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The 50 Greatest Blue Note Albums

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Blue Note Jazz

Blue Note is unquestionably the most iconic jazz label there has ever been. In saying that, it may well be the most iconic record label of all time. When Alfred Lion started the label in 1939, recording boogie woogie pianists Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons, his intention was to bring to the public the kind of music that he felt was important. It is a mission that he never wavered from, nor have the Blue Note albums that have followed in his illustrious footsteps.

Blue Note’s very first press release stated…

“Blue Note Records are designed simply to serve the uncompromising expressions of hot jazz or swing, in general. Any particular style of playing which represents an authentic way of musical feeling is genuine expression. By virtue of its significance in place, time and circumstance, it possesses its own tradition, artistic standards and audience that keep it alive. Hot jazz, therefore, is expression and communication, a musical and social manifestation, and Blue Note records are concerned with identifying its impulse, not its sensational and commercial adornments.”

And this is what has driven the label onwards to the point where it is a brand recognised the world over for the ‘finest in jazz’. However, to become a major brand, and remain so, it can only be achieved with quality music and the thousands of Blue Note albums down the years attest to this fact.

They may not all be to your ear or the kind of music you like, but it’s impossible not to acknowledge the sheer quality of the recordings listed here… and for the vast majority of those that failed to make the cut.

We’d love to hear what you think should have been included in the greatest Blue Note albums; no doubt you will have a view…

50. Don Cherry – Complete Communion
49. Duke Pearson – Wahoo
48. Sidney Bechet – Jazz Classics Vol.1 & 2
Bechet
47. Donald Byrd – Black Byrd
46. Horace Silver – Cape Verdean Blues
45. Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio
Glasper
44. Freddie Hubbard – Hub Tones
FreddieHubbard_HubTones
43. Bobby Hutcherson – Dialogue
42. Cassandra Wilson – Blue Light ’Til Dawn
CassandraWilson-Cvr-chris
41. Kenny Dorham – Round Midnight at the Café Bohemia
40. Stanley Turrentine and The Three Sounds – Blue Hour
39. Grant Green – Green Street
38. Lee Konitz, Brad Mehldau & Charlie Haden – Alone Together
Lee konitz
37. Anthony Williams – Lifetime
36. Wayne Shorter – JuJu
35. Tina Brooks – True Blue
TinaBrooksTrueBlue
34. Herbie Hancock – Empyrean Isles
33. Sonny Rollins – A Night At The Village Vanguard
32. The Jazz Messengers – At the Café Bohemia Vols I & 2
jazz-messengers-bohemiavol2-cover
31. Donald Byrd – A New Perspective
4124 Donald Byrd A New Perspectivel 2NDSHOT_LJC
30. Jackie McLean – Let Freedom Ring
4106 Jackie McLean Let Freedom Ring 2NDSHOT_LJC
29. Larry Young – Unity
Unity
28. Freddie Hubbard – Open Sesame
27. Jimmy Smith – Back at the Chicken Shack
26. Miles Davis – Vol.1 & 2
25. Dexter Gordon – Our man in Paris
DexterGordon_OurManInParis
24. Joe Henderson – Page One
23. Lee Morgan – Search For a New Land
22. Sonny Clark – Cool Struttin’
Cool Struttin
21. Art Blakey Quintet – A Night at Birdland vol.1 & 2
20. Clifford Brown – Memorial Album
19. Joe Henderson – Mode For Joe
Mode for joe
18. Ornette Coleman – At The Golden Circle Stockholm
17. McCoy Tyner The Real McCoy
16. Kenny Burrell – Midnight Blue
KennyBurrell_MidnightBlue

15. Thelonious Monk – Genius of Modern Music vol.1 & 2.
Thelonious monk

14. Bud Powell – The Amazing Bud Powell Vo.1
Bud Powell

13. Horace Silver – Song For My Father
Song for my father

12. Grant Green – Idle Moments
Idfle Moments

11. Hank Mobley – Soul Station
Soul Station

10. Andrew Hill – Point of Departure
Andrew Hill

9. Dexter Gordon – Go
DexterGordon_Go

8. Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder
Sidewinder

7. Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage
Maiden Voyage

6. Cecil Taylor – Unit Structures
Cecil Taylor

5. Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers – Moaning’
Art Blakey - blue note albums

4. Eric Dolphy – Out To Lunch
Eric Dolphy Out To Lunch - blue note albums

3. Wayne Shorter – Speak No Evil
Wayne Shorter - blue note albums

2. John Coltrane – Blue Train
John Coltrane - Blue Train blue note albums

1. Cannonball Adderley – Somethin’ Else
Cannonball Adderley - blue note albums

Listen to the sound of Uncompromising Expression

62 Comments

62 Comments

  1. Peter Bright

    November 30, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    To place Monk’s Blue Note recordings below Maiden Voyage, Song for my Father, Idle Moments, etc. seems perverse – superb albums but Monk lays out the template…

    • uDiscover

      November 30, 2015 at 4:23 pm

      Monk is a genius, but the early Blue Note albums are not his finest work, much of that came later for other labels…

  2. Andrew

    November 30, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    Definitely missing joe henderson’s in/out

  3. Shit

    November 30, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    Saxophone Collossus?

