My Top Jazz Albums

Are you interested in jazz or are thinking of starting a jazz CD collection? This is a great place to start. Look, jazz is a very subjective thing, but I've been a serious collector of jazz for several years and am really good at separating the wheat from the chaff. You can't go wrong with anything listed here. This represents less than 10% of my total collection, so this really is the good stuff!

I've divided the list into a few categories.

1. The All-Time Masters - Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus. You should have several CDs from each of these artists for your core collection. I've picked my favorite ones.

2. The Early Jazz Masters - This was music recorded from the 30's to the 50's by the greatest jazz musicians of the time.

3. Jazz from the mid-period of Jazz - Most of these are from artists on various labels recorded from the mid 50s to late 60's. It wasn't easy to pick just one CD for each artist, but these are the cream of the crop.

4. Blue Note Artists - From the mid 50s to the mid 60's, Blue Note recorded some of the best jazz in history. I've listed one CD for each of these artists. Most of them are classics.

5. Jazz from the Modern Era - These are CDs recorded by artists since 1969. A few artists represented in the lists above are also still recording now. Yes, Jazz is alive and well and dozens of great jazz CDs are recorded each year.

6. Live Jazz - Some of the best and most exciting jazz recordings were made live. They have a spontaneity not found on studio recordings.

7. ECM Artists - Music on the ECM label is a special category of jazz all its own - mostly European. Many people are nuts about ECM music.

8. Ten Reasons to Start Collecting Jazz - Jazz is great music and fun to collect and listen to for a lifetime.

9. Where to start your collection - Here are 20 CDs you can't go wrong with.

Also check out All About Jazz

You can buy most of what you see here on Amazon.com as CDs or downloads. You can download many of thee albums inexpensively and legally from EMusic

I have some of this music linked to Amazon and will have more linked in the future.

1. The Al-Time Jazz Masters
These five jazz musicians were the greatest of them all. You can't just get one of their CDs, you need at least a handful. These are my favorite. Note that the links lead to Amazon.

Miles Davis - Trumpet
Miles was perhaps the greatest innovator in all of jazz in that he spearheaded new movements in jazz and was lawyers a few steps ahead of everyone else. From cool jazz to orchestral to fusion, Miles always had something interesting and exciting to say. Of his 80 or so albums, most are worth a serious listen. These are amongst my favorites.

Birth of the Cool '49

Round About Midnight '55

Milestones '58

Kind of Blue '59

Sketches of Spain '60

Someday My Prince Will Come '61

Complete Live at The Blackhawk '61

ESP '63

Filles de Kilimanjaro '68

In a Silent Way '69

Bitches Brew '69

We Want Miles '81

Duke Ellington - Piano, Bandleader
Duke as undisputedly the greatest big band leader of all time. He led his bands from the 20s, into the 70s with a group of immensely talented and stylistically unique players. Ellington is always instantly recognizable, yet him music continued to evolve. Perhaps jazz's greatest genius. The selections represent later Ellington. His recordings run into the several hundreds.

Blues in Orbit '59

Piano in the Background '60

Three Suites '60

Money Jungle '62

Back to Back (with Johnny Hodges) '63

And His Mother Called Him Bill '67

Far East Suite '69

Afro-Eurasian Eclipse '71

John Coltrane Tenor/Soprano Sax
John Coltrane's reputation is based on the quality and style of his saxophone playing. Nobody else, on any instrument, could quite reach his virtuosic heights. Coltrane has become the reference point for every saxophone player to follow. Nobody has quite yet equaled his level of playing. These selections are amongst his most acclaimed.

Blue Train '57

Giant Steps '59

Coltrane's Sound '60

My Favorite Things '61

Ole´ Coltrane '61

Africa Brass '61

A Love Supreme '63

Crescent '64

Thelonious Monk - Piano
Monk gained his fame more for his compositions than his playing. Every Monk penned tune has a quirky brilliance. Seemingly simple in structure, they are all meticulously structured musical gems. Many of his tunes, such as 'Round About Midnight, Straight, No Chaser and Pannonica have become jazz standards which have been recorded hundreds of times. These selections are amongst his best recordings.

