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October 30, 2012 11:03 PM   Subscribe

Ten Jazz Albums to Listen to Before You Die.

Warning: multiple pages. [Print version here]
posted by zardoz (120 comments total) 89 users marked this as a favorite

 
"A Love Supreme" doesn't make the list? Ah, because it's transcendent.
posted by vverse23 at 11:09 PM on October 30, 2012 [12 favorites]


Link is broken on Firefox on Windows.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:09 PM on October 30, 2012


Bitches Brew always makes these "lbest of" lists, but it was a breakthrough LP and not the "best of" the Davis discography. A Tribute to Jack Johnson released the next year is, IMHO, a stronger effort.
posted by three blind mice at 11:10 PM on October 30, 2012


I know the list game, but no Bill Evans? I guess "Kind of Blue" counts in a backhanded way, but still, that's a massive oversight.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:14 PM on October 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


"A Love Supreme" doesn't make the list? Ah, because it's transcendent.

Exactly. It's what gets played in heaven, so no need to waste your time with it down here.
posted by LionIndex at 11:17 PM on October 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


Jesus, what a lazy article. Scan a few other 10-best lists, add a dash of Wikipedia, and voila!
posted by gottabefunky at 11:17 PM on October 30, 2012 [11 favorites]


Is there anything interesting to glean from this? Seems like pretty generic stuff I learned in my freshman Intro to Jazz music elective class.
posted by greta simone at 11:20 PM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


How the hell does one pick only 10? I can’t do it.
...There are so many great jazz recordings, and many that
should be on this list. but these are great albums to be sure.
posted by quazichimp at 11:22 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is it about ten? Why not 1649 jazz albums to listen to before I die? It would be more interesting, and I would live longer.

On edit, jinx, quazichimp.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:24 PM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


[Added a print version link in case it helps those for whom the main page is not loading]
posted by taz at 11:27 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank you for that link, taz. I totally missed it.
posted by zardoz at 11:29 PM on October 30, 2012


No Duke Ellington.
posted by swift at 11:35 PM on October 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Before I die? While I die. It's the only way to truly appreciate jazz.
posted by hanoixan at 11:36 PM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like that Herbie Hancock album. I like anything played on a Fender Rhodes though.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:38 PM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


This list is relatively pointless. It's like saying "10 Great Rock Albums!" Ridiculous, not to mention that these are among the most common jazz albums so anyone with an interest in the genre has probably already heard most if not all.

Two lesser-known albums that I'd recommend:

Steve Reid - Nova
Sonny Criss - Sonny's Dream

And, imo, the must-have-iest of all jazz albums: Mingus at Antibes, if only for Wednesday Evening Prayer Meeting.

Would love people's recommendations for little-known gems.
posted by dobbs at 11:42 PM on October 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


This album is accessible to the novice.

Sorry, but I quit reading here.

I feel certain that people's recommendations for little-known gems via MetaFilter will be much more enlightening.

Even for novices.
posted by chavenet at 11:51 PM on October 30, 2012


Little-know gems? Anything by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, THE most underrated jazz musician because of his "novelty act" status - that gained by his ability to play four saxophones at the same time, his circular breathing, and his invented instruments. But he played a century of black music, in any given night at the bandstand. And I was lucky enough to see many of his shows.

I was also lucky enough to see many Sun Ra performances, each one vastly different.

I can hardly gainsay the list of the Top Ten albums, if you are going to limit yourself to ten, although I'd replace Bitches' Brew with A Love Supreme, solving two problems named above.
posted by kozad at 11:54 PM on October 30, 2012 [9 favorites]


I was just going to suggest Oh Yeah! by Mingus, which has Kirk on it. It's ridiculously awesome - Mingus is yelling at people for the whole album, but it's odd because he plays piano instead of bass.
posted by LionIndex at 12:01 AM on October 31, 2012


Two interesting things about this list:

a) (Local) newspaper sites are the worst, Internet Exploder struggling noticably when trying to load the non-print version of the list
b) I guess it's now alright for newspapers to massively infringe on copyright, what with the linking to full albums on Youtube. That's not really fair use anymore, now is it?

Apart from that, you can't really reduce an entire kind of music to a top ten list and it's not even all that interesting a starting point for novices or casual fans like myself to further explore jazz.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:04 AM on October 31, 2012


Awful, awful formatting of that page. Do they really need to list the albums two to a page?

This is basically a list of ten out of the dozen or so most widely known and well regarded jazz albums. As such, it's not too bad, but it's pure filler.
posted by paperzach at 12:05 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


C'mon people, how can you match the understanding of jazz that comes from growing up on the gritty streets of Newport Beach?
posted by benito.strauss at 12:14 AM on October 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


2 per page. Argh. Love both bitches brew and jack Johnson. Love headhunters, and manchild, and thrust. Too many good albums. Can't scroll through two at a time on a slow mobile connection, but is heavy weather, night passage or Mr gone in the list?
posted by mattoxic at 12:14 AM on October 31, 2012


Even though these albums are well known works and heard by
many...I would venture to say that most people in the US have never
heard these albums from beginning to end. and if they have heard a song
or two off them, they had no idea who it was. I think that if you were
to walk down the street and asked people if they liked Thelonious Monk, they
would look at you strange and say ...what is Thelonious Monk?
posted by quazichimp at 12:25 AM on October 31, 2012


I didn't get past the first two. Anyone recommending that someone who's unfamiliar with jazz start off with Ornette Coleman is an enemy of jazz, not a friend. And enemy of Ornette Coleman, even. "Everything is about to change", fine, but change from what? It's like handing a copy of Finnegan's Wake to an ESL student from Afghanistan.

More like "ten random jazz albums I've heard of".

I would suggest starting someone off with -- duh -- Louis Armstrong, a good career retrospective that includes some of the Hot Fives and Sevens, and a good selection of his singing as well (his singing was even more revolutionary than his horn playing). Then I'd give them some middle Ellington, something like "Bragging In Brass: The Immortal 1938 Year". If you don't know where you came from, you don't know nuthin'. Then something by Monk (Genius of Modern Music), Charlie Parker (on Savoy), Dizzy (something Afro-Cuban). Into the LP period, it gets harder to choose, but I'd go with "Afro Cuban" by Kenny Dorham, "Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers", "The Cat" by Jimmy Smith, "Birth of the Cool" and Kind of Blue" by Miles, Giant Steps by Coltrane. How many is that? Room for "Kirk's Work" by Roland Kirk, before he became Rahsaan? Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder"? Oh, and you have to include at least one Bossa Nova record; I nominate "Getz/Gilberto".

Leave all that free stuff for later; you're trying to seduce someone, not electrocute them.
posted by Fnarf at 12:42 AM on October 31, 2012 [17 favorites]


If you're not planning to die next week and have a bit of time..

