Best Jazz Albums: Essential Albums You Need To Hear
Including career-defining sessions that continue to make their influence felt, the best jazz albums of all time offer a wealth of stunning, must-hear music.
Compiling a list of the best jazz albums of all time is a nigh-on impossible task. With such a variety of styles to choose from – and no shortage of musicians who have contributed several groundbreaking works to the development of jazz – it quickly becomes clear that a mere handful of artists, or subgenres, could easily dominate the list.
With that in mind, we’ve tried to make room for a wide array of musicians, styles – and reasons – for inclusion in this list of the best jazz albums of all time. Hopefully, this means our selections are as rich, varied – and perhaps surprising – as the history of jazz itself.
We’re sure you’ll have your own favorite albums. Let us know in the comments section what you think we’ve missed out – and why.
Check out some of the greatest jazz albums on vinyl here.
In the meantime, these jazz albums are essential for anyone looking to start a collection, or to go beyond classics they already know.
81: Frank Sinatra: Sinatra at the Sands (Reprise)
Sinatra At The Sands was recorded at a time when long-haired pop and rock groups – epitomized by The Beatles and The Beach Boys – were changing the face of music. 1966 was, after all, the age of game-changing albums such as Revolver and Pet Sounds, but in the Copa Room, in Sinatra’s presence, none of that seemed to matter. The audience were in Frank’s world, where the music swung, the songs were timeless, the jewelry dazzled and the booze flowed. Time stood still.
Key track: “Angel Eyes”
80: Pat Metheny: Bright Side Life (ECM)
Largely ignored and selling barely 1,000 copies on its release in January 1976, the Missouri guitar magus’ debut jazz album gradually grew in stature and went on to be regarded as a post-bop masterpiece. Metheny was just 21 and teaching at Boston’s Berklee School of Music when ECM producer Manfred Eicher, who had heard him play with vibraphonist Gary Burton’s group, recorded the young guitarist with fretless bass maven Jaco Pastorius and drummer Bob Moses. What resulted was a thrilling showcase for Metheny’s clear-toned, flowing virtuoso style which was defined by elliptical melodic filigrees, liquid improv and flights of untrammeled lyricism. Over the course of Metheny’s career, he would go on to make far more ambitious albums but Bright Size Life stands out for its winning combination of youthful energy and masterly assuredness.
Key track: “Bright Size Life”
79: Metropole Orkest feat. John Scofield: 54 (Emarcy)
Six-time Grammy winning American arranger Vince Mendoza is renowned for his collaborations with pop and rock acts (Björk, Joni Mitchell) but he’s also worked his magic with jazz performers. Leading Holland’s redoubtable Metropole Orkest, in 2010 Mendoza invited US jazz-rock guitarist Scofield to guest on 54, which presented seven widescreen adaptations of tunes from Scofield’s back catalogue as well as two original numbers. The contrast between Scofield’s acerbic, gnarly guitar lines and the pointillistic detail of Mendoza’s orchestrations offers a juxtaposition of tones and textures that is thrillingly dramatic. The set’s highlights include the pent-up symphonic opener, “Carlos,” oscillating between tension and resolution, and “Out Of The City,” which exudes a metropolitan swing feel. A scintillating contemporary take on big band, and one of the greatest jazz albums of all-time.
Key track: “Carlos”
78: Art Tatum: Piano Starts Here (Columbia)
From Toledo, Ohio, the visually impaired Art Tatum set an impossibly high bar for jazz piano playing between 1933, when he made his first recordings, to his death in 1956. The 1968 compilation, Piano Starts Here, offers a rewarding snapshot of Tatum’s jaw-dropping technique and sparked a revival of interest in Tatum’s music twelve years after his death. It featured his first four studio sides – including wonderfully flamboyant renditions of “Tea For Two” and “Tiger Rag” – augmented by scintillating live recordings recorded at LA’s Shrine Auditorium from 1949. Such is Tatum’s genius that he transforms his source material into virtuosic mini concertos, packed with dizzying melodic cascades, inventive substitute chords, and piston-like left-hand accompaniments.
Key track: “How High The Moon”
77: Christian Scott a Tunde Adjuah: The Emancipation Procrastination (Ropeadope/Stretch Music)
Though the history of jazz can be heard in his trumpet playing – from the brash ebullience of Louis Armstrong to the introspective melancholy of Miles Davis and the incandescent virtuosity of Dizzy Gillespie – this New Orleans musician has created a unique and unclassifiable musical hybrid. In the last decade, he has consistently pushed the jazz envelope with albums like the politically charged The Emancipation Procrastination, which fuses alt rock, African music, hip-hop and ambient flavors to arrive at a sound that defies pigeonholing and which Adjuah describes as “Stretch Music.” The inaugural release in his acclaimed Centennial Trilogy, the album offers an immersive listening experience that is a stunning showcase of the horn blower’s polyglot style; where his mournful, elegant trumpet melodies are framed by a blend of filmic soundscapes and stuttering trap grooves.
Key track: “Ashes Of Our Forever”
76: Michael Brecker: Pilgrimage (Heads Up)
This Pennsylvanian tenor saxophonist rose to fame playing jazz-funk in the 70s with his elder sibling Randy in the Brecker Brothers but also carved out a career as a first call sideman for rock artists that ranged from John Lennon to Steely Dan. Pilgrimage was Brecker’s final solo album, recorded during 2006 in the stellar company of Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock, Brad Mehldau, John Patitucci, and Jack DeJohnette. Though he was terminally ill at the time, Brecker’s playing is wonderfully vibrant and brimming with a life-affirming vigor. By the time the record was released, Brecker had passed away but this great jazz album stands as an enduring monument to his genius. It also won him two posthumous Grammy awards.
Key track: “When Can I Kiss You Again”
75: Cécile McLorin Salvant: Dream & Daggers (Mack Avenue)
Blessed with a sweetly soulful voice, this groundbreaking Miami chanteuse, born to a French mother and Haitian father, picked up Best Jazz Vocal award at the 2018 Grammys for Dreams & Daggers; an enterprising 34-track double album that contrasts live performances capturing her at New York’s iconic Village Vanguard venue with studio recordings featuring a string quartet. It’s also an album of juxtapositions in other ways; between vintage jazz songs (“Mad About The Boy”) and freshly minted self-penned numbers (“Red Instead”), which the singer weaves into a coherent storytelling narrative that examines the vicissitudes of love and life. Dreams & Daggers is a masterwork that thrust McLorin Salvant into the pantheon of great jazz singers.
Key track: “Never Will I Marry”
74: Brad Mehldau Trio: Anything Goes (Warner)
Together with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jorge Rossy, this prolific classically-trained pianist expanded the parameters of the piano trio format in a fertile ten-year spell between 1995 and 2005. This 2004 album is the best of the jazz trio’s output, reflecting their deconstruction-style approach to both jazz standards and pop-rock songs. The highlights range from the evergreen “Get Happy” and “Smile,” which are both transfigured into agitated numbers distinguished by prickly dissonances, and a brooding reading of Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place.” Throughout the set’s ten songs, the interplay between the three musicians seems to be operating at a heightened, ESP-like level, achieving a oneness of musical thought and purpose that recalls the early 60s Bill Evans trio at its peak.
Key track: “Everything In Its Right Place”
73: Maria Schneider Orchestra: Data Lords (Artist Share)
Serving her musical apprenticeship with the legendary arranger Gil Evans in the 70s, this Minnesota-born composer, orchestrator and conductor rose to become the undisputed doyenne of large canvas jazz and has been leading her own orchestra since 1992. A seven-time Grammy winner, Schneider’s 2020 opus, Data Lords, is arguably her most ambitious project; an epic double concept album that explores the uneasy intersection of the digital and natural worlds and though a series of exquisite tone poems offers an eloquent critique of surveillance capitalism and the dark side of technological advancements. Like the great Duke Ellington before her, Schneider writes much of her music with specific band musicians in mind. A landmark album in contemporary big band jazz.
Key track: “Sputnik”
72: Ambrose Akinmusire: When The Heart Emerges Glistening (Blue Note)
The 2007 winner of the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute’s International Jazz Award, Oakland-born Akinmusire is a versatile, technically accomplished trumpeter who is just as comfortable producing breathy, mellow, low-end sounds as he is blowing stratospheric high notes. Though his inclusion of the standard “What’s New” on this 2011 album, his Jason Moran-produced Blue Note debut, showed that he was rooted in the jazz tradition, the album revealed him to be a forward-thinking conceptualist whose music is fiercely contemporary. He also isn’t afraid to articulate socio-political concerns; “My Name Is Oscar,” a powerful spoken-word piece with drum accompaniment, highlights the unjust death of a young African-American man murdered by the LAPD in 2009.
Key track: “Confessions to My Unborn Daughter”
71: Gregory Porter: Be Good (Motema)
Before this satin-voiced “jazz cat in a hat” became a household name in America and Europe after his 2013 album Liquid Spirit broke him into the mainstream, Bakersfield-born Porter was largely a cult figure who only figured on the radar of the jazz cognoscenti. Even though his debut album, Water, was nominated for a Grammy, it was with his second long-player, 2012’s Be Good that he began to build a devoted following. Fusing jazz with soul, blues and gospel flavors, Porter showed he had songwriting skills to match his rich mellifluous baritone voice. From silky ballads to energised uptempo numbers, Be Good revealed that Gregory Porter had substance as well as style.
Key track: “On My Way To Harlem”
70: Kenny Burrell: Midnight Blue (Blue Note)
One of the greatest jazz guitarists of all time, the prolific Detroiter Burrell made his recording debut with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie in 1951 and from there rapidly became sought after as a sideman. His first album as a leader came shortly afterwards, in 1956, when Burrell joined Alfred Lion’s Blue Note label; the company where he cut his magnum opus, Midnight Blue, seven years later. Aided by the soulfully smoky effusions of tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, Burrell digs deep into the blues, delivering tasteful solos where the balance between flawless technique and emotional expression is perfect. Ray Barretto’s congas add Latin flavoring, notably on the sprightly opener, “Chitlins Con Carne” and the loping “Wavy Gravy.”
Key track: “Chitlins Con Carne”
69: Chet Baker – Chet Baker & Crew (Pacific Jazz)
Regarded as the poster boy of jazz’s west coast cool school, Oklahoma-born Baker rose to fame with the Gerry Mulligan Quartet in 1952, seducing listeners with a combination of his beautifully burnished trumpet melodies and languid, almost androgynous, vocal croon. His vocals are absent from this 1956 offering, but it’s still one of the most satisfying albums he recorded for Dick Bock’s iconic Pacific Jazz label. Though he had just returned from a grueling European tour, Baker – leading a quintet that includes tenor saxophonist Phil Urso and pianist Bobby Timmons – plays with both vigor and vitality, which is particularly notable on the zippy opener, “To Mickey’s Memory,” a hard-swinging track augmented by Bill Loughborough’s exotic-sounding chromatic timpani.
Key track: “To Mickey’s Memory”
68: Alice Coltrane – Journey In Satchidananda (Impulse!)
Following the increasingly spiritual trajectory of her husband John’s mid-’60s albums, Alice Coltrane combined modal jazz with an exploration of South Asian music and Eastern metaphysics to create her own distinctive musical voice. No album epitomizes her singular style better, perhaps, than this 1970 opus, her fourth solo outing for Impulse! Records, which featured four tracks recorded in her home studio and one recorded live at New York’s Village Gate. Cecil McBee’s sturdy but pliable bass is the lynchpin on the four studio cuts, providing the musical bedrock on which Coltrane and her cohorts construct edifices built of swirling harp glissandi, bluesy piano runs, spacey tamboura drones, and soaring soprano saxophone cries (the latter courtesy of Pharoah Sanders). It stands as one of the greatest jazz albums ever recorded.
Key track: “Journey In Satchidananda”
67: Oscar Peterson: Night Train (Verve)
Described by Duke Ellington as the “Maharajah of the keyboard,” Montreal-born Peterson was famed for a florid piano style that expanded the virtuoso aesthetics of his mentor, the great Art Tatum. Peterson’s preferred setting was the jazz trio format, of which he was a pioneer, and which some believe reached its apotheosis on his 1963 LP, Night Train, where the pianist together with trusted collaborators bassist Ray Brown and drummer Ed Thigpen achieved a heightened sense of communion on a pitch-perfect collection of standards and blues. Though renowned for bravura displays of technique, Peterson also showed subtlety and restraint on an album that deepened appreciation for his undoubted genius.
Key track: “C Jam Blues”
66: Ella Fitzgerald: Sings The Cole Porter Songbook (Verve)
This was the 1956 album that accomplished the cunning master plan of Fitzgerald’s then manager, producer, and jazz impresario Norman Granz, who desired to transform his then 39-year-old protégé from a cult jazz singer into an international household name. He achieved it by having her explore the work of one of the Great American Songbook’s preeminent composers over the course of a 29-track double LP. Issued as the inaugural release of Granz’s newly formed Verve label, it struck the right balance between pop accessibility and jazz expression thanks to the combination of Fitzgerald’s impeccable vocals and Buddy Bregman’s tasteful arrangements.
Key track: “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”
65: Wayne Shorter: Emanon (Blue Note)
Even at 86, veteran saxophonist Wayne Shorter wasn’t content to rest on his laurels and in 2018 served up one of the best jazz albums of the year. Renowned for patenting an idiosyncratic approach to composition, Shorter’s otherworldliness reached its apotheosis with Emanon, an esoteric triple album that also doubled as a graphic novel depicting the adventures of a superhero who traverses multiverses combating baddies. The first disc finds Shorter and his quartet participating in grandiose symphonic pieces with the Orpheus Chamber Ensemble while the remainder of the album is fleshed out with mind-blowing live performances that illustrate the incredible synergy that the saxophonist and his band generated on stage.
Key track: “Prometheus Unbound”
64: Wynton Marsalis: Black Codes (From The Underground) (Columbia)
The virtuosic New Orleans-born trumpeter and former Jazz Messenger Marsalis – an outspoken critic of jazz fusion and the avant-garde – was heralded by some as contemporary jazz’s savior in 1982 when his self-titled debut album sparked a revival in the straight-ahead, acoustic variety of the music. The album featured Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams from Miles Davis’ 60s quintet and though only Carter appeared on Marsalis’ fourth LP, 1985’s double-Grammy winning Black Codes (From The Underground), the influence of that group is almost palpable on the musical language that defines the uptempo “Delfeayo’s Dilemma” and the elliptical lyrical ballad “Aural Oasis,” where 23-year-old Marsalis mutes his trumpet to give it a Miles-like timbre. Branford Marsalis, alternating between tenor and soprano saxophones, functions as a Wayne Shorter-like foil for his younger sibling, creating an arresting, crackling dialogue throughout.
Key track: “Black Codes”
63: Ahmad Jamal: At The Pershing: But Not For Me (Argo)
A Pittsburgh pianist noted for his delicate touch, crystalline melodic lines and dramatic use of space, 27-year-old Jamal found himself with a million-selling album in 1958 when a selection of live tracks recorded in the lounge of Chicago’s Pershing Hotel lit up the US LP charts. The material played by Jamal and his trio (featuring the formidable pairing of bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernel Fournier) ranges from uptempo swingers (“Surrey With The Fringe On Top”) to dreamy nocturnes (“What’s New”) and includes a spellbinding reworking of the faintly exotic “Poinciana,” an obscure 1930s pop song driven by Afro-Cuban rhythms that became Jamal’s signature tune. A vivid example of Jamal’s “less is more” aesthetic, the tune was revived on the soundtrack to Clint Eastwood’s 1995 movie, The Bridges Of Madison County.
Key track: “Poinciana”
62: Pharoah Sanders: Karma (Impulse!)
A disciple of John Coltrane, in whose band he played between 1965 and 1967, this Arkansas saxophonist and astral traveler was a key architect of what became known as spiritual jazz, an explorative blend of cosmic otherworldliness, eastern mysticism, and Afrocentrism, which flourished in the late 60s and early 70s. Arguably his greatest album, Karma was Sanders’ second long-player for Impulse! and contained only two tracks; an epic 33-minute meditation called “The Creator Has A Master Plan,” featuring a mantra-like refrain sung by avant-garde singer Leon Thomas, whose resonant tones also reverberate on “Colors,” a slow, shimmering tone poem garnished with waves of sibilant percussion.
Key track: “The Creator Has A Master Plan”
61: Dave Holland Quartet: Conference Of The Birds (ECM)
After playing bass with Miles Davis between 1968 and 1970, Wolverhampton-born Holland teamed up with keyboardist Chick Corea to form the avant-garde group Circle before embarking on a solo career in 1973 with his debut LP Conference Of The Birds. Circle’s reed player Anthony Braxton and drummer/percussionist Barry Altschul collaborated with Holland on the album along with saxophonist/flautist Sam Rivers; combining their talents to create a free jazz album that bristles with invention but which also has moments of ear-catching accessibility. Its six tracks range from gusty swinging post-bop (“Four Winds” and “See-Saw”) to discursive four-way musical conversations (“Q&A”), fiery expositions (“Interception”), and eerie, textured ballads (“Now Here (Nowhere)”).
Key track: “Four Winds”
60: The Modern Jazz Quartet: Lonely Woman (Atlantic)
The Modern Jazz Quartet’s pianist John Lewis was an early champion of Ornette Coleman, the free jazz revolutionary from Fort Worth, but it was still a surprise that the group – renowned for its elegant “chamber jazz” style influenced by classical music – would make the Texan saxophonist’s “Lonely Woman” the title track of its 1962 LP. The MJQ’s suspenseful rendering, which opens the album, reveals that Coleman’s haunting melody possesses a universal beauty; the dialogue between Lewis’ piano and Milt Jackson’s bluesy glistening vibes has an ethereal quality, though the engine room of bassist Percy Heath and drummer Connie Kay keeps the music grounded. Elsewhere in the album, the music is varied, ranging from swinging scherzos (“Animal Dance”) to graceful ballads (“New York 19”) and playful uptempo romps (“Fugato”).
Key track: “Lonely Woman”
59: Coleman Hawkins: Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster (Verve)
The man who invented the improvised saxophone solo on his 1939 recording of “Body & Soul,” Coleman “Bean” Hawkins was 53 when he joined forces with fellow Missourian 48-year-old Ben Webster for a much-anticipated tenor saxophone summit in 1957. Both players had different sounds – Hawkins’ tone was smoother than Webster’s breathy growl – but they shared a love for the blues, which is reflected in the way they combine their horns on the opening number, an easy-going shuffle called “Blues For Yolande.” Leading an all-star band that includes pianist Oscar Peterson and bassist Ray Brown, the pair show greater sophistication on the remaining six songs, that range from wistful Latin tangos (“Rosita”) to swinging standards (“You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To”).
Key track: “Tangerine”
58: Roy Hargrove Quintet: Earfood (EmArcy)
Hargrove’s death in November 2018 at the age of 49 robbed the contemporary jazz world of one of its leading virtuoso trumpeters. Rising to fame in the 1990s along fellow “Young Lions,” saxophonists Joshua Redman and Branford Marsalis, Texas-born Hargrove was a passionate devotee of neo-hard bop but also dabbled with Afro-Cuban music and R&B-tinged jazz-funk. 2008’s Earfood is a classic straight ahead session in a quintet setting where Hargrove’s thrilling horn lines – both open and muted – balance technical precision with emotional intelligence. The infectious “Strasbourg/St. Denis” is an update of gospel-tinged 60s soul jazz while “The Stinger” is a propulsive swinger that Art Blakey would have been proud of.
