Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Streamin' Jazz

(Originally posted 8/22/17; updated in italics on 3/2318)

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 more Horace to the mix, including Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers (1955), The Horace Silver Trio (1957), and Finger Poppin' with the Horace Silver Quintet (1959).

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).

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. So is My Conception (1959), which I've now also added.

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 three remarkable albums in 1956:  Relaxin', Steamin' and Cookin'.  For a change of pace (pun intended), though, I 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 had to add Bag's Groove, one of my favorite jazz albums, recorded in 1954 but released in 1957.

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.

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 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.  I also find myself sometimes drawn to the so-called cool jazz of the same time period -- more chill, lighter touch, more melodic -- that was being played on the West Coast by Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Gerry Mulligan, Shorty Rogers, Shelley Manne, and Zoot Sims, et al.

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) and The Big Beat (1960) had Bobby Timmons on piano, Benny Golson on tenor, Lee Morgan on trumpet.  There's also Mosaic (1961) and Caravan (1962) with Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Wayne 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), featuring Lee Morgan on trumpet.  Another gem to include here is one lead 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.  I'll also throw in here 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)  One more former Jazz Messenger 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)  Wynton Kelly, who manned the piano on so many of the above recordings, put out some great albums as a leader too.  His set with guitarist Wes Montgomery, Smokin' at the Half Note (1965) is a true classic.  Others include Kelly Blue (1958) and Someday My Prince Will Come (1961).

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 included McCoy on piano. Meet the Jazztet (1960) was their debut album and has their big hit "Killer Joe."

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.

And then there's the aforementioned cool jazz:   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; Zoot Sims and the Gershwin Brothers (1975)(with Oscar Peterson on piano); Gerry Mulligan, What Is There To Say? (1959) and Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster (1959); Shorty Rogers, The Swinging Mr. Rogers (1955); and Shelly Manne and His Friends, My Fair Lady (1956)
And a few more classics:   Grant Green, Idle Moments (1963) and Matador (1964); We Three (1958)(Roy Haynes on drums, Phineas Newborn, Jr. on piano and Paul Chambers on bass); The Great Jazz Trio, Some Day My Prince Will Come (2004)(Hank Jones on piano, Elvin Jones on drums and Richard Davis on bass); and Harold Land, Harold in the Land of Jazz (1958) and The Fox (1959)

To be continued.

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