GQ's top 100 jazz albums.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:42 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


‘Ten jazz albums to listen to before you die’ sounds like a threat from one of those fictional serial killers that turn up on shows like Criminal Minds. In my mind’s eye I can see the devious sociopath taunting a stern-faced Thomas Gibson in the rôle of Aaron ‘Hotch’ Hotchner over the telephone with the strains of ‘Boogie Stop Shuffle’ distinctly audible behind the jazz countdown killer’s crazed ramblings and his latest victim’s stifled sobs, leading ‘Hotch’ to mutter an urgent, serious-faced aside about there only being about an hour and a half to go before he strikes again…

As for lesser-known gems I’ll put a word in for Hank Mobley, several of whose albums I’ve been enjoying lately: while Soul Station is generally lauded as his finest work, The Hank Mobley Quintet, Roll Call, and No Room For Squares, to name just a few, are all excellent too.
posted by misteraitch at 2:15 AM on October 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


No Duke Ellington.

Ellington is kind of tricky because while there are some pretty great albums from him like Blues in Orbit or The Great Paris Concert, the best stuff is in the compilations of singles from the 30s, which don't technically count as albums.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 3:04 AM on October 31, 2012


Screw this. The people on I Love Music did a jazz poll and came up with 250 albums. It skews a little towards what they call 'spiritual hat' jazz (abstract 60's stuff etc.) but it's full of interesting discussion and based on what people actually listen to and like rather than any bullshit notions of 'worthiness'.
posted by kersplunk at 3:29 AM on October 31, 2012 [8 favorites]


Kaoru Abe and Masayuki Takayanagi, Mass Projection
posted by hototogisu at 3:41 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


He's not cataloging the best albums, he's listing a few that are seminal for one reason or another which the naive listener can make some kind of connection with.

I thought it was a good list, even if I disagree with much of it. It's a shame Sun Ra isn't so much as namedropped, but his reputation was built on his live shows, and many of his albums kind of blur together. Considering the heavy emphasis on the late 50s-early 70s, it's a mystery why there's no Ayler, especially since some of his sets are both more out-there and more friendly than Coleman's work. Miles' Bitches Brew is practically troll bait, too; Sure, for some people it's a gut punch, but for most it sounds like an hour and change of atmospheric noodling. It's a benchmark album that changed the landscape of jazz and popular music, and while Miles went on to do other things, this was the last time a single project of his had such an impact on the world. Some of the sidemen on the album (and many more who weren't and wished they had been) more or less established themselves and their professional careers for decades by playing variations on Bitches Brew over and over again. Which, in retrospect, might not have been the awesomest thing, but that's a reflection on how significant Miles' albums from that period were.

But, again, the premise is not that these are the best albums, or even albums that you, the ig'nunt fool, love; it's just a nonexclusive list of albums that you should listen to and possibly be edified by.

And if you're curious, I don't know how I would have written the article; I keep veering towards the obscure cousins of the popular favorites. I've always preferred Jarrett's Bremen/Lausanne to Köln, Weather Report's 8:30 to Heavy Weather.
posted by ardgedee at 3:52 AM on October 31, 2012


There's a neat little documentary about 1959's extraordinary jazz output (Kind of Blue, The Shape of Jazz to Come, Time Out, etc.) that is definitely worth a watch.
posted by cvp at 4:21 AM on October 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


No Spryro Grya?
posted by sammyo at 4:24 AM on October 31, 2012


Long since done. It's a bog-standard list of long-time coventionally accepted iconic albums, which have been gathered in list after list. Not ready to die, yet.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:40 AM on October 31, 2012


Also, Pithecanthropus Erectus.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:43 AM on October 31, 2012


Awfully myopic, this list. Half are from the late '50s, and the entire list spans less than 20 years out of the 90-some-year history of recorded jazz. And yes, there were albums in the '30s and '40s. Literal albums, with four to to six singles in paper sleeves, bound between cardboard covers.
posted by Longtime Listener at 4:57 AM on October 31, 2012


> Ten jazz albums to listen to before you die’ sounds like a threat from one of those fictional serial killers that turn up on shows like Criminal Minds.

I've heard all of these except one, and now I'm afraid to listen to it.

My personal "What, no _______?" album would be Clifford Brown and Max Roach or The Quest...or maybe A Night At Birdland......or....
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:57 AM on October 31, 2012


I've a feeling this isn't a list aimed at people who know and love jazz. Rather, it's a list for the other 90% or so of the population who don't have any idea about jazz. Seriously, jazz is rapidly becoming the new classical music in terms of Americans' tastes. It's sad, really.

And, to pile on with my own "They forgot..."
• Sonny Clark
• Art Tatum
• Cecil Taylor
• Ellington
• Ellington
• Ellington
posted by Thorzdad at 5:08 AM on October 31, 2012


[Added a print version link in case it helps those for whom the main page is not loading]

I went ahead and printed the article and now the YouTube videos are playing really slowly.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:11 AM on October 31, 2012


• Sonny Clark
• Art Tatum
• Cecil Taylor
• Ellington
• Ellington
• Ellington
CAB CALLOWAY
posted by COBRA! at 5:21 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


This list is totally wrong, but I'm OK with it because any excuse to get people talking about great records is OK with me.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 5:38 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I liked the biodigital jazz in Tron, man.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:40 AM on October 31, 2012


I confess to owning just one of those, Herbie Hancock, which gives me the context because it's not about the best jazz but what represents a shift, as Watermelon Man seriously shifted my brain.

So my obligatory "they forgot..." must be Weather Report: Distant Traveller because that gave me yet another colour to the rainbow.
posted by arzakh at 5:43 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


What a weird list. I'll summarize its inadequacy by opining that, much as I enjoy Blue Train, it's not even among the top 5 most important Coltrane albums.

The compiler seems more swayed by sales figures than he should be.
posted by Egg Shen at 5:49 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Five more internet pages to view before you die.
posted by orme at 6:01 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Along with Kind of Blue, Time Out, and Blue Train (which made the list) my go-to jazz albums include Lee Morgan's Sidewinder, Monk's Criss Cross, Jimmy Smith's the Sermon, and Art Blakey's Moanin'. I'm not saying they're the best, but they're the ones I play the most. Then there are plenty of other artists that I love but couldn't commit to a single album like Ken Vandermark, Gil Evans, Modern Jazz Quartet, Cecil Taylor, and Ornette Coleman.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:06 AM on October 31, 2012


And yes, there were albums in the '30s and '40s. Literal albums, with four to to six singles in paper sleeves, bound between cardboard covers.

Sure, but can you name a seminal Ellington one?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:29 AM on October 31, 2012


That's a weird list. Instantly I'd take the top ten off of the GQ list Muffinman linked up there. Cause, like, Blue Train? I mean, I'm not going to slag Blue Train, or say it is anything other than worthy, but that's the Coltrane you'd choose? I'd personally take Love Supreme but isn't Giant Steps the one to have if you are having only one?

The one place this top ten mirrors my taste is with Mingus Ah Um at #3. GQ has it at 49, which seems really, really low.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:33 AM on October 31, 2012


Or, what Egg said.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:33 AM on October 31, 2012


I only have one album (I think it's a "greatest hits" type deal) by Yusef Lateef, but I definitely think people should check him out. Lovely smooth flute work.
posted by symbioid at 6:37 AM on October 31, 2012


And clearly everybody knows that the one Miles Davis album you're supposed to listen to before you die is "On the Corner".
posted by symbioid at 6:38 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I confess to not listening to much of the genre, but if I had to pick just one jazz album to beat out all the others it would be a fairly easy decision: Memories... of Now by the Duke Silver Trio.
posted by item at 6:46 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aw, all these top 10 lists get hated on for missing things. Of course they're missing things. It doesn't have to be exclusive, it's just a subset of the canon.

