“2016 was a really good year for weird jazz! Not good in the sense of commercial success or cultural impact — but for a genre that arguably peaked decades ago, there was a surprising amount of good, weird jazz coming out this year. A lot of it is still fundamentally upsetting when you listen to it, but in a sort of good way? Here are my three favorites of the year, which I also forced Lizzie to listen to:
Shabaka & the Ancestors – Wisdom of Elders
Easily my favorite weird jazz album of the year! Shabaka Hutchings is a British-Barbadoan sax player who’s won a ton of UK awards over the past few years. This album saw him putting together a band in South Africa and getting really into Sun Ra. The result is basically updated Afrofuturist free jazz. He keeps the instrumentation simple enough that it’s not as overwhelming as you might think. “Mzwandile” is my favorite track, equal parts hooky and dissonant. It kind of sounds like the world is ending, which feels very 2016.
Lizzie says: I was worried that 13 minutes of “hooky and dissonant” was going to sound like an instrumental malfunction, but this was surprisingly reserved for a song that still manages to feel just slightly off.“