Key track: “Strasbourg/St. Denis”
57: Freddie Hubbard: Red Clay (CTI)
A flamboyant trumpet virtuoso in the mold of Lee Morgan, Indianapolis-born Hubbard had recorded for Blue Note, Impulse! and Atlantic before landing at jazz producer Creed Taylor’s CTI label in 1970. His debut for the company found Hubbard in exalted company with sidemen of the caliber of saxophonist Joe Henderson, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and 21-year-old drummer Lenny White. The title track, with its funky undertow, was loosely based on the chord changes to Bobby Hebb’s soul tune “Sunny,” and features mind-blowing solos by the two horns and Hancock’s piano. The bluesy “Delphia” shows Hubbard’s sensitivity as a balladeer while “The Intrepid Fox” is a propulsive showcase for the trumpeter’s incredible chops.
Key track: “Red Clay”
56: Kamasi Washington: The Epic (Brainfeeder)
After three largely ignored self-released albums, this Los Angeles tenor saxophonist – who had previously eked a living as a sideman for Snoop Dogg and Lauryn Hill – burst into the mainstream like a supernova in 2015 with The Epic, a sprawling triple album that more than lived up to its title. Washington takes the listener on an enthralling journey through varied sonic landscapes, where exploratory cosmic jazz collides with martial arts mysticism. The masterstroke is Washington’s use of an orchestra and a choir, which gives the music a larger than life, widescreen dimension. Not only did the album take Washington’s career to another level, it inspired a spiritual jazz resurgence and drew droves of young people to the genre.
Key track: “Change Of The Guard”
55: Chick Corea & Return To Forever: Light As A Feather (Polydor)
Before they brought in an electric guitarist, turned up the volume to eleven, and embraced jazz-rock, Chick Corea’s Return To Forever played a more polite kind of Latin-infused jazz fusion. After their debut LP for ECM in 1972, they released the exquisite Light As A Feather in 1973. Featuring the Brazilian singer Flora Purim, her husband, drummer/percussionist Airto Moreira, saxophonist Joe Farrell and double bassist Stanley Clarke, the band served up wonderful tracks in the shape of the ethereal title cut, the mercurial “Captain Marvel,” the trippy “500 Miles High” and its epic closer, “Spain,” where Corea reconfigures the main theme from Spanish composer Rodrigo’s famous guitar concerto. Only Corea and Clarke would remain for the next incarnation of the band but the lineup on Light As A Feather were responsible for one of the best jazz albums ever.
Key track: “Spain”
54: Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt: Sonny Side Up (Verve)
A collaboration between bebop architect Gillespie and two Charlie Parker acolytes, Sonny Side Up pits the veteran trumpeter against rising saxophonist stars Stitt (alto) and Rollins (tenor) in an informal jam session context. There are only four tracks but the 1957 session isn’t short on quality; the soloing from the central protagonists is awe-inspiring, particularly on the Stitt-penned “The Eternal Triangle,” a frenetic but lengthy bop number that allows the soloists to face off in a gladiatorial fashion that has echoes of the famous “cutting” contests of the 1940s and 50s. Rollins and Stitt are mightily impressive, but when Gillespie enters and blows them away, it’s evident that they still have much to learn.
Key track: “The Eternal Triangle”
53: Jackie McLean: Destination … Out! (Blue Note)
A bebop disciple who wasn’t afraid to venture to jazz’s far side, alto saxophonist Jackie McLean was in an experimental mode in the early 1960s, pushing the hard bop aesthetic to breaking point with a series of increasingly progressive albums for Blue Note. His most outré offering was Destination … Out!, a remarkable session featuring rising young jazz stars trombonist Grachan Moncur III (who contributes two of the set’s four tunes), and vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, along with bassist Larry Ridley and the versatile drum maestro Roy Haynes. The haunting ballad “Love and Hate” exudes an otherworldly beauty while the episodic “Esoteric” begins as a macabre waltz. Only the final cut, the gently swinging “Riff Raff,” doffs its cap to hard bop on what is an ambitious but hugely impressive recording.
Key track: “Love and Hate”
52: Billie Holiday: Lady In Satin (Columbia)
In terms of its timbre, “Lady Day’s” voice – raspy, careworn, and ravaged by years of drugs and alcohol abuse – was past its best when she came to record her final LP, 1958’s Lady In Satin, a collection of ballads orchestrated by Ray Ellis. Even so, Holiday’s vocal imperfections are part of the album’s allure, revealing a vulnerability that gives the album added poignancy. Arranger Ellis cradles Holiday’s fragile voice with lush cushions of sound though they can’t disguise the compelling emotional nakedness of the singer’s performances. Melancholy and bittersweet but flecked with fleeting nuggets of joy, Lady In Satin comes across as a wistful reminiscence of a life well-lived; a fitting epitaph for one of jazz’s greatest storytellers.
Key track: “You’ve Changed”
51: Django Reinhardt – Retrospective 1934-53 (Saga)
Given that most of Reinhardt’s seminal recordings preceded the long-playing LP and came out as 78 rpm singles, the best way to appreciate the Belgian guitar-playing gypsy’s music is to seek out a compilation album. There are, however, hundreds to choose from but Retrospective, a 3-CD set from 2004, is a career-spanning anthology that opens with Reinhardt’s seminal Quintette du Hot Club de France sides (with violinist Stephane Grappelli) from the 1930s and goes right up to his 1950s electric guitar forays. A compelling portrait of one of jazz’s most gifted musicians and improvisers.
Key track: “Limehouse Blues”
50: Thelonious Monk: Genius Of Modern Music Vols.1 & 2 (Blue Note)
Nobody wanted to take a chance on signing pianist/composer Thelonious Monk when he emerged on the New York jazz scene in the late 40s. Dubbed “The High Priest Of Bop,” his idiosyncratic music, with its advanced musical vocabulary of asymmetrical melodies and dissonant cluster chords, was deemed too outré for mainstream tastes. But then Alfred Lion of Blue Note Records heard Monk, recognised his unorthodox brilliance, and began recording singles with him in 1947. In Four years later, in 1951, Lion issued Monk’s first album, Genius Of Modern Music, which was followed by a second volume in 1956 (by which time Monk was recording for Riverside). Blue Note battled to get Monk’s music to a wider audience but without much success. Nevertheless, his two albums for the company were significant to the evolution of modern jazz. They also capture him at a notable juncture in his career, when he was developing his unique musical concepts.
Key track: “Well You Needn’t”
49: Count Basie: The Original American Decca Recordings (Decca)
This 2013 compilation brings together all the sides that Basie recorded for Decca between 1937 and 1939, captured at the height of the swing era when big bands held sway. Though Basie’s Decca tenure was short, it was incredibly fertile, resulting in the hits “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Pennies From Heaven.” His band at the time included Lester Young, Freddie Green and Jo Jones, as well as vocalists Jimmy Rushing and Helen Humes. Together they helped to patent an unmistakable signature sound defined by throbbing swing rhythms, taut ensemble work, and incandescent soloing. A vivid snapshot of the Basie band in its youthful prime.
Key track: “Pennies From Heaven”
48: Bud Powell: The Amazing Bud Powell Vol.1 (Blue Note)
Harlem-born pianist Powell didn’t live beyond his 41st birthday, but he made a profound impact that can still be felt in contemporary jazz. Heavily influenced by the complex language of bebop, in the late 40s Powell transposed the innovations of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie onto the piano. Compiled from recordings made in 1949 and 1950, The Amazing Bud Powell was the pianist’s first album, and it came out in 1952 when he was 28. It contained his signature tune, “Un Poco Loco” – a remarkable showcase for Powell’s virtuosity, seasoned with Afro-Cuban flavors – and the equally brilliant “Bouncing With Bud.” The album, which also featured a 19-year-old Sonny Rollins, is one of the best jazz albums by a pianist; it tore up the rule book and served as a memorable introduction to a phenomenal musical talent.
Key track: “Bouncing With Bud”
47: Weather Report: Heavy Weather (Columbia)
There were many different incarnations of Weather Report during the fusion band’s 15-year lifespan, but what gave them a unifying sense of continuity and cohesion was the omnipresence of co-founders Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter. 1977’s Heavy Weather was the group’s eighth album and their second with fretless bassist extraordinaire Jaco Pastorius. Like Shorter and Zawinul, Pastorius was a gifted composer, and his tunes “Teen Town,” a funky vehicle for outrageous bass pyrotechnics, and “Havona,” a superb ensemble piece, highlight his growing maturity as a jazz conceptualist. But it was Zawinul’s chirpy opener, “Birdland,” that earned the most plaudits and became the group’s most widely-known tune, spawning many cover versions. Arguably the most perfect of Weather Report’s 14 studio albums, Heavy Weather remains one of the best jazz albums of the fusion era.
Key track: “Birdland”
46: John Coltrane And Thelonious Monk: At Carnegie Hall (Blue Note)
This live recording of Monk and Trane playing together for a charity benefit concert in November 1957 was thought lost until the master tape was discovered languishing in the vaults of the US Library Of Congress in 2005. It’s a perfectly preserved document capturing Coltrane during his six-month tenure with Monk, which came after Miles Davis had fired him earlier in the year (and two months after the saxophonist had recorded his Blue Train album). Both men, supported by bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik and drummer Shadow Wilson, are at the peak of their respective creative powers, with Coltrane navigating Monk’s tricky melodies and unorthodox chord changes with consummate ease. A compelling portrait of two geniuses at work.
Key track: “Blue Monk”
45: Horace Silver: Song For My Father (Blue Note)
A leading exponent of hard bop and a founder member of The Jazz Messengers in the 50s, Horace Silver was a Connecticut-born pianist/composer who was instrumental in establishing the two-horn frontline as de rigueur in post-bop small-group jazz. During his 28-year stint with Blue Note he produced many fine albums, but few as truly satisfying as Song For My Father, whose immortal title track is defined by infectious horn motifs and a loping intro (famously borrowed by Steely Dan for their 1974 hit “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”). Recorded in three separate sessions between 1963 and ’64, the album featured two different incarnations of Silver’s quintet, though it’s the four songs by the newer line-up (featuring trumpeter Carmel Jones and saxophonist Joe Henderson) that impresses the most. Song For My Father remains Silver’s most seminal work.
Key track: “Song For My Father”
44: Grant Green: Idle Moments (Blue Note)
St Louis guitarist Grant Green was prolific during two separate stints at Blue Note and, as his 29 albums for the company reveal, he recorded in a wide range of settings. Arguably the best of his LPs during his first tenure with the label – when he played hard bop – Idle Moments was recorded in 1963 and finds Green leading a sextet that includes tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, pianist Duke Pearson (who composed two of the songs on the album, including the sublime but subdued 14-minute title tune) and vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson. Unlike some guitarists, Green never tried to overpower the listener with elaborate or flashy runs but preferred to pick out single-note melodies that stayed within the boundaries of good taste. Despite his economy with notes and judicious use of space, “Jean De Fleur,” a fast, self-written swinger on Idle Moments, shows that Green could play with fire when the occasion demanded.
Key track: “Idle Moments”
43: Count Basie: The Complete Atomic Basie (Roulette)
This jazz aristocrat’s band was famed for its panache, dynamism, and unerring sense of swing, and all those qualities can be heard on this explosive 1957 recording. In an age when big bands were mostly extinct, the release of The Complete Atomic Basie marked a resurgence in the fortunes of the debonair pianist from Red Bank, New Jersey. All the material was written by rising composer/arranger Neal Hefti, and features some dynamite brass charts. At the center of all the action is Basie’s laconic piano, its piquant fills a model of dissonant minimalism. As well as swinging uptempo numbers with blaring horns, the album contains some beautifully subdued slower numbers defined by deft and subtle orchestral nuances. The complete version, with bonus material, was released in 1994.
Key track: “Kid From The Red Bank”
42: Hank Mobley: Soul Station (Blue Note)
Damned by the faint praise of one jazz critic, who described him as the “middleweight champion of the tenor saxophone,” Georgia-born Mobley was often eclipsed by the work and reputation of fellow tenor players John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. Though not a jazz pathfinder, he was prolific and produced a formidable body of work for Blue Note between 1955 and 1970. His 26 albums for the label are all strong, but none are quite as perfect as Soul Station. Surrounded by the supreme talents of Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Art Blakey, Mobley delivers a masterclass in relaxed hard bop. A sublime mellow version of Irving Berlin’s “I Remember” sets the tone for the album, which also includes four strong original numbers (“Dig Dis” is the best of them) that demonstrate Mobley’s unsung abilities as a composer. This earns its place among the greatest jazz albums of all time by being one of the best albums on Blue Note.
Key track: “I Remember”
41: Charlie Christian: The Genius Of The Electric Guitar (Columbia)
Despite passing away at the age of 25 from tuberculosis, Texas-born Christian did enough during his short career to achieve immortality and earn a place in the pantheon of jazz guitar greats. Though he rose to fame in the age of big-band swing (he first made his mark in the Benny Goodman sextet alongside vibes maestro Lionel Hampton), the melodic and harmonic content of Christian’s solos anticipated the advanced musical vocabulary of bebop. A posthumous release, this compilation album, first issued in 1987, drew together disparate sides, including solo recordings and cuts that document his stint with Goodman. Many guitarists that followed in Christian’s wake – among them Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and George Benson – were indebted to the Texan fretboard genius.
Key track: “Solo Flight”
40: Art Pepper, Red Garland, Paul Chambers And Philly Joe Jones: Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section (Contemporary)
In January 1957, when Art Pepper recorded this album – alongside Miles Davis’ former rhythm section, comprised of pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Philly Joe Jones – the 31-year-old West Coast alto saxophonist was struggling with drug addiction. Despite this, Pepper – who claimed he hadn’t touched his sax for several weeks prior to the session – made a transcendent jazz record. The material and performances are simply sublime, with every musician playing at a high level of creativity, focus, and inspiration. Among the highlights is the Pepper co-write “Straight Life,” a frenetic bebop swinger which later became the title of his warts-and-all autobiography.
Key track: “Imagination”
39: John Coltrane: My Favorite Things (Atlantic)
Coltrane showcased his prowess on the relatively obscure and under-exposed soprano saxophone on this, his third album for Atlantic Records, recorded in March 1961 and released later that year. The title song recast a key number from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s popular Broadway musical The Sound Of Music and transformed it into a 13-minute modal jazz waltz with Eastern overtones. Three other standards made up the rest of the album, including a swinging uptempo take on George Gershwin’s “Summertime” and a poignant reading of “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye.” The growth of Coltrane’s popularity in the early 60s was undoubtedly aided by Atlantic releasing a shorter version of “My Favorite Things” as a single to promote the album.
Key track: “My Favorite Things”
38: Benny Goodman: At Carnegie Hall (Columbia)
Though it was recorded on 16 January 1938, Benny Goodman’s Carnegie Hall concert didn’t surface until 1950. It earns its place among the best jazz albums of all time thanks to its capturing a significant moment in history: Goodman was the first jazz musician permitted to play at a prestigious classical music concert hall. Worried that negative reviews would derail his career, the clarinetist was apprehensive about performing at the venue, but his fears proved unfounded and the concert was heralded as a major cultural event. Goodman’s band is on fire, and an extra dose of fuel is added to the flames thanks to the addition of members from Duke Ellington’s and Count Basie’s bands. As well as showcasing new material, Goodman also offered up a history of jazz, including some ragtime and Dixieland tunes in his set, affirming that he truly lived up to his billing as the “King Of Swing.”
Key track: “Sing, Sing, Sing (With A Swing)”
37: Wes Montgomery: The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of Wes Montgomery (Riverside)
Though inspired by the fretboard virtuosity of his idol, Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery forged a unique and immediately identifiable style. The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of… was his third album but the one that truly put the Indianapolis guitarist on the jazz map. Montgomery’s sidemen (pianist Tommy Flanagan, Modern Jazz Quartet bassist Percy Heath, and his brother, drummer Albert Montgomery) offer sterling support on a varied selection of original tunes (“Four On Six,” “West Coast Blues,” and “Mr. Walker”), covers (Sonny Rollins’ “Airegin” and Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way”) and standards (“Polka Dots And Moonbeams”). Using his callused thumb as a pick, Montgomery plays single-note melodies with horn-like phrasing, before embellishing his solos with a sequence of block chords followed by octaves.
Key track: “Four On Six”
36: The Mahavishnu Orchestra With John McLaughlin: The Inner Mounting Flame (Columbia)
After rising to fame with Miles Davis at the end of the 60s (on the proto jazz-rock/fusion albums In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew), Doncaster-born guitar magus John McLaughlin formed The Mahavishnu Orchestra, a quintet that married the virtuosity of jazz improv with the high-decibel power of heavy rock to create a hybrid that was then infused with Eastern mysticism. This, their debut album, was an incendiary confection of searing guitar and violin lines jousting over churning rhythm tracks played in unusual time signatures. The group’s harshest detractors damned them as pretentious and self-indulgent, but, amazingly, they achieved mainstream success, particularly in America, where they were wholeheartedly embraced. Recorded by the first of several incarnations of the band, The Inner Mounting Flame is undoubtedly The Mahavishnu Orchestra’s best album and still astonishes today.
Key track: “The Dance Of Maya”
35: Clifford Brown And Max Roach: Clifford Brown & Max Roach (EmArcy)
Who knows what trumpeter and early hard bop architect Clifford Brown would have achieved had he lived beyond his 25th birthday. His death, in a car accident, on 26 June 1956, robbed the jazz world of one of its brightest prospects, though he recorded at least one album worthy of inclusion among the best jazz albums of all time. Despite his young age, “Brownie” left a good number of recordings that continue to preserve his name, the best of which is arguably this one, laid down in August 1954 when Brown and drummer Max Roach co-led a quintet that included saxophonist Harold Land. With Richie Powell on piano (who died in the same fatal car crash with Brown) and George Morrow on bass, the group delivered a stunning set that featured three original tunes – including “Joy Spring” – plus a vibrant take on Bud Powell’s “Parisian Thoroughfare” (with a hint of George Gershwin’s “American In Paris” in the intro).
Key track: “Joy Spring”
34: Andrew Hill: Point Of Departure (Blue Note)
Andrew Hill recorded 13 albums for Blue Note between 1963 and 1970, but Point Of Departure is, without doubt, the best of them. Like Thelonious Monk before him – who exerted a strong influence on Hill – the Chicago pianist/composer ploughed a lone furrow, expressing himself in a unique and idiosyncratic style defined by asymmetrical melodies and unorthodox meters. Point Of Departure was Hill’s fifth Blue Note album and it featured a sextet that included Eric Dolphy, Joe Henderson, Kenny Dorham, and a young Tony Williams on drums. Hill’s compositions – by turns frenetic and tranquil – aren’t easy to play but the group render them beautifully and effortlessly. Here, Hill traverses a narrow tightrope separating advanced hard bop from full-on avant-garde jazz, but he does so convincingly. Over half a century later, this magnum opus ranks among the best jazz albums as an essential, must-hear example of paradigm-busting post-bop jazz.