I took an actual bonafide Jazz Appreciation course in college. It was terrific! Our primary "text" as the Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz. While it has its quirks, it's really not a bad way to get a quick historical overview of jazz up to the 50s. Seems to be out of print; Amazon has it used. I guess the Ken Burns set has taken over its role now.
posted by Nelson at 7:02 AM on October 31, 2012


The trouble with this list--like so many like this one--is that it tosses unfamiliar listeners into the jazz sea and expects them to make sense of people like Ornette Coleman. I don't say that to minimize the contributions of avant guarde jazz, but let's be honest: one of the biggest stumbling blocks for jazz is that it scares too many away because they feel at a glance that it's complicated. Or that it's like cough syrup: tastes bad but good for you. At its core, jazz is soul music. The more you listen to it, the more it grows on you, the more you hear the conversations in the music itself.
posted by runningdogofcapitalism at 7:03 AM on October 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


-No Duke Ellington.

-I mean, I'm not going to slag Blue Train, or say it is anything other than worthy, but that's the Coltrane you'd choose?

One of my favorites.
posted by grubi at 7:09 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Too much Myles Davis. And even one Herbie Hancock is too much. These two are responsible for so much execrable jazz fusion (between their own output and the imitators).
posted by idiopath at 7:16 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


*Sucks teeth*

Them's fighting words
posted by MartinWisse at 7:22 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


idiopath: And even one Herbie Hancock is too much.

Heretic! You take that back!
You must really hate John McLaughlin, huh?
posted by symbioid at 7:23 AM on October 31, 2012


At its core, jazz is soul music. The more you listen to it, the more it grows on you, the more you hear the conversations in the music itself.

This is a great point and I would add that jazz comes in various degrees of complexity and one is rewarded when you choose to consciously engage and listen to the music.

The best example of this is Thelonious Monk's music. Like many young listeners, the first time I heard his music (around 17 or 18) I totally didn't get it. I was listening casually and the rhythm didn't seem right, the pauses in the music made me uneasy and so on. Finally one evening I said, ok, I need to settle this for myself. I sat down in front of my speakers, and listened to Honeysuckle Rose about three times in a row (loud).

Are you kidding me? What the hell is he . . .? OMG I need to hear more of this!

Which is how great relationships begin . . . I'm as skeptical about sketchy top 10 lists as anyone, but if it helps someone, somewhere learn how to engage with Jazz music, I'm all for it.
posted by jeremias at 7:31 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just have to chime in here, The Bridge is a great Sonny Rollins album, but try almost any of his albums before that. They are just as good or even better.

Saxaphone Collosus
On Bluenote Vol. 1
Way Out West

Are my three favorites.
posted by freakazoid at 7:31 AM on October 31, 2012


And yes, there were albums in the '30s and '40s. Literal albums, with four to to six singles in paper sleeves, bound between cardboard covers.

Sure, but can you name a seminal Ellington one?


For starters, "Ellingtonia" volumes 1 and 2 on Brunswick, and "The Duke," Columbia Set C-38. Name a major voice in jazz of that era, and there most likely an album. If you want to split hairs, you could argue that albums back then were primarily collections of reissued singles. But in that era, "album" was a matter of packaging, not format. You still pulled a single out of the sleeve when you wanted to hear the music.
posted by Longtime Listener at 7:53 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was lucky enough to grow up in a household with amazing music all around me, and my parents schooled me in great jazz from most eras, except for the stuff they didn't care for, like Ornette Coleman's beep-squeakiest outings. Still listen all the time, from the esoteric to the classic, but the piece of jazz that's always burned into my head is something that's largely considered to be not paricularly significant.

Working the overnight shift, I used to listen to WPFW, Washington's then-peculiar Pacfica station that I loved for its exuberant combination of diverse music, incendiary talk, great books read daily in chapters, and gross unprofessionalism. I embraced my love of minimalism on one shift when a stoned DJ keeled over at his decks and let a record skip for three solid hours. Just—a snatch of music, a beat, a pop, over and over and over until the pareidolia kicked in and all sorts of sounds were pouring out of that two seconds of repetition until the DJ came around with a zzzzZZZWWWOOOP! and a shambling apology mixed in with a broadcast plea for his small, but dedicated, audience.

"Wuzzah? Wait, what time is it? Why ain't none of y'all call me!?"

There's something about working nights that suits jazz, and the record that knocked me sideways was Karma, by Pharoah Sanders. It's not that challenging as a work, and many of the jazzier jazz purists I know give me the slight squint that means I am aware of his work when I attempt to froth appreciatively and lecture me about the derivative hippie lameness of Sanders if I try to mount a defense. Yeah, it's of its time, and yeah, it's probably not an enduring classic in the way that, say, "Misterioso" is, and maybe it was just that hour and the stinging astringent strands of airborne ammonia gas leaking out of my microfilm duplicators, but—

At nine minutes and ten seconds into "The Creator Has a Master Plan," when Leon Thomas started to yodel, I levitated several millimeters from the green vinyl seat of the army surplus chair at my film inspection station and stayed there, hanging motionless in space with the hair on the back of my neck standing on end, until the remaining twenty-three minutes and thirty-seven seconds of that song spooled out into the unbearable emptiness of the universe, then settled back into the chair as the gravity returned.

"That was the triptastic Pharoah Sanders, folks," the DJ said, setting up for the next record, and I wrote it on my hand, spelling it wrong because the guy pronounced it "Saunders," and headed for the record store the next day, coming out seven dollars poorer, with an LP in a crinkly paper bag. Is it a great work of jazz? I think probably not, in the overall scheme of things, but there was something to that magical junction between the contentment and ecstatic release that's still baked into the core of that piece for me despite the passage of decades.

I will never be a musician of any caliber, but I go chasing after that voice, and what happens when you get so lost in the moment that you can't do anything but yodel in some lost language, and do my best to put that wild, perfect, incomprehensible state of psychedelic abandon into words.

When I need peace, I settle down with Monk.

When I need the full fury of being, Leon sings me awake.
posted by sonascope at 7:59 AM on October 31, 2012 [16 favorites]


What I think would be cooler is some kind of Choose Your Own Adventure guide that lets you pick pathways to jazz that make sense to your tastes... like some people are NEVER going to be into Cecil Taylor but they might still enjoy Art Blakey... or some people just might not be into the root sonic properties of a glossy big band but might still enjoy small combo stuff. And some people might not care for any music that doesn't have a singer!