Brilliant Corners '56

Monk's Music '57

Thelonious Himself '57

At Carnegie Hall with John Coltrane '57

Monk at Town Hall '59

At the Blackhawk '60

Monk's Dream '63

Underground '68

Charles Mingus - Bass
Mingus was one of the most passionate of jazz musicians. His music is full of drama, extraordinary melodies and virtuoso performances by his band members. Mingus pushed his players to always be themselves, to avoid musical clichés and to play in the moment. As a result, his music never sounds dated, but fresh and exciting even after hundreds of listens. These selections highlight Mingus's genius.

Tijuana Moods - '57

Blues and Roots '59

Mingus Ah Um '59

Mingus Dynasty '59

Mingus at Antibes '60

Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus '63

The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady '63

Changes I & II '74

Cumbia and Jazz Fusion '76

 

2. The Early Jazz Masters
These artists were the early giants of jazz, playing from the mid-thirties into the 50's and 60's. There are so many CDs to choose from that you might want to get one of these boxed sets by Proper Records that are excellent overviews of their careers. Four CDs each for about $16 through an Amazon reseller.

Louis Armstrong - Trumpet - Satchmo in the 40s

Count Basie - Bandleader - The Count Basie Story

Lester Young - Tenor Sax - The Lester Young Story

Ben Webster - Tenor Sax - Big Ben

Coleman Hawkins - Tenor Sax - The Beebob Years

Jerry Mulligan - Baritone Sax - Jeru

Bud Powell - Piano - Tempus Fuge It

Charlie Parker - Alto Sax - Boss Bird

Dexter Gordon - Tenor Sax - Settin' The Pace

Clifford Brown - Trumpet - Joy Spring

3. Classics from the Mid-Years of Jazz
There are some amazing CDs in this collection. They span the mid fifties to the late sixties. Start with one from each artist and expand from there.

Cannonball Adderley - Alto Sax - Bohemia After Dark '55

Clifford Brown - Trumpet - Study in Brown '55

Dave Brubeck - Piano - Time Out '59

Kenny Burrell - Guitar - Bluesy Burrell '62

Benny Carter - Tenor Sax - Further Definitions '61

Ornette Coleman - Alto Sax - The Shape of Jazz to Come '59

Eric Dolphy - Tenor Sax, Flute - Far Cry '60

Bill Evans - Piano - Portrait in Jazz '59

Gil Evans - Bandleader - Out of the Cool '60

Booker Ervin - Tenor Sax - The Freedom Book '63

Art Farmer - Trumpet - Portrait of Art '58

Red Garland - Piano - Soul Junction '57

Dizzy Gillespie - Trumpet - Gillespiana / Carnegie Hall Concert '60

Chico Hamilton - Drums - The Dealer '66

Roy Haynes - Drums - Out of the Afternoon '62

Ahmad Jamal - Piano - Ahmad's Blues '58

Quincy Jones - Bandleader - The Quintessence '61

Wynton Kelly - Piano - Kelly Blue '59

Rhashan Roland Kirk - Saxophones - We Free Kings '61

Yusef Lateef - Tenor Sax, Flute - The Centaur and the Phoenix '60

Booker Little - Trumpet - Out Front '61

Modern Jazz Quartet - Group - Dedicated to Connie '60

Wes Montgomery - Guitar - The Incredible Jazz Guitar '60

Oliver Nelson - Bandleader - Blues and the Abstract Truth '61

Herbie Nichols - Piano - Love, Gloom, Cash, Love '57

Charlie Parker - Alto Sax - Jazz at Massey Hall '53

Art Pepper - Alto Sax - Meets the Rhythm Section '57

Oscar Peterson - Piano - Night Train '62

Sun Ra - Bandleader - Jazz in Silhouette '58

Max Roach - Drums - Deeds Not Words '58

Sonny Rollins - Tenor Sax - Saxophone Colossus '56

George Russell - Bandleader - Ezz-Thetics '61

Clark Terry - Trumpet - In Orbit (with Monk) '58

4. Blue Note Classics
These CDs could entertain you for a lifetime. But be careful, this music is addictive. Each of these artists has half a dozen or more CDs. And most of them are just as good as the ones below. They span the mid fifties to the late sixties.

