An Intro Guide To Jazz Music
This one is pretty straight forward. Whether you are an avid jazz listener who needs new music, or are a newcomer to the genre, you will find something here to peak your interest. My idea here is to keep jazz and other genres in the forefront and to not allow essential and great music to fade away.
These albums are classic “straight ahead” jazz records that are palatable and give an accurate representation of the genre from multiple decades. There is obviously an overwhelming amount of incredible jazz out there that we won’t cover, but this list is designed to get your feet wet and to set you on the path to this fantastic American genre. Hope you enjoy!
1). Kind of Blue – Miles Davis
This is not only considered one of the quintessential jazz albums but was marked on a list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by Rolling Stone Magazine. Kind of Blue not only gives you a great lesson in jazz but also features some of the most iconic names in jazz history: John Coltrane (Tenor Sax), Cannonball Adderley (Alto Sax), Bill Evans (Piano), Paul Chambers (Bass), and of course, the leader Miles Davis, who you may have heard of. This was the album that introduced me to jazz and remains one of my favorites to this day.
2). Hot Five and Hot Seven Sessions – Louis Armstrong
Ambassador Satch, Mr. Louis Armstrong is perhaps the most pivotal jazz musician and the reason many musicians exist. Known for his raspy vocal stylings and virtuosic trumpet chops, Armstrong pioneered jazz in the mid to late 1920’s and beyond. The Hot 5 and Hot 7 Sessions are a collection of recordings between 1925-1928 and feature some of the hottest songs of the era. For the best look at the beginnings of jazz and where modern jazz was cultivated, look no further!
3). Ellington At Newport – Duke Ellington
Big bands are a different style altogether from the small group heard on Kind of Blue. Big bands were huge, especially in the 20’s and 30’s and housed some of the most talented musicians around. Perhaps the most revered big jazz band leader was Sir Duke Ellington. Ellington began his long music career in 1914 and led his famous group up until he passed away. Ellington At Newport 1956 is not just one of the best big band albums but is very important in the jazz realm and a must have in your collection.
4). The Atomic Mr. Basie – Count Basie
If Duke Ellington is considered the best jazz band leader, Count Basie wasn’t far behind. Basie also housed some of the greatest players in jazz, rivaling Ellington’s band. The Atomic Mr. Basie is arguably his best album among troves of amazing recordings. The album is featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and won Best Jazz performance at the 1st Grammy Awards!
5). A Swingin’ Affair – Frank Sinatra
Ol’ Blue Eyes, The Chairman of the Board, Mr. Frank Sinatra. Frank Sinatra was the ultimate 40’s and 50’s crooner who is still consider the coolest guy there ever was. His musical career was lush and vast and led him to play with some of the greatest musicians in jazz. There are a lot of great Sinatra albums to check out, but a great one to wet your whistle is the 1957 A Swingin’ Affair. The album features great American Songbook Standards like “Night and Day,” “I Won’t Dance,” and many more.
6). Complete Savoy and Dial Sessions – Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker was the best alto saxophone player to ever pick up the horn and remains forever tied to the jazz sub-genre of bebop as the founder and supreme example. Although he died the young age of 34, Parker made a lasting impression on the world and without his music, jazz would have been completely different. Do yourself a favor, listen to everything Charlie Parker was featured on. You can start with this album which features some of the greatest tracks and musicians that Parker played with. Enjoy!
(Yes, this is a blues!)
7). Ella + Louis – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
Ella Fitzgerald, the first lady of jazz, as she is often named, has the greatest and most natural jazz voice ever captured. Her elegance and nuance were and still are unmatched. Ella and Louis is a fantastic album featuring Ella and the great Louis Armstrong with a great band led by the incredible pianist Oscar Peterson. The musical relationship these two had was so inspiring and lovely to hear.
8). Blue Train – John Coltrane
John Coltrane was another highly influential jazz saxophone player who changed the direction of the genre. Coltrane was able to unleash other-worldly sounds from his horn and is still considered of the best jazz musicians of all time. His album Blue Train features an amazing rhythm section and my favorite trumpet player, Lee Morgan. Once you listen to this, you’ll want more and more from Coltrane.
9). Time Out – Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck was a well-known jazz pianist who was a forerunner in the West Coast cool jazz scene. Brubeck had a well-cultivated sound that he developed with his band over many years. He was known for composing music with varying time signatures with different feels. His world-famous hit Take Five is perhaps one of the most played jazz tunes of all time.
10). Incredible Jazz Guitar – Wes Montgomery
The explanation for this album is directly in the title. If you are looking for one jazz guitar album to start with, this is the only place to look. Montgomery’s technique, tone, and overall approach have been admired for many years and he continues to be the pinnacle of jazz guitar mastery. Incredible Jazz Guitar is featured on almost every “Greatest Jazz Album” list and rightfully so. If you have any aspirations of becoming a jazz guitarist, you NEED this album.
11). Clifford Brown + Max Roach
Clifford Brown was considered to be the most talented jazz trumpeter in history. In fact, there are theory books dedicated to his licks and style of playing. Also, he died at the extremely young age of 25 in a horrific car crash. To this day, his albums with drummer Max Roach are celebrated as some of the best jazz material out there.
Bossa Nova is a Brazilian style of jazz known for relaxed rhythms reminiscent of sitting on a sunny beach with a pina colada. Joao Gilberto, a Brazilian musician, invented bossa nova in the late 1950’s. The album Getz/Gilberto is considered the prime example of bossa nova music and features a great American sax player Stan Getz, as well as the Brazilian musician and friend of Gilberto who is credited for internationalzing the genre, Antonio Carlos Jobim. In fact, Jobim wrote the majority of the songs on the album as well as most of the bossa nova songs we know.
By. Patrick Ortiz