So start with a page that has like... the "Take the A-Train" of each major subgenre of jazz that has been in enough car commercials and movie soundtracks to be accessible, then take the person down a path to stuff that relates and expands... instead of just saying "awww man you need to listen to Braxton's 9 Compositions or you're an idiot."
posted by SharkParty at 8:06 AM on October 31, 2012 [8 favorites]


SharkParty: that's a good idea. My personal taste in jazz doesn't have huge range (at least near as I can tell), but my favorites are Ellington and Coltrane (thank the heavens they did an album together!). I just can't get into some of the stranger stuff, but that doesn't mean I don't know how to appreciate the genre.
posted by grubi at 8:10 AM on October 31, 2012


Too much Myles Davis. And even one Herbie Hancock is too much. These two are responsible for so much execrable jazz fusion (between their own output and the imitators.

That's an awfully dismissive comment, and it ignores a wide swath of both men's work. If you can say that Kind of Blue and Maiden Voyage are "too much," I truly don't know what to say.

Anyway, the people who made this clicklisticle clearly haven't gotten the memo from The Atlantic that jazz is a dead rotted corpse.
posted by blucevalo at 8:12 AM on October 31, 2012


Sonascope - Thanks for mentioning Leon Thomas. His "Live in Berlin" is worth hunting down. I have collected his scant discography in its entirety.
posted by Jode at 8:16 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dear Old Stockholm - One of my favorite pre-death listens, and the Coltrane OG Quartet's finest for my money (which will all be spent before I die, on jazz albums).
posted by obscurator at 8:27 AM on October 31, 2012


Actually, just realized I'm hopping mad that this is missing Oliver Nelson's The Blues and the Abstract Truth, probably because that's the first jazz record that I really fell in love with.

If you want to split hairs, you could argue that albums back then were primarily collections of reissued singles.

I really don't think it's hair splitting. It's more that it's reflective of the limitations of this list, and this approach to jazz that it started with conceived albums in the 50s. I'd put Back Room Romp, a collection of the Ellington side bands that was compiled in the 90s on this in a heartbeat, but I don't think it would count.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 8:54 AM on October 31, 2012


Even a list of 10 Miles Davis albums to listen to before you die would have glaring omissions.
posted by Lorin at 9:05 AM on October 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Lentrohamsanin: “Ellington is kind of tricky because while there are some pretty great albums from him like Blues in Orbit or The Great Paris Concert, the best stuff is in the compilations of singles from the 30s, which don't technically count as albums.”

Man, everybody says this, but it isn't true. And at this point, frankly I associate this attitude with the neo-moldy figs who think 1930s Ellington is the only Ellington and ignorantly disdain the fact that the man had a career for 50 years. Sorry, but I just finished this horrendously bad biography of Duke Ellington, and it made the same mistake you're making. And that kind of annoys me, mostly because the Duke Ellington I know and love ain't like that.

It's well-known that most musicians have a stroke of greatness that they can never recapture. Duke Ellington was among the rarified pantheon of musicians who only got better as they went along. The 1960s Ellington band was the best incarnation of the Ellington band. I'll say that again, so people can let it sink in: in the 1960s, Duke Ellington was at his peak. This is not to diminish anything that came before it, but both the skill and versatility of the band and the level of Ellington's composition were at higher levels in the 1960s. This is attested by countless albums: The Queen's Suite, which I have to say might be my favorite jazz record – delicate, exquisite, beautiful, and very, very good; Soul Call and Ella and Duke at the Cote d'Azur, recorded at the same series of concerts, which probably represent the band's peak as far as live recordings go; and The Far East Suite, just to give a few.

“It's more that it's reflective of the limitations of this list, and this approach to jazz that it started with conceived albums in the 50s.”

Well, you're still leaving out live performances, which hold together as a whole much more than singles. I mean, as a representation of mid-period Ellington at it's peak, the Blanton/Webster collections like Never No Lament do not (in my opinion) stand up quite as well as Fargo, 1940, which is a single concert recording. But I do agree with the larger point that the album method really leaves a lot to be desired, and they should have included much more early jazz on it. It's basically a crime not to include anything from before 1955.
posted by koeselitz at 9:06 AM on October 31, 2012 [6 favorites]


If it's jazz, and it's on an album, it should be a candidate for Ten Jazz Albums To Listen To Before You Die. It shouldn't matter if it's on 78 rpm shellac, long-play vinyl or CD. It shouldn't matter if the album was conceived as a whole or if it's a collection of recordings from years earlier. You should listen to Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven. You should listen to Ornette Coleman. You should listen to Benny Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall concert. You should listen to Weather Report. You don't have to like them all, but you should expose yourself to them and see what catches your ear.
posted by Longtime Listener at 9:25 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually, I'm pretty sure that the human brain is incapable of not liking Benny Goodman.
posted by ersatz at 9:36 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


vverse23: "A Love Supreme" doesn't make the list? Ah, because it's transcendent.
I'd LOVE that piece, if it wasn't for the lifeless, spoken repetition of the title in the middle of an otherwise instrumental piece.

Is it just me? Doesn't that seem jarring to anyone else (who is otherwise a Coltrane fan)?
posted by IAmBroom at 9:42 AM on October 31, 2012


hanoixan: Before I die? While I die. It's the only way to truly appreciate jazz.
Thanks for dropping by in this thread about jazz to let us know you hate the genre. Much appreciated.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:45 AM on October 31, 2012


And clearly everybody knows that the one Miles Davis album you're supposed to listen to before you die is "On the Corner".

Or "Sketches of Spain," or "Porgy and Bess," or "Nefertiti."
posted by e1c at 9:51 AM on October 31, 2012


Longtime Listener: You don't have to like them all, but you should expose yourself to them and see what catches your ear.

And you should maybe go further than just the masters and giants that end up on everyone's top ten or fifty or thousand lists. I love Trane and Miles and Duke and Satchmo. But I also love the woefully and unjustly underrated Hank Mobley and (IMO) Art Blakey -- even more.

IAmBroom: Is it just me? Doesn't that seem jarring to anyone else (who is otherwise a Coltrane fan)?

Not to me. To my ears, it's a moving incantation.
posted by blucevalo at 9:53 AM on October 31, 2012


I thought we'd all decided that links to OC Weekly were /verboten/?

Nothing like hipster-hatin hipsters, amirite?
posted by clvrmnky at 10:19 AM on October 31, 2012


My favorite jazz album that will never be on any of these lists: Lawrence of Newark by Larry Young.
posted by klangklangston at 10:30 AM on October 31, 2012


> ...the record that knocked me sideways was Karma, by Pharoah Sanders...

An excellent reminder that good art can be more affecting than great art. Karma has set some deep emotional hooks for me, too, albeit for different reasons. Objectively, it's yet another one of Sanders' rides on Coltrane's coattails. And yet for your story and others besides, it manages, for once, to be something entirely different.

As if somebody made a note-for-note, effect-for-effect ripoff of My Bloody Valentine's Isn't Anything that somehow managed to be entirely satisfying and emotionally engaging in ways that MBV isn't.

If I had to make a list of albums to listen to before you die, I don't know if I'd include Swiss Movement by Eddie Harris & Les McCann, but if I was invited to make a list of albums that will improve their lives, I'd have to include it just for the opening track, "Compared to What". And they're not albums, but any of the videos on YouTube that feature Rahsaan Roland Kirk tearing down the house while swinging between floating scronky free jams and straight-up soul numbers. Same reason. "Folk Songs I and II" on Pat Metheny's 80/81 project, which as far as I'm concerned is an extended ensemble setup to prepare the listener for the drop-dead-beautiful solo turn by Charlie Haden that winds on and on like a story told by the fire.