Key track: “Flight 19”
33: Herbie Hancock: Head Hunters (Columbia)
After the experimental music of his early 70s Mwandishi band fell on deaf ears, Herbie Hancock reinvented himself as an afro-topped jazz-funk wizard with this 1973 blockbuster album, which hit No.1 on the US jazz charts. Though influenced by Sly Stone and James Brown, Hancock stumbled upon something unique that was simultaneously accessible and groundbreaking. Combining squelchy clavinet parts with astral synth lines – both underpinned by Paul Jackson’s anchoring bass and Harvey Mason’s taut but elastic grooves – Hancock and his cohorts found themselves opening for rock acts like Santana. The four tracks here range from epic spaced-out funk (“Chameleon”) to atmospheric tropical grooves (an offbeat, African-influenced reworking of his 1963 Blue Note classic, “Watermelon Man”) and edgy, syncopated fusion (“Sly”). The set’s only slow song, “Vein Melter,” is an oozy soundscape. Head Hunters proved to be a hugely influential album, transforming Herbie Hancock into a fusion superstar.
Key track: “Chameleon”
32: Dexter Gordon: Go! (Blue Note)
The first musician to successfully play bebop on the tenor saxophone, this six-foot-six jazz giant from Los Angeles started his career in the late 40s but virtually disappeared in the 50s due to spells in prison for drug offenses. In the early 60s, however, he revived his career at Blue Note. Recorded in 1962, Go! was Gordon’s third album for the label and found him in the company of pianist Sonny Clark, bassist Butch Warren, and drummer Billy Higgins. The album begins with a supreme slice of self-penned driving hard bop called “Cheese Cake,” which would remain in Gordon’s repertoire until his death in 1990. The rest of the album is devoted to standards, including a Latin-style take on Cole Porter’s “Love For Sale.” A self-confessed connoisseur of ballads, the saxophonist infuses his version of “I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears To Dry” with a subtle soulfulness.
Key track: “Cheese Cake”
31: Sarah Vaughan: Sarah Vaughan (With Clifford Brown) (EmArcy)
Considered a member of the Holy Trinity of female jazz singers – along with Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday – “Sassy” Sarah Vaughan entered the studio with rising trumpet god Clifford Brown to record this album, which many jazz critics believe to be her best. The nine-song set begins with a sprightly rendition of George Shearing’s “Lullaby Of Birdland” and a fine, carefree swinger called “You’re Not The Kind,” but elsewhere Vaughan serves up some gorgeous ballads, including a wistful “April In Paris” (which finds Brown playing a plangent but lyrical horn solo using a mute) and a sensuous “Embraceable You,” where she caresses the lyrics with her gorgeous contralto tone.
Key track: “Lullaby Of Birdland”
30: The Quintet: Jazz At Massey Hall (Debut)
One of the earliest jazz supergroups, The Quintet comprised Charlie Parker – who was originally billed as Charlie Chan for contractual reasons – with Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Bud Powell, and Max Roach. They came together for one night only on Friday, 15 May 1953, at Toronto’s Massey Hall. The album came out on Mingus’ own Debut label later that year, but not before he had re-recorded his bass lines, which were barely audible on the original recording. The performance included the Gillespie classics “Salt Peanuts” and “Night In Tunisia,” the latter containing some fabulous interchanges between the trumpeter and Parker’s mercurial alto sax. Sadly, the concert represented the final time that the two bebop geniuses recorded together. Considered by some as the greatest jazz concert of all time, Jazz At Massey Hall was officially recognized as one of the best jazz albums in history when it was inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1996.
Key track: “A Night In Tunisia”
29: Bill Evans Trio: Waltz For Debby (Riverside)
Bill Evans brought a fresh perspective to jazz piano playing by avoiding bebop clichés and drawing on the lush harmonization of French impressionist classical composers Debussy and Ravel. “Waltz For Debby” was a song inspired by the pianist’s young niece; first recorded in 1956 on the album New Jazz Conceptions, it quickly became a jazz standard. It also became the title track of this live album recorded in June 1961 at the Village Vanguard in New York. Waltz For Debby’s material was drawn from the same performance that yielded the Sunday At The Village Vanguard album, with Evans, bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian showing a high degree of empathy and symbiotic communication never before witnessed in a jazz trio setting. LaFaro, just 25, was tragically killed ten days later, though his genius is preserved in his amazing performances here.
Key track: “My Foolish Heart”
28: Lee Morgan: The Sidewinder (Blue Note)
A trumpet prodigy from Philadelphia who joined Blue Note when he was still a teenager, Lee Morgan rose to fame as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. The Sidewinder’s title song, with its jaunty soul-jazz groove and infectious horn motifs, was a hit single for Blue Note and helped the parent album become the label’s best-selling LP. Aside from the more commercial-oriented title track, the remaining four cuts offered something different, showing the young 25-year-old musician exploring deeper jazz grooves such as “Totem Pole” and “Hocus Pocus.” Morgan’s foil is tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, whose tone is robust and earthy in comparison with the trumpeter’s soaring, gilded sound. Offering solid support is the rhythm section, comprising Barry Harris, Bob Cranshaw, and Billy Higgins.
Key track: “The Sidewinder”
27: Bill Evans: Sunday At The Village Vanguard (Riverside)
Originally from Plainfield, New Jersey, and of Welsh and Russian ancestry, Bill Evans amalgamated bebop and impressionistic classical music to bring a new sensibility to jazz piano playing. After debuting in 1956, Evans quickly made his mark in the jazz world and, two years later, was recruited by Miles Davis, helping to shape the sound of his groundbreaking 1959 album, Kind Of Blue. Sunday At The Village Vanguard is a tremendous live album from 1961 that shows how Evans, together with bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, brought a new concept of collective improv to the piano trio aesthetic. Indeed, their interplay reaches an almost telepathic level of communication. Though Evans’ forte was lush romantic ballads, Sunday At The Village Vanguard shows that he could also swing with real verve.
Key track: “My Man’s Gone Now”
26: Thelonious Monk: Brilliant Corners (Riverside)
Thelonious Monk was ahead of his time, which was why for many years his music was often misunderstood and even ridiculed. By the time that the North Carolina pianist/composer recorded Brilliant Corners for Riverside in 1956, however, he was beginning to get the recognition and accolades he deserved. In terms of its defining characteristics, the album – with its angular melodies, dissonant harmonies and jaunty swing rhythms – is quintessentially Monkish. The five-track album features a 26-year-old Sonny Rollins on tenor saxophone, slaloming through Monk’s challenging chord sequences with aplomb. Highlights include the title track, plus “Pannonica” (dedicated to Monk’s European patron, Baroness Kathleen Pannonica De Koenigswarter, on which Monk plays celeste) and “Bemsha Swing.”
Key track: “Bemsha Swing”
25: Keith Jarrett: The Köln Concert (ECM)
Fate almost conspired against Keith Jarrett making The Köln Concert, which was recorded live in Cologne, then in West Germany, on 25 January 1975. The Pennsylvanian pianist, then 29, was suffering from excruciating back pain as well as fatigue after a long drive to the gig, only to find that the piano wasn’t to his satisfaction. Jarrett initially refused to play but eventually relented, sitting down to deliver 66 spellbinding minutes of solo piano extemporization. By turns lyrical and febrile, the music just seemed to pour out of him in a cathartic torrent of emotions. The resulting album quickly gained notoriety and, to date, it remains the biggest-selling album of unaccompanied piano music. Jarrett has recorded many solo piano albums since, and they’re all good, but none of them can top the transcendent feeling that defines The Köln Concert.
Key track: “Part 1”
24: John Coltrane: Giant Steps (Atlantic)
A switch from Prestige to the bigger Atlantic label in March 1959 witnessed Coltrane upping his game with his debut for his new company. Released in January 1960, Giant Steps marked the first time that Coltrane had recorded an album of all-original material, and, significantly, two of the songs – the classic title tune, with its mesmerizing descending melody over cyclical chord changes, and the gorgeous ballad “Naima” – went on to become recognised as jazz standards. Surrounding himself with simpatico sidemen – pianist Tommy Flanagan (replaced by Wynton Kelly on “Naima”), bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Art Taylor – Coltrane’s musical explorations took bebop to its greatest heights. Other highlights of this immortal set include “Cousin Mary” and “Mr PC,” the latter a tribute to bassist Paul Chambers.
Key track: “Giant Steps”
23: Herbie Hancock: Maiden Voyage (Blue Note)
Recorded and released in 1965, this album, whose five tracks are united by a nautical theme, was the Chicago pianist’s fifth solo outing for Blue Note. Just 24 at the time of its recording, Hancock was a rising star in the jazz world and was making his mark as a member of the celebrated Miles Davis Quintet (along with Ron Carter and Tony Williams, who also contribute to the album). Maiden Voyage’s gentle title song is a portrait of smooth sailing and finds Hancock and his band (featuring a two-horn frontline consisting of trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and tenor saxophonist George Coleman) exploring modal jazz, while “The Hurricane,” as its title implies, is a giddy maelstrom of sound and fury. Another standout is the blithe and becalmed “Dolphin Dance.” Eminently accessible yet with an ear for what was cutting edge at the time, Maiden Voyage is the jewel in Hancock’s Blue Note crown and was inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999.
Key track: “Maiden Voyage”
22: Duke Ellington: Ellington At Newport (Columbia)
Some deemed Duke Ellington to be well past his sell-by date when he appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival alongside many of the jazz world’s modernists in 1956. With an incendiary and inspiring performance that wowed the Newport audience, however, Ellington and his band demonstrated that they could still deliver the goods while asserting that big bands still had a place in jazz. His set included both old and new material; the latter included the specially-written “Festival Junction” and “Newport Up,” though it was an old chestnut, “Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue,” written in 1937, that stole the show. It’s notable for a phenomenal solo by saxophonist Paul Gonsalves, who blew 27 choruses and whipped the crowd into a frenzy. The original album only contained five tracks, but it was expanded to a two-hour-long CD release in 2009.
Key track: “Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue”
21: Cecil Taylor: Unit Structures (Blue Note)
A native New Yorker, pianist, and poet, the late Cecil Taylor, was pushing musical boundaries several years before Ornette Coleman introduced the concept of free jazz to an unsuspecting world. A classically trained pianist, Taylor recorded his first album, Jazz Advance, in 1956, and by the time that he recorded Unit Structures (the first of two albums for Blue Note) ten years later, he had developed his own personalized take on free jazz. Unit Structures features four lengthy explorations in free-form sonics and finds Taylor assisted by six like-minded musicians, including trumpeter Eddie Gale, alto saxophonist Jimmy Lyons and drummer Andrew Cyrille. Taylor and his cohorts take no prisoners with their sound collages, which, to the uninitiated, are unremittingly intense and challenging. Unit Structures remains one of the best jazz albums to come out of the avant-garde.
Key track: “Steps”
20: Charlie Parker: Complete Savoy And Dial Studio Recordings (Concord)
Together with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, Kansas City-born alto saxophonist Parker began a jazz revolution in the mid-40s when he created a new sound that was dubbed bebop. With jaw-dropping displays of virtuosity combined with advanced harmonies and syncopated rhythms, Parker helped to alter the perception of jazz, transforming it from dance music into a serious art form. Most of his seminal recordings came out as singles for the Savoy and Dial labels in the 40s and they can be found on this 2000 compilation, which offers a vivid snapshot of bebop’s glory years. It captures Parker at the peak of his powers before heroin addiction blighted his career.
Key track: “Now’s The Time”
19: Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool (Capitol)
A trendsetter who was not afraid to shun convention, Miles Davis became tired of bebop’s frenetic verbosity in the late 40s and experimented with music that replaced sonic heat with studied, cool elegance. Leading a nonet that included saxophonists Lee Konitz and Gerry Mulligan, as well as drummers Max Roach and Kenny Clarke, across 1949 and 1950 Miles recorded a series of singles for Capitol that redefined modern jazz. Significantly, arranger Gil Evans also worked on the session, and his friendship with the trumpeter would lead to future collaborations in the late 50s (on the albums Miles Ahead, Porgy And Bess and Sketches Of Spain). The seeds for those large-canvas later works can be heard in Birth Of The Cool (especially on the Evans-arranged track “Moon Dream”). The album’s title – given to the sessions on their original album release in 1957 – reflects the influence the sides had on the West Coast “cool jazz “sound.
Key Track: “Boplicity”
18: Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers: Moanin’ (Blue Note)
Nobody could drum like Art Blakey. A natural leader on the bandstand who combined both power and subtlety, he instinctively knew how to make a track swing but could also complement a soloist, employing his volcanic press rolls to create drama and offer inspiration. All those qualities can be found on Moanin,’ his 1958 LP with The Jazz Messengers. The infectious title cut, penned by pianist Bobby Timmons, who laces his composition with churchy inflections, anticipates the soul jazz style that became popular in the 60s. Saxophonist Benny Golson contributes four top-notch songs, including “Blues March,” “Along Came Betty,” and “The Drum Thunder Suite,” the latter of which is an explosive showcase of Blakey’s polyrhythmic prowess. On trumpet is a 19-year-old Lee Morgan.
Key track: “Moanin’”
17: Albert Ayler: Spiritual Unity (ESP-Disk’)
First released on Bernard Stollman’s small, New York-based indie label, ESP-Disk,’ in 1964, Spiritual Unity announced Ohio-born saxophonist Ayler’s arrival on the world stage. It wasn’t his inaugural recording venture, but it was unequivocally his first significant album. Many found its visceral rawness and intensity – sometimes Ayler’s sax resembles a chainsaw cutting into a bees’ nest – deeply disturbing. Supported by intuitive and symbiotic interactions from bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Sunny Murray, Ayler takes Ornette Coleman’s concept of free jazz to another level. The album’s song titles – “Ghosts: First Variation,” “The Wizard,” “Spirits,” and “Ghosts: Second Variation” – serve to underline the otherworldly essence of Ayler’s unique musical universe. One of the best jazz albums of the era, it still sounds startlingly original today.
Key track: “Spirits”
16: Eric Dolphy: Out To Lunch! (Blue Note)
A prodigiously gifted multi-reed player who excelled on alto saxophone and bass clarinet, Los Angeles-born Eric Dolphy was also a virtuoso flute player. He first made his mark in 1958 when he joined drummer Chico Hamilton’s band, and later, in the early 60s, when he became a leading light of the avant-garde movement, he played with Charles Mingus and John Coltrane. Recorded in February 1964, Out To Lunch! was Dolphy’s debut for Blue Note and came on the back of several LPs for Prestige’s New Jazz imprint. Joining Dolphy on the Out To Lunch! session are Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, Richard Davis, and an 18-year-old Tony Williams on drums. The music is intrepid in its exploration of new sonic worlds and, despite its eerie dissonances, there’s a prevailing sense of swing which gives the music cohesion. Sadly, Dolphy died, aged 36, of a diabetes-associated coma four months after recording one of the best jazz albums from the free jazz era.
Key track: “Hat And Beard”
15: Oliver Nelson: The Blues And The Abstract Truth (Impulse!)
St Louis-born Nelson was a talented saxophonist who could play both the tenor and alto varieties, but who earned more fame during his relatively short career as a masterful arranger who could turn his hand to TV soundtracks and movie scores. After three years recording for the Prestige label, Nelson joined producer Creed Taylor at ABC-Paramount’s newly founded jazz imprint, Impulse!, in 1961. His debut album was the magnificent The Blues And The Abstract Truth, on which Nelson led a stellar septet whose ranks included Freddie Hubbard, Eric Dolphy, and Bill Evans. It’s an album whose every facet – from the material, arrangements, ensemble work, and solo passages – blends perfectly to create an exquisite whole. In terms of its elegance, though, nothing surpasses the superlative opener, “Stolen Moments.”
Key track: “Stolen Moments”
14: Erroll Garner: Concert By The Sea (Columbia)
Famed for his florid, virtuosic keyboard style, Pittsburgh-born Erroll Garner was heavily influenced by Earl Hines and Fats Waller but managed to find his own distinctive voice on the piano. Capturing Garner in an assembly hall in Carmel, California, in 1955, Concert By The Sea began as an unofficial recording made by a local broadcaster for US armed forces radio. Garner’s manager heard the tapes and persuaded Columbia to release them as an album, whereupon it sold by the truckload (by 1958, it was estimated to have made over $1 million in sales). Garner is accompanied by bassist Eddie Calhoun and drummer Denzil Best, and offers typically flamboyant renderings of standards such as “I’ll Remember April,” “Teach Me Tonight,” and “Autumn Leaves.” A vivid live portrait of a piano-playing genius.
Key track: “Red Top”
13: Wayne Shorter: Speak No Evil (Blue Note)
A graduate of the formidable Jazz Messengers – drummer Art Blakey’s famous “Hard Bop Academy” – New Jersey’s Wayne Shorter recorded for Vee-Jay before joining Blue Note in 1964. Speak No Evil was the saxophonist’s third album for Alfred Lion’s iconic jazz label and was recorded three months after he had joined the Miles Davis Quintet. Shorter fronts an ace quintet of his own here, comprised of Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Coltrane’s then-drummer, Elvin Jones, and together they conjure up a memorable session featuring six songs composed by the saxophonist. Highlights include the beguiling opener, “Witch Hunt,” with its snaking melody; the cool title song, with its sublime horn theme played by Shorter and Hubbard; and the gentle, much-covered ballad “Infant Eyes,” which is now regarded as a jazz standard. Wayne Shorter has made many fine albums during his long career but this one, recorded on Christmas Eve 1964, is extra special.
Key track: “Infant Eyes”
12: Stan Getz And João Gilberto: Getz/Gilberto (Verve)
Though originally from Pennsylvania, tenor sax titan Stan Getz became associated with the cool, West Coast jazz sound in the 50s. In the following decade, he helped to stimulate interest in Brazilian music with his 1962 album Jazz Samba. Two years later, his inspired collaboration with rising Brazilian singer and guitarist João Gilberto (on Getz/Gilberto) helped to birth a bossa nova craze in the US. The combination of Getz’s silky saxophone effusions with Gilberto’s delicate vocals and softly-strummed guitar was magical, while the album’s most popular track, “The Girl From Ipanema,” featured a stunning cameo from Gilberto’s wife, Astrud. An edited version became a hit single and created a huge global audience for the seductive bossa nova sound. It also helped to transform Astrud Gilberto into a star who then launched her own successful career.
Key track: “The Girl From Ipanema”
11: Louis Armstrong: Best Of The Hot 5s And 7s (Columbia)
The long-playing 33 1/3rpm record didn’t exist when New Orleans trumpet sensation and scat singer Louis Armstrong (aka “Satchmo”) helped to define what US writer F Scott Fitzgerald described as the “Jazz Age” in the late 20s. A virtuoso trumpeter from an impoverished background, Armstrong played with King Oliver and Fletcher Henderson before forming his own Hot Five Band in 1925. Some of Armstrong’s seminal sides with this band can be found on this glorious compilation, which also includes music from his later Hot Seven group (which recorded in 1927). On the back of hits such as “Heebie Jeebies” and the influential “West End Blues,” Armstrong became a huge star and later assumed an ambassadorial role in the jazz world. For those seeking an entry-level collection focusing on the rise of New Orleans jazz and the trumpeter’s early years, this retrospective can’t be beaten.