Cannonball Adderley - Alto Sax - Somethin' Else '58

Tina Brooks - Tenor Sax - True Blue '60

Art Blakey - Drums - Night in Tunisia '59

Donald Byrd - Trumpet - Byrd in Flight '60

Eric Dolphy - Reed Instruments - Out to Lunch - '64

Lou Donaldson - Tenor Sax - Artist Selects '58-'67

Kenny Dorham - Trumpet - Trompetta Toccata '64

Dexter Gordon - Tenor Sax - Doin' Alright '61

Grant Green - Guitar - Idle Moments '63

Herbie Hancock - Piano - Maiden Voyage '65

Joe Henderson - Tenor Sax - Page One '63

Andrew Hill - Piano - Black Fire '63, Point of Departure '64

Freddie Hubbard - Trumpet - Open Sesame '60

Bobby Hutcherson - Vibes - Components '65

J.J. Johnson - Trombone - The Eminent J.J. Johnson Vol 1 '53

Jackie McLean - Alto Sax - New Soil '59

Blue Mitchell - Trumpet - The Thing to Do '64

Hank Mobley - Tenor Sax - Soul Station '60

Lee Morgan - Trumpet - Search for the New Land '64

Sam Rivers - Tenor Sax - Fuchsia Swing Song '64

Wayne Shorter - Tenor Sax - Speak No Evil '64

Horace Silver - Piano - Song for My Father '64

Jimmy Smith - Organ - Open House/Plain Talk '60

Stanley Turrentine - Tenor Sax - Never Let Me Go '63

McCoy Tyner - Piano - The Real McCoy '67

Larry Young - Organ - Unity '65

5. Modern Jazz - Recordings from 1969 to the present
A good percentage of the artists below are alive and recording today. They are the present and future of jazz. Jazz is indeed alive and well. I have selected my current favorite recording by these artists. These CDs are divided into four time periods: 1969 to 1994, 1995 to 2000, 2001 to 2009 and 2010 to 2013 Listed by artist.