There are all kinds of jazz albums on the margins of the consensus pantheon, either because they were too commercial, too weird, too pop-oriented, too weird, too something-not-quite-suitable-for-the-tastemakers, and the beauty of each of them is that they turned somebody onto jazz and sparked the connection the listener needed to appreciate the greats.
posted by ardgedee at 10:48 AM on October 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm surprised no one has mentioned Sidney Bechet.

Thanks for the post, I have some listening to do.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:02 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


dobbs: Would love people's recommendations for little-known gems.

"Four Women" - Nina Simone live at Antibes
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:40 AM on October 31, 2012


I've only listened to two of those albums (Time Out and Blue Train). I'm sure I've heard most of Kind of Blue and given a spin to The Shape of Jazz to Come, but the time I would have given them to "sink in" I decided to use to explore other albums. Blue Train was actually one of my starter albums, as it exposed me to Curtis Fuller. From Curtis Fuller, Joe Henderson, Sonny Clark and Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers came into the picture. Before I knew it I was jumping in to Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Kenny Dorham, Freddie Hubbard (I'm a trumpet player). Lee Morgan led me to Sonny Clark, Clifford Brown to Max Roach, and so on.

I guess what I'm getting to is that Jazz is a unique genre with far more "connect the dots" opportunities than other musical styles, which is something I've always loved about it. Personnel is almost always listed on the cover and you can feel confident trying something new if you know one player's work.

All that being said, Kansas City Motion Picture Soundtrack is one of my favorite jazz albums and might fall into that "little-known gems" category.
posted by bwilms at 12:21 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


The most underrated jazz musician (in my opinion) was the great Kenny Dorham, who's always an also-ran and seen as a sideman. His very last album is one of the greatest records of all time, and I'm always shocked that nobody ever talks about it. The title track, "Trompeta Toccata," is just stunning to me every time I listen to it; excellent personnel, brilliant conception, and as always insanely good trumpet-work. Kenny Dorham is in my estimation probably the third-greatest trumpet player jazz has ever produced, and that's really saying something.

Golden Eternity: “I'm surprised no one has mentioned Sidney Bechet.”

Man, Sidney! Yes, an excellent, excellent musician. He and Louis Armstrong were two sides of the coin in a lot of ways – Louis Armstrong was raised in destitution, and his success was always a kind of victory for him, always a heavenward movement to the highest things; but Sidney Bechet was born to upper-middle-class Creoles, to whom that lowdown music was an embarrassment and to whom being a musicianer was absolutely not an honest vocation, and his approach to jazz was always a trajectory that shot down through the gutter toward the muddy center of the human heart. His music had this darkness to it, and I honestly believe Sidney Bechet could play the blues better than anybody else ever did on any instrument.

And he also made some unbelievably hot records. Back when hot jazz was esteemed as a thing, some people were in the habit of claiming that the session he recorded with his trumpet-playing friend Tommy Ladnier and their New Orleans Feetwarmers on September 15, 1932, was the hottest jazz recording ever produced. It's hard to find a good reason to dispute that claim; that session was fantastic, and it's a good place to start if you want to learn about Sidney. They recorded six tracks that day; here they are in the order they were recorded:

Sweetie Dear
I want you tonight
I found a new baby
Lay your Racket (terrible recording, unfortunately)
Maple Leaf Rag
Shag

That last is justifiably well-known in jazz history as the first known instance of a tune that's just an improvisation on known changes, without stating the melody at all; the underlying chord changes are from the archetypal Gershwin standard "I Got Rhythm."

Lastly, anyone who's interested in the life of Sidney Bechet is strongly advised to pick up a copy of John Chilton's masterful Sidney Bechet: The Wizard of Jazz. It is one of the best-researched and most-complete biographies ever written, and is really an incredibly good read.
posted by koeselitz at 12:36 PM on October 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, and I should say: jazz lists always have unfortunate omissions, and there will never be an exception to this rule. But the one jazz list that I've had the most luck with is the Penguin Guide to Jazz Core Collection. I've found a ton of great stuff through that list.
posted by koeselitz at 12:45 PM on October 31, 2012


Recommending On the Corner above other Miles is a pose. Sorry. Miles's mid-70s rock albums are better, for one thing; so are In a Silent Way (which doesn't really feel like an entire album, admittedly) and the Cellar Door box.

This list is poor in any case. Not because it leaves off my favourites -- I like those albums. But as has been repeatedly pointed out, it's lazy. (Time Out is an especially lame choice -- to ease your way in, why not some Sinatra/Jobim, some Billie Holiday?)

Everyone who's past the 101-level class, are you hearing the Jarrett/Motian/Haden/Redman quartet? Their Impulse albums cut deep. Unbelievable band. Haden has great taste. (Song X from Metheny is a perfect Ornette sampler I think.)

If you're newish to jazz but like to move your body a little, try the Blue Note Trip DJ mixes. They get repetitive when taken more than one at a time, but each is a solid sampler of compact jazz-funk/soul tunes from the Blue Note archives, and every disc flows by smooth and easy. Best of all, they link mainline jazz to everything from 90s hip hop (obligatory boring Digable Planets) to raunchy 70s funk, making for a useful historical overview. Plus, any experience involving Jimmy McGriff is a good experience.
posted by waxbanks at 12:46 PM on October 31, 2012


It's a very beginner-ish list, with the top 5 being what I listened to as a beginner in jazz. I've always felt like I've kind of dabbled in it; I like stuff like Art Blakey and Ahmad Jamal and some newer stuff (like the ever weird Hiromi Uehara) as well as all the kind of stock jazz listed here. But it's pretty clear from this thread, as it was from my own experience, that there's no one canonical way to go. Just lots and lots of exploration and good music. Nothing wrong with that.
posted by graymouser at 1:04 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a west-coaster, I probably grew up hearing a disproportionate amount of left coast jazz at my dad's house in the 70's -- he used to listen to KJAZ back when there was such a thing (wunnerful station -- no commercials, just dj spots) and his album collection included lots of those guys. Stan Getz I love, but my actual favorite Cool Jazz (50's era standard acoustic bass, drums, piano, tenor, alto) album has to be Art Pepper's Smack Up. The melody line to the title cut & Las Cuevas De Mario are permanently embedded in my psyche.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:09 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Huh, that reads more like 10 Jazz Albums you can't help but listen to before you die.

Now, I own all of them, and have for years. I've gone through multiple copies of a few of them, they are GREAT albums, but it just felt like overhearing a guy brag about how much he learned about jazz from his "intro to jazz history" class, and knowing he was hung over for most of the classes.