Key track: “West End Blues”
10: John Coltrane: Blue Train (Blue Note)
This was John Coltrane’s first bona fide masterpiece, recorded a week before his 32nd birthday. Though the saxophonist was contracted to Prestige at the time, he was allowed to record a one-off session for Alfred Lion’s Blue Note label, and it turned out to be an absolute gem. Earlier in the year, Trane had been fired from the Miles Davis Quintet for his heroin addiction, but by September 1957 he had quit drugs for good and began rebuilding both his life and reputation. Blue Train is an affirmation of Coltrane’s newfound sense of creativity and features a sextet that comprises pianist Kenny Drew, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones from the Miles Davis band, plus Jazz Messengers Lee Morgan and Curtis Fuller. The title tune, with its memorable clarion-call horn theme, sets the tone for a six-track album that contains only one standard (“I’m Old Fashioned”) and highlights Trane’s signature “sheets of sound” style.
Key track: “Blue Train”
9: Miles Davis: Bitches Brew (Columbia)
At the end of the 60s, the ever-restless Miles Davis sought to change his musical direction again. Eyeing new sonic horizons and showing an interest in rock and funk aesthetics, he began using electronic instruments and creating expansive grooves driven by a backbeat. A first major milestone in this development was the epochal Bitches Brew, a sprawling double-album released in 1970. Using a large ensemble that included British guitarist John McLaughlin and three electric keyboardists (Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, and Larry Young), Davis set in motion the fusion movement that dominated jazz thinking in the 70s. Much of the music was shaped in post-production, heavily edited by Miles’ producer, Teo Macero, but Bitches Brew became hugely influential, ushering in the age of jazz-rock. Now almost half a century old, it still sounds like the music of the future.
Key track: “Spanish Key”
8: Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus (Prestige)
At 88 years old, Sonny Rollins is one of the last surviving greats of jazz’s golden epoch. Though for health reasons he no longer plays his beloved tenor saxophone, this seminal 1957 album – which gave Rollins his nickname – reminds us of his unparalleled brilliance as an improviser. Rollins receives sterling support from pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Doug Watkins, and legendary bebop drummer Max Roach, and together the quartet created an alchemical synergy that results in pure magic. Rollins references his family’s Caribbean roots in the jaunty, self-penned calypso-esque “St Thomas” (which became one of his signature tunes) and contributes two more original songs in the shape of “Strode Rode” and “Blue 7.” His brilliance as a balladeer is highlighted on a gorgeous reading of the standard “You Don’t Know What Love Is.”
Key track: “St Thomas”
7: Cannonball Adderley: Somethin’ Else (Blue Note)
Recorded in 1958, this is undoubtedly the greatest album made by alto saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley during his 20-year career. What makes it special is the presence of Miles Davis in a rare sideman role (Adderley was a member of the trumpeter’s sextet at the time), while the contributions of the great Art Blakey on drums, along with excellent work from pianist Hank Jones and bassist Sam Jones, conspire to make this one of the best jazz albums recorded by a small-group ensemble. On the gently swinging “Autumn Leaves” and “Love For Sale,” Miles plays some bewitching muted trumpet lines, but he doesn’t outshine Cannonball or the rest of the group. A must-own album for any serious jazz collector.
Key track: “Autumn Leaves”
6: Charles Mingus: The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady (Impulse!)
Featuring an 11-piece band playing opulent, cinematic arrangements by Bob Hammer, this 1963 concept album from bassist/composer Charles Mingus was notable for its use of overdubbing, a procedure usually shunned by most jazz musicians. Even so, Mingus produced one of his most compelling studio creations here: a thrilling collision of jazz, blues, and gospel flavors (which he once described as “ethnic folk-dance music”) that was distinguished by taut, cohesive ensemble work and stunning solos. The influence of Duke Ellington is almost palpable, but such was the force of Mingus’ individuality as a composer that his personality dominates the album. In Mingus’ canon, this album’s brilliance is only eclipsed only by the earlier Mingus Ah Um.
Key track: “Duet Solo Dancers” (aka “Hearts Beat And Shades In Physical Embraces”)
5: Ornette Coleman: The Shape Of Jazz To Come (Atlantic)
From Fort Worth, Texas, Ornette Coleman made two albums for Lester Koenig’s California-based Contemporary label before joining Atlantic in 1959, where this, his debut for the company, proved one of the most revolutionary albums in jazz. Leading a quartet comprising trumpeter Don Cherry, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins, Coleman shredded the bebop rulebook by jettisoning orthodox notions of what constituted melody and harmony. In the process, he created a brave new musical language of free-form collective improvisation that shook the jazz world to its core. The Shape Of Jazz To Come was extremely divisive at the time, but its status as one of the best jazz albums in history is secure today; it gave birth to the free jazz movement that would gain momentum as a viable musical currency in the 60s.
Key track: “Lonely Woman”
4: Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Um (Columbia)
One of jazz’s most colorful characters, renowned for his volcanic temper, Charles Mingus – a bass player and composer originally from Arizona but raised in Los Angeles – created a unique style that melded driving hard bop with plaintive blues cries and sanctified gospel cadences. His greatest creation was this, his 1959 debut for Columbia, on which propulsive uptempo songs (“Better Git It In Your Soul”) were balanced with beautiful shimmering ballads (“Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” an elegy for saxophonist Lester Young, who had died earlier in 1959). The album also had a biting political edge thanks to the track “Fables Of Faubus,” which attacked Arkansas Governor Orval E Faubus, who resisted racial integration in American schools.
Key track: “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”
3: Dave Brubeck Quartet: Time Out (Columbia)
Released in 1959 – the year that Ornette Coleman produced his game-changing free jazz manifesto, The Shape Of Jazz To Come – California pianist Dave Brubeck proved that jazz didn’t have to be wild and way out to be revolutionary and innovative. Time Out album finds Brubeck’s classic quartet (featuring the eloquent Paul Desmond on alto sax) experimenting with a range of unorthodox time signatures but still managing to balance sonic exploration with an accessible selection of tunes. The album spawned an unlikely hit single in 5/4 time (the jaunty, Desmond-written “Take Five”) and went on to sell over a million copies.
Key track: “Take Five”
2: John Coltrane: A Love Supreme (Impulse!)
Released in 1965, jazz mystic and saxophonist/composer John Coltrane’s four-part hymn to God remains deeply influential and is regarded as the album that birthed what became known as spiritual jazz. A Love Supreme was the first time that a musician had successfully used the language of jazz to explore deeper metaphysical concerns. Assisted by pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and über-drummer Elvin Jones, Coltrane takes us on a journey into the realm of religious exaltation. He leaves the listener exhausted – the music can seem almost overwhelming due to its emotional intensity – but also blissfully contented after the final chord has sounded. Though Coltrane recorded several landmark albums both before and after A Love Supreme, this game-changing 1965 LP sealed his immortality and sits rightfully among the best jazz albums of all time.
Key track: “Part One: “Acknowledgement’”
1: Miles Davis: Kind Of Blue (Columbia)
Topping our list of the 50 best jazz albums ever is this timeless, transcendent classic from the great Miles Davis. It celebrates its 60th birthday in 2019 but still sounds as cool and hip as the day it was first recorded. The session found Miles leading an all-star sextet that included saxophonists John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, as well as rising piano star Bill Evans. Here, Miles and his cohorts relinquish bebop’s febrile intensity for a looser, relaxed vibe to create a series of extended grooves that came to define modal jazz. The best-selling jazz album of all time, Kind Of Blue created a new musical language that was hugely influential not only in the jazz world but for numerous rock and pop musicians as well, assuring the album’s rightful place at the head of any list of the greatest jazz albums in history.
Key track: “So What”
Build your jazz vinyl collection with classic titles and under-the-radar favorites.
December 30, 2014 at 8:25 pm
What!? How can you have a list of great jazz recordings, and not have “In a Silent Way” on it
December 31, 2014 at 3:21 pm
August 29, 2015 at 7:32 am
Votre liste est bonne mais vous oubliez quelques pointures incontestables de l’histoire du jazz : Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Jazztet, George Benson, Brad Mehldau, et bien d’autres…
September 11, 2015 at 7:16 pm
Exactly…very limited breadth to this list
November 3, 2016 at 2:59 pm
Yes – that’s what happens when you are limited to 50 selections.
September 12, 2015 at 1:22 am
Je suis d’accord.
September 12, 2015 at 7:41 pm
No Ella Fitzgerald! A crime…
Listen “Ella & Duke, Live in Stockholm”…”the best scatting she has EVER done” – Norman Granz!
August 30, 2016 at 8:04 pm
I agree. Miles Davis–don’t think so…Chet–Billie Holiday!!!
January 1, 2015 at 6:12 pm
Not sure In a Silent Way would be on my top 50, but your comment did give me a craving to listen to it since I haven’t for a long time.
May 4, 2015 at 12:43 pm
January 1, 2015 at 11:34 pm
My first thought too. I’d have it top 5, but I think it just doesn’t have the same effect on most listeners that it does on the few of us who are nuts about it.
January 29, 2015 at 5:02 pm
Not a bad list ! Thanks for putting 3 Miles albums in there & very Happy to know since 1972 I’m not the only one who loves Keith Jarrett’s Koln album
May 6, 2015 at 3:20 am
“25. Keith Jarrett – the Koln Concert”
sorry, but this place would be for the first solo album recorded by K. Jarrett for ECM in 1973 !
July 7, 2018 at 5:58 pm
Was thinking the same thing!
March 7, 2015 at 2:38 pm
agree with you !!!!
May 4, 2015 at 6:04 pm
My all time favorite!
June 1, 2015 at 12:18 pm
This is more if the 50 most popular than 50 greatest. Who can really argue with the
#1, Kind of Blue? But I appreciate the attempt.
September 11, 2015 at 8:52 pm
me. I would take Brown-Roach over Miles any day
Mahglun Green Laddie
June 4, 2015 at 9:53 am
I love Miles Davis too but although he was a giant of jazz you cannot include all his great albums, what about the ‘second great quintet’ albums? what about On the Corner? (loved and hated with equal passion but those who get it really get it) What about Steamin’, Workin’, Cookin’ Relaxin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet? Duke Ellington is universally acknowledged as one of the greats of jazz, you could argue that he is woefully under represented here, it is a list of some great jazz albums, you could never chime with everyone’s ideal top 50 list and In a Silent Way can look after itself, it is an album that any self respecting jazz collector must have, simply because it is so ubiquitously and cheaply available, even if you are not sure if it is you thing it is better to have it than not. And while I’m at it, what about John Coltrane’s Ascension? Like MIles he is already well represented here.
September 11, 2015 at 10:53 pm
no in a silent way……………blasphemy.
September 11, 2015 at 11:30 pm
I’m pretty sure In a Silent Way is not jazz… anything Miles Davis did with his electric band should be considered sans Genre or fusion.
August 29, 2016 at 7:49 pm
Yes bro that’s Miles Davis for me.
September 16, 2016 at 12:15 am
My Favorite Things,
Sketches of Spain….
April 22, 2019 at 3:44 pm
Exactly Right! This list needs In a silent way & Sketches of Spain on it.
December 30, 2014 at 8:58 pm
Kind of Blue is truly great, but A Love Supreme is celestial! A Love Supreme Supreme Supreme A Love Supreme
December 30, 2014 at 9:40 pm
1. Miles Davis – Kind of Blue4 9Miles Davis Bitches Brew
8. Sonny Rollins – Saxophone Colossus
7. Cannonball Adderley – Somethin’ Else.4 Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um20. Charlie Parker – Complete Savoy and Dial Studio recordings
19. Miles Davis – Birth of the Cool
18. Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers – Moanin’24. John Coltrane – Giant Steps
23. Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage
22. Duke Ellington – Ellington at Newport50. Thelonious Monk Genius of Modern Music vol.1 & 2.
49. Count Basie – the Original American Decca Recordings
48. Bud Powell – The Amazing Bud Powell Vo.1 and please don’t forget Norman Granz’ series JATP Jazz at the Philharmonic
December 30, 2014 at 11:36 pm
Well done good choice what about diz and bird?
Marc van Dongen
May 31, 2015 at 5:28 pm
See album nº 30…
October 7, 2015 at 5:46 pm
Charlie Parker is # 20 on the list.
December 31, 2014 at 2:15 pm
An excellent list – but you’ve got to find a way to include “Charlie Parker with Strings”. But the most glaring omission – where are the women!? What about ”
Sarah “In the Land of Hi-Fi”.(She included an “unknown” Julian “Cannonball” Adderly)
December 30, 2014 at 9:59 pm
Well, for me Out To Lunch can’t be outside the top 10. No way Getz/Gilberto could stay in front of Dolphy’s masterpiece. Also, no Conference Of The Birds, Virtuoso and Jaco Pastorious.
August 30, 2015 at 2:09 pm
YES YES YES for Eric Dolphy
December 30, 2014 at 10:26 pm
Helen Merrill 1954 with Oscar Pediford, Clifford Brown is still the best torch Jazz vocal LP ever.
December 30, 2014 at 10:29 pm
Oh, and I totally understand and agree ART TATUM has his own place among the Gods so he is not listed.
June 1, 2015 at 3:17 am
December 30, 2014 at 10:30 pm
if you take away 47, 36,33,23,and 13 0ff the list as far as I am concerned they are rubbish compared to the stature of the other players, I have 41 of these albums and would not like to be with out any of those 41, the missing few I just haven’t bought yet. the five I have mentioned are sidemen on some of these other albums in my list and as such do what they need to do, but none of them perform that well as leaders .
December 31, 2014 at 7:33 am
Really?! You are dismissing albums like Maiden Voyage and Speak No Evil?
That shows you can buy jazz albuns all you want, listen to it all you want, but still don’t hear the music…
May 15, 2015 at 2:24 pm
I agree, Speak No Evil should be No. 1
December 30, 2014 at 10:32 pm
I understand and totally agree ART TATUM has his place among the Gods, so he need not be listed with these mortals.
December 31, 2014 at 1:20 am
what about Sonny Rollin’s The Bridge???
June 1, 2015 at 4:31 am
yeah i was really let down that didnt make the list
December 31, 2014 at 1:40 am
You have left out many other greats. This list is totally NOT the 50 greatest!!!!! Where are: George Benson, Stan Kenton, Coleman Hawkins, Buddy Rich, Oscar Peterson, The Brekker Brothers, Wynston Marsalis Cleo Laine, Lionel Hampton, Glenn Miller. Gerald Wilson, Quincy Jones, Nelson Riddle, Artie Shaw etc. etc. etc. ALL of these artists had albums that whould fit into the list!!! They all furthered the art of jazz!!!!! Instead of wasting time on this why doesn’t someone write a thesis entitled ‘What is Jazz’. This would have to be inclusive yet selective and objective! GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!!
December 31, 2014 at 1:55 am
I would have liked to have seen the Zoot and Sonny collaboration “interaction” on this list. I also love Art Blakey’s “Backgammon”. I agree with most of the list, great choices!
December 31, 2014 at 2:08 am
Pretty good but I would have found room for a compilation of King Oliver Creole Jazz Band 1923on Archeophone 2CD. The foundation of all that followed. Also you have nothing of Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet and Bix Beiderbecke. Important and essential pioneers among many others of early jazz.
December 31, 2014 at 4:31 pm
Well done – those and I wish they had simply pegged the Armstrong box set A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, for a fatter slice of the essential Louis of the 20s and 30s. I myself could not be happy living without this chunk of music in the world. I’ve heard most of this list and I’ve not listened to plenty of it for years, but I can’t go more than a few months without listening to at least Columbia’s This Is Jazz #1.
R. E. Hawkins
December 31, 2014 at 2:08 am
An impossible task certainly, but with the exceptions of the fusion stuff it is pretty admirable. Glad to see Brubeck near the top. Agree with previous post that the omission of Hartman/Coltrane is a major oversight. Would also like to see some more adventurous material. There are several albums by Anthony Braxton that could have made the list.
December 31, 2014 at 2:10 am
Hank Garland…nuff said!
December 31, 2014 at 2:21 am
I’m new to jazz music but I would think Lester Young would be on this list.
December 31, 2014 at 2:21 am
Kind of Blue can’t be higher on this list than A Love Supreme and The Black Saint, seriously, you can’t do this to me. Not to mention A Spiritual Unity.
December 31, 2014 at 3:16 am
No Jazz at Massey Hall, the 1953 meeting of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach? Major oversight.
January 9, 2015 at 8:29 pm
It’s there…it’s called the quintet
December 31, 2014 at 3:16 am
1 and 2 should be flip flopped. Also Big Fun by Miles Davis needs to be on there. Time Out by Brubeck is way too high up the list. Lots of albums with big names on here but there’s way better stuff (Koln Concert that high? Come on. Mahavishnu Orchestra not that high either). Good call on Out to Lunch by Dolphy tho, but that should actually be higher. And Iron Man should be on there as well. Happy new year!
December 31, 2014 at 3:35 am
I’m fairly speechless. This is a damn fine list. Usually music lists have me swinging immediately out of the gate! I would respectively suggest adding Joe Pass’ “Virtuoso”, something of Django’s, and I’m very surprised there’s no Ella. I don’t think any of those recordings are “younger” than 40, so maybe the next list can highlight some of the young lions who have put out some screamin’ stuff in THIS century. The San Francisco Jazz Collective comes to mind.
December 31, 2014 at 3:41 am
This list is poorly ordered. These are all great albums but IMO most of them got their spots because of politics. Whoever wrote this list is was trying to keep as many people happy. It looks like they used the bracket system to decide lol
December 31, 2014 at 3:49 am
Hank Mobley: Soul Station #42 seriously?
January 1, 2015 at 3:37 pm
Joe Farrell – song of the wind; timeless
December 31, 2014 at 3:55 am
March 28, 2015 at 8:49 pm
There is one Dexter Gordon album, but should be at least two.
December 31, 2014 at 4:07 am
Sketches of Spain?
December 31, 2014 at 7:40 pm
My first thought
Frank A. Martinez
October 9, 2015 at 7:21 pm
How about these:
Peggy Lee,Anita O’Day,June Christy,Diana Krall,Jackie Cain,how about ‘Sassy Sarah’..Chis Connors,And of course,Carmen McRae,Mildred Bailey….And of course…The First Lady of Jazz…Miss Ella Fitzgerald topping this list…
January 3, 2015 at 10:12 pm
I LOVE Sketches, but so many people don’t get it.
October 7, 2015 at 9:43 pm
A stranded island album!
December 31, 2014 at 4:14 am
No Yoko Kanno?
r c douglas
December 31, 2014 at 4:15 am
somebody else noted nothing since 1977. i’ll add– and precious little before approx 1950. Bix. Duke. Basie. Jelly Roll. Armstrong. Grappelli. Teagarden. Oliver. all missing. i agree that those listed were great. i would echo disagreement about relative merits of Love Supreme and Kind of Blue, but that’s close.
r c douglas
December 31, 2014 at 4:24 am
my apologies. Duke and Basie are there (as is Goodman). but, come to think of it, no Shaw or Miller.
