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Old 09-21-2019, 06:21 PM
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The Definitive Jazz Recordings


I’ve been enjoying the Ken Burns series on Country Music. I’ve always liked the classics, but don’t know a lot about the origins of bluegrass or country, and it is more interesting than one might suppose. Over 16.5 hours, Burns discusses about 25 of the biggest names from 1925-1985, discusses how they were related, why they were innovative and their most popular or groundbreaking songs.

Unsurprisingly, you can also buy a 2-CD or 5-CD soundtrack to the show. It differs from a compilation of the most popular or my personal favourite songs by focusing on songs and groups that were particular groundbreaking or historically relevant. But you can’t get too detailed with only, say, 20 songs to choose from. And while there are probably a myriad of Internet lists of essential songs in any genre, they may suffer from flaws. Let’s call it the DJ phenomenon.

Lots of disc jockeys or music magazines know a lot about music. They might be tempted to show off this knowledge by picking an obscure but worthy group. Or the seventh best song of a groundbreaking group which may be excellent and not usually played. Or an obscure version of a great song, which may or not be successful. Some DJs are bad because they try to hard to educate an audience rather than read the audience and entertain them.

Others play the most popular stuff, which is easy and dependable. But lazy, and does not show off the knowledge of music breadth at all. Internet lists of rock songs relying on number of Internet downloads are heavily tilted to newer songs and are often terribly inaccurate portrayals of the best songs, relying mainly on people who may lack knowledge of a genre. This is not meant to sound elitist, and there is a balance somewhere between knowledge, popularity and historical value.

With that in mind, what jazz songs or albums, no more than 20, were (or are) most representative of this mix? I’d pick Take Five (Dave Brubeck) or So What (Miles Davis), for example. What other songs should be on the list?
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Old 09-21-2019, 06:26 PM
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For a song, Summertime by Ella and Louis.

https://youtu.be/lnXLVTi_m_M
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Old 09-21-2019, 06:39 PM
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Small sample size attempt at a balance somewhere between knowledge, popularity and historical value in jazz songs and albums might be:

Round Midnight - Thelonius Monk

Goodbye Porkpie Hat - Charles Mingus

Sketches of Spain lp - Miles Davis
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Old 09-21-2019, 06:44 PM
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Naima, John Coltrane. And the entire album Giant Steps.

Epistrophy, Thelonious Monk

Birth Of The Cool, album by Miles Davis

Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section, Art Pepper with Red Garland and Philly Joe Jones. Pepper was whacked on heroin for the entire session, but it's arguably his best work.

Dave Brubeck Quartet at Carnegie Hall: a true showcase of the group's brilliance. The eleven minute solo by Joe Morello on Castillian Drums is a master workshop in jazz drumming, and worth the price of admission alone.
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Old 09-21-2019, 07:09 PM
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For a marvelous overview, try the Smithsonian Collection of Jazz.

A decent education in jazz would include
1) Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings, plus his sides with Earl Hines
2) Representative Bix Beiderbecke, especially “Singin’ the Blues”
3) Duke Ellington’s 20s band, especially “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” plus the Blanton/Webster band of the early 40s
4) Coleman Hawkins, especially the breakthrough “Body and Soul”
5) Lester Young
6) Other top Swing Era bands, esp. Basie, Goodman, Lunceford, Webb
7) Bop: Gillespie, Monk, and Bird, Bird, Bird
8) Miles Davis’s Birth of the Coo sessions of 1948 plus lots of California cool jazz combos (most of the great arrangers and soloists went through the Lighthouse All-Stars)
9) Hard Bop of the 1950s: see most of the Blue Note catalogue
10) Soul jazz, like the organ combos popular in early 60s Philly

All of this is well-covered in the Smithsonian collection, and it can steer you to the artists you appreciate most.

With some exceptions, jazz started sucking in the late 1960s, and the 1970s brought us Jazz Fusion, which the less said about the better, although Weather Report’s “Birdland” is pretty catchy.
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Old 09-21-2019, 07:09 PM
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Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. Not only one of the greats, but very accessible to people trying out jazz.
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Last edited by RealityChuck; 09-21-2019 at 07:09 PM.
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Old 09-21-2019, 07:18 PM
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I know, or used to know, quite a bit about jazz. Ken Burns did make a documentary there too, and his own compilation covers 1917-1960, and does not include a lot of songs I would have put there, which is why I didn’t want to mention this in the OP. Some purists would argue against including Brubeck. I will look at the Smithsonian compilation, thanks for mentioning it.
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Old 09-21-2019, 07:28 PM
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The above is a “Great Man” history of jazz. To get real breadth, let Armstrong carry you to Henry “Red” Allen, a contemporary New Orleans-based trumpet player who used quarter-tones and was in general much more avant-garde than Pops. I really prefer him.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=WFkXBvL9odI

Let Mr. Smooth Lester Young take you to the dozens of cool tenor players who followed in his wake: Stan Getz; Zoot Sims, etc.