Also, Louis and Ella each deserve their own slot. I'm sorry if that makes your list 11 instead of 10. Deal with it.
posted by Gygesringtone at 2:36 PM on October 31, 2012


On the other hand, it occurs to me that if you were going to ask me for a list of 10 albums for people who don't like jazz, it would probably be almost exactly the same as that list down to the order (I'd probably throw in Atomic Basie instead of the Shape of Jazz to Come, and Love Supreme instead of Bitch's Brew). Even the more out there albums on the list are pretty approachable.

So, I guess if I remove the expectation that it is a list for people that already know jazz it makes more sense.
posted by Gygesringtone at 2:52 PM on October 31, 2012


This may have been mentioned before: Download Free Jazz Online. Let's not forget the world's greatest guitarists - Django Rheinhardt, Joe Pass, Kenny Burrell, Tal Farlow, Les Paul, etc. etc. etc.
posted by onesidys at 3:34 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kenny Burrell, absolutely!
posted by ersatz at 3:42 PM on October 31, 2012


I am commenting here, mainly so that this thread can stay in my recent activity menu. This thread is that good.

I want to contribute by mentioning that everyone we've been discussing was enormously talented and generally pretty prolific, so some years were a torrent of incredible music. 1959 for example:

- 1959 in Jazz
- Wikipedia: 1959 in Jazz
- Wikipedia: live albums from 1959

In case you get lost in 1959 and can't find your way out, remember, in 1960 Ella Fitzgerald would release Mack the Knife. That should lever you out.
posted by wobh at 4:36 PM on October 31, 2012


don't technically count as albums

Rubbish. An album is an album. "Gene Pitney's Greatest Hits" is an album; "Magical Mystery Tour" is an album; those dreadful Pickwick reissues of Capitol back stock with two tracks sliced off are albums; even "Music For Background Listening, Vol. VI" is an album. "Louis Armstrong Sings" is maybe the greatest album ever made, because it's got "I'm Not Rough" on it; he never lived to see a copy of it, or any CD album. "The Blanton-Webster Band" and "Braggin' in Brass" sets are the greatest Ellington (sorry, koeselitz; for me, the suites killed off Ellington's genius and made it pompous and boring).

Many of the albums of the 50s and 60s released specifically as albums were assembled from sessions that weren't really associated with each other. What's the difference? In fact, the most certain way to ruin a musician is to send him down the "theme" rabbit hole.
posted by Fnarf at 5:06 PM on October 31, 2012


Here are all 10 on one page.
posted by Saintkevin at 5:20 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lentrohamsanin: “don't technically count as albums”

Fnarf: “Rubbish. An album is an album.”

Yes, but the general point stands: albums aren't a great unit with which to quantify jazz. I can't seem to find Louis Armstrong's greatest recording (yes, I said it) on an album; that alone kind of kills the 'albums as smallest molecule of jazz' theory for me. And that's just Louis. There are thousands upon thousands of recordings that have never been on album and maybe never will. They shouldn't be automatically disqualified from any good quantification of recordings.

“‘The Blanton-Webster Band’ and ‘Braggin' in Brass’ sets are the greatest Ellington... ”

Even though I disagree with you on this general point, I really, really love that Fargo 1940 recording. It has a bit more life and verve than the studio recordings, I've always thought, although we're talking about Ellington so there's quality everywhere and the studio stuff is also genius. I just find myself listening to it a lot more than the collections, although I guess that's probably more because I like to imagine myself there.

“(sorry, koeselitz; for me, the suites killed off Ellington's genius and made it pompous and boring)”

Okay, there are a couple of things here that I disagree with, and since I love talking about Ellington, I'll tell you what they are.

First – the idea that the suites "killed off Ellington's genius" is predicated on the notion that he didn't produce any standout songs later in his career. But I disagree with this. My absolute favorite Ellington tune, "West Indian Pancake," seems to have debuted in 1966. The same is true of the exceedingly interesting "La Plus Belle Africaine." And we're just talking about the first two songs from Soul Call – there are tons more material out there that Ellington did in later years, much of it collaborations and side projects, and almost all of it very good.

However – second – I take you may mean that, in attempting to compose long-form pieces, Ellington failed. And I will grant that in some cases this is true. There are a lot of his suites that bore the tar out of me. But to simply dismiss them all is to ignore some of his very best work. Every tune that makes up The Queen's Suite is exquisitely good – the beauty alone of the opener, "Sunset and the Mocking Bird," is worth the price of admission, and the rest of the suite is just as good. And there are those who believe "Isfahan" from the Far East Suite is the greatest melody Billy Strayhorn ever composed. I really think the suites ought not be dismissed.

Anyway, I could go on and on about Ellington forever, so it's probably best to quit now.

One thing I should mention, however, is the second-greatest trumpet player jazz ever produced: Clifford Brown. Sometimes I contemplate what might have happened if Clifford, who was technically superior to Miles and who was actually four years younger, hadn't died tragically at 25. In his brief time here, though, he and Max Roach led what was for a time the greatest band in jazz, and made a couple of very brilliant albums, the best of which is probably (I think) Study In Brown. The way Clifford Brown gelled with Harold Land (and later in his career a young Sonny Rollins) is amazing: a saxophone and a trumpet in pure harmony together, flowing from unison to smooth intervals and wending in and out so that you sometimes can't easily distinguish them. Pure pleasure, that record. Smooth.
posted by koeselitz at 6:19 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nobody mentioned yet: Andrew Hill, Archie Shepp, David Murray, William Parker.
posted by box at 7:00 PM on October 31, 2012


Speaking of under-appreciated trumpeters, Benny Bailey should get a nod. I don't really know much about him, but his solos on the Les McCann/Eddie Harris album Swiss Movement are absolutely mind- bending. I would actually put that album in my top ten, now that I think about it.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:07 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I was in my teens I listened to "Headhunters" (along with "Where have I known you before" by Return To Forever) every day.
posted by mike3k at 11:34 PM on October 31, 2012


What hasn't really been discussed about that list is also how male it is; no female jazz musicians on it, save for Ella Fitzgerald. However, most of the examples in the thread here are also by male musicians...

So, my question is, if you sort of like jazz but are not really all that familiar with it and you want to hear more female artists, beyond the holy trinity of Ella, Billy and Nina, which would y'all recommend?
posted by MartinWisse at 6:28 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


ESPERENZA SPALDING.
posted by SharkParty at 6:42 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, my question is, if you sort of like jazz but are not really all that familiar with it and you want to hear more female artists, beyond the holy trinity of Ella, Billy and Nina, which would y'all recommend?

Give Sarah Vaughan a listen and you might reconsider your holy trinity. She's sublime.
posted by ersatz at 6:55 AM on November 1, 2012


I'm ashamed to admit that besides Carla Bley I'm struggling to think of any female jazz musicians who aren't vocalists (and Bley sings on multiple tracks on her best known work, Escalator Over the Hill). Candy Dulfer, I guess, though I don't know if she's done anything that goes on a "hear this before you die" list, not really familiar with her body of work.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:09 AM on November 1, 2012


Mary Lou Williams; Alice Coltrane; Susie Ibarra.
posted by misteraitch at 7:31 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


MartinWisse: “So, my question is, if you sort of like jazz but are not really all that familiar with it and you want to hear more female artists, beyond the holy trinity of Ella, Billy and Nina, which would y'all recommend?”