    • Jack

      November 30, 2015 at 6:08 pm

      That was recorded by Sonny on Prestige Records.

    • Sam

      December 1, 2015 at 9:50 am

      Saxophone Collossus was on Prestige records, however Blue Note did issue the exception Sonny Rollins Volume 2, with Monk and Horace Silver.

    • K. Opoku-Agyemang

      February 21, 2016 at 6:01 pm

      Agreed, Saxophone Colossus is a great album, one of the all-time classics; however it was not made for Blue Note, but for Prestige, if I remember correctly.

  4. Alex

    November 30, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Strong list. The order is not so important to me. I’m just glad to have some great new recommendations for further Blue Note listening. Thanks

    • Greg

      December 1, 2015 at 12:10 am

      Great point!

  5. Scrote

    November 30, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    make that available as a specially priced 50 digital album box set!!

  6. Luc

    November 30, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Not one fuckin Mingus? Are you kidding me? And A Love Supreme? Or Crescent? Damn… It’s hurting.

    • Jack

      November 30, 2015 at 6:12 pm

      These are the top 50 Blue Note recordings of all time only, not the top 50 best jazz record of all time. And Mingus didn’t record for Blue Note (although he’s on the trio record with Ellington, and Max Roach), and “A Love Supreme” and “Crescent” are on MCA Impulse records.

      • Jack

        November 30, 2015 at 6:13 pm

        Correction- “Mingus in Wonderland” is on Blue Note records, but I think that’s it.

      • Michael Zion

        October 9, 2017 at 11:10 pm

        Yeah, Money Jungle with Ellington, Mingus, and Roach should definitely be on the list! Still a pretty solid list though!

    • Khangol

      November 30, 2015 at 6:21 pm

      Mingus didn’t record on the Blue Note label.

      • Khangol

        November 30, 2015 at 6:22 pm

        Sorry, Jack, I didn’t see your reply getting in before mine.

    • jago

      December 1, 2015 at 6:13 pm

      Love Supreme is on Impulsem:-)

      • Sam

        December 1, 2015 at 9:02 pm

        The New Wave of Jazz is on ¡mpulse!

  7. Mischa

    November 30, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    Great to see all these great records, I do have many of them and 6 out of the top 10. Thank you Blue Note for having enriched many lifes with this extraordinary music, we should all do our utmost to ensure future generations continue to listen to these geniuses and Jazz music which adds additional dimensions to contemporary, two dimensional music from non-musical ‘musicians’… Who remembers which Tenor Saxophoner player used to say during gigs ‘Jaaaaaazzzzz Music’ ?

  8. joao

    November 30, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    and JOHN COLTRANE??????????????

    • Dan G

      November 30, 2015 at 7:34 pm

      Coltrane’s only Blue Note session as leader is there at number 2…I would have it as number 1 though

  9. Dan G

    November 30, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    Obviously any list like this is subjective, but clearly they are trying to get as many artists in as possible. There could easily be more Art Blakey, Indestructable and Like Someone In Love spring to mind, as well as more Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, Sonny Clark and Herbie Hancock, either way what a great label.

  10. bob z.

    November 30, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    I have many of them. one thing a lot have in common. Rudy Van Gelder studios.

  11. Dan c

    November 30, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    Strong agree on #1 ! Somethin else my choice for 2nd best jazz record of all time. (After KOB)

  12. Charles T

    November 30, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    That much great music + more on one label is just incredible. “Out to Lunch” and “Unity” changed my jazz life.

  13. Michel

    December 1, 2015 at 7:37 am

    Hmmm, I think they overlooked Horace Parlan – Up & Down. What a great album with Ervin Booker & Grant Green performing at their best!

  14. Marcus mattia

    December 1, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    I’ve got about 20 of these, and many are in my top ten jazz albums. Plus others by most of these artists. Would maybe add street of dreams and feelin the spirit by grant green for their mood, and bossanova bacchanal by Charlie rouse for its vibe.

  15. Tom

    December 1, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    Great list, would be better if it included, Money Jungle – Ellington, Roach, Mingus

  16. Troy carlton

    December 21, 2015 at 8:32 am

    And why do you guys seem to always miss Grachan Moncur III. I never see him on your lists. A nd evolution should be top five if not top ten on any blue note list

  17. Marty

    January 25, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    I don’t know if they are the BEST or not but thankfully I have LP copies of almost all of them.

  18. ricardo

    January 26, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    Not even one of the sam rivers classics?

