jazz canon revolving around women composers — inevitably led drummer Terri Lyne Carrington right back to the bandstand. New Standards Vol. 1, made with fellow travelers like trumpeter Nicholas Payton and bassist Linda May Han Oh, breathes fresh life into nearly a dozen durable pieces, both old and new.


Songs

Beyoncé, "Virgo's Groove"

Tom Skinner, "The Journey"

Beth Orton, "Lonely"

SZA, "Shirt"

Kendrick Lamar, "N95"

Moor Mother, "Arms Save (feat. Nicole Mitchell)"

Nduduzo Makhathini, "Emlilweni"

Wilco, "Falling Apart (Right Now)"

DOMi & JD Beck & Thundercat, "BOWLiNG"

Matthew Shipp Trio, "World Construct"

Miranda Lambert, "Strange"

Bonnie Raitt, "Just Like That"

Samora Pinderhughes, "Masculinity (feat. Immanuel Wilkins)"

Bartees Strange, "Wretched"

Pusha T, "Diet Coke"

Copyright 2022 WRTI . To see more, visit WRTI .

Nate Chinen
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