Part I - 1969 to 1994

Toshiko Akiyoshi - Bandleader - Desert Lady Fantasy '93

Ginger Baker - Drums - Going Back Home '94

Terrence Blanchard - Trumpet - Malcolm X Jazz Suite '92

Paul Bley - Piano - Fly Away Little Bird '92

Jane Ira Bloom - Soprano Sax - Art and Aviation '92

Arthur Blythe - Alto Sax - Lenox Avenue Breakdown '79

Gary Burton - Vibes - Dreams So Real '75

Ron Carter - Bass - Third Plane '77

Graham Collier - Bass, Bandleader - Down Another Road '69

Chick Corea - Piano - Three Quartets '82

Either/Orchestra - Band - Calculus of Pleasure '90

Peter Epstein - Saxophone - Dualism '94

Art Farmer - Trumpet - Blame it On My Youth '88

Stan Getz - Tenor Sax - Anniversary/Serenity '87

Don Grolnick - Piano - The Complete Blue Note Recordings '89

Roy Hargrove - Trumpet - With the Tenors of Our Time '94

Roy Haynes - Drums - Te Vous '94

Joe Henderson - Tenor Sax - So Near, So Far '93

Andrew Hill - Piano - Passing Ships '69

Freddie Hubbard - Trumpet - Red Clay '70

Bobby Hutcherson - Vibes - Color Schemes '85

Abdullah Ibrahim - Piano - Water From an Ancient Well '86

Ahmad Jamal - Piano - The Essence '94

Keith Jarrett - Piano - My Song '77, Changeless '89

Rabih Abou Khalil - Oud - Blue Camel '92

Joe Lovano - Tenor Sax - From the Soul '91

Mike Mainieri - Vibes - Wanderlust - '81

Wynton Marsalis - Trumpet - Black Codes From the Underground '85

John McLaughlin - Guitar - Extrapolation '69

Jackie McLean - Alto Sax - Dynasty '88

Pat Metheny - Guitar - Bright Size Life '75, Off Ramp '81

T.S. Monk - Drums - Take One '92

Joshua Redman - Tenor Sax Moodswing '94

George Russell - Bandleader - So What '83

Shakti - Group - Natural Elements '77

Woody Shaw - Trumpet - Stepping Stones '78

Archie Shepp - Saxophone - Trouble in Mind - '80

Soft Machine - Group - 3rd & 4th - '70 '71

John Surman - Baritone Sax - Way Back When '69

McCoy Tyner - Piano - Sama Layuca '74

Miroslav Vitous - Bass - Infinite Search '70

Weather Report - Band - Heavy Weather '77

Randy Weston - Piano - African Sunrise '92

Buster Williams - Bass - Something More '89

Tony Williams - Drums - Best of Tony Williams '85

Yellow Jackets - Group - Four Corners '87

Joe Zawinul - Keyboards - Dialects '86

Frank Zappa - Guitar - Hot Rats - '69

Part II - 1995 to 2000

Atomic - Group - Feet Music '99

Ginger Baker - Drums Coward of the County '99

Joey Baron - Drums - Down Home '97

Ray Barretto - Percussion - Portraits in Jazz and Clave '00

Brian Blade - Drums - Perceptual '00

Michael Brecker - Tenor Sax - Tales of the Hudson '96

Dave Brubeck - Piano - So What's New '98

James Carter - Saxophones - Chasin' the Gypsy '00

Marc Cary - Piano - Listen '97

Avashai Cohen - Bass - Colors '00

Chick Corea - Piano - Change '00

Barbara Dennerlein - Organ - Junkanoo '96

Pierre Dorge - Guitar, Bandleader - Welcome to the Danish Jungle '96

Dave Douglas - Trumpet - In Our Lifetime '95

Either/Orchestra - Band - More Beautiful than Death '00

Bill Frisell - Guitar - Gone, Just Like a Train '98

Kenny Garrett - Alto Saxophone - Songbook '97

Marc Gross - Saxophone - Riddle of the Sphinx '00

Chico Hamilton - Drums - Timely '99

Tom Harrell - Trumpet The Art of Rhythm '98

Charlie Haden Bass - Beyond the Missouri Sky '97

Charlie Hunter - Guitar - Bing! Bing! Bing! '95

Mark Isham - Trumpet - Blue Sun '95

Wynton Marsalis - Trumpet - Marciac Suite '00

John Mayer - Bandleader - Asian Airs '97

Brad Mehldau - Piano - Art of the Trio - Vol 1 '97

David Murray - Tenor Sax - Octet Plays Trane '00

Mike Nock - Piano - Ozboppin' '98

Greg Osby - Alto Sax - Art Forum - '95

Wallace Roney - Trumpet - No Room for Argument '00

John Scofield - Guitar - Works for Me '01

Brad Shepik - Guitar - The Well '00

Steps - Group - Holding Together '99

Jacky Terrasson - Piano - Jacky Terrasson '95

Steve Turre - Trombone and Shells - Rhythm Within '95

McCoy Tyner - Piano - Infinity '95

Jessica Williams - Piano - Blue Fire '01

Michael Wolff - Piano - Impure Thoughts '00

