Monday, March 26, 2018

Streamin' Jazz

(Originally posted 8/22/17; updated in italics on 3/26/18)

Being somewhat of a late adopter, a couple of weeks ago I finally signed up for a music streaming service that, lo and behold, gives me access to just about all the music I could ever hope to listen to.  What I've quickly learned is that I am more of an albums guy than a playlist guy.  Also, I don't like to shuffle songs but prefer to listen to an album in the order the artist/producer intended.  Most interesting, at least for me, is where I chose to go first -- the dozen musicians that form the core of my jazz listening pleasure. 

When I started this blog about seven years ago, I began profiling some of my favorite jazz albums from different artists that ultimately comprised an idiosyncratic Top 50.  It wasn't meant to be a definitive or comprehensive list; my choices often depended on what I was listening to that week.  It included some unsung musicians (so to speak) while omitting more seminal ones.  I also included only one album per artist even though there were often multiple albums in an artist's oeuvre that deserved greater attention.

Below, I've taken a different tack, having started from scratch with practically the entire universe of mainstream jazz recordings. These are the artists and albums I decided to save/download to build the foundation of my new virtual jazz library.  In some instances I've eschewed the more familiar, arguably superior, recordings of a given musician and gone instead with some of their less renown work -- sometimes this includes albums I've never heard before like Cannonball Adderley's Fiddler on the Roof -- how'd I miss that one?  Oh, and I've also included Frank Sinatra even though he isn't technically a jazz musician because, well, he's Frank Sinatra.

1)  John Coltrane.  The Atlantic Studio Recordings (including Bags & Trane (1959), Giant Steps (1960), Plays the Blues (1960), Ole Coltrane (1961), My Favorite Things (1961), Coltrane Jazz (1961), and Coltrane's Sound (1964)).  It is unfathomable how brilliant and prolific Coltrane was during this brief period, with many of these albums recorded at the same sessions in late 1960.  After that, I decided to go backwards, instead of forward, adding three gems, Blue Train (1957) and two from 1958, Lush Life and Soultrane.  And how could I not include Love Supreme (1965)And to make this an even dozen, there's the wonderful album he did with vocalist Johnny Hartman (1963).  I could quit now and have a pretty satisfying jazz library.

2)  Art Pepper.  Two classics from his first great period, Meet the Rhythm Section (1957) and Plus Eleven (1959), and The Complete Galaxy Recordings from his remarkably fruitful comeback that began in the 1970's after years of drug addiction and incarceration.  I added another album from his early years, Surf Ride (1956).

3)  Horace Silver.  Horace-Scope (1960), The Tokyo Blues (1962), The Cape Verdean Blues (1965).  A disclaimer:  These aren't my favorite Horace Silver albums; there are easily another half-dozen from 1955-1965 that I could (and probably will) add.  I decided to start with those recordings that I haven't played to near-death, including one (Tokyo Blues) I had never heard before.  Eventually, I had to add most of his other recordings from this period to the mix, including Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers (1955), 6 Pieces of Silver (1956), The Horace Silver Trio (1957), The Stylings of Silver (1957), Finger Poppin' with the Horace Silver Quintet (1959), Blowin' the Blues Away (1959) and Silver's Serenade (1963).  As you can tell, I can't get enough of Horace Silver.

4)  Bill Evans.  The obvious move would be to go with the incomparable Village Vanguard recordings from 1961 with his first great trio.  Instead I went for less trod ground:  Moonbeams (1962), At Shelly's Manne-Hole (1963), Trio (1964) and The Best of Bill Evans Live on Verve. There's nothing quite like hearing a Bill Evans album for the first time -- even some of his well worn classics sound different because he never plays them the same way twice.  Revelations for me include Bill Evans at Town Hall (1966) and, particularly, California Here I Come (1967).  And I had to eventually succumb and add The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings.