December 31, 2014 at 4:31 am
December 31, 2014 at 4:41 am
Short much of famous jazz artistes in the list, Kind of blue is good but still faraway to the first ranking 🙁
December 31, 2014 at 4:48 am
I’m glad you got Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery, but how about the “Greatest”
Barney Kessel. That man could do on one guitar what it takes three ordinary professional guitarists to do. Even George Harrison once said, “There’s nobody on this planet or any other planet that can play like that”
December 31, 2014 at 5:50 am
Seriously? Weather Report before many many many more.. a very short timeline for “greatest” jazz albums, there have been a few thereafter, am I wrong?
From the top of my head, where are Ella, Diz, Billie Holiday, Oscar Peterson, Wynton Marsalis, Bradford Marsalis, Benny Goodman, geeez!!! Need to broaden your “50” spectrum, and while there change some already in the list that could be swapped..
But.. good average 7/10 score on your list…
December 31, 2014 at 6:13 am
I love them both but “Love Supreme” is arguably the greatest music of the 20th Century bar none while “Kind of Blue” is not quite in that league. That’s a pretty ordinary Weather Report album by the way – “Mysterious Traveller” is probably better qualified.
Where are Nina and Ella? – is this selection for pointy-beard strokers only?
December 31, 2014 at 7:17 am
No Ella in the top ten. Wow.
December 31, 2014 at 7:36 am
Nothing at all by Kieth Jarrett Standards Trio?? Surely Bill Evans Vanguard recordings with the majestic Scott LaFaro belong in the top 10. Where’s Milestones by Miles?
December 31, 2014 at 7:53 am
The Raven Speaks (Woody Herman)
December 31, 2014 at 7:58 am
Yes, there are some obvious omissions, but people shouldn’t forget that it is a best ALBUM list. A lot of the people mentioned have all made great music, worthy of any jaz list, but they made it in the pre-album age where EPs and 78s where the medium. And although Count Basie’s Decca Recordings and Louis’ Best of Hot 5 and 7s are marvelous, they are compilations that should not be on a best album list. If you include them, there should be Billie Holiday’s Complete Columbia, Duke’s Blanton-Webster Band.
A well, whatever… One thing I can’t deny through all the discussion. This list has some of the best music ever made!
December 31, 2014 at 8:45 am
The list is pretty lacking. What about the Cti label? Most of the list reads like an audiophiles introduction into ‘jazz to impress your friends with’.
This is a list compiled by a hifi hobbyist and not a music lover.
For a broader and more realistic list it would need much from the 70s and those gems from the 80’s and 90s. I think Brad Melhdau, Wynton Marsalis septet work, Jeff Lorber fusion and Quincy Jones could easily replace many on the list.
December 31, 2014 at 8:47 am
No Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Art Tatum,Lester Young, Teddy Wilson or Billie Holiday for starters! Are you joking?
December 31, 2014 at 9:17 am
Miles Davis/Gil Evans should be there somewhere, shouldn’t they? And where’s Sidney Bechet? And Dizzy Gillespie?
December 31, 2014 at 9:19 am
I second with knobs on the comment by Trevor Hyde a travesty not to include those he mentions
December 31, 2014 at 9:34 am
You need more Art Blakey Free For All, Ugetsu are two that come to mind quickly. And Coltrane Ole Coltrane is a better example of his work than My Favorite Things. MFT just was released first so it became many people’s introduction to Trane. But Ole was more like what he actually played live in clubs.
Lord Running Clam
December 31, 2014 at 9:49 am
Well done on what is not an easy task. My gripe tho would be the non inclusion of something by the great Sun Ra and his Arkestra.
December 31, 2014 at 2:23 pm
Agreed on how absurd it is to leave off the Sun Ra Arkestra! Hard to believe. Also, no Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, and only one listing for Bird (though it includes multiple recordings). And if they’re gonna include compilations, then you MUST include the phenomenal CTI Records- The Cool Revolution. If you don’t have it (though many of you will have some individual songs), get it! http://www.amazon.com/CTI-Records-Revolution-Various-Artists/dp/B003YVNZ2M/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1420035622&sr=1-2&keywords=cti+records+40th+anniversary+edition
December 31, 2014 at 10:59 am
No Ellington/Blanton band? no Teddy Wilson, Lester Young – Billie Holliday – what about Bix and Tram?
December 31, 2014 at 11:18 am
difficult indeed to make a list…. I miss Oscar Petterson, Billie Holliday, Chet Baker… It terribly miss some african jazz artists like the ethiopian Mulatu Astatke & the nigerian Fela Kuti…. And what about drummer Shelly Manne, who set up one of the best jazz bands, and whose records at the Black Hawk are amongst the best jazz records ever ?
December 31, 2014 at 11:21 am
Sunflower (Milt Jackson, 1973)
Nice Guys (Art Ensemble of Chicago, 1979)
December 31, 2014 at 11:49 am
A fine list indeed, some contentious ommissions e.g Nina Simone which have been pointed out by a fair few people. None menioned Ahmad Jamal At The Pershing though, classic album – deserved to be on there for Poinciana alone.
December 31, 2014 at 12:33 pm
you need the bird in that collection
December 31, 2014 at 2:24 pm
Bird is in the collection, the Savoy/Dial recordings.
December 31, 2014 at 12:42 pm
Of course there will always be omissions, but … no Oscar Peterson? LIVE AT THE BLUE NOTE or ELLA AND OSCAR (now THERE’S killing two birds with one stone!) Even though it really can’t be said – I think that the solo in I HEAR MUSIC (“Ella and Oscar”) is the most amazingly beautiful and perfectly designed piano solo of all time. OK, I said it.
January 1, 2015 at 10:41 am
Oscar Peterson : NIGERIAN MARKETPLACE !!
December 31, 2014 at 1:47 pm
Louis Armstrong MUST be #1!
December 31, 2014 at 2:10 pm
So did you not see Gilberto/Getz on the list? Getz is the only American on the recording. All others were, I believe, Brazilian. Not to mention multiple members of the Mahavishnu Orchestra were not American, with only Goodman being American among the original members. Some musicians on Bitches Brew were also not American. I’d say there are some others, as well. But I do agree there is a lack of recordings by other significant jazz artists from outside of the States.
December 31, 2014 at 5:06 pm
Yes, I did see Getz/Gilberto, but even if most of the musicians on this recording were no US citicens, it was a very American production on a famous US label. Same is true for Mahavishnu and even more so for Bitches Brew.
May 7, 2015 at 3:55 am
Brazilians are Americans too since Brazil is also part of America. The Continent of America that is.
Mahglun Green Laddie
June 2, 2015 at 3:34 pm
You know that by American it was meant as North American and more specifically the United States of American rather than Canada, Central or South American
October 8, 2015 at 12:37 pm
These lists are put together by Anglos, but Brazilian, Cubans, Puerto Ricans are often excluded. Many years ago a jazz critic in Chicago told me that Latin jazz was not serious jazz…….talk about arrogance and ignorance. So let me share this information with you. Go to Youtube and find Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Chick Corea……that will lead you to Getz and Gilberto. Most people do not know the work of Laurindo Almeida, and of course we know Sergio Mendes. Some of us know. so let’s keep listening to the music.
December 31, 2014 at 2:29 pm
I always enjoy these lists despite disagreements….albums that should have been included are…Paul Desmond Quintet and with voices from Fantasy….Cal Tjaders Several Shades of Jade, Sonny Clark Trio with Max Roach and George Duvivier, Modern Sounds..Eddie Bert, numerous others included recordings by Terry Gibbs, Buddy De Franco..next time. I should be consulted to provide such insight
December 31, 2014 at 2:33 pm
Gotta also say, as much as I appreciate Mingus, there’s no way he has two recordings that much better than the best of Monk. Not to mention numerous others they have listed above him. I mean, it’s freakin’ Thelonius Monk!
December 31, 2014 at 2:57 pm
“Beyond the Missouri Sky” by Metheny and Charlie Haden is a glaring omission. And where’s Jim Hall?
December 31, 2014 at 3:41 pm
Django ? Ella ? Lester Young ? Paul Desmond ? Chet Baker ? Ben Webster, Oscar Peterson, Billie Holliday, Coleman Hawkins, Art Tatum, and Sidney Bechet ??? It’s a joke !!!
December 31, 2014 at 4:37 pm
I guess Jazz Trombone never existed…..typical.
August 5, 2015 at 10:53 pm
December 31, 2014 at 4:41 pm
YOU MISSED THE GREATEST, COUNT BASIE, DUKE,AND LOUIS ARMSTRONG
December 31, 2014 at 4:42 pm
Well, of all the omissions, Ella Fitzgerald seems the most glaring to me. Billie and the other biggies mentioned above too. But to drop as much Coltrane in as they did and leave Sun Ra out makes the whole exercise seem like a lame Billboard Top Selling Jazz list, not a jazz aficionado’s best effort. Pharoah Sanders too.
Those and the old stuff from the 20s and 30s as someone else said. I wish they had simply pegged the Armstrong box set A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, for a fatter slice of the essential Louis of the 20s and 30s. I myself could not be happy living without this chunk of music in the world. I’ve heard most of this list and I’ve not listened to plenty of it for years, but I can’t go more than a few months without listening to at least Columbia’s This Is Jazz #1.
December 31, 2014 at 4:48 pm
Would have loved to see Here’s to Life/Shirley Horn, or Joe Pass, or Barney Kessel, but a pretty good list.
December 31, 2014 at 4:48 pm
Of course the stuff from 78’s is put behind stuff like Miles ,No Bix No Mullligan what a surprise …lots of Blue Note lps with no Pacific lps ,this list is OK ,but far from right ,and the order sucks
How is the classic Basie band 49 and behind a bunch of lesser lps like one by the Latter Basie band ,who’s the fool who put this thing together ???
December 31, 2014 at 5:47 pm
No Pete Duconge ????
December 31, 2014 at 5:49 pm
What misogynists you are. No Billie Holiday? No Ella Fitzgerald. No Antia O’Day? No Sarah Vaughn? You also are bebop centric. No Bix Beiderbecke? No Bunny Berigan? No Fats Waller, etc, etc. etc. ONLY one Louis Armstrong record listed! How can that possibly be???
December 31, 2014 at 6:10 pm
Impossible list to make so the rest of the real list is in the comments, here’s some of my thoughts/additions:
-Spirituals To Swing – John Hammond’s great concerts with Basie, Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Helen Humes, Big Joe Turner, James P. Johnson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
Mary Lou Williams – Nite Life
-Geri Allen, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian – Etudes
-Terri Lyne Carrington – The Mosaic Project (includes almost every significant contemporary female jazz musician)
-Abbey Lincoln – Straight Ahead (Max Roach, Coleman Hawkins, Eric Dolphy, Julian Priester, Mal Waldren)
Earl Hines – A Monday Date (solo piano 1928 recordings)
December 31, 2014 at 6:28 pm
Was hoping to see Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay.
December 31, 2014 at 6:56 pm
Sure great stuff. But where is Sonny Clark with Cool Struttin on Blue Note or Tina Brooks “True Blue”? For me also Top 20 all-time classics. Also not to forget the fantastic album from Michael Naura Quintet “European Jazz Sounds” on Brunswick label and Elsie Bianchi Trio “The Sweetest Sound” on Saba. And as many others before said. No Ella……. Happy New Year for all you music lovers 😉
December 31, 2014 at 7:25 pm
Can’t argue with number one.
Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans and Cannonball Adderley all have albums in this list. They were all musicians in the number one Jazz Album, Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.
January 1, 2015 at 1:13 am
Kind of Blue will be hard to beat – ever. I know the Coltrane buffs want to disagree, but when those guys were together on Kind of Blue, it was magical.
December 31, 2014 at 7:28 pm
KUDOS FOR PROMOTING JAZZ MUSIC – BUT HOW ABOUT YOU ACTUALLY LISTEN TO THE RECORDS RATHER THAN COMPILE OTHER DATA? ALL THIS DOES IS CONTINUALLY LEAVE OTHER TITLES OBSCURED THAT ARE AS EQUALLY GREAT AS MANY OF THESE. FURTHER PROOF THAT THE INTERNET IS LAZY. “IT TOOK US SEVERAL DAYS OF SEARCHING…” HOW ABOUT WEEKS, MONTHS, OR EVEN YEARS OF LISTENING? NOBODY SHOULD PROMOTE ANYTHING THEY ARE NOT INTIMATE WITH ON SOME LEVEL.
December 31, 2014 at 7:47 pm
What no VInce Guaraldi Trio? A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of the best of all times.
December 31, 2014 at 7:59 pm
i have 27 of these, a very fine list. I would add Miles – In a Silent Way, Getz’s Sweet Rain, and Wayne Shorter’s Native dancer with Milton Nascimento.
December 31, 2014 at 8:28 pm
Where’s Lady Day?
December 31, 2014 at 9:38 pm
creo debe aparecer en la lista Chick Corea !!!!!
December 31, 2014 at 9:38 pm
“Oscar Peterson Trio at the Stratford Shakespearean Festival”
“Sittin’ In”: Oscar Peterson Trio with Sonny Stitt.
“Jazz at Oberlin” Dave Brubeck Quartet
December 31, 2014 at 9:50 pm
I love all your 50 picks, but there are so many more “greatest”! Two of my favorite quotes:
“Jazz washes away the dust of every day”–Art Blakey
“Put it this way. Jazz is a good barometer of freedom…In its beginnings, the United States of America spawned certain ideals of freedom and independence through which, eventually, jazz was evolved, and the music is so free that many people say it is the only unhapmpered, unhindered expression of complete freedom yet produced in this country.”–Duke Ellington
I LOVE JAZZ!!!
December 31, 2014 at 10:09 pm
? Kenny Burrell – Midnight Blue
? Jon Schofield w/ Medeski, Martin & Wood – A Go Go
? Oscar Peterson Trio – Plus One (Clark Terry)
? Jimmy Smith
December 31, 2014 at 10:25 pm
Herbie Nichols – Complete Blue Note Recordings
Bobby Hutcherson – Dialogue
Lucky Thompson – Tricotism
December 31, 2014 at 11:02 pm
Philly Joe Jones,
” Drums Around The World”
December 31, 2014 at 11:18 pm
i would have agreed about #1, but a bassist friend turned me on to what may be the best, least known, jazz album ever: Money Jungle. It’s an incredible session featuring Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach.
December 31, 2014 at 11:33 pm
Good list. So good, I can’t choose which one to kick off to make room for Moran/Harris/ et al’s New Directions.
December 31, 2014 at 11:38 pm
You forgot, “Like Minds”, Burton, Corea, Holland, Haynes, and Metheny….I’m sure it was just an oversight….
January 1, 2015 at 12:15 am
No Sun Ra? WTF?
January 1, 2015 at 12:21 am
A good list … I would include some albums that made important contributions in the evolution of Jazz …. I would include Ahmad Jamal at the Pershing in the top ten – Even Miles loved Ahmad. The Mulligan/Desmond Duets come to mind as well as the early Chico Hamilton quintet with Fred Katz on Cello. I would place the singers – male and female in their own grouping – Stan Kenton certainly had some historic music: Kenton in Hi Fi was exceptional. There is no doubt in my mind that “Time Out” introduced more people to jazz than Miles ever did. Double the list and not rank them for more harmony among Jazz lovers.
January 1, 2015 at 12:49 am
I have 33 of those fifty, and this list is very much like my personal list.
January 1, 2015 at 12:58 am
Obviously this list is incorrect. There are no trombonists listed!
January 1, 2015 at 1:16 am
I only have 36 of the 50. Have to review the list and see which ones I still have to purchase.
January 1, 2015 at 1:33 am
No Charlie Parker??????!
June 1, 2015 at 12:00 am
while i’ll agree about Parker, it’s a shame that when you get to the earlier recordings the quality can really suffer. It seems like , although great, many of Parker’s and others are just hard to listen to due to the recording quality-it’s a shame.
January 1, 2015 at 2:14 am
Too much great stuff has been done to ever limit it to 50. Concierto by Jim Hall?
January 1, 2015 at 3:12 am
The great Jimmy Smith not on the list…? That’s crap.
January 1, 2015 at 3:38 am
Where is Liane Carroll ??? !!!!!
January 1, 2015 at 3:57 am
It’s a difficult list to do so congratulations is in order. I just wish a Chick Corea album was in there somewhere.
January 1, 2015 at 4:08 am
Chick Corea. Now He Sings Now He Sobs. The greatest trio album ever. Still fresh and exciting today. Innovative and influential.
January 1, 2015 at 4:25 am
Sonny Sharrock’s “Ask the Ages” is a glaring omission.
January 1, 2015 at 5:47 am
The all-time best 50 list should have a wide scope for inclusion.By that count Chick Corea’s ‘The Romantic Warrior’ , Wayne Shorter”s ‘Native Dancer(seldom has one heard a better Latino fusion jazz-featuring also Milton Nascimento & Herbie Hancock),Stanley Clarke’s ‘School Days’,and Billy Cobham’s ‘Magic’ should also rightfully find their pride of place in the list!
January 1, 2015 at 6:28 am
Oh look, another top 50 list no different than any other. It’s so annoying to see the same albums on the top 5, again and again. No Ahmad Jamal, no Crusaders, no Metheny, no Tom Scott… What a shame.
January 2, 2015 at 1:12 pm
Thanks for mentioning some of my jazz heroes. The Crusaders opened my door to jazz and following the sound of the saxophone there were suddenly Tom Scott, Stan Getz, John Klemmer, Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins and many more. I am happy that mentioning “50 Great Jazz Albums” leads to much communication. Thanks again!
January 1, 2015 at 8:01 am
Jelly Roll Mortons 1926/1927 recordings should be there
P2SE Class A Single Ended
January 1, 2015 at 10:00 am
Where is Lady Day
Quoting from your website – With a few exceptions every major pop singer in the US during her generation has been touched in someway by her genius .
Listen to Lady Day ; The Best of Billie Holiday
January 1, 2015 at 10:49 am
You have to have some Ray Brown on Bass guys. No way you could leave him out. Solar Energy is one that comes to mind but he has so many.
January 1, 2015 at 11:43 am
No Brecker, Corea,, Tatum, Tristano, Marsh, Tyner?? But the woeful Ayler and Dolphy are in there? Incredible. I suppose subjectivity is inevitable when it comes to taste and naming the best 50 albums is impossible. Vast amounts of great stuff omitted and the phenomenal broadening of jazz in the last 30 years is nowhere to be seen. This probably is a very good guide to the ages of the compilers.
June 1, 2015 at 7:21 am
Being a jazz lover, you have to understand that “woeful” & “Eric Dolphy” can’t possibly be used in the same sentence. Please re-think your statement.
January 1, 2015 at 12:13 pm
WTF is that???
No Billy Holliday?
you should expand to a list of 100 …
fondest regards from the old world…
germany – to be exact…
January 1, 2015 at 12:18 pm
i wrote a previous email to my friend billy…
that is my excuse for that mistake…
anyway, how can this list be without billie???
January 1, 2015 at 1:29 pm
January 1, 2015 at 3:14 pm
There are some great albums and I have got a lot of them, but everybody seems to have been listening in the other direction. What about Tubby Hayes, Victor Feldman, Jimmy Deuchar, John Dankworth, Harold McNair, Phil Seaman , Peter King and Ronnie Scott !!!
Oh ! Stan Tracey and George from Battersea !
All great jazz musicians playing jazz in the UK.
Happy New Year to you all and keep listening to the world’s greatest music !
