A collage of Kate Dumbleton's headshot and two album covers

Kate Dumbleton Recommends 5 of Her Favorite Albums of 2023

As executive and artistic director of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, Associate Professor Kate Dumbleton has her eyes—and ears—on the cutting edge of jazz music. The festival just celebrated its 17th year with two days of programming, reaching nearly 20,000 listeners and sustaining a vital branch of Chicago’s arts and music communities. In addition to her work with the festival, Dumbleton has worked with record labels, managed jazz artists, programmed jazz clubs, and worked across disciplines in music, dance, theater, visual art, and film. She was also recently named one of Newcity’s Music 45 for 2023.

We thought she’d be a perfect School of the Art Institute of Chicago community member to recommend five must-listen albums spanning jazz, experimental, and improvised music. Here, Dumbleton expands on the 2023 records she’s got on repeat.

Cover art of Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war))


jaimie Branch: Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war)) (International Anthem Records)

As daunting as it is to recommend just five recordings released in 2023, one unequivocal selection is Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war)) by trumpeter, composer, and conceptualizer jaimie Branch. jaimie left this world during the summer of 2022 at 39. It’s a staggering loss. jaimie’s work was intrepid, no-holds-barred, yet she had deep knowledge and reverence for the traditions of jazz and its origins. She had virtuosic technique and the heart/mind of a DIY community activist. This recording is her last and it’s a stunner. Don’t miss the album artwork, also by jaimie and collaborators John Herdon and Damon Locks (BFA 1991).

Album cover of Beauty is Enough


Ambrose Akinmusire: Beauty is Enough (Origami Harvest Records)

Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet/composer) is an artist with expansive ideas and sonic interests, as his many recordings and projects make clear. On this elegant, entirely improvised solo recording, Ambrose pulls the listener deep into every note, every breath, every choice. The album was recorded in Saint-Eustache Church in Paris, and each piece seems to carry a special story, intimate yet universal. In addition to Beauty is Enough, Ambrose will release a gorgeous, spare trio recording in December titled Owl Song, with Bill Frisell (guitar) and Herlin Riley (drums).

Album cover of Love in Exile


Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, Shahzad Ismaily: Love in Exile (Verve Records)


This arresting album is a journey into deep collaboration and co-creation in real time. It was recorded live with little planning or discussion and released with almost no editing. The openness, connection, and shared intuition between the musicians generates a heat and energy that shifts and pulls at any sense of time or weight as you listen. Take any opportunity to experience this group live. It is a riveting ride, both sonically and visually, to witness this exceptional trio. 

Album cover of The Other One


Henry Threadgill: The Other One (Pi Records)

Arguably one of the most significant creative artists of our times, composer, flutist, saxophonist Henry Threadgill has done it again. This recording builds on many of his compositional inquiries with his long-time group Zooid, expanding on instrumentation, form, structure, improvisation, and surprise. It is a gem. Threadgill was born and raised in Chicago, and this year he also released an autobiography in collaboration with writer Brent Hayes Edwards titled Easily Slip into Another World that chronicles his experiences growing up on the South Side and his journeys well beyond. Both hilarious and devastating, it’s a great read to complement this wonderful listen!

Album cover of Coin Coin Chapter Five: In The Garden


Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter 5 (Constellation Records)

This recording is the fifth offering in multi-hyphenate artist Matana Robert’s sonic inquiry into African American history and lived experience by way of personal narrative of “ancestry, archive, and place.” Roberts is a master of what they refer to as sonic quilting—layering, patching, knitting, coloring, and weaving of pieces of sound. The effect is at moments bracing and knotted and in others, quiet, minimal; there is an underlying mastery of intention in shaping such a complex narrative. This recording’s power is equally present in its storytelling and vocal elements which incorporate an astonishing range of expression. You might feel the vibration of ancestor Toni Morrison in this work.