  19. tom

    January 28, 2016 at 11:17 am

    surely Andrew Hill “One For One” and Horace Parlan “Headin’ South” should be in there?

  20. James Ferguson

    January 29, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    I must have over half of these releases. Blue Note is a treasure.

  21. Jonathan

    January 30, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    Great list and an absolutely essential label for anyone who loves great music. IMHO the only notable absence is ‘Places and Spaces’ by Donald Byrd. A list like this without a Mizzell brothers production, is not complete.

    • Giorgi

      August 18, 2017 at 4:06 pm

      places and spaces is the album that containts tracks that i can’t decide which i like most! sad they forgot about this album(

  22. ron

    February 17, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    Harold Vick’s Stepping Out

  23. ron

    February 17, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    An obvious omission is the Jazz Messenger’s first album with Horace Silver(Doodlin’,The Preacher).I would also add Ike Quebec’s It Might As Well Be Spring,Art Taylor’AT’S Delight,The Blue Hour by Stanley Turrentine with The Three Sounds and Brown Sugar by Freddie Roach among others.

  24. dwasifar

    April 5, 2016 at 4:24 am

    My wife found this list and asked me, How many of these do you have? Turned out I had about a dozen of them already, and all of the top five. After getting over my shock at seeing “Blue Train” come in at #2 below “Somethin’ Else,” I took it on as a project, and I’m collecting the rest now. Some of them I had heard but didn’t have copies of, others I had not heard, including the excellent Horace Silver “Song For My Father” and Hank Mobley’s “Soul Station.” How did I MISS these? This project will be well worthwhile.

  25. Johna

    November 2, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    I am trying to put together around 6 hours of Jazz for a party entitled “All that Jazz” The vast majority of revellers will not of heard any jazz really and I know are cringing at thought of a party with jazz music. So could you recommend some blue note albums I could purchase with Jazz to wow the guests and especially stuff that is very danceable?

  26. T G ASmith

    August 16, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    Not sure about the order but all the Blue Note albums up until the mid-60s were superb with a couple of exceptions (both included in your top 50). If it were up to me I would include all the Horace Silver albums – up to the Cape Verdean Blues!

  27. Eugene C. Graham

    August 16, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    What about the Lee Morgan versus Freddie Hubbard battle royale on Night of Cookers Part 2? We were the winners on that one!

  28. Dick

    August 16, 2017 at 6:55 pm

    Bird ?????????????

  29. Nikolai Dinev

    August 16, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    Jackie McLean – One Step Beyond (1963)
    Grant Green – Idle Moments (1963)
    Eric Dolphy – Out to Lunch! (1964)
    Andrew Hill – Point of Departure (1964)
    Herbie Hancock – Empyrean Isles (1964)
    Wayne Shorter – Speak No Evil (1964)
    Larry Young – Unity (1965)
    Joe Henderson – Mode for Joe (1966)
    Bobby Hutcherson – Stick-Up! (1966)
    McCoy Tyner – The Real McCoy (1967)

  30. Nikolai Dinev

    August 16, 2017 at 7:32 pm

    P.S. TOP 10 in chronological order.

  31. Dorian

    August 16, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    Anybody who appreciates the musical aesthetic of the Blue Note label and their vast discography made up of interesting combinations of a familiar roster of players should definitely check out the Criss Cross label. It’s sort of the modern equivalent of Blue Note, with all of their albums usually recorded in one session and a relatively small stable of players including such modern greats as Chris Potter, Alex Sipiagin, David Binney, Tim Warfield, Conrad Herwig, Seamus Blake, David Kikoski, Craig Taborn, Luis Perdomo, Antonio Sanchez, and Jeff Watts.

  32. Roger

    August 16, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    It is a very good list. However, some personal favorites that are not on the list: Stanley Turrentine-That’s Where It’s At, Grant Green-Matador and Jutta Hipp with Zoot Sims. I would put Kenny Burrell’s Midnight Blue in the top 5.

  33. Mike

    August 17, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    A few that come to mind for me: Joe Lovano – Trio Fascination, Grachan Moncur/Jackie McLean discs, Cecil Taylor – Conquistador over Unit Stuctures

  34. Mike

    August 17, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    No Free For All from Blakey!!