Mary Lou Williams is an undisputed master. She's probably the only jazz pianist to really encompass all eras of jazz up until about 1965; she could play 1920s Harlem stride with the best of 'em; she was a master of Kansas City swing; and she could play hard bop too. She was friends with Monk, with Powell, with all those guys. If you're going to check her out, I would start with her first major composition, something I think is an underappreciated moment of brilliance, the 1945 Zodiac Suite. (That's one of the compositions, "Aries;" here's the whole album on Spotify. Ah, and on preview I see that misteraitch has linked another track from that record.) After 1965, she kept going, and she was making records straight up to her death in the early 1980s; but she didn't really believe that younger players respected the music much, and she didn't think much of the free-jazz or fusion-jazz turns. A great personality and brilliant musician, and her music isn't nearly as well-listened-to as it ought to be.

ersatz is absolutely correct that Sarah Vaughan deserves attention. My personal opinion is that Sarah is the most technically accomplished vocalist in jazz. The warm and wonderful Ella is still my favorite singer bar none – frankly, I see her as one of the saints of the 20th century, alongside Duke and Louis and Fred Rogers and Jim Henson, and it should be said that Ella was an extraordinarily accomplished musician – Billy has a dusky soul that no one can match, and Nina Simone is a great and sometimes strange genius, but as far as pure vocal skill goes, I believe Sarah is unmatched. Her flawless 1957 rendition of "They Can't Take That Away From Me" is a good example. She's worth spending a lot of time with.

Another woman who's a pianist and frankly a whole world unto herself is the great Marian McPartland. She is best known for running one of my favorite PBS shows ever, the always-excellent Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz, a show where with humility and grace she'd chat quietly but excitedly with a diverse array of musicians from Oscar Peterson to Herbie Hancock to Allen Toussaint to Elvis Costello. She just retired from running that show last year, actually, at the age of 93 (!) although older episodes are still being run. Her self-effacing humility on the show is deceptive, however; she's quite brilliant as a pianist in her own right, and is accomplished at all from the stride and swing of the 1940s to the more complex harmonizations of the 1960s and 1970s. I've heard recordings of her wherein she masterfully pulled off classical music, too; she has a good deal of technical skill. Her Wikipedia bio is worth reading, as it's fascinating; a classically-trained Englishwoman, she fell in love with Duke and Fats and Mary Lou in the late 1930s and came across the pond to stay. Unfortunately, she seems to be even more underappreciated than Mary Lou Williams, if that's possible, and that means it's not always easy to get hold of her records. One of them, In My Life, is listed in the Penguin Jazz Core Collection, although sadly I've never heard it. But Spotify has a lot of her stuff, as does Youtube. Her harmonic conception is something I'm quite envious of as a pianist.

One woman musician I've developed a strong affinity for lately is Blossom Dearie. She is more a vocalist, although she tends to accompany herself (with a band) on piano, and she's a pretty good pianist too. Her voice is a bit unexpected, but it really grew on me; and she has an ability to render fresh and endearing versions of show tunes and standards. Her 1957 American debut album is pretty great, I have to say. I especially like this and this. She's also responsible for what I think is the definitive version of the latter-day standard "My Attorney Bernie."

I've always liked Helen Merrill, too – she did some fabulous work with Clifford Brown, including the best rendition I've ever heard of "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To."

There's a few, anyway.
posted by koeselitz at 10:16 AM on November 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


(Oh, and if you just generally would like to learn a bit more about jazz in the funnest and most pleasant way imaginable, Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz is a great way to do it. She has such great conversations with people, and they're unpretentious and highly enjoyable. There are a ton of episodes up for free listening in the archive. Now that I've gone there, I've noticed they have the Blossom Dearie episode up, so I know what I'm listening to for the next hour...)
posted by koeselitz at 10:23 AM on November 1, 2012


I lived 4 decades without ever hearing of Phineas Newborn Jr. man could that guy play.
posted by sineater at 10:47 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, my question is, if you sort of like jazz but are not really all that familiar with it and you want to hear more female artists, beyond the holy trinity of Ella, Billy and Nina, which would y'all recommend?

Off the dome, trying to avoid repeating people: Carmen McRae, Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln, Shirley Scott, Cassandra Wilson, Sylvie Courvoisier, Ikue Mori.
posted by box at 11:05 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Toshiko Akiyoshi has had a long career as a pianist and as a bandleader.
posted by Longtime Listener at 11:36 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Toshiki Akiyoshi, yes! She's incredible. Her album At The Top Of The Gate was (as far as I can tell) the last recording of Kenny Dorham before he died; it's very good.
posted by koeselitz at 12:46 PM on November 1, 2012


You could also check out Anita O'Day.
posted by goofyfoot at 1:07 PM on November 1, 2012


Oh, and if you just generally would like to learn a bit more about jazz in the funnest and most pleasant way imaginable, Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz is a great way to do it.

Thanks, I just listened to the Blossom Dearie and it was indeed lovely. Quite a nice way to spend an hour while the evening draws in, reading and listening and sipping beer.

The whole series looks like a good alternative for radio at work when Radio 4 starts to pale.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:26 PM on November 1, 2012


Although not a large collection in comparison to Jazz collectors, I have over 100 albums in my collection. One of my favorite pieces, believe it or not, is the score to a fun movie about the early days of the Beatles called "Backbeat".

The score to "Backbeat" (1994) was written by Don Was and features Terence Blanchard. I have, without exaggeration, listened to this album over 1,000 times and still enjoy the heck of it!

For me, "What Do They Call This Drink" puts on a display of virtousity and emotion like few jazz songs I know (perhaps only rivaled by Coltrane's "Alabama").

My "Must-Listen Jazz Bucket List" would definitely have this album in the top 10.
posted by iam2bz2p at 1:40 PM on November 1, 2012


koeselitz: (Oh, and if you just generally would like to learn a bit more about jazz in the funnest and most pleasant way imaginable, Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz is a great way to do it. She has such great conversations with people, and they're unpretentious and highly enjoyable. There are a ton of episodes up for free listening in the archive. Now that I've gone there, I've noticed they have the Blossom Dearie episode up, so I know what I'm listening to for the next hour...)
My favorite facet of her show is: it's completely unscripted. When she says, "What'll we play next?", and the guest mentions some obscure song from the 1930s to 2012, and she says, "Oh, what fun! Shall I play the harmony, or would you like to?"... that's all being decided on the fly.

On the occasions where she doesn't feel confident accompanying them, she lets them solo. But that's maybe once a show, at most.

And she's 94 freaking years old. I mean, sure: she probably played every one of those songs when it was first released, but... her memory for music is staggering.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:45 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


What hasn't really been discussed about that list is also how male it is...

Did you notice that Ella's also the only singer? Instrumental jazz is STILL a boys club, but it was even worse in the past. So, pretty much if you were a female then and wanted to perform jazz, singing it was. (Btw, have you ever stopped to listen to Nina Simone's piano playing? It's easily as good as her singing). Anyway, in a lot of ways vocal jazz isn't seen as being "serious" like instrumental jazz. So, you these lists of "great jazz" albums (read:serious jazz), never have any women other than Ella (who wasn't serious like Miles, but you still have to include Ella because... well she's Ella). All of which is to say that, yeah, but it's a systemic problem not just this guy.

