Thursday, 28 April 2016

10 Essential Jazz Albums

Inspired (provoked) by this list here, I foolishly felt compelled to create my own. It is folly to attempt to offer a mere ten albums from a universe of music but there you go. I've seen too many stupid lists purporting to name 'essentials' which actually omit what anyone with an ounce of knowledge would include. Since I have at least five ounces worth of knowledge about Jazz, I present this lot...

Ornette Coleman - The Shape Of Jazz To Come  (1959)
Harmolodic neo-Bop, pre-Free masterpiece of unique strangeness guaranteed to mystify and mesmerise for many centuries to come. The shape of nothing other Ornette Coleman's 5-decade career in it's infancy.

Charlie Parker And Dizzy Gillespie ‎– Bird And Diz (1952)
Be-Bop, the hot, happening hipster soundtrack, complete with it's own language, as loved by beatniks and disapproved of by mouldy old figs; total revolution in hyper-Jazz dexterity, pranksterism in putting on the squares and atomic sonic reconfiguration of the Jazz template.

John Coltrane ‎– "Live" At The Village Vanguard (1962)
Spiritual messenger of Jazz from a higher place, here Coltrane transcends mere technical virtuosity to carry us through the time/space/harmonic/melodic continuum on a starship co-piloted by players equal to his talent on New York nights during which, it is said, the sounds could be heard by extraterrestrials, who were too stunned, vowing never to land on such an awe-inspiring planet for fear of being completely overwhelmed to the extent that that may forget their coordinates home. Fact.

Sun Ra And His Myth Science Arkestra ‎– Cosmic Tones For Mental Therapy (1967)
Coming from Saturn to enlighten earthlings, Sun Ra created a total uni(omini)verse of other-worldly music whilst embracing terrestrial Jazz forms in the process. Understanding the potential of Jazz is impossible without Sun Ra in your life. The real tragedy of humanity's eventual extinction is that Sun Ra's music will no longer exist on this planet but we can console ourselves by knowing that it will be Out There, somewhere.

Duke Ellington ‎– The Indispensable Duke Ellington Volumes 5/6
Pretending, as this list does, this is still the age of vinyl (not the revived version) picking Ellington from his classic first-half period must result a comp and any one will do the job, broadcasting into your life big band music so joyous and smart, so brilliantly arranged and played as to knock all other orchestras for six whilst inducing a big smile as your toes tap and gradually, over the years, your brain comprehends why he is regarded as a legend. 

Miles Davis - Bitches Brew (1970
Miles went electric, got a gold record and set the standard for Fusion which no-one has since matched, thus continuing his track record of creating genius music through the changes since Be-Bop, making him the pre-eminent player of the 20th century.

The Horace Silver Quintet ‎– Song For My Father (1965)
A Blue Note record par excellence, Silver always blows the blues away and this is the perfect place to enjoy mainstream modernism at its best.

Charles Mingus ‎– Blues & Roots (1960)
Baddest bass player on the planet, Mingus drew blood, sweat and tears from his bands, filling every groove with these substances which, as your needle ploughs through them, evoke the agony and ecstasy of life to such an extent that you can hardly believe your ears. Fact.

Thelonious Monk ‎– Genius Of Modern Music (1952)
Ostensibly categorised as 'Be-Bop', Monk's music actually came from the singular planet of his own unique mind from which came warped yet melodic tunes, like dreams from creatively advanced, incredibly hip children. 

Louis Armstrong And His Hot Seven – The Louis Armstrong Story, Volume II
Not originally an album artist, of course, too early for that and early, also, for pioneering 'the Jazz solo', Louis may appear dust-covered and 'uncool' to the untrained ear, but that doesn't belong to you, does it? No, not after hearing this whole list and realising the mind-boggling scope of this thing called 'Jazz', the total breadth of which I have not been able to cover but have attempted, in an objective yet personal fashion, to present in various forms, even ancient ones such as this, the genre known as 'Trad', which has become another word for 'old-fashioned' since the mod era, only to be properly appreciated almost a century later as the brilliant early expression of a suppressed race giving their often hostile white citizens one of their country's greatest art forms.

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