Category Archives: 25 Essential Jazz Albums

My list of 25 albums that I wouldn’t want to be without

Musicophile’s 25 Essential Jazz Albums – Part II

Following up to part I of my 25 Essential Jazz albums, here are the entries 13-25. Again no ranking implied in the numbers, this is just a list of albums I think everybody should have heard, and to give you a good understanding of what it is I really like in Jazz.

13. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – Moanin (1958)

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers Moanin Blue Note 24 192

Well, my entire mini-series on the Jazz Messengers’s spin-offs wouldn’t have been a series without this group. I’m not sure why I haven’t written about this album yet, but I eventually will.

14: Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands – Here Comes Charlie (1961)

Ella Fitzgerald Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie Verve 1961 24 192

Ella again is somebody with so many good albums to choose from. Just to give an example, the Ella and Louis series has been recommended everywhere, and I concur. The live recording Mack the Knife or her many songbook releases are also excellent.

So why this one? Well, purely subjectively again, it was one of my first I ever owned, and it’s got the outstanding 5 star track Cry Me A River.

15. Wayne Shorter: Adam’s Apple (1966)

Wayne Shorter Adam's Apple Blue Note

Already reviewed here.

16. Duke Ellington: Money Jungle (1963)

Duke Ellington Money Jungle

Duke Ellington obviously had a huge influence on Jazz, also as a composer of many standards. I’m not really into big band, but luckily he also did some albums with smaller crews, like the famous Duke Ellington & John Coltrane album, or this one, with Charles Mingus and Max Roach. I mean, what could go wrong if you combine these giants? This by the way has the best version ever of the great standard Caravan.

17. Stan Getz and Kenny Baron – People Time (1992)

Stan Getz Kenny Barron People Time The Complete Recordings

This is another example of a large box of “last concerts” recordings similar to the Bill Evans Consecration I wrote about in Part I of this post. This concert was recorded in Copenhagen very close to Stan Getz too early death.

Often duos in Jazz lack something, not here. This one is just beautiful, and a pleasure to listen to. If you don’t want to go for the full 6 box Complete Recordings, there’s also a 2 box compilation.

18. Oliver Nelson: The Blues And The Abstract Truth (1961)

Oliver Nelson Blues And The Abstract Truth 24 96

Oliver Nelson in a way is the One Hit Wonder of jazz. Or could you name any other album from him (with the possible exception of less known and less interesting part II follow-up with a different cast)?

In any case, just look at the line-up here, Evans!, Chambers!, Hubbard!, Haynes!, Dolphy! and you know you’re onto something. One of my favorite Impulse albums.

19. Oscar Peterson: Exclusively For My Friends (1968)

Oscar Peterson Exclusively For My Friends MPS 24 88

You could nominate many Oscar Peterson albums here. He is really one of the best pianists of all times. However, this set recorded in the cosy Black Forest in the personal studio of Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer, is probably one of the best, and most intimate. This album has recently been remastered from the original tapes.

20. Ray Brown: Summer Wind – Life At The Loa

Ray Brown Trio Summer Wind Live At The Loa Concord

You cannot talk about Oscar Peterson without mentioning Ray Brown, his legendary bassist. Ray has recorded several outstanding albums with the combo of Jeff Hamilton on drums and Gene Harris on the piano. To quote one of the tracks: It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. Well, this one’s got plenty.

21. Diana Krall: The Girl In The Other Room

Diana Krall The Girl in The Other Room 24 192

Talking about Jeff Hamilton, he also plays on this one.

But now you may ask me: what, 25 albums, only 3 vocal jazz among them, and you chose Krall vs. all the other alternatives? Well yes, you could argue about the choice of Krall in general, but not this album. This to me is the best she ever did, by far. The influence of her husband, Elvis Costello, on the songs is clearly there, and this is the first time in my opinion that she truly moves beyond the (very high-class) cocktail bar jazz of her previous albums. Unfortunately, she’s never again reached this level of musical depth since (I personally didn’t like her last two albums, Wallflower and Glad Rag Doll).

22. Grant Green – Idle Moments (1965)

Grant Green Idle Moments 24 192 Blue Note

I’m usually not a big fan of guitar jazz, but the nearly 15 minutes of the title track of this album with so many outstanding musicians, including Joe Henderson (see my post on him here) justifies the including here. I guarantee there’s not one minute of boredom in this slowly developing and evolving track.

23. Michael Wollny Trio – Weltentraum (2014)

OK, so ECM, the great German jazz label, got their share of albums here. Let’s make sure we add another great German jazz label, ACT.

Michael Wollny is one of the great German talents of today, and both the 2014 album Weltentraum as well as this live version are creative, inspired, and fun to listen to.

Michael Wollny Trio Weltentraum Live ACT

24. Alboran Trio – Near Gale (2008)

Alboran Trio Near Gale

Another ACT album. The Italian Alboran Trio seems to have completely disappeared since this 2008 album, and it’s equally great predecessor, Meltemi (2006). What a pity, this is again to me the epitome of a piano trio album.

25. Keith Jarrett: Solo Concerts Bremen-Lausanne (1973)

Keith Jarrett Solo Concerts Bremen Lausann

Yes, I’m cheating. I said in my own rules only one album per artist.

Well, but first of all I make the rules on my own blog, and then this blog has Keith Jarrett in the subtitle. I couldn’t walk away from this without a Jarrett Solo Concerto, given that this was the topic of my very first blog that started this entire adventure entry here.

I could have chosen the Köln Concert, and yes that is a must have for everybody. But so are the Sun Bear Concerts, Bremen Lausanne, The Carnegie Hall Concert or pretty much any other of his solo albums for that matter.

I still have the original vinyl of the excellent Bremen Lausanne, and it is basically just a placeholder for his entire solo works. If I have enough time, I’ll try eventually to review in detail all Keith Jarrett solo concerts.

So, that’s it folks, looking forward to your feedback!

Download sources:

Moanin: here (Qobuz)

Here comes Charlie: here (Qobuz)

People Time: here (Qobuz)

Oliver Nelson: here (Qobuz)

Oscar Peterson: here (Highresaudio)

Ray Brown: here (HDTracks)

Diana Krall: here (Qobuz)

Chick Corea: here (Qobuz)

Bremen-Lausanne: here (Qobuz)

Michael Wollny: here (Qobuz)

Alboran Trio: here (Qobuz)

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 can buy the CD here

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)