January 1, 2015 at 3:22 pm
Both excellent points!
January 1, 2015 at 3:51 pm
People, don’t get your panties in a bunch. It’s all good. You just have to realize that there are hundreds of great jazz artists through the ages. We all like what WE like and disagree sometimes on what others are digging. If each and every one of you compiled your top 50, it would be a beautiful and diversified list. so starting from this post on, let’s see what your favorites are.
January 1, 2015 at 10:23 pm
The best part of these lists are the comments. Gives people like me all sorts of new ideas to fill in the collection! Can never have too many great jazz albums…
January 1, 2015 at 4:15 pm
Would like to add David Murray and The Arts Ensemble of Chicago to this list.
January 1, 2015 at 5:59 pm
I am surprised that Milestones is not on this list. I thought that was Miles Davis’s second-strongest album.
Not a lot of modern stuff on this list either. Wynton Marsalis’s Black Codes should probably be on this list.
Nothing from Freddie Hubbard or Woody Shaw? Cassandranite and Love Dance are both really solid albums.
Interesting that Ornette Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz to Come was #5. It’s an important album, but I don’t know if I’d consider it the #5 jazz album ever.
Interesting list overall though. I disagree with a lot of the picks, but at least it got a bunch of jazzheads talking.
January 1, 2015 at 6:10 pm
Good music, not the 50 I would have chosen, but then every jazz fan is liable to have a very different list.
January 1, 2015 at 6:17 pm
Not sure which I would pick for the particular recording, but a couple of jazz musicians that are among my top 5 that I think need to be represented on that list are McCoy Tyner and Michael Brecker.
In fact, just put McCoy Tyner’s album Infinity on there, it is a great album an kills two birds with one stone.
January 1, 2015 at 6:36 pm
Dave Brubeck Quartet
Jazz Goes To Junior College
I was 12 years old when I bought this album it’s the one that started me into jazz !
January 1, 2015 at 10:02 pm
Ella? You’ve heard of her right??
January 1, 2015 at 10:22 pm
Great list! I made a Spotify list with all the albums for those who hasn’t got them all on LP. hehe.
Spotify didn’t have Keith Jarrets “The Köln Concert” so I just marked its place with “Birth” in case Spotify would acquire it at another time.
Also, in my opinion the list needs more women like Ella and (as a Swede I’m obliged to say) Monica Zetterlund.
January 2, 2015 at 1:33 am
Generally astute list, with a few debatable entries and omissions. Sketches. Ella. OP for goodness sakes. And one of my personal faves would have been in my top 20: Jazz Samba.
January 2, 2015 at 1:59 am
no Freddie Hubbard, Gato Barbieri, Dizzy Gillespie
January 2, 2015 at 3:00 am
Joe Pass ?? Ella?..Django??
January 2, 2015 at 6:00 am
Bill Evans Trio – Portrait In Jazz
Oscar Peterson – My favorite Instrument
Miles Davis – Round About Midnight
Dinah Washington – For Those In Love
January 2, 2015 at 6:18 pm
why not chet baker?
January 2, 2015 at 8:21 pm
Probably a thankless task, unless the objective was to get some discussion going! Personally I couldn’t deduce what the criteria were for inclusion – was it popularity, historical ‘significance’, musicianship, innovation?
I agree it’s too US-centric. What about Abdullah Ibrahim, Jan Garbarek, or Trilok Gurtu? And as for women, surely Carla Bley would qualify as well as all the great singers already mentioned?
I’d have to include Sweet Rain and Crescent in my list of great albums – they’re among my ‘Desert Island Discs’ (8 tracks).
January 2, 2015 at 8:45 pm
Hard to believe that nobody has complained about the omission of the great Benny Carter. “Further Definitions” is both important and wonderful.
January 2, 2015 at 9:24 pm
There are many great albums but I would complete with Bill Evans Alone,Bill Evans last 6 album Consecration a mastework!And guitar forms Kenny Burell.
January 2, 2015 at 11:44 pm
Any list that leaves joe SAMPLE and george BENSON off it must be questioned!
January 3, 2015 at 1:24 am
I would have included ‘Michael Franks – The art of tea’ but you can’t get ’em all in i guess
January 3, 2015 at 2:03 am
WHERE IS THE SUN RA
January 3, 2015 at 2:33 pm
Hi, the list made me discover a few albums but all the comments of you guy’s, made me discover much more musician and great albums!! thank you 🙂
January 3, 2015 at 4:51 pm
Wow what a great list! I have a lot of these and it has made me get some LPs out that I haven’t listened to for ages. The fact that it has stimulated so much discussion is fantastic. It is a bit disturbing that there was nothing after 1977 and that very few post 77 albums were mentioned in the replies. What does that say for the future?
Here are some albums I like. Some would be in the top 50, others would be bubbling under…
Julius hemphill – Dogon AD
Bobby Hutcherson – Dialogue
Paul Pley – Open to Love
Lennie Tristano – same (or Rhino CD reissue with New Tristano as well)
Ganelin Trio – Baltic Triangle
Joe Henderson – Lush Life
Billie Holiday – Golden years Vol 1 (is that allowed?)
John Zorn – Big Gundown
Marilyn Crispell – Gaia
Warne Marsh – All Music
Thomaz Stanko – Leosia
Sonny Sharrock – Ask the Ages (saw him at the old knitting Factory??? – wow – and bought this)
June 20, 2015 at 8:09 am
You are absolutely right. The list and the comments thread has been a great learning curve for me. Thanks for giving a list of albums I have not come across earlier. I didn’t realise there is huge world out there in Jazz.
January 3, 2015 at 5:41 pm
Missing is Miles Davis “Milestones”. Maybe not Top 10 in many eyes, but at least Top 50. One of MY faves.
January 3, 2015 at 6:41 pm
I’m sorry. I know my comment will offend many, but the cold hard truth is that John Coltrane played out of tune. None of his albums belong on this list, in my opinion.
March 10, 2015 at 5:53 pm
Very funny ! Thanks for the laugh !
January 3, 2015 at 9:44 pm
From early ragtime to international modernism, Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology (a 2011 update of the milestone 1973 Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz) lets you enjoy this uniquely American musical genre through its legendary innovators, including Armstrong, Ellington, Basie, Gillespie, Fitzgerald, and Marsalis. Box Set; 6 CDs with 111 tracks; soft cover companion book, 200 pages. 11.25″ x 6.56″
January 4, 2015 at 7:10 am
It’s impossible to limit Jazz to 50 greatest and please the diversity of its audience. But, no Billie Holliday? Just Wrong. No Dizzy or Oscar Peterson? Wrong again. How about Phineous Newborn Jr. – A World of Piano? And a comment on a comment, Coltrane played out of tune and doesn’t belong on this list? Now that is completely wrong. It doesn’t offend me, it is an absurd comment. From his earlier Miles and Monk period to his middle McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones period to his free period with Pharoah Sanders, nobody, other than Miles, compares. I’ve loved jazz for 60 years and cannot imagine what a hole would exist without JC.
All in all though, I think it’s a good list and as others have mentioned, worth learning from it and the discussions it has prompted.
January 4, 2015 at 2:14 pm
Surely, Thelonious Monk is top 5 material: Coltrane, Monk, Mingus, Coltrane, and Davis…
Tomasz Stanko’s Litania belongs in the top 50, as does Larry Young, Shelly Manne live at the …
January 5, 2015 at 2:28 am
On any given day my top 50 might be different. I don’t see how you can take something as broad and diverse as the entire body of jazz recordings and narrow it down to 50. Of course I have my favorites that are not listed, but this is truly a list of recordings every jazz fan should know. I knew the minute this was posted it would draw controversy. These are nice choices. People shouldn’t take this so seriously….
January 5, 2015 at 11:14 pm
I agree that a list like this would changing like the weather here in Indy, but I would like to add Wes Montgomery-“Movin Wes” to the list.
January 6, 2015 at 6:45 pm
What! No Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Vince Guaraldi’s, Anita O’Day… this list is certainly lacking.
giandomenico de cicco
January 6, 2015 at 7:18 pm
The 20’s, 30’s, 40’s are very undeestimated (Django, Bix, Fletcher, Tesch, ecc).
The vest album for me is ALS. Ithink ,anyway, that 50 are too few
January 8, 2015 at 4:55 pm
Stanley Turrentine…..Salt Song
January 8, 2015 at 7:48 pm
No Ella and Billie in top 50???And Art Tatum,Oscar Peterson,Django and Stéphane,Benny Carter,Betty Carter,Sun Ra…??
January 17, 2015 at 8:02 pm
I’m just getting into Jazz, with my only album being Kind of Blue, and it’s fantastic. I play in a latin jazz band. What should be my next album?
January 18, 2015 at 10:45 am
Check the Cuban Arturo Sandoval !
January 18, 2015 at 10:34 am
NHOP in competition with Ray Brown at the Montreux Jazz Festival Oscar P. at the piano!
January 18, 2015 at 10:43 am
NHOP in competition with Ray Brown at the Montreux Jazz Festival Oscar P. at the piano!
Has anybody ever heard ARTURO SANDOVAL play the trumpet?
May 7, 2015 at 4:08 am
Guess not Michael Kroll. Arturo Sandoval pays tribute to Clifford Brown with “I Remember Clifford” on GRP Records. Must have.
January 18, 2015 at 10:52 pm
What about ARCHI SHEPP? Almost 50 years ago I bought my first record, WAY AHEAD, by him – if Im not wrong? Fantastic: better than Coltrane I thought – had lots of him, too!
They were my house Gods those days. Coltrane was more like a sheep, I thought? Its a disgrace to menchen a word like that in this context with these geniouses.But SHEPP was anything than that!!! Cause of that, his artist name?? Dont know how he ended, but he made a mess of his music after some time? I might be wrong. When he was “at the top”; he could not be beat! Somewhere on the limmit to free form jazz(?), but I gave all my LP-records to my son – hoping he would clean them – its great musik!
He never did; they were full of sand cause of a dog………….its a long story.
SHEPP at his best is an enormus power, everybody of you must listen to his records – THE NEW WAVE OF JAZZ IS ON IMPULS, that was the slogan on these albums – IMPULSE: LP-records of those days. An IMPULS-record cost a fortune; same price as Deutsche Gramophone: the most precious discs one could buy. Must have sacrified a lot to be able to buy them!
He was a pupil to Coltrane Ive red in SOHLMANS Musik Lexikon Andra reviderade och utvidgade upplagan. Första utkom 1948-52 Copyright 1979 Sohlmans Förlag AB Stockholm(5bd) (about 5.000 pages)
January 25, 2015 at 11:41 pm
Whaat, where is Himiko Kikuchi?
January 28, 2015 at 8:07 am
January 29, 2015 at 5:29 pm
would have put more Miles in there ( Milestones) what no Billie or Nina or Ella ? Thanks anyway for Jarrett’s Koln album Happy to know I am not the only one to Love this album ! Oh disappointed that there wasn’t a Chet Baker album ! I quess it was a hard task to name the 50 greatest Jazz albums of all time ! Should have expanded to the top 100 !!!
DJ Kool H.
February 4, 2015 at 4:01 pm
I’m a Fusion head…No “Birds Of Fire” or “Chaser” ?
February 12, 2015 at 2:19 am
Great selections; however representation of female artists is blindingly small. Dinah Washington, Betty Carter, Amina Claudine Myers certainly stand with Sarah Vaughan. What about Alice Coltrane?!?!?
February 19, 2015 at 1:29 am
New Orleans Suite.
March 5, 2015 at 5:53 pm
A good job compiling this list as I have almost all of them. This is a great list for those who are new to jazz to start out with. I was pleasantly surprised with some selections, especially your inclusion of John McLaughlin & The Mahavishnu Orchestra’s “The Inner Mounting Flame”. I know many jazz fans look at their music
as rock moreso than jazz, but 1) It’s jazz in structure, 2) they were & are hugely influential, & 3) they continued on where Miles Davis began in ’69 & expanded the possibilities of electric jazz much to the chagrin of jazz snobs like Wynton Marsalis whose music I also like. The fusion music of the late ’60s & the ’70s is what drew me to the world of jazz. I now listen to all forms of jazz & still really enjoy a lot of the music from the fusion movement started by Miles Davis There are others who I would have liked to have seen on here, but this was a good overview for those new to jazz.
Jazz Funk Kwintet
March 10, 2015 at 5:29 pm
100% Agree with this !!! Kind of Blue and Love Supreme Are the Best. Then all the others have something great and original, so the order doesn’t matter but they all have left a mark in jazz history. MICHAEL BRECKER have a place for me but… also CHARLIE PARKER WITH STRINGS is beautiful, right ?
Bless you all jazz lovers
March 18, 2015 at 8:30 am
A thankless task , but a commendable effort , if one only likes Modern Jazz ( which I do , very much so ) ..
but only one Duke Ellington ( must be a 1920s or 30s Duke in there surely ) ? And a Fletcher Henderson and 3 or 4 Traditional Jazz titles from the 20s and 30s too ?
Plus Kenny Burrell “Midnight Blue” and a Django / Grapelli ..
March 28, 2015 at 8:46 pm
Nine better albums than “Blue Train”? I don’t think so.
April 20, 2015 at 6:09 am
Call me crazy but…for the best selling jazz record of all time…I think it is also the most overrated. As for Monk..Monks Dream is a top 5 for me. Also..no Bill Evans portrait in jazz? Finally…if you are including fusion here. ..hate to say it but I’d put Steely Dan Aja over Weather Report. But this list is a great resource so thank you 🙂 Back to Miles though..I truly think Kind of Blue is overrated. I’d rather put on Four and More or even Nefertiti
May 4, 2015 at 3:46 pm
Always love the conversations started by GOAT Jazz lists. Capping the list at 50 forces a fun debate of what’s the best music of the last 100 years. There are certainly 50 best for each decade or sub-genre, style, composer, voice, instrument and geographic region (USA and World-Wide). And, certainly older pieces carry more weight because of their influence on everything that followed. Kudos for re-launching this Dec/2014 post and the debate on the heels of #JazzAppreciationMonth, #InternationalJazzDay and #BillieHoliday100. We’ll be celebrating Ella’s centennial in April of 2017. Thx to Kevin Amphan for creating the Spotify playlist http://open.spotify.com/user/pollysnack/playlist/5fOw8V2UL19QPEZwgiA6T2. Check out YouTube.com/jediknightrider for the 50 best playlists of Jazz on YouTube. Lots of film and video of these and many other GOAT jazz artists.
May 4, 2015 at 4:07 pm
Ramsey Lewis would definitely be som””ewhere on my top 50 along with Chris Botti and Paul Hardcastle. I also would find a place for “The Guitar of John Gray – The New Wave” which is my all time favorite jazz album.
May 4, 2015 at 4:19 pm
No Miles Silent Way, No Trane at the Vanguard, No Trane at Birdland, No Wes Bumpin’, No Monk and Trane at the 5 Spot, and especially you can’t put Pharoah Sanders Karma in the Top 50???….
Brubeck Time out at #3, you kidding? Ornette Coleman at #5??
Basie only makes #43, hello… and no Basie and Sinatra Live at the Sands????
Who puts these lists together, sometimes I think they just re-hash old lists and maybe haven’t even listened to these albums… but if it generates interest in jazz I guess that’s what counts.
May 4, 2015 at 6:32 pm
Sketches of Spain and Any Miles Davis and Gil Evans collaboration should be there. Great choices anyway.
May 4, 2015 at 6:45 pm
I don’t like that John Coltrane’s gorgeous Crescent isn’t present. I feel that it gets overlooked, being sandwiched between Live at Birdland and A Love Supreme, the latter of which I also believes deserves to top this list over Kind of Blue. I also believe that Jackie McLean’s Let Freedom Ring deserves to be here, as does Larry Young’s Unity. If A Love Supreme and Kind of Blue were switched, I would have no problems with this list’s top ten.
May 4, 2015 at 8:27 pm
Time Out, because it helped bring jazz to the non-jazzers.
May 4, 2015 at 9:51 pm
Funny, I do have about 75% of the Albums listed. Just wondering: Don Cherry – Brown Rice, Miles – In a silent way, Return to Forever – Light as a Feather…. Sarah Vaughan … NHOP …. Jaco Pastorius…. Just saying
May 4, 2015 at 11:48 pm
Love Supreme I think – possibly the greatest recording of the 20th Century in any genre ! How’s that Guys. Time Out is a dreadful supper-club bowdlerisation as is Gilberto/Getz – pales in comparison to Roots Bossa.
James P. Drinkard
May 5, 2015 at 2:15 am
The Greatest Jazz Group of this Generation…or any generation…was left off the top 50 Jazz Albums of all time……The Pat Metheny Group…..this list is rather skewed as many of the greatest jazz groups had multiple great albums…such as The Pat Metheny Group…not to mention that The Pat Metheny Group is the only musical group in history to have a record …7 consecutive albums as Grammy Winners…The PMG had wonderful albums such as…”First Circle”…”Still Life Talking”…”Letter form Home”…”American Garage”…and “The Group”…were all Grammy winners…so in all honesty…this list of the Top 50 Jazz Albums of all time, couldn’t be farther from the truth…..Respectfully…..James P. Drinkard
May 26, 2015 at 11:17 am
This is a list of JAZZ albums, not easy listening.
May 5, 2015 at 6:51 am
It all depends on how you define ‘Greatest jazz album’. Is it by historical importance, best performance, best compositions, best improvisor, etc.
You could argue that one of the greatest improvisors and most important figures in the history of jazz ever, Charlie Parker, only comes on #20, is a bit strange – but again it depends on the definitions. If the focus is on ‘albums’, then maybe it makes a little sense, since Parker’s greatness isn’t captured by one specific album. He was all over the place. I though have a few candidates: Live at Birdland 1950, Rockland Palace concert, One night in Washington, Bird at St. Nicks. The problem with many of these albums is of course the very poor sound quality. But the artistic quality is unsurpassed.
May 5, 2015 at 11:43 am
A good list with many outstanding classic albums BUT guitar players seriously under-represented!
No Joe Pass (Virtuoso), no Jim Hall (Concierto), no Kenny Burrel (Midnight Blue) and astonishingly, no Django Reinhardt (so much to choose from but my choice would be Peche a la Bouche)
Like I say a good list but changes need to be made!
May 5, 2015 at 2:19 pm
What!!! No Kenny G?
May 5, 2015 at 10:47 pm
No Sonny Clark???? “Cool Struttin'” and “Leapin’ and Lopin'” are classics.
May 20, 2015 at 4:34 pm
I’ve always much preferred Bremen-Lausanne to Koln Concert for a choice of a Keith Jarrett best album. Even Facing You comes before Koln IMHO.
June 1, 2015 at 12:03 am
I really like Abour Zenia
May 23, 2015 at 10:29 pm
Please add from Lennie Tristano, Warne Marsh and Lee Knitz.
And of course Lester Yoiung!
May 24, 2015 at 10:31 pm
Thelonious Monk does not show up until number 26? Genius of Modern Music should be placed at number 6 then just back up the list from there. Great selection otherwise. Perhaps too early to tell about music out of England/Europe by: Evan Parker, Peter Brotzmann, Derek Bailey and their collaborators. Ten years from now their work may be re-considered.
May 25, 2015 at 8:52 pm
Great list! But where is Bix Beiderbecke?
