© 2024 WRTI
Your Classical and Jazz Source. Celebrating 75 Years!
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Maurice Browne's Hot Five of 2023

Maurice Browne, jazz host at WRTI
Joseph V. Labolito
Temple University
Maurice Browne, jazz host at WRTI

Without question, 2023 gave us some great music. From new releases and debuts to limited reissues and archival finds, there was something special for almost anyone.

We asked our jazz hosts to give us their five favorite tracks of 2023, so have a listen and read what they have to say. With pleasure, we present WRTI's Hot Fives.

Johnathan Blake, “Passage”

Philadelphia-born Johnathan Blake, who earned a master’s in composition at Rutgers University, is a masterful drummer delivering a balance of tension and ease. The composition of his band includes Dezron Douglas on bass, David Virelles on piano and keyboards, Immanuel Wilkins on alto sax and Joel Ross on vibes. To me the title track of their new album, Passage, is melodically creative and innovative as Blake explores the possibilities.

Buster Williams, “Stairways”

“Stairways” is the opening track of Buster Williams’ new album Unalome. After a seven-year absence from recording, Williams demonstrates his artistic skills as a bandleader. This track is among my top five because of the unity of a diverse and collective-sounding band.

Buster Williams, “Here’s to Life”

“Here’s to Life,” originally recorded in 1992 by Shirley Horn, is brought to a different life and time by vocalist Jean Baylor on Buster Williams’ aforementioned Unalome. Williams, who is now 81, also connects seamlessly with saxophonist Bruce Williams, drummer Lenny White, pianist George Colligan and vibraphonist Stefon Harris.

Brandee Younger – “Brand New Life”

Harpist and composer Brandee Younger merges jazz, classical, and funk on “Brand New Life,” which is also the title of her new album. This composition features Mumu Fresh’s sensual vocals with an R&B beat, while Younger serenades the harp. Although this track is a distant reflection of jazz, its creativity and originality and use of the harp is rarely heard outside of the classical world. That is refreshing.

Yussef Dayes – “Chasing the Drum”

Drummer Yussef Dayes for years has been trying to blend the traditional African rhythm to American jazz. On his new album Black Classical Music, he is able to inspire his band to make this transition. He is accompanied by bassist Rocco Palladino, saxophonist Venna and keyboard Elijah Fox. On this album, Dayes launches into a polyrhythmic solo that often has the flavor of R&B.

Maurice Browne’s appreciation of jazz began as a teenager listening to a popular jazz station in New York City. This is where his admiration grew for the jazz greats like Count Basie, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington and Wes Montgomery.