Part III - 2001 to 2008

Ben Allison - Bass - Cowboy Justice '06

Fred Anderson & Hamid Drake - Sax/Drums - From the River to the Ocean '07

Omer Avital - Bass - Arrival - '07

The Bad Plus - Piano Trio - Prog '07

Bar Kokhba Sextet - Group - Lucifer '08

Steven Bernstein - Tenor Sax - Diaspora Blues '02

David Binney - Tenor Sax - Oceanos '07

Brian Blade - Drums - Season of Changes '08

Michael Blake - Tenor Sax - Elevated '02, Blake Tartare '04

Terence Blanchard - Trumpet - Bounce '04

CarlyaBley - Piano - Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu '07

Michael Brecker - Tenor Sax - Pilgrimage '07

Anat Cohen - Saxophones - Noir '07

Dave Douglas - Trumpet - Meaning and Mystery '06

Mark Egan - Electric Bass - As We Speak '06

Electric Masada - Group - At the Mountains of Madness '05

Peter Epstein - Tenor Sax - Lingua Franca '05

Javier Girotto - Saxophones - New York Sessions '06

Roy Hargrove - Trumpet - Nothing Serious - '06

Stefon Harris - Vibes - African Tarantella '06

Joel Harrison - Guitar - Harbor '07

Billy Hart - Drums - Billy Hart Quartet '06

Andrew Hill - Piano - Time Lines '06

Vijay Iyer - Piano - Reimagining '05, Tragicomic '08

Vijay Iyer / Rudresh Mahathappa - Sax - Raw Materials '06

Same Keevers - Piano - No Conditions/No Expectations '06

Frank Kimbrough - Piano / Joe Locke - Vibes - The Willow '01

Nguyen Le - Guitar - E.L.B. '04

Jason Lindner big Band - Live at the Jazz Gallery '07

Charles Lloyd - Tenor Sax - Sangam '06

Joe Locke/Geoffrey Keezer - Vibes/Piano - Live in Seattle '06

Joe Lovano - Tenor Sax - Joyous Encounter '05

Mike Mainieri - Vibes - Northern Lights '5

Christian McBride - Bass - Live at Tonic '06

Donny McCaslin - Tenor Sax - In Pursuit '07

Brad Mehldau - Piano - House on Hill '06

Bennie Maupin - Saxophone/Bass Clarinet - Early Reflections '08

Ted Nash - Tenor Sax - In the Loop '06

Herbie Nichols Project - Group - Strange City '01

Greg Osby - Alto Sax - Nine Levels '08

Chris Potter - Tenor Sax - Follow the Red Line '07

Joshua Redman - Tenor Sax Back East '07

Kurt Rosenwinkel - Guitar - Deep Song '06

Gonzalo Rubalcaba - Piano - Avatar '08

Maria Schneider - Bandleader - Concert in the Garden '05, Blue Skies '08

SF Jazz Collective - Group - SFJC 2 '06

Paul Shapiro - Tenor Sax - Midnight Minyan '03

Wayne Shorter - Tenor Sax - Alegria '03

Steve Turre - Trombone - Rainbow People '08

Kenny Wheeler - Trumpet - What Now? '05

Jessica Williams - Piano - Live at Yoshi's I & II '04

Kenny Werner - Piano - Lawn Chair Society '07

Randy Weston - Piano - Zep Tepi '06

Yellow Jackets - Group - Time Squared '03

Joe Zawinul - Keyboards - Brown Street '07

Miguel Zenon - Tenor Saxophone - Looking Forward '02

John Zorn - Alto Sax - Masada Live at Tonic '01

John Zorn - Bandleader - 50th Birthday Celebration - Bar Kokhba + Masada String Trio '03

Part IV - 2008 to 2013

Darcy Jame Argue - Bandleader - Infernal Machines '09

Carla Bley - Piano - Trios '13

Chick Corea - Piano - The Vigil '13

Uri Gurvich - Tenor Sax - The Storyteller '09

Matthew Halsall - Trumpet - On the Go '11

Tom Harell - Trumpet - Colors of a Dream '13

Gilad Heckselman - Guitar - Hearts Wide Open '10

Yaron Herman - Piano - Alter Ego '12

Vijay Iyer - Piano - Hisoricity '09

Matt Jorgensen - Drums - Tattooed by Passion '10

Chris Lightcap - Bass - Deluxe - '10

Medeski Martin and Wood - Piano Trio - Radiolarians III '09

Allison Miller - Drums - Boom Tic Boom - '10

Ted Nash - Alto Sax - The Creep '12

Kurt Rosenwinkel - Guitar - Star of Jupiter '12

Andy Sheppard - Tenor Sax - Movements in Color '09

Wayne Shorter - Tenor Sax - Without a Net '13

John Surman - Tenor Sax - Saltash Bells '13

6. Live Jazz Recordings (by year)
Some if the greatest jazz recordings were recorded live (in front of an audience in one continuous performance). They are amongst the most spontaneous and exciting recordings in the jazz cannon. Here are some of my favorites (that are not listed elsewhere on this page). Listed by year.

