Musicophile’s 25 Essential Jazz Albums – Part I

To be fair, I could never live with only 25 albums, I’d be totally bored at some point. There is too much great music out there to discover, that’s why I’m purchasing a lot of new music every month.

But if I had to choose my personal favorite 25 Jazz artists and list one of their albums (didn’t go for top 10 as this would have really been TOO narrow), I’d go for these. I wouldn’t call this a “must have” list, this is obviously completely subjective, as all of the rest of my blog. But you wouldn’t go wrong in checking them out and see if you like them. There are some obvious candidates in there that you’ll find in every TopXX list out there (I checked many, to make sure I don’t miss anything), some hopefully less obvious personal choices as well. They range from 1958 to 2013.

By the way, I’m cheating a bit, I’m talking about 25 albums, not CDs, so you’ll find a couple of multi-CD albums in there. In the age of the digital download, it doesn’t make any difference anyhow.

The ordering is completely random, I just numbered them so I don’t lose track. As said before, I try to limit to one album per artists, as you could easily build a list of top 25 albums with Keith Jarrett or Bill Evans on their own (maybe this will come in a future post).

This is part I, with no. 1-12, part II can be found here.

1. Keith Jarrett –  At The Blue Note (1995)

Keith Jarrett At The Blue Note The Complete Recordings ECM 1995

Well, obviously my selection had to have a Keith Jarrett album. As I wanted to choose only one per artist, I’m really under pressure here. With so many good Jarrett trio albums out there, which one do you choose? This choice is a bit arbitrary, and could change tomorrow, but I find myself to go back to this album very very often. However, it could have been easily as well Standards Live, Standards in Norway, Whisper Not, or Inside Out.

This album is mastered by the same Jan Erik Kongshaug, that also is responsible for Badgers and other Beings by Helge Lien (see my review here) and many other audiophile treasures.

 2. Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue (1959)

Milles Davis Kind of Blue 24 192 remaster Stereo Blue Note

Sorry, BIG no brainer alarm here. But this is just so freakingly good (thanks probably mainly to Bill Evans), that no matter how often you listen, you just get drawn into the atmosphere over and over again.

Plus, the recent 24/192 remaster (available in mono or stereo, I personally prefer the stereo version) sounds so great that you think you’re sitting in the studio with the guys.

3. Giovanni Mirabassi –  Architectures (1998)

Giovanni Mirabassi Architectures

I haven’t written about Mirabassi on my blog yet. What a shame. Will rectify that soon. In the meantime, this is trio jazz at its best (a guitar is added in some songs).

Mirabassi is still one of my favorite musicians, especially live, however, I still prefer his earlier albums to the more recent ones. Again, more to come.

4. Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder (1963)

Lee Morgan The Sidewinder 24/192 Blue Note

Already reviewed here. Another mega-seller, but nothing wrong with that.

5. Bill Evans – Consecration – The Final Recordings Part 2 (1980)

Bill Evans Consecration The Final Recordings Part 2 Live At The Keystone Korner September 1980 Fantasy Recordings

Bill Evans, another genius, and I haven’t even mentioned him on this blog yet (except for above in the Kind of Blue entry). What a sin. Again, plenty of outstanding albums to choose from. Which trio? LaFaro and Motian, Gomez and Morell, or Johnson and LaBarbera? Well, all are great, so hard to judge. I nevertheless have a particularly strong relationship to this album, as a 1 CD compilation of this last concert series of his was among my first even Bill Evans albums.

Is it really necessary to purchase this 8CD box? And to e.g. get 5 different versions of “Your Story” (the album has takes from different days, so quite some repeats in the playlist). And it get’s even worse, “The Last Waltz” is another 8CD box from the same setting. Well, maybe not universally. And there is obviously the great tragedy of knowing that shortly after these concerts this genius was finally killed by his drug habits.

But when you listen to these recordings, there is so much intimacy, so much creativity, so much melancholy, that you can’t help but be fully absorbed by the music.

Anyway, more to come on Bill Evans on my blog in the future.

6. Horace Silver: Song For My Father (1964)

Horace Silver Song For My Father 24 192 BLue Note

Already reviewed here.

7. Brad Mehldau: The Art Of The Trio Vol. 3 (1998)

Brad Mehldau Art of the Trio vol 3 Songs Warner Jazz 1998

I’m not a universal fan of Brad Mehldau, there are a lot of albums I just cannot stand at all (e.g. Largo), but this one is trio jazz at it’s best.

8. Nina Simone: Little Girl Blue or “Jazz As Played In An Exclusive Side Street Club” (1958)

Nina Simone Little Girl Blue 1958 Bethlehem

Her outstanding debut, with many amazing songs.

9. Triosence: Turning points (2013)

Triosence Turning Points 2013 Sony Classical

Already reviewed here

10. Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage (1965)

Herbie Hancock Maiden Voyage 24 192 Blue Note

My favorite Hancock album for the famous title track and Dolphin Dance.

11. John Coltrane – My Favorite Things (1961)

John Coltrane My Favorite Things

Well, obviously Coltrane had to be there. I hesitated quite a bit if I should nominate A Love Supreme or Giant Steps, but somehow this album personally touches me even more, both for the title track and one of my favorite versions of Summertime.

12. Shai Maestro – Shai Maestro Trio (2011)

Shai Maestro Trio Laborie Jazz 2012

Already reviewed here. 

