Sunday, September 25, 2011

Jazz Greats: The First Fifty

About once a week over the past year I have profiled jazz albums from different artists to provide an admittedly personal and idiosyncratic Top 50 (in no particular order).  My choices were driven in large part by my preference for relatively straight-ahead jazz from the swing and bebop eras, and especially the music from the mid-1950s/early 1960s that evolved from bebop and became known as hard bop.  There are obviously many glaring omissions, but hopefully some pleasant surprises too.

Below are links to the complete list.  Take a look and let me know the artists and albums you think I've missed.

 #1 (Hank Mobley), #2 (Horace Silver), #3 (Sonny Rollins), #4 (Sonny Clark), #5 (Dexter Gordon), #6 (Cannonball Adderley); #7 (Bill Evans), #8 (McCoy Tyner), #9 (Clifford Brown), #10 (Sinatra), #11 (Monk), #12 (Kenny Dorham), #13 (Coltrane), #14 (Duke Ellington), #15 (Miles Davis), #16 (Wayne Shorter), #17 (Dinah Washington); #18 (Sarah Vaughan); #19 (Stan Getz); #20 (Blue Mitchell); #21 (Gene Ammons); #22 (Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers); #23 (Red Garland); #24 (Ella Fitzgerald); #25 (Charlie Parker); #26 (Art Pepper); #27 (Bud Powell); #28 (John Hicks); #29 (Kenny Barron); #30 (Coleman Hawkins); #31 (Count Basie) #32 (Benny Carter w/ Ben Webster and Barney Bigard); #33 (Chet Baker); #34 (Thad  Jones); #35 (The Great Jazz Trio); #36 (Ahmad Jamal); #37 (Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond); #38 (Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis); #39 (Charles McPherson)#40 (Harold Land); #41 Booker Little); #42 (Elis Regina & Antonio Carlos Jobim); #43 (Art Farmer & Benny Golson); #44 (Wynton Kelly); #45 (Tony Bennett/Bill Evans; # 46 (Barry Harris); #47 (Elmo Hope)]; #48 (Mel Torme); #49 (Miles Davis All Stars); #50 (Oscar Peterson)

3 comments:

Jimmy Lohman said...

Fantastic list – and I too could live without pretty much anything done since Trane passed on.

Don't think I'd include Elmo or Harold Land though I relish their recordings with Clifford and may have to admit Elmo for his brilliant compositions. I like Blue Mitchell alright but would not include him (or Booker Little) among the 50 greats -- not in a league with your other trumpeters or the conspicuously absent Lee Morgan, Dizzy and Roy Eldridge. Would even subordinate him to Donald Byrd and Freddy Hubbard (from their Messenger days) and Fats Navarro.

It’s basically impossible to keep it to 50 so it’s hard to quibble -- 100 would be much easier and probably uncontroversial, but other questionable omissions: Louis Armstrong (c'mon how bout one token pre-swing choice for the virtual father of jazz and in my view the greatest singer ever – from the early 30’s – I defy anyone to best these vocal masterpieces:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIIZ3hQEsqs -- and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhVdLd43bDI );

Wes Montgomery (deservedly always # 1 in polls of professional guitarists and their fans -- and you have NO guitarists); Lester Young (why Hawk but not Pres?); Milt Jackson? Jimmy Smith? Mingus? Django? Sarah is my favorite lady singer ever, but where’s Lady Day -- especially her early stuff?

As a jazz guitar player and devotee, I’d have to include Jim Hall (Sonny Rollins and Art Farmer did) and Kenny Burrell. Piano-wise, I’m partial to Tommy Flanagan and Hank Jones – maybe at the expense of John Hicks or the marvelous Wynton Kelly. No list is complete without a bassist or two – probably Ron Carter first, but Paul Chambers, Ray Brown and Percy Heath certainly get honorable mention. Does the list get more than one drummer? Hard to omit Max Roach and I have a thing for Kenny Clarke.

Great stuff, Andy. I’ve always wanted to do this.

Gil Pemberton said...

[Intro Comment by Jimmy: Gil is the greatest appreciator of music I’ve ever known and he has done more to introduce me to beautiful sounds than anyone in my life. I’m posting this comment for him. JL]

This guy’s list is good ! One thing I look for in a list like this is who is left off. That tells me a lot about how deep & well studied the person is. I looked at a list the other day & both Johnny Griffin & Harold Land were not on it. And when I looked at this list those were the first I looked for. Now I know how opinionated you can be when it comes to your standards in players, but I think Harold Land was one of the most meticulous & gutsy improvisers to come out of the 50s if you listen closely to his line. And like all the other greats his sound is one that is drenched in the blues but it does not override his sound. His sound did change in the 60s. In some ways it kinda became a little more West Coast. But in the 50s his sound & line were text book. He was the most East Coast sounding player ever to come from the West Coast in the 50s. I really think you should reinvestigate this guy because he was one of the true masters of the 50s & even still in the very early 60s (1961). I did not truly come to appreciate Mr. Land’s sound & approach until about 20 years ago.

As far as The Little Giant Johnny Griffin by my standard his playing between 1956 & 57 was 2nd to no one, including Sonny & Trane. But by 1958 Trane had surpassed everyone, even if his sound was not liked by many.

A lot of people forget about Benny Golson but by the early-mid 60s was sounding like a Trane from the mid 50s but in his own way, which he still sounds like to this day ! And it is a beautiful sound. Another true master of the horn.
Enjoy ! Gil

Lovechilde said...

Thanks, Jimmy and Gil, for your comments and for taking the time to look this over. You should know that I didn't make a list of 50 at the outset; my various choices sprung more haphazardly from one to the next. As a result, there are definitely some big omissions, many of whom Jimmy points out.

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