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    Alan’s Essential Jazz Recordings Part 1

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    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.

    Miles Davis - Bitches Brew#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.

    John Coltrane - Giant Steps# 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.

    Herbie Hancock - Inventions and Dimensions# 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!

    Miles Davis - Birth of the Cool# 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!

    Miles Davis - Sketches of Spain# 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.

    Herbie Hancock - Maiden Voyage# 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.

    John Coltrane - Blue Train# 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.

    Herbie Hancock - Headhunters# 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.

    Miles Davis - Kind of Blue# 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.

    John Coltrane - A Love Supreme# 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!

    Join the Conversation: Post a Comment!

    Topics: jazz | 9 Comments »

    9 Responses to “Alan’s Essential Jazz Recordings Part 1”

    1. Album Review: A Love Supreme | Vinyl Revinyl Says:
      February 8th, 2009 at 5:19 pm

      […] fans have The Beatles’ White Album. Jazz fans have A Love Supreme. If you’ve read my post about essential jazz recordings, you know that I ranked this album as #1. John Coltrane’s masterpiece is a winner on so many […]

    2. Rob J Says:
      July 10th, 2010 at 8:17 am

      Having over a thousand albums on vinyl, this was a very interesting attempt to bring to the attention of music buffs some of the most essential music of the last hundred years.

      So, here is my list of jazz classics :-

      Sonny Rollins – Live At The Village Vanguard
      Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue
      Wayne Shorter – Speak No Evil
      Tubby Hayes – Down In The Village
      Joe Harriott – Freeform
      Sun Ra – Jazz In Silhoutte
      Joe Lovano – From The Soul
      Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um
      Charlie Parker – The Savoy Sessions
      James Blood Ulmer – Are You Glad To Be In America ?

      Of course, there is far more but you won’t be sorry with that lot in your collection….

    3. Alan Says:
      July 10th, 2010 at 9:19 am

      Thanks Rob! Nice list.

    4. Ralph Says:
      February 17th, 2011 at 4:04 pm

      This is so much my taste, i will be looking for installment2 next. I mean, the only disagreement i have in top (>5) locations is #1 to #3 (the others up) and the only album i don’t have on vinyl in these 10 is #8. What is perhaps neglected, being a non-American contribution, is what happened in Warsaw, Paris, London and Copenhagen. I am not kidding, there should be a one European (and one African) recording in this top 10. Yes, it is that good!

    5. Ralph Says:
      February 17th, 2011 at 4:21 pm

      I just realize i may offend some with the “(and one African)” bit. Hmmm, sorry, given 100% of the artists featured have an African-american background, we may find that Africa is well-represented, but here’s the rub, here’s maybe inadvertantly a definition that influenced this list (and maybe lsitener expectation when looking for “Jazz” ;-).
      Just to clarify, by African i do not refer to people that grew up in Chicago or Salvador de Bahia, but rather to people that grew up and are located on the African continent.

    6. Ralph Says:
      February 17th, 2011 at 4:33 pm

      I also just realize we have 3 artists here – was it really that much of a quasi-monopoly between 1949 (earliest MD) and “Bitches Brew” (latest MD and youngest recording listed here, i guess) ?
      Wouldn’t we have some pre-1949 stuff qualify as “top-10 Jazz” and would there be nothing after the early 70’s ?
      After initial applause to this list, i begin to scratch my head. Surely, the period covered could with some justification be called a golden age of Jazz but … ?

    7. Alan Says:
      February 17th, 2011 at 10:13 pm

      I definitely have a very biased list here–Obviously this is a very limited view of what Jazz is. I am missing people like Ellington, Armstrong, Mingus, Monk, Parker, Gillespie, and many others. Maybe it’s time for me to do a part 2!

    8. Brent Says:
      April 8th, 2021 at 9:07 pm

      I love everybody’s suggestions and intend to seek out the ones I haven’t heard. I think Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond ought to be heard as well as Art Blakey (Moanin’..etc), maybe Fats Waller….

    9. Brent Says:
      April 8th, 2021 at 9:08 pm

      Oh yeah and I love Trombone Shorty