Let the Miles Davis/Gil Evans collaborations take you to the straight Gil Evans Orcheatra albums, especially Out of the Cool.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=WFkXBvL9odI

BUT — Once you listen to and understand the “Great Men,” you’ll have a key to the rest of the music.
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Old 09-21-2019, 07:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr_Paprika View Post
I know, or used to know, quite a bit about jazz. Ken Burns did make a documentary there too, and his own compilation covers 1917-1960, and does not include a lot of songs I would have put there, which is why I didn’t want to mention this in the OP. Some purists would argue against including Brubeck. I will look at the Smithsonian compilation, thanks for mentioning it.
*I* would argue against including Brubeck. Brubeck’s fine stuff, but not A-plus jazz.

I listened to Brubeck as a teen, and it made for a good introduction, but you kinda grow out of him. I like his early-70s quartet with Gerry Mulligan, but primarily because of Gerry Mulligan.
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Old 09-21-2019, 07:35 PM
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https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=COgM4aKKgeo
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Old Yesterday, 10:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ukulele Ike View Post
*I* would argue against including Brubeck. Brubeck’s fine stuff, but not A-plus jazz.

I listened to Brubeck as a teen, and it made for a good introduction, but you kinda grow out of him. I like his early-70s quartet with Gerry Mulligan, but primarily because of Gerry Mulligan.
Brubeck's piano never did much for me, although his 'style' was forced on him by a horrible car accident that made playing extremely painful for him. His gift was bringing Paul Desmond, Morello and Gene Wright together, all of whom are/were definitely in the A-plus category.
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Old Yesterday, 12:05 PM
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Here's a few, off the top of my head:

Billie Holiday, Don't Explain
John Coltrane, Out Of This World
Charles Mingus, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
Thelonious Monk, Ruby My Dear
Lester Young, Lester Leaps In
Bud Powell, Bouncing With Bud
Miles Davis, It Never Entered My Mind
Eric Dolphy with Booker Little, Fire Waltz

Don't know if those are definitive, but I like 'em.
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Old Yesterday, 10:02 PM
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Yeah, most Eric Dolphy.

Died way too young.
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Old Today, 02:22 AM
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15 Songs

All the Things You Are
Autumn Leaves
Blue in Green
Caravan
Cantaloupe Island
Insensatez
Les Yeux Noirs/Dark Eyes
Manha de Carnaval/Black Orpheus
My Favorite Things
My Funny Valentine
My Man's Gone Now
Nuages
O Grande Amor
Round Midnight
Summertime


+ So What and Take Five that you've already mentioned.

20 Albums

Dango Reinhardt: Nuages (Best of)
Thelonious Monk: The Blue Note Years
Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie: Jazz at Massey Hall
Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz: For Musicians only
Miles Davis: 'Round about Midnight
Miles Davis: Kind of Blue
Miles Davis: My Funny Valentine
Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus
Sonny Rollins: Volume 2
Cannonball Adderley: Somethin' Else
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: Moanin'
Dave Burbeck: Time out
John Coltrane: My Favorite Things
Stan Getz: Getz/Gilberto
Dexter Gordon: Go
Bill Evans: At the Village Vanguard
Jim Hall, Bill Evans: Intermodulation
Herbie Hancock: Maiden Voyage
Keith Jarrett: Facing you
Pat Metheny: Bright Size Life
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Old Today, 02:48 AM
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In my opinion, the two best recordings from Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven records are West End Blues and Potato Head Blues. The former is really beautiful, while the latter has one of the most perfectly constructed solos I've ever heard.

Sidney Bechet is one of the most important performers in early jazz. It's hard to pick a single recording, since he made so many great ones. I'd go with Petite Fleur.

For early Ellington I'd go with Mood Indigo or The Mooche. For later Ellington I'd go with I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart or Cotton Tail.
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Old Today, 06:35 AM
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An interesting take. I've always expressed an aversion to "jazz" and often had the push back that "X or Y is not Jazz, Z is Jazz, here try this" so to have a thread that tries to define it helps me be a little more specific.
Having sampled what was on offer I can now say that, of the links provided, "summertime" was perfectly fine but no more and the rest either do nothing for me or are actively annoying.
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Old Today, 10:34 AM
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Drumming. When most people think of jazz drummers, the names that come up are Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. But for more nuanced playing, there's Louie Bellson. This is his solo on "Skin Deep".

Last edited by Chefguy; Today at 10:35 AM.
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