Ten essential jazz albums if you know squat about jazz but want to become more versed

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About two decades ago, I heard Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, and it floored me. It's the best selling jazz album of all time, and if there's one album that truly started an obsession with jazz, it was that one. As a kid, I'd gotten to see cats like Red Rodney, Zoot Sims and Slide Hampton at Dick Gibson's jazz shows in the early '80s, but it wasn't until hearing Kind of Blue that something just completely clicked. It's hard to completely pinpoint what exactly it was, but I felt it. It's the perfect place to start if you know squat about jazz but are looking to become more versed, as are the other albums that I picked out here. Admittedly, it was hard to pare it down to just ten, and I left out a ton of legendary albums, but these records, most of which were recorded in the '50s and '60s, are a great place to start.

See also:
- Ten essential albums of the 1960s
- Ten essential gangsta rap albums

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10. CHET BAKER - CHET
Trumpeter Chet Baker could swing hard, but Chet is, for the most part, a ballad affair. Baker's playing is gorgeous all the way the through, as is most of the other musicians on the recording, like baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, pianist Bill Evans and flautist Herbie Mann. A vital late-night disc in anyone's collections, Chet is a damn fine soundtrack for an unhurried session in the sack. Dig?

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9. JOE HENDERSON - PAGE ONE
One of the great debut jazz albums, Page One finds Joe Henderson here in his mid-twenties when he released this album, but the tenor saxophonist sounded a few decades older. Already fully in control of a rich and robust tone, his phrasing is outstanding throughout the album's six tracks. "Blue Bossa," written by trumpeter Kenny Dorham on the record and "Recorda Me," the first tune Henderson ever wrote, went on to become widely played standards. One of the great Blue Note hard bop albums of the early '60s.

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8. PHAROAH SANDERS - THEMBI
Pharoah Sanders recorded and performed with John Coltrane for a few years leading up to Coltrane's death in 1967 with both saxophonists delving into some intense free jazz. There's still some forceful blowing on Thembi, especially on "Red, Black & Green." But the opening track, "Astral Traveling," which features some stellar Fender Rhodes playing by Lonnie Liston Smith, and the title track might be reason enough to give the record a spin. If anything, it shows the wide palette which Sanders works with.

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12 comments
dwadrum
dwadrum

First Time! The Count Meets the Duke

dwadrum
dwadrum

First Time! The Count Meets the Duke

Patrick Stanton
Patrick Stanton

Gil scott pieces of a man get hip dnvr. Subbaculture i swear

Chris Dixon
Chris Dixon

Dave Brubeck, Take 5, Bob James ONE, Deodato, PRELUDE, Return to Forever, WHERE HAVE I KNOWN YOU BEFORE, John Abercrombie, TIMELESS, Billy Cobham CROSSWINDS, Maynard Ferguson IT'S MY TIME, Stan Kenton JOURNEY INTO CAPRICORN, PAt Metheny Group, AMERICAN GARAGE and THE ROAD TO YOU

Gary Gordon
Gary Gordon

Trying to narrow it down to 10 albums is insane; maybe even insulting. No Bird? Clifford Brown? Diz? Etc. 10 artists maybe, but I don't think Pharaoh would make it in that case.

Tim Richman
Tim Richman

Tough to ignore the Modern Jazz Quartet as well.

Tim Richman
Tim Richman

You skip over "A Love Supreme", that's crazy. Most of this list is arguably brilliant.

Brian Lauro
Brian Lauro

I agree w Michael Kaszynski. Time Out is an essential, so is Blues and the Abstract Truth

Michael Kaszynski
Michael Kaszynski

No "Take Five"? This is a very specific taste in jazz on this list. I tend to like older stuff.

nynoah
nynoah

Who made this list... dear lord.  They picked the worst eras of Jazz.  Why not look at the good stuff that had form from the 1930s and the 1940s.   Bebop was the death of good jazz.

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