Early Live Recordings - '56-'80

Duke Ellington - Live at Newport '56

Sonny Rollins - Night at the Village Vanguard '57

Thelonious Monk - Thelonious in Action/Mysterioso '58

Miles/Coltrane - Live at the Olympia '60

Cannonball Adderley - Nippon Soul/Dizzy's Business '61

Stanley Turrentine - Up at Minton's '61

Bill Evans - Waltz for Debbie/Live at Village Vanguard - '61

Miles Davis - Live in Europe '63, Live at Fillmore '70

John Coltrane - Live at Birdland '63

Charles Mingus - Cornell 1964

Wes Montgomery - Smokin' at the Half Note '65

Charles Lloyd - Forest Flower '69

Lee Morgan - Live at the Lighthouse '70

The Quintet - VSOP - '77

Woody Shaw - Stepping Stones - Vanguard '78

Keith Jarrett - Personal Mountains '79

Ralph Towner - Solo Concert '79

Late Live Recordings - '81 - '08

Miles Davis - We Want Miles '81

Chick Corea - Live in Montreux '81

Dave Brubeck - Concord on a Summer Night '82

Mal Waldron/Steve Lacy - Live at the Bimhuis '82

Joe Henderson - State of the Tenor '85

Sonny Rollins - G-Man '86

Stan Getz - Anniversary/Serenity '87

Charles Mingus - Epitaph '90

Branford Marsalis - Bloomington '91

Omer Avital - Asking No Permission '95

Joshua Redman - Spirit of the Moment - Live at the Village Vanguard '95

Chick Corea - Origin: Live at the Blue Note '98

Pat Martino - Live at Yoshi's - '00

Tom Harrell - Live at the Village Vanguard '02

Keith Jarrett - Up for It '02

Joe Lovano - On This Day - Vanguard '03

Lee Konitz - Live Lee '03

Jason Lindner - Live in the UK '04

Electric Masada - At the Mountains of Madness '05

McCoy Tyner - McCoy Tyner Quartet '06

Dave Douglas - Live at the Jazz Standard '07

Joe Lovano/Hank Jones - Kids '07

Brad Mehldau - Live '08

Charles Lloyd - Rabo de Nube '08

Kurt Rosenwinkel - The Remedy '08

7. ECM Records Artists (alphabetical)
This is almost a whole new category of jazz. Sometimes called "Nordic Jazz," it is an improvisational music that is not based in the blues. More quiet and reflective, for the most part with crystalline sound. Some of the greatest modern jazz artists have recorded for ECM since the 70s.

John Abercrombie - Guitar - Open Land '99

Arild Andersen - Bass - Live at Belleville '08

Carla Bley - Piano, Bandleader - Fleur Carnivore '88

Bill Connnors - Guitar - Of Mist and Melting - '78

Chic Corea/Gary Burton - Piano/Vibes - Crystal Silence '72

Gary Burton - Vibes - Dreams so Real '75

David Darling - Cello - Cycles '81

Jack deJohnette - Drums - New Directions '78

Bill Frisell - Guitar - Where in the World '91

Jan Garbarek - Tenor Sax - Twelve Moons '92

Gateway - Group - Homecoming '95

Dave Holland - Bass - Extensions '89

Zakir Hussain - Tabla - Making Music '86

Keith Jarrett - Piano - Koln Concert (solo) '75

Mark Johnson - Bass - Bass Desires '86

Charles Lloyd - Tenor Sax - Voice in the Night '99, Sangam '08

Pat Metheny - Guitar - Bright Size Life '75

Enrico Rava - Trumpet - Easy Living '04

Martin Speake - Tenor Sax - Change of Heart '05

Tomasz Stanko - Trumpet - The Soul of Things '02

Bobo Stenson - Piano - Dansere '76

John Surman - Saxophones - Stranger Than Fiction '93

Steve Tibbetts - Guitar - Yr '80

Ralph Towner - Guitar - Solstice '74

Miroslav Vitous - Bass - Universal Syncopations '03

Eberhard Weber - Bass - Endless Days '01

Kenny Wheeler - Trumpet - Angel Song '97

8. Ten Reasons to Start Collecting Jazz

1. Jazz is music for grownups; it's for smart people; it's for creative people. (Like you, right?)

2. Jazz expands your mind. No kidding. There's a lot of depth in jazz. It's played by extraordinary musicians.

3. Jazz is fun. It can be great background music, create a romantic mood or stimulate creative ideas. You can even dance to it!

