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Essential jazz Recordings.

  • Sep 25, 2010
Every list like this is incomplete and controversial as everyone has his own preferences and undoubtedly Jazz lovers will miss some of their favorite recordings here, but if so, simply make your own list. These are what I think are essential recordings in every jazz library.
Masterpieces: 1926-1949 - Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington was a Great jazz composer and bandleader. He had huge influence and many of his compositions are now Jazz Standards.

Best of the Pablo Solo Masterpieces - Art Tatum
Art Tatum was a Piano Giant with a phenomenal technique and his playing has influenced jazz to this time. He had a tendency to overplay when playing with others so I find him best as a Solo Artist.

Anthology - Django Reinhardt
Guitarist Django Reinhardt and Violinist Stephane Grappelli created a very Hot string jazz in France. Very lively, melodic and thrilling Jazz.

The Complete Savoy & Dial Master Takes - Charlie Parker
Sax player Charlie Parker was a Genius who with trompeter Dizzy Gillespie revolutionized Jazz in the 40´s and created the Bebop style. On this collection one can hear Parker or Bird as he was called, with Dizzy create some of their most memorable compositions.

Blues & Abstract Truth
This is a marvelous album by Oliver Nelson with Brilliant compositions and top players.

Moanin - Art Blakey
Art Blakey was a brilliant drummer and with his Jazz messengers he traveled the world many times over spreading the jazz Gospel. This is one of his Best albums.

Modern jazz Quartet - Pyramid
The Modern jazz Quartet has a Cool and Beautiful style. They play on Piano, Vibraphone, Drums and Bass  and this great album includes one of their most famous song Django, an homage to the Great Gypsy Guitarist Django. 

Complete Village Vanguard Recordings 1961- Bill Evans
The brilliant innovative Pianist Bill Evans influenced many with his harmonic sophistication. Here is a collection of some of his best recordings.

Sketches of Spain - Miles Davis
Miles Davis is one of the Giants of jazz and on this album with the help of arranger Gil Evans they create a marvelous fusion of Big Band Jazz and Spanish Music. Evans manages to get so many new colours from the band with his arrangements.

Kind of Blue
A Jazz masterpiece and one of the most Famous recordings of Jazz. Great compositions by the Trumpeter Miles Davis and fantastically played by the band. The Jazz Gods were obviously present when this was recorded.

Sarah Vaughan Complete Recordings With Clifford Brown
Sarah or Sassy as she was called, is my favorite jazz singer. Smooth and creamy voice and she had a thorough knowledge of jazz harmony and knew how to phrase intelligently and improvise beautifully. These were her favorite recordings.

Time Out
One of the most famous Jazz Recordings ever made, it includes the song Take Five which is a song that people unfamiliar with Jazz know very well. The Brubeck quartet  is experimenting with different time signatures like 9/8 and 5/4 and the album also has so many beautiful melodies and fantastic performances by the band.

Song for My Father - Horace Silver.
One of the best album by Pianist Horace Silver. Funky, Elegant and Cool and full of great songs.

Night Train - Oscar Peterson.
Oscar Peterson was a Piano virtuoso of the highest order and this is one of his most famous trio recordings.

The Way I Really Play - Oscar Peterson
Peterson recorded many albums in Germany for MPS label and they are among his Best recordings. This is a Fantastic album, full af flowing swing played with fire and his mastery of the keyboard is phenomenal.

Greatest Hits - Cannonball Adderley
Sax player "Cannonball" as he was called,  created with his group many well known jazz songs and here is a collection of his Greatest Hits. Powerful, Funky and Soulfull jazz.

Jazz Samba - Stan Getz
Sax Player Stan Getz with an album that became hugely popular and started the Bossa Nova craze in the 60's. This is a warm and wonderufl blend of jazz and Bossa Nova and even if you don't like Jazz you have heard Desafinado.

A Love Supreme
The spiritual seeker and Sax player John Coltrane created a masterpiece of metaphysical Jazz with this masterpiece. a Great album which had a huge Influence on the Fusion Jazz generation.

