Top 25 Albums for a Newcomer to Jazz

My friend Jared asked me what recommendations I would have for a newcomer to jazz like himself. Here are the 25 albums (I’m cheating a little – some are double albums) that I’d recommend. Some are compilations – it wasn’t until the fifties that albums became the norm. I’ve tried not to be idiosyncratic, though I doubt many others would put Pee Wee Russell’s Jazz Reunion in the top 25. Most are undisputedly part of the canon. There’s always a little wiggle room in what examples you choose of a group like Coltrane’s great quartet (I picked his first Live at the Village Vanguard, for the simple reason that it’s the one I put on most often) or which Charles Mingus albums you put on (I played it safe with Mingus Ah Um and one of the greatest albums ever made Money Jungle). I do have to say that while I hope the list is useful, the most fun about jazz for me has been in finding out-of-the-way treasures, like Bechet’s recording of “Mood Indigo” or Eddie Lockjaw Davis’s “Untitled Blues” or Gene Ammons’s “Hittin’ the Jug” – which, by the way, is why I put the Pee Wee Russell album on: his “Mariooch” is one of the deepest recordings, one of the purest, weirdest, softest, truest blues ever.

1. Louis Armstrong, The Best of the Hot Fives and the Hot Sevens, West End Blues, Tight Like This, Potato Head Blues, Squeeze Me, Wild Man Blues
2. Sidney Bechet, The Best of Sidney Bechet – Blue Horizon, Basin Street Blues, Summertime
3. Count Basie, The Essential Count Basie, Vol. II – I Left My Baby
4. Duke Ellington, The Blanton-Webster Band, Conga Brava, Concerto for Cootie, Cottontail, Never No Lament, All Too Soon, Sepia Panorama, The “C” Jam Blues, Chelsea Bridge, Sentimental Lady
5. Billie Holiday and Lester Young, A Musical Romance – The Man I Love, This Year’s Kisses, Mean to Me, A Sailboat in the Moonlight, He’s Funny that Way, Fine and Mellow
6. Coleman Hawkins, Body and Soul – Body and Soul, April in Paris, Angel Face
7. Don Byas, The Chronological Don Byas, Easy to Love, Night and Day, Over the Rainbow, Tenderly
8. Charlie Parker, The Complete Savoy and Dial Master Takes – Now’s The Time, Ornithology, Lover Man, Yardbird Suite
9. Lennie Tristano, Lennie Tristano/The New Tristano – Requiem, These Foolish Things, Turkish Mambo, Love Lines
10. Duke Ellington, Max Roach, Charles Mingus – Money Jungle, Fleurette Africaine, Warm Valley
11. Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um – Better Git It In Your Soul, Goodbye Porkpie Hat
12. Clifford Brown and Max Roach, Clifford Brown and Max Roach – Delilah, Joy Spring, Daahoud, What Am I Here For?
13. Sarah Vaughan and Clifford Brown, Sarah Vaughan – April in Paris, Embraceable You
14. Miles Davis, Kind of Blue – So What, Blue in Green, All Blues, Flamenco Sketches
15. Chet Baker, It Could Happen to You – I’m Old Fashioned, It Could Happen To You, How Long Has This Been Going On
16. Louis Armstrong, Satch Plays Fats – I’m Crazy ‘Bout My Baby, All That Meat and No Potatoes, What Did I Do To Be So Black and Blue, Ain’t Misbehavin’
17. John Coltrane, Blue Train – Blue Train, Moment’s Notice, I’m Old Fashioned
18. Rosemary Clooney and Duke Ellington, Blue Rose, Sophisticated Lady, It Don’t Mean a Thing
19. Sonny Rollins, Sonny Rollins Vol. II – Misterioso, Reflections
20. John Coltrane, Live at the Village Vanguard – Spiritual, Softly as a Morning Sunrise
21. Coleman Hawkins and Pee Wee Russell, Jazz Reunion, Mariooch, 28th and 8th, Tin Tin Deo
22. Ornette Coleman, The Shape of Jazz to Come – Lonely Woman
23. Thelonious Monk, Monk’s Music – Well, You Needn’t, Ruby, My Dear, Epistrophy
24. Miles Davis, The Complete 1964 Concert, My Funny Valentine – My Funny Valentine, All Blues, Seven Steps to Heaven
25. Lee Morgan, Search for the New Land – Search for the New Land, Melancholee

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One Response to Top 25 Albums for a Newcomer to Jazz

  1. Uncle Newtie says:

    Suggestion: post this as a playlist on iTunes so people can download all or part of it? (Although that goes a bit against the album concept.)

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