May 31, 2015 at 4:14 pm
To do jazz justice you should compile a list of 50 greatest albums by instrument , there are glaring omissions here.I would suggest doing it to show evolutions from beginning to present day,and yes include big bands,and vocalists.
This being said ,no list is going to please everyone but my suggestion might be an interesting way to please most people.
May 31, 2015 at 5:00 pm
A daunting task . . . well done, however nothing from the ‘Quintette du Hot Club de France’ is a glaring omission
May 31, 2015 at 5:09 pm
A jazz list without Stan Kenton???
May 31, 2015 at 5:50 pm
The Inner Mounting Flame needs to be moved up AT LEAST 30 spots.
May 31, 2015 at 6:07 pm
I think it’s a good list to start with but maybe extend to 100 or 200 great albums because of all the new artist that have contributed to some great jazz.
May 31, 2015 at 6:32 pm
I don’t see the “Jazz” Crusaders on that list. While those on the list are great, The Crusaders have always been and always will be #1 on my list.
May 31, 2015 at 10:15 pm
For me, my first LP in 1956, Miles Great Quintet, Round Midnight, John G. Red G. Paul C. And Philly J.Jones. I was 13.yrs at that time.
Olsen, Jan G
May 31, 2015 at 10:41 pm
Jazz Albums! I must say , hell what y want? TRad? Swing? Bop? West Coast? (So callled cool) or any kind later? (Than 1960’s)) it’s immposs to say!!! But of course, we have all, our favorites, Mine, I must say, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, and A hell of others Great musicans!
May 31, 2015 at 11:26 pm
It seems that only in the USA are outstanding jazz-performances! But I can garantee you that in Europe the most beautiful music has been made that never reached the shores of America. In The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Poland etc….. Just check You Tube so you can blow your mind!!
June 1, 2015 at 12:00 am
The following are influenced by thrills only as imagined by the author, and it has no significant whatsoever to the work of the artists
50. Because the only advice I ever sought was from this MONK.
49. No matter how many times I COUNT, I it always equal to BASIE
48. This is the only Bud that’s truly amazing.
47. Weather Report! When they say there’s going to be sunshine, you better believe it.
46. The day Saint JOHN meets the MONK, at Carnegie Hall, all in attendance were truly sanctified.
45. I trade in all my SILVER possession just to see HORACE perform
44. I even receive a GRANT in form of GREEN for my Idle Moments
43. I COUNT the Complete Atomic BASIE everything became clear.
42. I stop at the soul station just to see Hank Mobley
41. I was looking for a CHRISTIAN who’s the genius of the Electric Guitar, instead I found CHARLIE
40. A good ART Rhythm Section, could use a little PEPPER
39. I went to St. JOHN station to catch the COLTRANE, it’s got everyone’s Favorite Things
38. Ladies, if GOODMAN is hard to find, you never meet BENNY.
37. I traveled to the Far East of MONTGOMERY, just to see WES
36. Our inner Mountain flame was rekindled by way of Mahavishnu Orchestra with John McLaughlin
35. In the matter of Clifford Brown & Max Roach, the public finds in favor of Max Roach & Clifford Brown
34. On the top of the Hill is the Point of Departure for Andrew.
33. Here comes the Head Hunter Herbie Hancock
32. Dexter Gordon – Go Dexter Go
31. Whenever I listen to Sarah, I have Vaughan
30. The people were thrill at Massey Hall when we see the Quintet.
29. I knew that a Waltz for Debby could be great if played by Bill Evans Trio
28. The Sidewinder is even better by LEE MORGAN
27. Bill Evans – Sunday school professor at the village Vanguard.
26. MONK is Brilliant at every Corner
25. Believe it or not, you’ll be cornered at Koln with Keith Jarrett performance.
24. John Coltrane made the Giant Steps, before Giant Steps were made.
23. Voyage with Herbie Hancock was made smoothly.
22. The only Duke that matters to me is– Ellington
21. All Structures designed by Cecil Taylor are well reinforced.
20. A Bird Called Parker can truly FLY like CHARLIE.
19. We all know that Mr. Davis have traveled several MILES, to see the birth of Cool
18. Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers – they Moan because they get the job done.
17. Albert said to Ayler , no unity is better that Spiritual Unity
16. Eric Dolphy possesses the best Table manner; see him– Out to Lunch
15. To Abstract the Truth, you must apply the law of Oliver Nelson
14. Erroll Garner holds the Tide at one of his Concert by the Sea
13. If you are to Speak No Evil, Trust me, a SHORTER note is WAYNE better.
12. Getz/Gilberto, the defenders of the Jazz Realm.
11. It is always a pleasant day when Mr. Louis Armstrong came to my Town.
10. John Coltrane – Inside this Train, there’s a lady called A Love Supreme.
9. I tasted Miles Davis Bitches Brew before, it was great.
8. Folks! You have to Roll with this Sonny, you’ll see my point of view.
7. Cannonball Adderley is truly Somethin’ Else
6. If I traveled far, I always find time to MINGUS with the Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, I knew could find Charles somewhere around.
5. When Ornette told Mr. Coleman about the Shape of Jazz to come, he meant business.
4. I know I will Mingus with Charles again, when I do, I’ll tell him to play “Ah Um”
3. It was in wonderful Copenhagen when Mr. Brubeck gave no Time Out, and the audience loves it.
2. Only a Supreme Being named John Coltrane could treat us to A Love Supreme, A Love Supreme, A Love Supreme, A Love Supreme, A Love Supreme.
1. Here you have it, Mr. DAVIS have traveled several MILES, yet, here we are still felling – KIND OF BLUE
June 5, 2015 at 12:09 am
Moses, that’s a great analytic presentation in a very witty and entertaining fashion. I’m surprised the list didn’t include any of Grover Washington’s albums. Personally, I’ll rather list greatest songs by the great “jazzistts” rather than categorizing albums. Thanks
John A Lewis
June 1, 2015 at 12:27 am
Chick Corea’s “Inner Space” should be somewhere on the list.
June 1, 2015 at 1:42 am
Miles Davis Sketches of Spain should be there.
June 1, 2015 at 2:15 am
How about the Sachal Jazz Ensemble? Not sure how well known they are Stateside – they arose from the Lahore-based film industry, a group of veteran musicians who had fallen foul of conservative anti-western sentiments, interpreting western jazz standards. But they are so much more than that. Check out their eponymous debut album (2011). Brubeck rated their interpretation of “Take Five” as the best cover he had heard….”Jazz and All That” (2013) follows up their debut with more standards. They have been compared to the Buena Vista Social Club – that rare and welcome push to re-evaluate a genre and (in this case) to revisit some favourite jazz standards as well as listen to fresh material from an unlikely and unexpected source. Try them.
Wayde Powell, III
June 1, 2015 at 4:49 am
The Joe Pass “Virtuoso” albums?
October 7, 2015 at 7:38 pm
June 1, 2015 at 9:22 am
you’re missing some good Wes Montgomery albums Dexter Gordon one flight up I believe Charles Mingus both albums are overrated good this is your list
June 1, 2015 at 12:20 pm
There is always some crazy nutter adding all the albums to a spotify-list with other great jazz-albums. Happens to be me, this time: https://open.spotify.com/user/sweetcharlie/playlist/0eCji3Yc8H6WNjC9iOABuH
Have fun 😉
June 1, 2015 at 2:53 pm
I guess the most important person in Jazz is Louis Armstrong, because he had the most influence and made jazz as popular as it is(unfortunetly was!).
So where are all the great recordings? My Favorite is Ella & Louis! Louis plays W.C. Hardy,…
Django would be great to! He is the only european artist, who belongs to top 50 of Jazz!
I guess not every album here is a big “gamechanger”
June 1, 2015 at 2:57 pm
Que hay de Chick Corea?.No dudo que los discos que figuran en la lista lo merezcan,pero no incluir en ella al musico más importante del jazz contenporáneo me hace dudar de los criterios que se han seguido para confeccionar dicha lista
June 1, 2015 at 4:37 pm
Nice effort, but why is there no Freddy Hubbard or Donald Byrd on it. In mho great influential artists….. to name a few….
June 1, 2015 at 6:58 pm
Horace Silver’s “Cape Verdean Blues” with JJ Johnson sitting in on trombone deserves a Top 50, and probably a Top 10. Its a perfect record. The Song for My Father title track dominates that album, but Cape Verdean is a 45 minute masterpiece. Please try it all.
Kostas Kritikos (Sparta, Greece)
June 1, 2015 at 7:16 pm
Monk’s Dream ?
June 1, 2015 at 10:31 pm
No Gerry Mulligan? No Modern Jazz Quartet? Glad to see Erroll Garner and Stan Getz for sure. But if you are going to include Miles, especially Birth of the Cool, then it is silly to leave out John Lewis or Mulligan, who were there from the start.
June 2, 2015 at 2:54 am
my top 5:
1. Miles Davis: Kind of Blue
2.Bird and Diz: Last recording on verve
3. Duke Ellington – Hot Summer Dance
4. Dave Brubeck: Take Five
5. Billie Holiday : Stange Fruit
June 2, 2015 at 4:53 pm
I tam afraid you forgot to put the Verve record “Back to Back”,
with Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges on number one!
June 3, 2015 at 4:42 pm
Good list, thank you, For me I miss Carla Bley: Escalator over the hill and Tropic apetites and Chet Baker Let’sLet’s get lost
July 18, 2015 at 12:44 am
How can you not have a single album of Sun-Ra’s on the list? Like. “Space is thePlace”.
July 26, 2015 at 2:46 am
Thank you for this list. I’ve discovered so many great albums since I discovered this list about six months ago. My jazz collection of records went from ten to one hundred. I have about 70% of this list so far.
August 5, 2015 at 7:49 am
Of course it is just silly: nothing by David Murray! Ming’s Samba and/or Ballads for Bass Clarinet should be on there. At Newport is not Duke’s best work, nor is Getz/Gilberto Stan’s. The Webster/Blanton Sessions and Anniversary are far superior. On the other hand, if it promotes interest in the music, all well and good.
August 5, 2015 at 8:20 am
I would have included Mingus’ New Tijuana Moods, Armstrong’s Plays WC Handy, perhaps an Abdullah Ibrahim album (Voices of Africa?). There are one or two other superb Monk albums not listed here. Duke Ellington has been mentioned in many comments, and I agree. I’d also consider one or two of his later albums in there, despite critics always focusing on the Blanton/Webster era. New Orleans Suite and the Far East Suite would both deserve a place. I think Blue Trane is overrated and I find much of Weather Report difficult to swallow (particularly in terms of the smooth production. Art Tatum should be there, more Rollins too…
August 5, 2015 at 8:22 am
Like ’em all, but about a thousand more just as much. But what about Roland Kirk with ‘Blackness’, and Errol Garner on harpsichord in ‘Paris Impressions’? So many……
August 5, 2015 at 11:29 am
No Jimmy Scott – The Source ?
August 5, 2015 at 3:04 pm
I want to take a deeper look but I would have to add” Return to Forever” and “Heavy Weather”. I’m really a hard bop guy so there are a number of albums from that genre that would be on my list but I love” World Saxophone Quarter Plays Duke Ellington”
August 5, 2015 at 11:26 pm
What about Steamin’, Workin’, Cookin’ Relaxin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet? Maybe I missed it but at least one of them should be on here?
August 6, 2015 at 7:12 am
What about Jazz at The Phil?
Larry D. Scott
August 24, 2015 at 3:18 pm
This is a great list. I’ll use it to listen to some tunes that maybe I have not discovered. I suggest it to individual new to the jazz world that I’m trying to make fans. The important thing to remember is that it is just a opinion, and not a shot at your favorite record. There are something on here I like better or worst, but I don’t take it personal if this list thinks a little differently. I don’t I think I see “Song For My Father” or “Clifford Brown and Max Roach” or on the list, but I love both records with “Delilah” being in the running for my favorite tune of all times. I bet the author even had second thought after publishing the list.
PS a tune being popular is not a bad thing.
August 30, 2015 at 5:10 pm
It’s on the list
August 30, 2015 at 5:14 pm
Ahmad Jamal: Live at the Pershing…But Not For Me
Stayed at the top of the charts for a long time.
September 9, 2015 at 2:11 am
Lots of great stuff mentioned, both on and off the list. But I didn’t see any mention of Jaco’s “Word of Mouth”. It’s got that beautiful version of “Three Views of Secret” with Toots Thielemans’s soulful harmonica lead. A few others I like (that I didn’t see mentioned)… John Mclaughlin “Extrapolation”, Eberhard Weber “Yellow Fields”, Michael Brecker “Tales From the Hudson”, Frank Zappa “Hot Rats”, Roland Kirk “Domino”.
September 11, 2015 at 7:19 pm
sonny clark cool struttin?????
September 11, 2015 at 9:08 pm
Mon avis c’ est que quelques un ne devraient pas figurer dans cette liste pour laisser la place aux manquants qui devraient y être. Faire une liste des 100 meilleurs albums serait plus juste et permettrais peut être d’ en oublier moins.
September 11, 2015 at 9:41 pm
Nice try, but no cigar. Any such list that leaves out albums by Ella, Dizzy, “Lady Day”, Count Basie, Lester Young, Artie Shaw, Coleman Hawkins, Jimmy Smith, Art Tatum (among others), and includes the albums numbered 15, 16, 17, 21, 28, 34, & 36 (among others) is simply not properly constituted.
September 11, 2015 at 9:52 pm
Herbie Hancock – Man Child?
Jan Garbarek – Twelve Moons?
September 11, 2015 at 10:04 pm
Ellington’ s Blanton Webster sessions !!!!
September 12, 2015 at 1:06 am
Excellent list, don’t agree with them all. But as my old Grandpappy used to say ” One man’s meat is another man’s poison “
September 12, 2015 at 9:43 am
Great list. Thank you. I’m a huge Miles Davis fan. I even named one of my rescue dogs after him. Best dog ever. Yet Bitches Brew is the worst album that Miles ever put out. How can anyone enjoy listening to musicians play when the musicians weren’t listening to the other players? Self indulgent BS. And I love Miles.
I would rather see one of Trains blues records on the list. ‘Coltrain Plays the Blues’ or ‘Blue Train’ Now that’s some heavy shit.
September 12, 2015 at 9:57 am
you forgot Dave Pike
September 12, 2015 at 2:11 pm
la blague du siècle, révisez vos classiques.
September 12, 2015 at 2:39 pm
I see that once again, vocal jazz is the step child.
September 12, 2015 at 8:01 pm
One woman on the list. Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Billie Holiday, all not as good as some of the music you post here. My dad grew up in the South, used to sneak into all-black venues to hear the early jazz artists. He would shake his head at your list. Some of it wouldn’t even count as jazz in his book. But you don’t care. I’d love to know who your jury was. I’d love to introduce your jury to all of the extraordinary female jazz artists you didn’t see fit to include.
September 12, 2015 at 10:14 pm
There were THREE great jazz albums released in 1959; Brubeck’s “Time Out,” Davis’s “Kind of Blue,” and Gerry Mulligan’s “What is There to Say?”, which was released before the other two and I believe is the #1 jazz album of all time.
September 30, 2018 at 11:03 pm
You forgot Ornette Coleman’s “The Shape of Jazz to Come” And Mingus’ “Mingus Ah Um”.
They were also released in 1959 and are in the Top 5 according to this list.
September 13, 2015 at 12:14 am
Brubeck is number 3, and Charlie Parker number 20. Right.
September 13, 2015 at 7:17 pm
As mentioned, Joe Henderson is missing as a leader. Looking for classic tunes, LP “Power To The People”, including the great classic piece “Black Narcissus” should be somewhere in the list. Also I would include somewhere Yusef Lateef “Eastern Sounds”. The Mahavishnu Orchestra’s “Inner Mounting Flame” could be safely removed from that list, even if I really like that album.
September 15, 2015 at 7:14 am
Where’s Kenny G?
October 7, 2015 at 10:45 am
Thelonious monk – Monk”s dream
October 7, 2015 at 12:07 pm
“Back to back” by Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges AGAIN!
October 7, 2015 at 3:01 pm
that’s ever the same list. Are there no new Records? Concert by the Sea is not Garners best. And Hutcherson is great with barron In The Vanguard. No Phineas Newborn here.
October 7, 2015 at 3:32 pm
Great list. Kind Of Blue is unarguably #1. The rest of the top 10 you could put in any order.
October 7, 2015 at 3:37 pm
Concert By the Sea is great, but also One World Concert and At the Piano are superb. And where’s Ella?
October 7, 2015 at 5:12 pm
I would not include reissue compliations in the list. I would stick with original issues. And as Waltz for Debbie is an original issue taken from the Sunday at Village Vanguard sessions why list both?
October 7, 2015 at 5:48 pm
Thanks for this list and all the others.
Suggestion: Compile a list of the greatest jazz albums of all times by relatively unknown artists. I am a senior, and compile bibliography as a avocation. I and can testify that for a number of reasons (not the least of which are man’s pride and ambition, and crass commercialism) some of the greatest literature in the world has been repressed and suppressed. And so it is with jazz. Have been a jazz buff all of my life. Many great players do not chose a public life on the road.
Such a list would take years to compile, and would take the combined efforts of many jazz buffs, but could be extraordinary, and a great gift to prosperity.
October 7, 2015 at 5:55 pm
What a nice post…..it did what you wanted, generate a great set of comments! While I am familiar with many on this list, I cannot honestly say I have listened to them all nor can I respond to many of the comments above this.
I would suggest two other albums for consideration. The first would be Dizzy’s own last International UN band recorded live at the Royal Hall in London. I can honestly say that was the single most talented band I have ever seen put together. Having seen them live in Rotterdam and then purchasing the recording, it is in my personal top 10. A entire band of great band leaders! Amazing.
Second is Offbeat of the Avenues by Manhatten Transfer. There are a few incredible cuts on that album that still blow me away after all this time. I consider that album full blown jazz as opposed to a popular label. Several of the arrangements are truly magnificent.
October 7, 2015 at 6:05 pm
Where is Teddy Wilson?!? 🙁
October 7, 2015 at 6:37 pm
TAKE FIVE, TIME OUT, TIME FURTHER OUT — BRUBECK
RAY CHARLES — IN PERSON, GENIUS PLUS SOUL EQUALS JAZZ, ANY CHARLIE PARKER
October 7, 2015 at 7:33 pm
So so many But Chick Corea – Tap Step gets me in the creative train of thought
October 7, 2015 at 8:42 pm
Indeed a terrific bunch of music, perhaps academic. Would like a list of peoples’ DIDs, perhaps stopping at 1,000.
October 7, 2015 at 9:02 pm
Hendricks-Lambert – Ross?
October 7, 2015 at 9:16 pm
jOHN hANDY LIVE AT mONTEREY Mose Allison Sings Donald Byrd and Voices A New Perspective Blossom Dearie anything Dakota Stato The Late Late Show June Christy Something Cool Pharoah Sanders Karma Mc Coy Tyner Atlantis just off the top of my head
October 7, 2015 at 10:46 pm
a nice list, BUT really focused on the 1950s thru 1970s – and lots of omissions even from that period (no Sun Ra, the Blakey band that had Shorter and Hubbard and Cedar Walton in it,
the ‘tropical’ Duke) – and then the 1920s and 1930s AND 1980s to now are almost completely absent (Terence Blanchard for starters and the other Crescent City folk, none of Duke’s greatest works) — maybe ‘OUR FAVORITE 50″ would be a better title for this list!
