All This Jazz
If a person’s music collection contains one jazz record, likely as not it’s Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, from 1959. Reportedly the best-selling jazz album of all time, it still moves thousands of copies a week, and rightly so — it’s a beautiful, beautiful recording. But here are a few others that deserve some notice, picked mostly at random:
Lee Morgan, The Sidewinder, 1963. Morgan was less of a technical trumpet virtuoso than an all-out, full-throttle blower, and most jazz fans love him for it. The Sidewinder is jazz with a powerful infusion of blues and soul. I personally don’t know anyone who has heard this record and doesn’t like it.
Coleman Hawkins and Roy Eldridge at the Opera House, 1957. Hearing this criminally underappreciated record is like listening in on two mature, wise, funny, crafty old friends swap tales and bittersweet memories — using a tenor sax and trumpet. Hawkins didn’t invent the tenor sax, but he pretty much created it as a jazz instrument, and Eldridge (a short man) was nearly as towering a figure on the trumpet; Dizzy Gillespie started out trying to sound like him.
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: Free for All, 1964. The driving rumble of Blakey’s drums, Freddie Hubbard’s rocketing trumpet solos, Wayne Shorter’s tenor sax — hard bop never got harder, or better, than this.
Jaki Byard, Blues for Smoke, 1960. On this solo work, Byard combined a stride pianist’s total command of the keyboard with a wistfulness all his own. Listen to “The Hollis Stomp” or “Spanish Tinge No. 1″ on a clear, soft June night . . . or try it any other time, and you’ll think that’s when it is.
And just to show you I’m not completely stuck in the distant past:
Wynton Marsalis: Live at the House of Tribes, 2005. In our antiseptic age, when some jazz clubs threaten to throw you out if you clap too loudly, Marsalis and his band mates clearly draw energy from the crowd on this live recording — and aim it back at them with hot, loose solos. An exciting record.
Charlie Haden (bass) and Kenny Barron (piano), Night and the City, 1998. If you’re ever in the mood to sit quietly with a drink in your hand and contemplate your past, your future, and the world as you take in some mellow, contemplative, beautiful sounds, these are the sounds.
What else is there? Tell Cliff!