Post By: Alan
Jazz is one of those topics that people are either completely ambivalent about, or completely passionate about. Even if you're one of those ambivalent types towards jazz, there are so many great recordings out there. These are recordings that have inspired newer music from genres as varied as hip hip to rock music. In fact, some of the great jazz recordings have been sampled in the work of newer artists. The albums that follow are selections from the most famous jazz musicians of all time: Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Herbie Hancock.
A quick note to all of the jazz snobs out there. This is my list. If you don't like it, write your own. Thanks.
#10: Miles Davis - Bitches Brew
Miles Davis' masterpiece concept album. This album has proven to be one of the greatest "jazz" albums of all time, although this album really defies categorization. Some call it fusion, some call it free jazz. Regardless, this album is not so much about melody, but more about creating a soundscape. Listening to the album, you are instantly transported to a new place where there are different emotions floating around in the space surrounding you. This is one of the most creative albums ever produced, and it belongs in all music lovers' collections.
# 9: John Coltrane - Giant Steps
This album is considered one of John Coltrane's greatest albums. This classic features Coltrane's style in full-force, yet while retaining the approachability that would be lost in later efforts. This album contains some of the most famous jazz songs ever written, and why not? With John Coltrane's impeccable command of the saxophone, as well as his intense and emotional compositions, this album is not to be missed.
# 8: Herbie Hancock - Inventions and Dimensions
This album is one of the most overlooked albums in Herbie Hancock's entire catalog. Featuring a trimmed down band (Just Herbie on Piano, some bass, and some percussion), this is an album for lovers of the piano. Herbie lays down some excellent melodies (Who doesn't love the opening to "Succotash"??), with the rhythm section throwing some latin-esque beats into the mix. Another song not to miss is "Mimosa", which Herbie Hancock worked on with Miles Davis. This is a great album!
# 7: Miles Davis - Birth of the Cool
This album is one of Miles Davis' earlier efforts, and contains the epitome of what people refer to as "Cool" jazz. In fact, many credit this album as the defining work of the "cool" jazz movement. This album has an upbeat tempo and style, and really brings you back to New York City in the early 1950's. One song I really like is "Bopliicity", which is a tribute to the bebop sound that Miles Davis is credited with being a major innovator. The title of the album sums it all up: This is a cool album!
# 6: Miles Davis - Sketches of Spain
While not a pure "jazz" album, the music on this LP combines elements of jazz, classical, and flamenco music. This album is a definite masterpiece, showcasing Miles' soulful horn playing, and the impeccable musical direction of Gil Evans. This is an album that contains many moods, and I find the music to be highly "visual", meaning that you can pop the album on, close your eyes, and be transported to a different place. This is a fantastic album that has appeal to a very wide audience.
# 5: Herbie Hancock - Maiden Voyage
This album is a certified jazz classic. Considered one of Herbie Hancock's most masterful works, Maiden Voyage is an album which aims to capture the various moods and emotions that go along with the sea. The concept is a success. This album will draw you in with its "storytelling" melodies, changes of emotions, and overall musical mastery. This album is not to be missed.
# 4: John Coltrane - Blue Train
Easily one of the greatest jazz albums of all time. This album was John Coltrane's first album under his own name, and was one of his personal favorites. The first track "Blue Train" is one of the most famous jazz songs ever recorded. The album already showcases the unique playing style of John Coltrane, and his signature "sheets of sound". It's best not to think of this as one of the greatest jazz albums ever recorded, but one of the best albums ever recorded.
# 3: Herbie Hancock - Headhunters
Headhunters was a defining moment in Herbie Hancock's career. After his free jazz days with his Mwandishi albums, Herbie produced this album which has a more melodic and funky feel to it. It is widely reported as the greatest selling album in jazz history. This album is not a simple "jazz" album, however. It is credited as the defining album of the so-called "fusion" sound. I cannot say enough great things about this album. It will blow you away with its energy and funkiness.
# 2: Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
If you're interested in listening to jazz music, many people will point you towards this album first. Arguably the greatest album in jazz history (and the history of music, for that matter), Kind of Blue was produced when Miles Davis was innovating a new style of jazz, known as "modal" jazz, or jazz music based on modes. The style of this album is uber-cool, with relaxed, mellow melodies. This album features both John Coltrane and Miles Davis, and belongs in every single music lover's collection.
# 1: John Coltrane - A Love Supreme
This is one of the most deeply moving albums I have ever heard. This album was considered by Coltrane to be his gift to God. The liner notes feature an ode to God, written by Coltrane, and the end of the suite is a "musical narration" of this poem. Beyond the deep meaning of the music, this album contains some of Coltrane's most amazing playing, especially during "Pursuance". This album is one of the greatest ever produced in any genre. I can't recommend this album enough!
So, there you have it, folks! If you don't own any (or all) of these albums, I am quite certain that you will not be disappointed in any of them. Get out your turntable, and give these albums a rotation!
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