Top 25 Jazz Albums of All Time
The jazz albums listed below are some of the greatest ever recorded. This music is full of emotion and passion by musicians who dedicated their lives to america's true art form, jazz.
Kind of Blue - Miles Davis
While it is the number one selling jazz album of all time, many consider it to be THE best jazz album of all time. I agree, because this unrehearsed recording session from 1959 showcases some the top form of the most amazing musicians in jazz history. Miles showed up to the Columbia Records studios with some rough melodies and chords jotted down and the band proceeded to track each song in one magical take. That's how Miles liked to do it, he made sure the music was spontaneous and in the moment. The songs are simple, pleasant melodies and chord progressions leaving room for the deep improvisational exploration in the spur of the moment. What a treat it is to listen to time and time again.
A Love Supreme - John Coltrane
This album completely changed the jazz scene in 1965 and even today its influence can be found in many musical styles. Instead of showcasing the complex and dense harmonic bebop language he had developed with Davis and Monk, he plays freely with simple raw spiritual passion. The four songs on this album convey emotions of anger, joy, sadness, ecstasy, tragedy and triumph. I know of many artists such as writers or painters who use this album to inspire energy and passion from within themselves for their own personal art. This album marked a turning point in Coltrane's playing as he ventured more into performing music from it's deepest, most spiritual essence.
Time Out - The Dave Brubeck Quartet
Dave Brubeck created a masterpiece which became the first instrumental jazz album to sell over a million copies. The single, "Take Five" was a number one hit on music charts which is outstanding for a jazz song, especially a song with 5/4 time signature. Brubeck used the rhythmic influences from Eastern Europe to create a very fresh rhythmic sound. The complex rhythms he uses sound very natural and are easy to listen to, probably the reason for his success. This one is guaranteed to please and intrigue its listeners.
Ellington At Newport - Duke Ellington
This historic concert was a triumphant moment for Ellington's band... It was 1956 and many big bands were struggling due to the rise of bebop and modern small group format. So at the 3rd annual Newport Jazz Festival, Ellington attempted to please the crowd with some new suites and arrangements, but the crowd was very sedated as usual. Then finally on a two-section song, Dimuendo and Crescendo in Blue, Duke had the two sections connect with a sax solo by Paul Gonzalves and allowed him to play the solo as long as he felt like playing. He only usually took a couple choruses but this time Gonzalves took a 27 chorus solo that eventually had the crowd off its feet and dancing! This historical moment changed the face of jazz and also gave Ellington's band some new success. Duke's band continued in this popularity for 18 more years.
Jazz At Massey Hall - Charlie Parker
This album appears reissued under the name "The Greatest Concert Ever". It is an all star lineup of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach; all who created the style of bebop about 15 years before this concert date (1953) and thus were all seasoned veterans by the time of the concert. This is the only recording of these five legends playing together and everyone plays brilliantly. A lot of earlier bebop recordings suffered from poor sound quality but luckily this one was well engineered and sounds fantastic.
Head Hunters - Herbie Hancock
When I first heard this album I realized I had finally found that perfect "sound" I had been searching for my whole life. Herbie's creativity and experimentation on a multitude of analog synths and keyboards really explored new realms of psychedelic jazz avant-garde funk. Some critics and old fashioned fans said this album was not jazz, but I beg to differ cause it is full of jazz improvisation and concepts mixed with new rhythmic groove elements. This album was so popular that it quickly sold over a million copies after its release in 1973. It's simple, funky, extremely enjoyable, and AMAZING! Listen to it over and over for maximum satisfaction.
Blue Train - John Coltrane
Recorded in 1957, this album was Coltrane's first album as a leader. It's very interesting to hear how Coltrane was playing before he started heading to the freer, passionate playing that he evolved to in the mid 60's. Did you know that only a few years earlier, Coltrane was considered just a mediocre player? He studied with others and performed SO MUCH with Miles that he became an icon of discipline. He was known to constantly practice after gigs late into the night to become the player he was on this album... and he still continued to improved after this recording! I love this album because it has such a solid, quintessential jazz sound.
Getz/Gilberto - Stan Getz & João Gilberto
In 2008 Herbie Hancock won a Grammy for Best Album of the Year, no jazz album had won that award that since this fine album from 1965. It created a bossa nova craze in the United States and is one of the best selling jazz records of all time. Stan Getz, Joao and Astrud Gilberto are extremely graceful and intimate as they float along through this wonderful material composed by the famous Antonio Carlos Jobim. I think the best word to describe this album is relaxing.
Mingus Ah Um - Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus had a way of making his bands sound lush, original, and of course swing like crazy. This album features many tribute songs to former jazz legends that are guaranteed to get your foot tapping and your fingers snapping! Also there are some amazing ballads filled with highly colorful and inventive horn arrangements. I personally love the song "Fables of Faubus", a track dedicated to the infamous former governor of Arkansas who strongly opposed racial integration in schools in 1957. It's great to see musicians make such a strong artistic and political statement.
Concert By the Sea - Erroll Garner
Errol Garner is a legendary pianist. This may be because he can't read a note of written music and plays entirely by ear. This album is very interesting both harmonically and rhythmically. His left hand swings so hard in a way that was not typical of other pianists. While his playing exudes joy he is also quite technically fluent and plays extravagant arrangements of many well-loved standards like Autumn Leaves and I'll Remember April.
Bitches Brew - Miles Davis
This album was a triumph for Miles Davis later in his career in 1970. Two drummers, two bassists, three keyboardists consisting mostly of free spontaneous electric improvisation. Also for the first time, the recording tape was sliced and diced a bit in the studio to make certain parts repeat and to add effects which was unheard of on a jazz record. Yet even with all that... or maybe because of all that... it is Miles' second best selling album of all time behind Kind of Blue. It is a fantastic free and funky exploration of sound.
Saxophone Colossus - Sonny Rollins
This is as classic jazz gets. It is one of, if not the biggest record for Sonny Rollins. Recorded in 1956, every song is feels so sophisticated yet soulful and smooth. It only has five songs but each one is a hit and Sonny's playing never fails. Sonny plays complex bebop that is very accessible because it is obvious that every note he plays has a purpose and meaning.
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