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)

The Legacy of the Jazz Messengers (4): Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder

Part 4 now of my mini-series on the Jazz Messengers’ spin-offs.

Lee Morgan

Lee Morgan was famous even before the Jazz Messengers, as he’d already played with Dizzie Gillespie. But his stardom even rose further after playing on the famous Moanin‘ album from the Messengers, which I still need to write about.

The Sidewinder

I was a bit hesitant at first whether I should really write about this particular 1963 album, which obviously is by far his largest commercial success as a leader. Doesn’t he have many other great albums, like The GigoloDelightfulee, Vol. 3, Tom Cat, The Cooker, or Cornbread, all of which I’d highly recommend.

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Well even though I wanted to be creative, and not recommend an album that made it into the Billboard pop charts (heresy!) I gave up in the end. There is something just magical about the bluesy groove of The Sidewinder’s 10:28 title track, that I just had to recommend this first. It may not be the most creative album, nor the most artistically developed, but hey, it is just addictive.

A great rhythm section

Obviously, a great deal of this addictiveness stems from the rhythm section (especially Harris, but also Crenshaw, Higgins), but we also get another taste of Joe Henderson (although his solo on the title track is not very memorable, he get’s better on Totem Pole).

And then there is Lee himself, his playing is fantastic, and he actually wrote all the songs himself. A little bit of trivia on Morgan: he died a rather unusual death for a Jazz musician of the time (i.e. not of drugs or alcohol), but was shot by his long-term girlfriend of the time in 1971 for unclear reasons.

Luckily, this is not a “one-hit-wonder” album, all the other tracks of the album are very good, I particularly like Gary’s Notebook.

Overall rating: Groovy, Baby! (formerly known as 5 stars)

Addendum: Reader Bob Ryan kindly commented here that I omitted to mention “Search For The New Land” as one of the must have albums for Lee Morgan. I absolutely concur with his opinion.