  35. Mike Burke

    August 18, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    Soe of my favorites sadly not here:: Jazz Messengers, Mosaic, The Big Beat, Meet You at the Jazz Corner; Wayne Shorter, Night Dreamer; Jackie Mclean, Desination Out; Johnny Griffin, A Blowing Session, Joe Henderson, Mode for Joe; and Sonny Rollins Volume 2. Herwise great list…I have many!4

  36. Nikolai Dinev

    August 20, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    OK, this is my final list. TOP 10 in chronological order:

    John Coltrane – Blue Train (1957)
    Cannonball Adderley – Somethin’ Else (1958)
    Dexter Gordon – Go (1962)
    Grant Green – Idle Moments (1963)
    Eric Dolphy – Out to Lunch! (1964)
    Andrew Hill – Point of Departure (1964)
    Herbie Hancock – Empyrean Isles (1964)
    Larry Young – Unity (1965)
    Joe Henderson – Mode for Joe (1966)
    McCoy Tyner – The Real McCoy (1967)

  37. Nikolai Dinev

    August 25, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    OK, final edit. TOP 10 in chronological order:

    John Coltrane – Blue Train (1957)
    Cannonball Adderley – Somethin’ Else (1958)
    Dexter Gordon – Go (1962)
    Grant Green – Idle Moments (1963)
    Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder (1963)
    Andrew Hill – Point of Departure (1964)
    Herbie Hancock – Empyrean Isles (1964)
    Larry Young – Unity (1965)
    Joe Henderson – Mode for Joe (1966)
    McCoy Tyner – The Real McCoy (1967)

    P.S. You can delete my previous posts.

  38. Kenneth

    October 9, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Joe Henderson – State of the tenor
    Joe Lovano – From the soul

  39. Groove Connected

    October 9, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    I’m tired of these america’s-centric lists, if you think Robert Glasper deserves a place here, then you must consider Erik Truffaz « The Dawn » in the list, it was a revolution in jazz in 1998 way before Robert Glasper: rap, acoustic jungle, mastering by an electronica artist from the french touch era (Alex Gopher, way better artist than those « daft punk » )

  40. Jeff G.

    October 10, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    Viewing a list from a persons subject matter is educating, in this instance Jazz recordings from the Blue Note label, I appreciate the input from everyone that made a comment as well, that gives me more artists to discover, all I can say is THANK YOU very much! & Good health to you all.

  41. Terry W.

    October 11, 2017 at 1:42 am

    I was going to complain that the author had overlooked “Sugar” by Stanley Turrentine, but after further digging, I found out that the record was on the CTI label. Creed Taylor produced many of the Blue Note albums, so it wasn’t hard to think that “Sugar” was on the Blue Note label.

  42. Ansgar Knirim

    October 11, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    Basra by Pete LaRoca (1965) definitely deserves to be in the top 50

  43. michael

    October 12, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    no herbie nichols, no sam rivers, wtf!

  44. David

    October 26, 2017 at 11:17 pm

    Good starting list for Jazz newbies but you’ll always piss someone off. There is no such thing as a definitive list. I saw many albums on this list that I had never heard before and I have been listening to Jazz for over 40 years.

  45. Jeffrey Calhoun

    October 31, 2017 at 4:34 am

    Post your top 20 then your top15 then your top10 everyone will have a different opinion

  46. Boaz David Dror

    February 6, 2018 at 6:28 am

    No way Duke Pearson’s Wahoo is only at 49. One of the best albums ever. And no Pete LaRoca Basra is also a mistake. But most of all no JACKIE MCLEAN DESTINATION OUT?!?!? Did whoever write this actually listen to more than 50 blue note records?

  47. Boaz David Dror

    February 6, 2018 at 6:46 am

    My quick top 25, without doubling up any Blue Note artists:

    1. John Coltrane ‎– Blue Train
    2. Jackie McLean – Destination… Out!
    3. Duke Pearson – Wahoo!
    4. Pete La Roca – Basra
    5. Andrew Hill ‎– Point Of Departure
    6. Johnny Coles ‎– Little Johnny C
    7. Kenny Burrell – Midnight Blue
    8. Bobby Hutcherson – Dialogue
    9. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers ‎– Indestructible
    10. Cannonball Adderley ‎– Somethin’ Else
    11. Ike Quebec – Bossa Nova Soul Samba
    12. The Horace Silver Quintet – Song For My Father
    13. Sam Rivers – Fuchsia Swing Song
    14. Sonny Clark – Cool Struttin’
    15. Joe Henderson ‎– Our Thing
    16.Wayne Shorter ‎– Juju
    17. Gil Melle ‎– Patterns In Jazz
    18. Freddie Redd Quintet ‎– Shades Of Redd
    19. Sonny Red ‎– Out Of The Blue
    20. Cliff Jordan* / John Gilmore ‎– Blowing In From Chicago
    21. Blue Mitchell ‎– Step Lightly
    22. Hank Mobley ‎– Hank Mobley (1957)
    23. Tina Brooks ‎– True Blue
    24. Kenny Dorham ‎– Trompeta Toccata
    25. Grachan Moncur III ‎– Evolution

  48. Boaz David Dror

    February 6, 2018 at 6:50 am

    There should be a Donald Byrd record in there. Probably Byrd in Hand or A New Perspective.
    And many more Andrew Hill, Duke Pearson, and Jackie McLean records

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