As said before, Part II with nos. 13-25 can be found here.

Download Sources

Keith Jarrett At The Blue Note: here  (Qobuz) and here

Kind of Blue: Here (Qobuz) and here (HDTracks)

Architectures: unfortunately, hard to find as download. You will occasionally find the CD on Amazon

Consecration: here (Qobuz)

Sidewinder: here (Qobuz)

Brad Mehldau Songs: here (Qobuz)

Song for My Father: here (Qobuz)

Nina Simone: here (Eclassical)

Triosence: here (Qobuz)

Maiden Voyage: here (Qobuz)

My Favorite Things: here (HDTracks)

Shai Maestro: here (Highresaudio)

Author: Musicophile

I'm not a professional musician, I don't work in the music industry, I'm just what the name says, somebody who loves music. I've been in love with music for all of my life, took piano lessons for nearly 10 years, and played in several amateur Jazz groups. I go to concerts, both classical and Jazz, quite regularly. And I collect music previously on vinyl and CDs, now on my computer, and am slightly OCD on my music collection. You can reach me at Musicophile1(AT)

43 thoughts on “Musicophile’s 25 Essential Jazz Albums – Part I”

  1. Thanks for this list. I seem to think I may have already commented. In any event, I intend to listen to as much as I can of all of these. (Given that the Jarrett album is 6 CD’s, that could take a while). Like you I love Jarrett’s playing and have been tracking him on Facebook for a possible return to the States. My favorite Jarrett album, BTW, is The Koln Concert.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just a note to say that I’ve worked my way through at least some of the Jarrett and it is, of course, excellent. Kind of Blue I already know so I will check out the Mirabassi next. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Just found your blog this morning while researching Nelson’s Brahms cycle. Started with 3 and gotta say it isn’t doing it for me at all. But I’ll keep listening – I have enjoyed much of Nelson’s output.
    As for your jazz list, love your top two picks! Wonder if you have heard “Fingerpainting – the music of Herbie Hancock” (C. McBride on bass is all you need to know) and “News for Lulu” (Zorn et al). Both are among my top 5 and are well worth hearing. Glad you included a Blakey album in your faves – he is criminally underrated IMHO. I lean more to “The Big Beat,” but only because “It’s only a paper moon” is my all-time favorite Blakey recording.
    I’ll be back!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your feedback. Now I’m very curious to hear what is your top pick on Brahms. It is obviously a very personal choice.
      Fingerpainting sounds very interesting will check it out. However regarding John Zorn, I’m not sure I’ll ever fully get into him. A god friend of mine is a big Zorn fan and while he introduced me several times I’m still not sure it’s my cup of tea. But I’ll make sure to check it out


      1. I guess if I had to do the desert island Brahms set it would be a mix of several (HvK1, Kleiber 2&4, Walter 3) but as a set I’d have to go with Sanderling and Dresden. I really enjoy Chailly, too.
        As for the Zorn, start with “This I Dig of You”. Zorn-Lewis-Frisell really make a high-quality intro to inside-outside-inside playing.
        Also meant to tell you that “Largo” is one of my favorite Mehldau albums (up there with his Metheny duet/quartet stuff). I love Jon Brion so the collaboration was kind of a dream lineup for me. I get that it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but “When It Rains” reminded me so much of Brion’s excellent soundtrack music for “Magnolia” I couldn’t help but love it.


      2. I love Kleiber and Walter as well but Karajan for no1 doesn’t do it for me. I’d rather have Furtwängler or Klemperer. Sanderling really isn’t on my radar screen need to check him out.


  4. I can’t recall being as musically overwhelmed by anything like the opening of HvK’s Brahms 1: the epitome of German gravitas and, to me, the only way for Brahms’ first attempt at a symphony to challenge Beethoven. But that’s just me – if you are looking for nuance and clarify, there are many better Brahms 1 recordings to choose from.
    So excited for you to hear the Sanderling! Dresden really play the heck out of every one of the symphonies and as a sum it is a hard set to beat. I really haven’t listened to Klemperer’s Brahms very much, so I’ll have to dig in to that. I feel a Brahms kick coming…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ok. I told you I would be back. To much good music on your site. I’ve just started a jazz journey on my takes (Live Newport: Ellington. First up). My way of doing what you did. Essential 25? That would be tough. So these have to be special to you. Of these first 12 I have 5. I do have lots of Evans/Jarrett. Just not the two above.
    I’ll get to your individual takes (Mogan, Silver etc) later. For now, what a fantastic collection of music. You have me heading straight for the ones I’m not familiar with, Maestro, Triosence, Mehldau, Mirabassi. I feel like I’m in for some good listening, like a kid in a candy store. Later.


  6. Hello. Long-time reader of your blog here, but I’ve left zero comments. I figured I’d change that by telling you the following three things:
    1. I really, really like this blog…nice work;
    2. This article was how I found it; and,
    3. This blog has a permanent tab on my iPad.


    1. Oops…I don’t know precisely what happened, but my comment – “Three Things”, submitted on October 17, 2021 at 01:49 – was submitted anonymously (user error) and I wasn’t finished.

      Please keep up the excellent writing! I appreciate you and your work.

      Oklahoma City, OK, USA

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks so much Marc, and sorry for my late reply. I have neglected my blog for a bit, I promise that I’ll be more active again going forward. And it is comments like yours that keep me going!


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