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