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WRTI Jazz hosts reveal some of their Favorite Things of 2022

Snacktime, the Philly brass band, playing an album-release show at Brooklyn Bowl on July 15, 2022.
Jordan August
Snacktime, the Philly brass band, playing an album-release show at Brooklyn Bowl on July 15, 2022.

As we go swinging into a new year, there's still cause for a bit of reflection. In 2022, clubs and festivals were fully back in business. The musicians, like the music itself, kept proving their resilience. Here's a sliver of what caught our ear and imagination.

Greg Bryant, host of Evening Jazz and The Get Down

Album: Tyshawn Sorey, The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism

The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism is the Tyshawn Sorey album I’d always hoped he would get around to making. Lauded for his compositional and conceptual prowess, Sorey is also one of the most swinging and creative drummers alive, as this outing proves. Guided by his fire, the quartet here delivers an immediate catharsis. Equally surprising in this context is pianist Aaron Diehl, whose knowledge and display of our music’s history is inspiring, and fits seamlessly with Sorey, alto saxophonist Greg Osby and bassist Russell Hall.

Experience: Helping JD Allen and Charlie Hunter make a connection

Introducing saxophonist JD Allen and guitarist Charlie Hunter to each other was a personal and professional highlight. Not only are they invaluable to the landscape of modern music, they are two of my favorite musicians who also happen to be my friends. Subsequently, attending the session for Allen’s Americana Vol. 2 was my event of 2022. Together Allen and Hunter made a record to guide us closer to the source in an era where music from the soil (blues) is often overlooked, neglected and misunderstood.

Bob Craig, host of Big Band Jazz and Voices in Jazz

Album: Minas, Beatles In Bossa

Do we really need another Beatles tribute album? Well...yeah. As long as it has something fresh to offer. How about Beatles In Bossa? Minas, Philly’s premier Brazilian duo, comes together with a little help from some of their local music friends, to offer exactly that. Rio native Orlando Haddad (guitar/vocals) and Patricia King Haddad (piano/vocals) couple their enticing arrangements with cool bossa rhythms on more than a dozen Beatles tunes.

Experience: Comfort and Joy

Nov. 20 saw the 19th annual Comfort and Joy concert at the Church of St. Luke and The Epiphany on South 13th Street. It’s a benefit concert featuring singer Mary Ellen Desmond and a swingin' jazz quartet made up of legendary saxman Larry McKenna along with pianist Tom Lawton, bassist Lee Smith and drummer Dan Monaghan. The show benefits Action Wellness, supporting lives affected by AIDS/HIV, and never fails to place you in the spirit of the season.

J. Michael Harrison, host of The Bridge

Album: Nasir Dickerson, Let It Shine

I’m a huge fan of multi-instrumentalist Nasir Dickerson. Beyond his exceptional gifts as a musician, the impact of his family's Unity Community Center has been priceless to the Camden/Philly area. Needless to say, when he said his long-awaited third album was complete, I was elated! Let It Shine is a well-crafted project that showcases Nasir’s impressive ability as a saxophonist — and also spotlights his special relationship with the kora and African flute.

Experience: Anthony Tidd at the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts

Anthony Tidd’s Clef Club appearance on Aug. 20 was really special for me. The evening included a breakout group (DSOP) from the Clef Club’s youth program paired with an emcee from the Emmy-nominated documentary film QUEST, performing original music composed for the event. Temple University professor Dr. Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon contributed a poignant and chilling poem about a troubled eigh-year old, and Tidd’s supergroup Sanity closed out the evening with a special appearance by poet Ursula Rucker.

Josh Jackson, Associate General Manager, host of The Friday Mixtape

Album: Charles Stepney, Step on Step

One of the music head discoveries this year was Charles Stepney’s Step on Step, a collection of rudimentary drum machine and Moog synth demos created in the late producer’s basement interleaved with stories from his three daughters. Stepney’s handiwork blessed numerous recordings for Chess and Cadet Records, from Muddy Waters to Ramsey Lewis. His genius was central to the sound of Earth, Wind & Fire as well as a production identity that defined psychedelic Chicago soul of Rotary Connection, Terry Callier and Minnie Ripperton. Long before Dilla and Madlib sampled these masterworks into pastiche, these early drafts would seed a sound that has outlived Stepney almost 50 years.

Experience: Christian McBride’s 50th birthday party

The only flex here is that I got a free parking spot in New York. Christian McBride’s 50th birthday was invitation-only, but it was a special moment to celebrate a generational talent for his influence. Sure, it was a gathering of insider industry types. There was a signature cocktail. A-listers like CAPA classmate Questlove spoke. But it was foremost, to borrow an album title, A Family Affair. A strong contingent of Philadelphians joined McBride’s mentor Lovett Hines, his parents Renee McBride Williams and bassist Lee Smith, and many others to honor a homegrown star who has become a significant and benevolent force in the music.

Maureen Malloy, jazz host

Album: Cyrus Chestnut, My Father’s Hands

As a programmer, I’m always excited to see that Cyrus Chestnut is releasing something new, because his material is so versatile. This did not disappoint! Kicked off by the killer “Nippon Soul Connection,” My Father’s Hands winds through a pleasing placement of standards and a spiritual. Something for everyone, indeed.

Experience: Snacktime’s album release show

It was definitely nerve wracking that my first post-Omicron show was sold out, but it was totally worth it. To go to Brooklyn Bowl and hear this pandemic- made group made all the fear disappear. The Philly-centric originals, like “Littenhouse,” got the crowd going. The Prince cover lit the house up. The guys killed it, and everyone danced.

David Ortiz, host of El Viaje

Album: Arturo Sandoval, Rhythm & Soul

What can I say about a multiple Grammy winner and Super Bowl half time show performer whose life was the subject of a movie — other than that with his latest, Rhythm & Soul, he did it again! The strong influence of his Cuban roots is all over this project, which was recorded during the pandemic and released this August. Sandoval's trumpet sounds have been influenced by Dizzy Gillespie and Clifford Brown during his early years in Cuba, and it definitely is felt in this album, which is both cool and hot on so many levels.

Experience: Spanish Harlem Orchestra's Imágenes Latinas

The Spanish Harlem Orchestra is a power-packed band fueled with an overabundance of energy in their music, which just absolutely makes you want to dance. The last time they were in the Philadelphia area was in July of 2021, when they were scheduled to perform at an outdoor free concert across the river in Camden — but to my disappointment, the event was canceled. Their latest release, Imágenes Latinas, delivered a version of that experience, keeping the progressive New York salsa sound alive while paying homage to the salsa bands of '70s, '80s and '90s.

Bob Perkins, host of Sunday Jazz Brunch

Album: Nicole Henry, Time to Love Again

Nicole Henry is a dynamic young singer who grew up in a musical family in Bucks County, PA. She immersed herself in the arts from an early age, singing in school and in church and studying cello and ballet. On her eighth album, Time to Love Again, I like her interpretation of standards and other selections. I think she’s a very fine young singer with great jazz vocal potential.

Experience: Celebrating Pat Martino at Jazz @ the Point

In November I went to the Jazz @ the Point Festival in Somers Point, NJ, where I saw an outstanding tribute to the great jazz guitarist Pat Martino. As many of his fans know, Pat overcame formidable physical impairments to become one of the world’s top jazz instrumentalists, and he died last year at 77. In a touching tribute, six top guitarists paid their respects to their late guitarist brother.