4. There's enough recorded jazz to keep you busy for a lifetime.

5. Jazz never gets old. Like wine, it tends to get better as it ages.

6. Pick your style. From swing to bebop, to avant garde to fusion, there's a style to suit every taste. (But please, smooth jazz is not really jazz, it's instrumental pop.)

7. You can order the majority of available jazz CDs online at reasonable prices. (Amazon)

8. You can download a huge amount of jazz legally at even more reasonable prices. (eMusic)

9. It sure beats watching television! Listening to great music renews you instead of draining you.

10. It's just cool to listen to jazz.

 

9. How to Get Started with Your Jazz Collection

Buy 10 or more of the following 20 CDs. Open your mind and just listen. If you don't begin to like jazz after listening to these CDs, well, jazz probably isn't for you. Nothing extreme here, I promise. A wide variety of styles, these are all jazz masterpieces that you can listen to over and over again. Links take you to Amazon where you can pick up most of these under $10 through Amazon resellers.

Older Jazz (Mostly 60s)

Kind of Blue - Miles Davis
Some say the best jazz album of all time. Certainly a classic that appeals to almost everyone. Timeless.

Time Out - Dave Brubeck
Has perhaps the most recognizable jazz tune ever - Take 5. Features Paul Desmond's signature alto sax sound.

Far East Suite - Duke Ellington
Duke got better and better in his later years. Some say this is his masterpiece. Breathtaking.

My Favorite Things - John Coltrane
Coltrane took a Rogers and Hammerstein tune from the Sound of Music and turned it into a timeless jazz classic.

Out of the Cool - Gil Evans
Miles Davis sometimes collaborator, Evans, recorded this album of unclassifiable orchestral jazz in 1960.

Somethin' Else - Cannonball Adderley
Blues-drenched jazz featuring Miles Davis on a program of standards and originals.

Open Sesame - Freddie Hubbard
As straight ahead as jazz gets with the incendiary trumpet playing of Hubbard on his debut album.

Speak No Evil - Wayne Shorter
One of the great jazz composers, Shorter's tunes are still fresh and surprising over 40 years later.

Maiden Voyage - Herbie Hancock
One of the most sublime Blue Note recordings, Hancock pens a timeless jazz standard with Maiden Voyage.

My Song - Keith Jarrett
With the soaring saxophone of Jan Garbarek, this is one of Jarrett's most memorable and beautiful recordings.

Newer Jazz (90s to 00s)

Rhythm Within - Steve Turre
Turre proves that unusual instruments - in this case conch shells(!!) - can make wonderful music. Truly unique.

Blue Sun - Mark Isham
Isham's beautiful trumpet tone coupled with a handful of memorable tunes makes this album special.

Mood Swing - Joshua Redman
Redman is one of the tenor saxophone's contemporary leaders. This is one of his very best.

Gone, Just Like a Train - Bill Frisell
Frisell's otherworldly guitar and unique melodies come together on this trio date with a wide variety of sounds and textures.

Angel Song - Kenny Wheeler
An album that leaves you feeling suspended in space. This drumerless quartet features Lee Konitz and Bill Frisell.

Coward of the County - Ginger Baker
The ex-Cream drummer and trumpeter/writer Ron Miles creates a truly original sound with inspired playing.

Deep Song - Kurt Rosenwinkel
Nobody plays guitar and writes music like Rosenwinkel. This album is deeply satisfying in every way.

Live at Yoshi's (Vols. I & II) - Jessica Williams
One of the jazz world's virtuoso piano players, Williams shines on this pair of live CDs. Delicious music.

Lingua Franca - Peter Epstein
Gifted saxophonist teams with Brad Shepik on guitar to blend jazz with the sound of the East. Mesmerizing.

Cowboy Justice - Ben Allison
The ultimate jazz modernist, Ben Allison makes every song on this wonderful CD interesting and memorable.

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