This is a bit dangerous because jazz is so open to interpretation and so incredibly vast…but here goes because I wanna go to sleep soon:
- Miles Davis “Kind of Blue”. Its hard not to put Miles at the top with this particular masterpiece. There is nothing here that doesn’t sound incredibly fresh even after five decades. A classic.
- John Coltrane “Live at Birdland”. I absolutely love this disk. In particular, the solo on “I Want to Talk About You” is stunning.
- Charles Mingus “Mingus Ah Um”. I can’t find any faults with this one either. Its got a little bit of blues, some shuffle and oh so much soul. Makes you wanna run out and buy a Pork Pie Hat.
- Thelonius Monk “Underground”. I love the quirkiness of Monk. And here he has a full cast and mixes it all up in his own semi-mad kind of way. Boo Boo’s Birthday, Easy Street, Thelonius and Ugly Beauty. Need I say more…
- Charlie Parker “Bird (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)”. I don’t have any remixed or cleaned up Bird albums – my copies of 52nd Street and St Nicks are pretty scratchy – so I have to thank Clint Eastwood for the remaster of these tracks (and of course Forrest Whittaker for the outstanding performance!). Jazz after Koko, Lester Leaps In, Ornithology, and Now’s The Time (also appreciated in some immortal paintings by Basquiat!) could never have remained the same.
- Duke Ellington “Blues in Orbit”. I love this album. Sure, the Sacred Concert and Black, Brown and Beige are incredible too. And the many suites (Far East, Latin American, New Orleans to name a few) are great, but I like this older set with his full orchestra. The choo-choo of Track 360, the blues of the title track as well as several others and the eternal Sentimental Lady prove the enormity of this composer/orchestra leader and pianist.
- Herbie Hancock “Headhunters”. How could I possibly not mention this masterpiece of funky fusion from Herbie. Nothing wasted here – all is masterful and groovy. Whether we are walking the streets with the Watermelon Man or trying to discern the Chameleon among the mango leaves, HH amazes and surprises for the entire 41:44.
- Max Roach “Percussion Bitter Sweet”. This album smells of smoke. We can feel the outrage on It’s Time and We Insist, but hear we are yearning for release as Garvey’s Ghost rattles his chains. Listening to this album that is 50 years old now, we can imagine Roach’s relief in 1990 when the Man From South Africa was released from Robben Island and we regret that he didn’t live to see the inauguration of Obama. This album boasts 6 solid songs with an incredible blend of African and Carribean sounds and of course the amazing drumming of Max.
- Keith Jarrett “The Koln Concert”. Hard not to mention this amazing and legendary piano solo – unique and nearly impossible to reproduce, I find it captivating and endlessly fascinating.
- Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach “Money Jungle”. The holy trinity came together for this incredibly electric set of classics where each genius plays off the other. Each member of the trio contributes and adds his own personality to the mix and we get to stay along for the ride. An unforgettable ride.
So what did I miss?