Bitches Brew
Bitches Brew was one of the most influential recording in the start of the Fusion movement. Miles was experimenting with blending or fusing other types of music with jazz. This is a recording that still divides people, many who prefer traditional Jazz find fusion not to be jazz at all while other, (including me) find this to be the logical next step in Jazz evolution.

Birds of Fire
John Mclaughlin who played with Miles created the Super Fusion band Mahavishnu and it  became a huge hit and influenced many, this album is one of their best and is full of power and bliss. They play with tremendous energy and Passion.

Headhunters - Herbie Hancock
Hancock is a Fantastic piano and Keyboard player and one of the Fusion masters. Headhunters  is one of his most famous album where he blends Jazz, African rhythms, Funk and electronics.

Keith Jarrett Köln Concert
Pianist Keith Jarrett stayed away from the Fusion movement and electronics but created a style of his own, a blend of Jazz, gospel and modern classical. A unique and Brilliant artist.
Köln Concert is one of his best improvised Solo piano recordings.

Return To Forever - Romantic Warrior
Return to Forever was Brilliant Band, every member is a virtuoso and a Great composer. This album is a Fantastic Masterpiece and the Album I would take to the desert island.
Chick Corea on Keyboards, Stanley Clarke on Bass, Al Di Meola Guitar and Lenny White Drums.

Chick Corea My Spanish Heart
Corea is a Brilliant pianist and composer who with his band Return to Forever created some of the greatest fusion masterpieces. His solo albums are brilliant and on this Fantastic Recording he blends jazz with Spanish and Classical music.

Al Di Meola - Elegant Gypsy
Al Di Meola was a member of Return to Forever and is a Guitar Genius and this is his Masterpiece. Brilliant blend of jazz, Rock, Latin and Spanish music.

Journey to Love - Stanley Clarke
Stanley Clarke who played in Return to Forever is here with a Fusion masterpiece where he blends jazz masterly with Funk and Rock.

Jaco Pastorius
The wonderful first solo album by Bass Master Pastorius. His Fantastic mastery of the instrument and his brilliant use of overtones is always such fun to hear. 

Heavy Weather
Weather Report was one of the Supergroups af the Fusion movement led by keyboardist Zawinul and Sax player Shorter and on this album Bass master Pastorius had joined them and this album is full of Great melodies, inspiring use of Synthesizers. Bass. Sax and Drums which creates a cosmopolitan Fusion full of Fun.

Pat Metheny Group - First Circle
Pat Metheny Group is another Fusion Mastergroup who has made many Great recordings. This album is full of world rhythms and spacy Jazz with sophisticated harmonies and long flowing melodies.

Charlie Haden - Ballad of the Fallen
Bass player Charlie Haden and Pianist, Arranger Carla Bley created a wonderful album here, full of Fantastic melodies and emotionaly charged music with a peaceful message.

Full Force
The Art Ensemble find a perfect middle ground between Traditional and Free Jazz and create fantastic music full of Emotion, Beauty and Great humour. This album is simply brilliant.

See the full review, "One of the best Jazz albums of the 80's".
We Want Miles
After a long break Miles came back with this brilliant album where he continous to blend jazz with Funk and Rock. An album full of deep athmospheric jazz full of wonder and greatness.

Allan Holdsworth - Secrets
Allan Holdsworth is an amazing Guitarist with incredibly sophisticated sense of harmony and a brilliant way of improvising over complex harmonic changes, those long fluid melodic lines of his are so inventive and interesting.

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September 25, 2010
This is a truly brilliant list. Though I have to ask where Billie Holiday is...
September 25, 2010
Ha Ha she is on my Fantastic Female Singers list. The main problem for me when making this list was Who to leave out because only 35 albums !!,  that's not very much. And since I usually prefer Instrumental music to singers, I unfortunately had to leave Billie out, but she is Number one on my Singer list.
About the list creator
Örn Leifsson ()
Ranked #110
I have a BA in Philosophy but my main interest is Music. I play the piano andI have also learned a little to play the Guitar, Violin, Drum Set and the Djembe.   The Music I love the most is … more
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