October 7, 2015 at 11:37 pm
Ni pour ni contre , juste savoir comment avez-vous procédé pour le choix sur plus d’un siècle d’enregistrement . Des outils sérieux existent : “JAZZ” d’André Francis (Solfèges_Editions du Seuil) , “Le Grand Livre Du Jazz” de Joachim Ernst Berendt , qui permettent de procéder par éliminations successives ; perso , j’ai du mal à accepter l’absence de Kenny Burrell “A Night at The Vanguard” et de Jimmy Smith “T
October 8, 2015 at 1:11 am
This list is not nearly as bad as some of the other lists of its kind floating around the internet, but some items should be disqualified because they were not conceived and/or recorded as “albums.” If you take the term album in its strictest sense, that would disqualify everything made before roughly 1948. So the Hot Fives and Sevens, which were never thought of as a unit, should be disqualified.
October 8, 2015 at 4:20 am
No Freddie Hubbard? Bogus list.
October 8, 2015 at 5:18 am
Betty Carter with Ray Charles, Return to Forever, Jaco, Guaraldi, Deodato, Joe Williams, Joni Mitchell “Mingus”, George Benson, Al Jarreau, Stephane Grapelli, Jean Luc Ponty, so many to list!!
October 8, 2015 at 10:26 am
This list is good, everyone is here to give us good muziq.
October 8, 2015 at 3:25 pm
Not one Modern Jazz Quartet album?
Lee V Wright
October 8, 2015 at 4:51 pm
Love the selected Artists Like the (+) 50 others. Insatiable ME.
I am a Miles man, but with miles to spare…….74yrs with young ears
for whispered memories, and today’s skilled mavericks
October 9, 2015 at 1:42 am
Too silly for words. Only Ellington is “Ellington at Newport”. No albums/box sets of Jelly Roll Morton,Bix,early Ellington,Ftas Waller, Sidney Bechet. Define what you mean by a jazz album.You include Basie/ Goodman /Christian historical compilations, why not these?
October 9, 2015 at 3:55 am
And Dizzy Gillespie?
October 28, 2015 at 4:25 pm
This listing is 100% BETTER than the 50 Greatest Drummers…
I will only add this, ‘Ahmad Jamal at The Pershing Hotel’, somewhere in the top 10 selections.
The rest of the listing 11-50, I would only change the order and add or subtract JUST A FEW,
to put my personal spin on this devils Island cast away listing or what LP’s would accompany me on a trip to Mars.
Support The Music
November 8, 2015 at 3:54 am
November 13, 2015 at 6:10 pm
Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington
November 22, 2015 at 8:36 pm
Jazz is so hard to pick the best it’s individual that’s why we like it blue note top 50 would be hard but kind of blue yes it’s the real jazz album that got a lot of us interested
December 13, 2015 at 6:12 am
Gosh, to even attempt a list like this. I love seeing this type of stuff because it invariably requires a lot of effort by the author, it will literally completely please no one, yet it always calls out one or two albums that probably deserve more attention. Sometimes just throwing a list out there to get the discussion going is just as helpful as actually making the list. I’ll say that its great but curious to see Andrew Hill at all and and Cecil Taylor’s Unit Structures, love that Art Pepper made an appearance, and overall I’m happy that the author seemed to challenge those out there who might use this as a shopping list because while some of the top spots are occupied by accessible albums, there are many others that require quite a bit of the listener.
January 1, 2016 at 10:42 pm
No Freddie Hubbard on this list? …. haha … you just made an entry to the “The top 50 funniest lists”!
January 7, 2016 at 1:20 am
Greatest lists are always fun and thought provoking. Consider the following:
Changeless – Keith Jarrett
Very Tall – Oscar Peterson with Milt Jackson
Romantic Warrior – Return to Forever
Sweetnighter – Weather Report
Live at the Chez – Buddy Rich
Giant Steps – Trane
Two rarely mentioned Miles albums – Friday Night and Saturday Night Live at the Blackhawk
January 27, 2016 at 12:31 pm
At 15 years old I started listening to Jazz Music in my bedroom, my Dad heard the music and stopped and asked me “You like this Music?”, I replied, YES, it’s something about it Daddy that resonants with my Soul.” I’m 55 yrs old now, and I still listen to Jazz, I am NOT a historian, but I did start a FB page The Jazz Preservation Society, it s not political but my intentions are to create a space where Young people and all Lovers of Jazz can listen and learn about Jazz. BTW, there is a 12 year old up for Two Grammy Nominations, just maybe he heard Jazz like me. You clearly state in your 1st paragraph you will attempt to create a list. LOL OK, so I have my work cut out for me, all the people that said you left off this artist or that artist, it’s more cool information for me to check out. Thank you for a great source for me that continues the conversation.
May 14, 2016 at 6:46 am
My personal nr 1 is Miles Davis Nonet recordings (later called Birth of the Cool). But i Miss Nefertiti, i think is the best of his quintet albums (whatever quintet he played in). Also miss Lady day,George Russell and Peter Brotzmann. And of course newer stuff. But 50 records are only 50 records.
June 29, 2016 at 1:54 pm
What a great comments section. I will be able to spend the rest of the year listening to some of your recommendations. Some of my personal favourites are;
Mingus – The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, Mingus at Antibes
Max Roach – Freedom Now Suite
Miles – Sketches of Spain
Donald Byrd – Slow Drag
Basie – Complete Atomic Basie
This here is Bobby Timmons
Dolphy – Out to Lunch
July 15, 2016 at 6:56 pm
There was a fellow called Jelly Roll Morton that made some pretty significant recordings. And of course Bechet. A little Sam Rivers wouldn’t hurt.
August 29, 2016 at 3:20 pm
At best, a good “starter kit” for someone who wishes to begin listening to jazz. And it shows: there are 3 Coltrane albums on a 50 record list…
August 29, 2016 at 4:56 pm
So many jazz aficionados, so many different lists of “50 Great Jazz Albums”…. In my opinion the one above is pretty narrow-minded, sticking just to 50s-60s-70s stuff. I think publishing such “lists” is a bunch of bunk and not worth effort!
August 29, 2016 at 6:20 pm
If I put out a list and said blue was the best color, I’d get 10,000 comment indicating a different color. It is a preference list and indicates only one person’s preferences. Make your own list and publish it here. No matter who you list in the top 50, you’ll get 10,000 comments questioning your suggestions. Myself, I couldn’t and wouldn’t attempt to list my 50 favorites because I have about 300 favorites.
August 29, 2016 at 11:55 pm
But wise to leave Nigel Farage and His Tradmen off the list.
August 30, 2016 at 3:25 am
I’ve got a fever and the only thing that will cure it is more Chet
August 30, 2016 at 5:46 pm
Pretty standard down the middle sort of list, no Herbie Nichols, no Sam Rivers, no Joe Henderson…
August 30, 2016 at 7:40 pm
Where is Astighmatic?????????????????????
August 30, 2016 at 11:43 pm
August 30, 2016 at 11:05 pm
Great list. Need some Mulligan on it.
August 30, 2016 at 11:39 pm
While _Ellington at Newport_ is a fine document, if we’re only taking one Ellington, it really needs to be a collection from the Blanton-Webster years, no?
August 30, 2016 at 11:55 pm
Romantic Warrior for sure Chic, Stanley and the gang!! Please dont leave them out!!
August 31, 2016 at 1:14 am
These lists are always subjective and reflect the personal taste of compiler. On that note, if I had compiled this list, it would include some Gerry Mulligan.
August 31, 2016 at 2:09 am
Nuits de la Foundation Maeght.;Its After the End of the World;Nothing Is
Don Cherry Eternal Rhythm
Carla Bley Escalator Over The Hill
Alan Silva Seasons;Treasure Box
Gunter Hampel The 8th of July, 1969
The Art Ensemble of Chicago Baptizum
August 31, 2016 at 2:56 am
August 31, 2016 at 2:21 am
Ehh. IMO there are thousands of albums with music just as “great” as on these.
August 31, 2016 at 3:02 am
Dave Holland – Conference of the Birds
Abdullah Ibrahim – Ekaya
Art Esemble of Chicago – People in Sorrow
Albert Ayer – Village Vanguard Recordings
Pharoah Sanders – Summon Buckmun Umyun
August 31, 2016 at 9:25 am
45 out of 50 are in my collection… 🙂
September 1, 2016 at 12:28 am
No Grover Washington Jr? Especially Inner City Blues? I am disappointed with the list overall…:(
September 7, 2016 at 1:53 pm
If the name Jimmy Smith is not there,that means some thing is missing there or it is not enough.
Please think about it Sir
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December 20, 2016 at 10:18 pm
Kind of Blue at #1 is correct, but the runner up spot should definetely go to Time Out.
January 2, 2017 at 2:54 am
There are sooooo many great jazz albums I can think of, and some are on this list. But the #1 jazz album that stands heads above the rest in my opinion is not even listed here…. Miles Davis, MILESTONES!
March 26, 2017 at 6:45 pm
Je suis d’accord.
michael j silverstein
May 10, 2017 at 12:51 am
I JUST LOOKED QUICKLY, WHERE IS GERRY MULLIGAN?
August 14, 2017 at 1:34 pm
“Two of a kind” Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond
July 11, 2017 at 7:00 pm
This is one of the greatest albums in modern jazz: http://www.allmusic.com/album/what-we-leave-behind-mw0002977654
August 14, 2017 at 3:29 pm
Are Roy Elridge an Dizzy G. forgotten? And Sinatra – listen to him as if he were a sax! Billie H. Ella. Bessi S. Sara V.
August 15, 2017 at 1:34 am
Bobby Hutcherson, McCoy Tyner, Ella, Duke’s Blanton-Webster Band, Miles Davis’ Milestones, Jimmie Lunceford, Sara Vaughan with the Count Basle Orchestra, Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt and Stefan Grappelli, soundtrack to ‘Round Midnight, Miles Davis’ second quintet, Billie Holiday, Benny Carter’s Further Definitions should all be on the list.
August 15, 2017 at 4:46 am
Forgot Joe Pass Virtuoso
August 15, 2017 at 9:35 am
YEAY!!! I’ve got about 30 of the listed Albums on CD and Vinyl (Some of them in Both formats!)
I miss Michel Legrand’s “LeGrand JAZZ: Michel Legrand Dirige Les Géants Du Jazz American”. A Superb Album with a Truly Magnificent All Star ensemble with a Remarkable number of The Greatest Jazz Performers of All time, as we know Today.
Miles, Coltrane, Ben Webster, Paul Chambers, Bill Evans, Donald Byrd, Don Lamond, Osie Johnson just to name A FEW!!
Le Grand’s Arrangements are truly Beautiful and Original, and the Album really should have been on the List!
August 15, 2017 at 2:29 pm
How can you have a list of great jazz recordings, and not have “April In Paris – Count Basie” on it
August 17, 2017 at 9:56 pm
“Chet Baker – Live in Tokyo” should be in Topten
February 2, 2018 at 1:51 am
I Guess No Maynard No Blue Mitchell No Shelly Manne No Hubert No Turrentine No Chet?.No Woody Shaw And The List Goes On…Is Freddie on The List???I..Is A Popularity Contest Based On Sales..My Funny Valentine Live At Lincoln Center By Miles in 1964 Is My Favorite.
September 29, 2018 at 1:12 am
Where is Billie? What about pre-1950 jazz? Is Armstrong really the only early recording that makes the list? Time to broaden your listening horizons folks.
September 30, 2018 at 10:59 pm
Nat King Cole only played swing? If you were to tell that to Oscar Peterson & Ray Charles because they would set you straight were they alive.
September 30, 2018 at 11:04 pm
4 out of the top 5 in this list were released in 1959.
September 30, 2018 at 11:06 pm
Pink Martini? At best a Tribute Band
Lars Erik Jansson
November 10, 2018 at 2:52 am
Good listing, but yuo forgot Clark Terry, his albums are GREAT!
April 21, 2019 at 7:40 pm
Too many free jazz and avantgarde to my taste. Missing Tete Montoliu as a one of the top pianists.
April 30, 2019 at 4:50 am
‘Some deemed Duke Ellington to be well past his sell by date when he appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival alongside many of the jazz world’s modernists in 1956. With an incendiary and inspiring performance that wowed the Newport audience, however, Ellington and his band demonstrated that they could still deliver the goods while asserting that big bands still had a place in jazz.’
Yet despite this, none of his earlier recordings make the list?!!
May 19, 2019 at 5:32 pm
Only a fool or a brave man would undertake to compile such a list, so I won’t dispute the picks, except to question that Charlie Parker doesn’t appear until number 20???…. Hmmmm….
July 16, 2019 at 12:22 am
The incomparable Blue Hour by Stanley Turrentine and the Three Sounds should definitely be on here. What about John Klemmer?
Richard W. Cutler
December 3, 2019 at 5:43 pm
The ignorance expressed on this list is representative of our time. The Louis Armstrong Hot 5 and Hot Sen discs are Number 1. The Lester Young-Count Basie discs (on Mosaic) are Number 2. Bird’s complete Savoy recordings are Number 3. The Duke Ellington discs of the Blanton-Webster Band are Number 4. Either of Monk’s big band concert albums or Monk Alone in San Francisco is Number 5. Coltrane’s Giant Steps and My Favorite Things are tied for Number 6. Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants is Number 7. The MJQ’s European Concert is Number 8.
I could go on, but this guy obviously doesn’t know Coleman Hawkins, Pee Wee Russell or anyone before 1945. What a ton of wasted effort on this inadequate list.
May 10, 2020 at 2:13 am
Thre’s nothing wrong with this list All of these are classic albums. The exact order is not so important. But what gets me about top jazz lists is that almost always the majority of the albums are more than 50 years old. There are only two, I believe that are a little newer, Heavy Weather – 1977 and Koln Concert – 1975.
Nevertheless, there are a whole lot of great jazz albums recorded in the past 50 years. I own 4,500 of them! A few of the greats include:
Soft Machine – Fourth.
Tanjah and Spirit of our Ancestors – Randy Weston.
Afro-Eurasian Eclipse – Duke Ellington.
Timeless – John Abercrombie.
New Directions – Jack DeJohnette.
Lenox Avenue Breakdown – Arthur Blythe.
Magico and Folk Songs – Charlie Haden and Jan Garbarek.
Offramp – Pat Metheny.
Black Codes From the Underground – Wynton Marsalis.
African Exchange Student – Kenny Garrett.
Night Bird Song – Thomas Chapin.
Going Back Home – Ginger Baker and Bill Frisell.
Blue Sun – Mark Isham.
Dark Starr – David Murray.
Angel Song – Kenny Wheeler.
Joey Barron – Down Home.
Marc Cary – Listen.
Gone, Just Like a Train – Bill Frisell.
The Art of Rhythm – Tom Harrell.
Change – Chick Corea.
More Beautiful Than Death – Either Orchestra.
Strange City – Herbie Nichols Project.
Elevated – Michael Blake.
Largo – Brad Mehldau.
Wide Angles – Michael Brecker.
Bounce – Terence Blanchard.
Easy Living – Enrico Rava.
Lingua Franca – Peter Epstein/Brad Shepik.
Northern LIghts – Mike Mainieri.
Camp Meeting – Bruce Hornsby.
Oceanos – David Binney/Edward Simon.
John Scofield – This Meets That.
Lawn Chair Society – Kenn Werner.
As We Speak – Mark Egan/John Abercrombie.
Invisible Cinema – Aaron Parks.
A Simple Thank You – Virginia Mayhew.
Infernal Machines – Darcy James Argue.
Movements in Color – Andy Sheppard.
The Storyteller – Uri Gurvich.
Deluxe – Chris Lightcap.
Sun Roms – Jason Adasiewicz.
Tattooed by Passion – Matt Jorgensen.
Hearts Wide Open – Gilad Hekselman.
On the Go – Matthew Halsall.
Quartet Humaine – Bob James and David Sanborn.
Trios – Carla Bley.
Instead – Collocutor.
LIve in Larissa – Nate Birchall.
New Song – Omer Avital.
Harmonious Creatures – Sarah Manning.
Madeline – Ghost Rhythms.
Homage – Adam Niewood.
Oceanic Suite – Atlantis Jazz Ensemble.
Infinitude – Ingrid and Christine Jensen.
Early Americans – Jane Ira Bloom.
Beam Me Up – Shauli Einav.
Layers of the City – Ben Allison.
Ill Considered One – Ill Considered.
Translator’s Note – Oded Tzur.
Awase Nick Bartsch.
Nubya’s Five – Nubya Garcia.
Glitter Wolf – Allison Miller.
Good Hope – Dave Holland/Chris Potter.
Searching the Continuum – Kurt Rosenwinkel & Bandit 65.
Blume – Nerija.
Little Big II: Dreams of a Mechanical Man – Aaron Parks.
Life is the Dancer – Rob Luft.
That’s 69! All masterpieces. All recorded form 1970 to 2020.
May 25, 2022 at 1:40 pm
As a long time Jazz fan I never view one of these lists as truly definitive, especially like this one where nothing is said about how the list was compiled. (was it just the author’s opinion, a committee, based at least some objective criteria, were other lists reviewed for ideas?) I always view them more as a resource for new listening to treasures I may have missed. But when someone claims to present the top 10 or 50 or 100 I would expect them to be very familiar with every item on the list. Perhaps it is not the fault of the writer or the editor but perhaps it is.
Pat Metheny has never put out an album titled ‘Bright Side Life’ as referred to in the article. He has, however, put out an album “Bright Size Life”. That is just sloppy work by someone and makes one wonder what other non-obvious sloppiness occured in the production of the list.
Christopher Nowak BFA MLIS
August 29, 2022 at 5:51 pm
NO ALBUM BUT you can get THE CHRIS NOWAK PROJECT on YOUTUBE!!!
In my books, this is the BEST MINOR BLUES ever composed!!!!!
Christopher Nowak BFA MLIS
September 1, 2022 at 2:01 pm
Another GREAT BLUES song from THE CHRIS NOWAK PROJECT!!
UNION DUES BLUES!!!
March 30, 2023 at 4:27 am
I have been listening to Miles Davis “In a Silent Way” all week. This is a masterpiece that few of these records can compare to. Why? This record is revolutionary based on the incredibly sparse grooves by Tony Williams, mainly the Hi-hat driving the songs with the band weaving in and out of sublime conversations. I don’t know of a recording that predates this particular Hi-hat groove, we can clearly hear Isaac Hayes and the song Shaft coming out of this groove archetype. The record was made in one, single session and even for Jazz records that is pretty unheard of. In music and meditation we talk about being in the moment and “In a Silent Way” is a completely transcendent masterpiece.
John McLaughlin – electric guitar
Chick Corea – electric piano
Herbie Hancock – electric piano
Joe Zawinul – electric piano, organ
Dave Holland – double bass
Tony Williams – drums
April 4, 2023 at 4:11 pm
Never No Lament: the Blanton Webster band. Duke Ellington.
And His Mother Called Him Bill. Duke Ellington.
Complete Columbia Recordings. Billie Holiday.