5)  Sonny Clark.  Sonny Clark Trio (1957), Cool Struttin' (1958) and Leapin' and Lopin' (1961).  One can't go wrong with Sonny Clark.  These three albums and all of the others he made in his way-too-short life (he died at the age of 31 in 1963) are absolutely stellar.  Indeed, so I've added Dial "S" for Sonny (1957) with Art Farmer on trumpet and Hank Mobley on tenor, Sonny's Crib (1957) with Coltrane (shortly before he recorded Blue Train), Donald Byrd on trumpet and Curtis Fuller on trombone, and My Conception (1959), with Byrd and Mobley.

6)  Miles Davis.  I'm particularly partial to Miles' first quintet (Coltrane on tenor, Red Garland on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, Philly Joe Jones on drums) that recorded four remarkable albums in 1956:  Workin', Relaxin', Steamin' and Cookin'.  For a change of pace (pun intended), I also went with his recordings from 1961, with a band that included Wynton Kelly on piano, Hank Mobley on tenor, Chambers on bass and Jimmy Cobb on drums:  Someday My Prince Will Come and In Person (Friday and Saturday Nights at the Blackhawk).  I added two favorites, Bag's Groove (1954) and Walking (1957) to the mix. 

7)  Sonny Rollins.  Sonny Rollins Plus Four (1956), with the four including the great Clifford Brown on trumpet and Max Roach on drums, Way Out West (1957), and The Sound of Sonny (1957) featuring another Sonny, Sonny Clark, on piano.  Added The Bridge (1962), recorded after a three-year lay off, and features guitarist Jim Hall, and two spectacular albums from 1956, Saxophone Colossus and Tenor Madness, in which Coltrane joins Sonny on the title track.

8)  Stan Getz.  I absolutely love his bossa nova albums.  Even though they are pretty well worn, they never sound tired to me:  Getz/Gilberto and Getz/Gilberto #2 (1964).  I also included a non-Latin Getz recording:  Stan Getz and The Oscar Peterson Trio (1957).  Treated myself to more Stan Getz:  Stan Getz and J.J. Johnson at the Opera House (1957) and Stan Getz with Cal Tjader (1958).

9)  Thelonious Monk.  Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall, recorded in 1957, but only recently discovered.  Also the Complete Prestige Recordings, the Complete Columbia Solo Studio Recordings and the Complete Columbia Live Recordings.  I should probably add the Complete Riverside Recordings and Complete Blue Note Recordings too. 

10)  Cannonball Adderley.  Somethin' Else (1958) with Miles Davis sitting in, is a true classic, as is Mercy, Mercy, Mercy at the It Club (1966).  So much other great stuff in between.  I chose Things Are Getting Better (1958) with Milt Jackson on vibes, and the aforementioned Fiddler on the Roof (1964).

11)  Chet Baker.  Chet Baker Sings (1956) and Chet Baker Plays and Sings (1964).  The world is divided into those who love Chet's voice and those who love his trumpet playing.  Nothing wrong with his blowing, but I'm partial to the singing.

12)   Yusef Lateef.  I didn't really discover this singular artist until his passing a couple of years ago.  Eastern Sounds (1961) and Live at Pep's Volumes I and II (1964).

13) Frank Sinatra.   Don't judge me.  In the Wee Small Hours (1955), A Swingin' Affair (1957) and Come Fly With Me (1958).

Where to go next?  I will need to add the big band sounds of Duke Ellington and Count Basie, and some swing from Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young.  Bebop from Charlie Parker and Bud Powell, and hard bop from Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, as well as from the Jazztet (formed by Art Farmer and Benny Golson).  And, I know, I inexcusably omitted the vocalists -- Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Anita O'Day.  Other favorites include the great tenors, Hank Mobley and Dexter Gordon. Then there's Charles Mingus and Wayne Shorter and McCoy Tyner and . . . .

Here's where I did go -- mostly more late 1950s-early 1960s jazz of the hard bop variety, with  recordings by many who are just a degree or two of separation from Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. 

14) Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.  So many amazing incarnations with so many musicians that became legends in their own right -- and who are, not surprisingly, heavily represented throughout this list.  Moanin' (1958) with Bobby Timmons on piano, Benny Golson on tenor, Lee Morgan on trumpet; The Big Beat (1960), with Wayne Shorter replacing Golson on tenor; and Mosaic (1961) and Caravan (1962) with Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Shorter on tenor and Cedar Walton on piano. (And don't forget the earlier band with Horace Silver, Hank Mobley on tenor and Kenny Dorham on trumpet listed above).

15) Speaking of Hank Mobley, the great tenor saxophonist's most well known album is Soul Station (1960) (with Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Art Blakey on drums).  Other favorites:  Roll Call (1960) (Kelly, Chambers, Blakey and Freddie Hubbard on trumpet), Workout (1961)(Kelly,  Chambers, Philly Joe Jones on drums and Grant Green on guitar), and Dippin' (1965)(Lee Morgan on trumpet). Another gem that fits well here is one led by the great pianist Kenny Drew, Undercurrent (1960), which features Mobley on tenor and Hubbard on trumpet.

16)  Kenny Dorham, another Blakey alumnus, made some classic albums, including Quiet Kenny (1959) with Tommy Flanagan on piano, and Whistle Stop (1961) with Kenny Drew on piano, Mobley, Chambers and Philly Joe Jones.  I found another fantastic recording that I had somehow never heard before,  Afro-Cuban (1955), that includes Mobley and Blakey as well as Horace Silver on piano, J.J. Johnson on trombone and Cecil Payne on baritone sax.  Wow. And then an easy segue to the early recordings of the great saxophonist, Joe Henderson, because Dorham's trumpet was so instrumental, so to speak:  Page One (1963), which also included McCoy Tyner on piano and Our Thing (1963) with Andrew Hill on piano.

17)  Another former Jazz Messenger I love is Bobby Timmons, an incredibly soulful piano player whose compositions became standards made famous when he played with Blakey (Moanin') and Cannonball Adderley (This Here).  His first two albums as a leader are well worth listening to: This Here Is Bobby Timmons and Soul Time, both released in 1960.

18)  Lee Morgan, yet one more Jazz Messenger, was an absolutely brilliant trumpet player, probably most known for his funky cross-over hits like The Sidewinder and Cornbread but he could play anything, from hard bop to ballads to stuff that is a bit more out there, all of which he did with a stellar lineup of musicians.  The Sidewinder (1963) features Joe Henderson (see above) and Barry Harris (see below); Search for the New Land (1964) with Wayne Shorter on tenor, Herbie Hancock on piano and Grant Green on guitar; Cornbread (1965) with Mobley on tenor, Jackie McLean on alto and Hancock on piano; and The Gigolo (1965) with Shorter on sax and Harold Mabern on piano.

19)  Barry Harris has been playing bebop piano since the mid-1950s, and is still going.  Two of his finest are Newer Than New (1961) and Barry Harris Plays Tadd Dameron (1975).

20) Dexter Gordon deserves to be in the pantheon of all time great tenor saxophone players.  I particularly love his Blue Note recordings from the early 1960s.  He had an incredible run with Doin' Allright and Dexter Calling (1961), A Swingin' Affair and Go (1962), and Our Man in Paris (1963).

21) Hampton Hawes, considered a Bud Powell-influenced piano player (as is pretty much every post-1940s piano player), released some great albums in the 1950s, including Four! Hampton Hawes!!! and For Real, both from 1958.

22) Bud Powell.  Might as well add recordings from the master himself.  Time Waits (1958), from his later period is one of my favorites.  Also essential is The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 1 (1951).

23) McCoy Tyner.  Can't get enough of McCoy's piano genius from the Coltrane sides and other albums listed above, so I've added Live at Newport (1963) and The Real McCoy (1967), and a compilation, The Impulse Story (2006).