Looking back,there's huge problems with how jazz is taught at the High school\college level. The expectation is that in big bands (which is your only choice most of the time for playing jazz in highschool) I've run across, that for positions like Lead trumpet or Alto, the player should have this masculine swagger. I've heard people tell lead trumpet players they need to play with "more balls" more times then I can count, and I knew several women (and girls) who were turned off from playing jazz because of it.

Aside from the wonderful performers listed above, you should check out Maria Schneider. For one thing, it's as serious jazz as you can get. For another, she's a joy to watch conduct. She moves, and the music follows. Conducting is just as much a talent as playing an instrument, and she is a virtuoso.

Oh and the Piano Jazz with Alicia Keys was a revelation.
posted by Gygesringtone at 4:35 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I haven't listened to her newer stuff, but the early material by Hiromi Uehara (Another World, Brain, Time Control, Spiral) was excellent trio and quartet material, driven by Hiromi's frenetic piano playing. She's a lot of fun to listen to. I'd be happy to hear of other women doing solid jazz composition today, but she's the one I've spent time listening to.
posted by graymouser at 4:17 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gygesringtone: “Did you notice that Ella's also the only singer? Instrumental jazz is STILL a boys club, but it was even worse in the past. So, pretty much if you were a female then and wanted to perform jazz, singing it was.”

I mentioned earlier that Ella was a fantastic musician overall, and it's true – even then, people didn't realize this. The story is that she was singing with Chick Webb's band for a few years when Chick had a sudden illness and told the band Ella was going to fill in running the band for a few months. At first, there was a lot of joking around and even some grumbling – this lady singer, they said, is supposed to actually tell us when we're off, give us stage direction, pick up on mistakes we're making, and help us tighten up? Apparently, however, by the time Chick got back Ella had them practicing twice as much, and frantically, in order to try to keep up with her. Whip-smart. (And a damned good piano player to boot.)
posted by koeselitz at 2:13 PM on November 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


This has been one of my favorite Metafilter post so far (especially for introducing me to Mary Lou Williams's Zodiac Suite), but here is the reason I'm contributing to this thread. I was listening to Soul Call, the late Ellington record suggested by koeselitz, thinking that I had chanced upon a new discovery, only to gradually realize that this was a CD that I had listened to nearly everyday in high school. It's the only jazz CD that I ever listened to with my family, namely my sister and my stepfather, who when the CD started, said, "They don't make music like that anymore" and near the end, after the especially high notes played by Paul Gonsalves et al., said, "There's only so much of that you can listen to." Afterwards, I think my seventeen year old self decided that this could not have been a great Ellington album, since I had only payed about five dollars for it at Tower Records at the mall. I had a weird Ellington trajectory: essentially starting with Soul Call and a great collection of lopsided late Ellingtonia that I got at Costco called Happy Birthday Duke (Five CDs for ten dollars!--you can see my teenage financial situation), then moving back to the '30s, then coming back to the late period.

Listening to it now, I can hear what attracted me to late Ellington and what I found disappointing in records like the Blanton Webster Band. It's true that many of the longer pieces don't quite work, but with later Ellington, you get this sense of broad territory, which can result in a kind of cheesy magisterialness, casual, flip, wildness. Soul Call, in any case, is much more casual, rhythmic, solo-featuring than most of the early Ellington CDs I've heard, which, contrary to whatever I've read about the wildness of the Cotton Club, feel much more like tame and orchestrated products than Soul Call.

I don't think you need to choose, but I think that arguing that late Ellington is better is a more interesting argument or at least a more interesting picture of what you want a musician's output to look like. You have these intimate records (And His Mother Called Him Sam), solo records (Piano in the Foreground), the soundtracks (Anatomy of a Murder), the Sacred Concerts, and the occasional music of the suites, like Such Sweet Thunder, Afro-Eurasian Eclipse, and Far East Suite, as well as incredible collaborative pieces--most the Coltrane record (In A Sentimental Mood!) and Money Jungle, sometimes my favorite Ellington record. Though on other days, my favorite Ellington record is The Quintessence, a badly recorded '30s collection. Do you guys recommend any other obscure Ellington records?

Incidentally, I've been making a Spotify playlist of most of the songs in this thread (so far mostly from the GQ link, as I haven't had time to update) here.
posted by johnasdf at 8:43 PM on November 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Money Jungle, now there's an album to listen to before you die.

In fact, it inspired me to make my own Jazz 102 level list, one that includes both big-bands and women, and live performances (lots of live performances) but leaves off about 99.99% of the jazz that you should listen to before you die. I've tried to hit some of the points the original list missed, but still missed Latin Jazz, West Coast Jazz, Post Bop, Dixie Land, Gypsy Jazz, Etc. etc.

In no particular order and with my own commentary and links:

1. Duke Ellington, Money Jungle: If a better version of Caravan exists, I haven't heard it.
2. The Mingus Big Band, Epitaph: Mingus's grand vision realized, it's as big and complex and lush as jazz gets.
3. Dinah Washington, Dinah Jams: Dinah, Clifford Brown, Max Roach, and a very young Maynard Ferguson... Need I say more
4. Rene Maria, Live at the Jazz Standard: Worth it just for the intro to this song
5. Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane: Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. It's Monk and Trane, Live. Go get it.
6. Keith Jarret, Whisper Not: Every single track reminds you of why you love that tune.
7. Anat Cohen: It's a hip clarinet player, what's not to like (not the best track, but the one that's on Youtube.
8. Quincy Jones, Big Band Bossa Nova: Get the release with the Taste of Honey bonus track. It's fantastic.
9. Cannonball Adderly Quintet, Live in San Fransisco: two words: Dis Here
10. The Ray Brown Trio, From New York to Tokyo: it's really a re-release of two albums, both live. Both fantastic.
posted by Gygesringtone at 7:33 AM on November 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wow, so much to take in...

arzakh: Do you mean Mysterious Traveler?

Free jazz remains a hard sell, but I'll mention three amazing such sets I haven't seen mentioned yet...

Marzette Watts And Company: Excerpts here, and here.

Why Not? by Marion Brown: Excerpt here.

Last Date by Eric Dolphy: Excerpts here and here.

And finally, this on On The Corner.
posted by dr. zoom at 6:23 PM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gygesringtone: (Btw, have you ever stopped to listen to Nina Simone's piano playing? It's easily as good as her singing).
She was a Juilliard-trained classical pianist, who was surprised at an early gig by being told "We expect you to sing. Sing or don't get paid." So, she always considered herself a pianist who sings, and she often included an instrumental track or two on her albums to force her fans to appreciate that.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:46 AM on November 5, 2012


she often included an instrumental track or two on her albums to force her fans to appreciate that.

Right, but I think those aren't the tracks that most people remember, and that's a perfect summation of the problem. Even someone as respected as Nina Simone still gets forced into the singer role by people who love and listen to her music.
posted by Gygesringtone at 4:13 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


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