24)  The Jazztet.  This was an incredible band let by Benny Golson on tenor and Art Farmer on trumpet or cornet, and initially included McCoy on piano and Curtis Fuller on trombone. Meet the Jazztet (1960) was their debut album and has their big hit "Killer Joe."  And The Portrait of Art Farmer (1958) with Hank Jones on piano  is a worthy addition too.  Speaking of Curtis Fuller (yes, another former Jazz Messenger), a couple of his great records are Blues-Ette (1959), with Golson, made right before the Jazztet session, and The Opener (1957) with Timmons and Mobley. 

25)  Wayne Shorter.  The great saxophonist and composer who played in one of the Jazz Messengers' greatest lineups and in Miles Davis's second great quintet.  Juju (1965) (with McCoy Tyner on piano), Adams Apple (1966)(with Herbie Hancock on piano) and last but certainly not least, Speak No Evil (1966)(with Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter on bass and Elvin Jones on drums) one of the greatest albums of all time.

26)  Oliver Nelson's The Blues and the Abstract Truth (1961) is another of the greatest jazz albums of all time, with an all time lineup: Bill Evans on piano, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Eric Dolphy on alto, Paul Chambers on bass and Roy Haynes on drums, along with Nelson on tenor. 

27)  Donald Byrd, another former Jazz Messenger well represented above, made some great albums with baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, including Off the the Races (1958), which also features Jackie McLean on on alto and Wynton Kelly on piano, and Cat Walk (1961).

28)  Any serious jazz collection should have Charlie Parker.  For my virtual library, the Parker album I listen to the most is actually Charlie Parker with Strings, recorded in 1950 but released in expanded form in 1995.

29)  Same goes for Clifford Brown, the phenomenal trumpet player whose life was cut short at the age of 25 when he was killed in a car accident.  The Complete Paris Sessions from 1953, and Alone Together: The Best of the Mercury Years, which includes his great recordings with the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet from the mid-50s.

30)  Three from the incomparable Charles Mingus: Pithecanthropus Erectus (1956), The Clown (1957) and Mingus Ah Um (1958).

31)  Another great saxophone player from the West Coast was Harold Land.  Harold in the Land of Jazz (1958) and The Fox (1959) which  features the great, unsung Elmo Hope on piano and includes several of Hope's compositions. Speaking of Hope:  Elmo Hope Trio and Quintet (1957) and The Elmo Hope Trio (1959).

32)  More West Coast jazz of the cool variety -- more melodic, more chill.  Dave Brubeck, Time Out (1959), which is more than just Take Five and never gets old; Paul Desmond, Take Ten (1963), which includes a worthy sequel to Take Five, and Bossa Antigua (1964); The Complete Gerry Mulligan Quarter with Chet Baker, and Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster (1959).

33)  The vocalists:  Dinah Washington, Dinah Jams (1954) with an extraordinary band, including Clifford Brown, Harold Land and Max Roach; Sarah Vaughan (1954), also featuring Clifford Brown and In the Land of HiFi (1955), featuring Cannonball Adderley; Ella Fitzgerald, Rogers and Hart Songbook (1957) and the Jerome Kern Songbook (1964); Anita O'Day, Anita Sings the Most with the Oscar Peterson Quartet (1957) and Pick Yourself Up (1957); Mel Torme Sings Fred Astaire 1956) and Mel Torme Swings Shubert Alley (1960); and Johnny Hartman, I Just Dropped By to Say Hello (1963), from the same year he recorded his classic album with John Coltrane, listed above -- this one includes Illinois Jacquet on sax and Hank Jones on piano. 

34)  The more traditional route:  Count Basie, The Complete Atomic Basie (1957). And a couple of Duke Ellington albums -- unfortunately Spotify doesn't have my favorite (And His Mother Called Him Bill) so I went with Ellington Uptown (1957) and Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins (1962). 

35)  And a few more classics:  We Three (1958)(Roy Haynes on drums, Phineas Newborn, Jr. on piano and Paul Chambers on bass); Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing (1958); Wynton Kelly and Wes Montgomery, Smokin' at the Half Note (1965).

To be continued.

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