Upgrade Your Jazz Music With These Essentials
Top 10 Essential Jazz Albums
Actually, if you want to argue semantics, maybe we should call this a cooperative list of individual Top 5s. We leave that choice up to you. Either way, what follows is a list of 10 albums selected by Gear Patrol crew members Jason Heaton and Eric Yang as essential albums in your current or about-to-be-started jazz album collection. After all, any man’s music collection deserves a few, if not many, jazz classics. Maybe you already have a few scattered songs here or there in your collection, but isn’t it about time you go full monty? Here are our suggestions on some classic (and unique) essentials to build upon.
Selections from Jason Heaton:
Kind of Blue by Miles Davis
Possibly the greatest jazz album ever. From the first note, this album started a whole new genre of jazz in the 1950s and confirmed Miles’s place as one of the great musical innovators. This is the album you play on vinyl. Make sure the lights are low.
Live at Blues Alley by Wynton Marsalis
Jazz is music meant to be heard live. This album is the next best thing. This was Marsalis in his younger days, ripping through standards at a crowded club. You’ll work up a sweat just listening to it.
Time Out by Dave Brubeck Quartet
Brubeck was a master of mood and this is him at his best. “Take Five” is the recognizable track on this album. Even people who don’t know jazz know this one.
Winelight by Grover Washington Jr.
OK, purists, let’s be upfront, this is jazz fusion. But this ain’t no Kenny G. It’s smoky, early ’80s smooth and Grover played a mean saxophone. He got some help from Bill Withers on “Just the Two of Us” and won a Grammy.
Still Life (Talking) by Pat Metheny Group
Another fusion album, but this one has all the elements of great jazz – jamming improvisation, long solos, and great musicians. Metheny was a masterful guitarist. The track “Last Train Home” evokes a mood like no other song. Listen to it and you’ll agree.
Selections from Eric Yang:
Beyond The Missouri Sky by Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny
Repeat on Pat Metheny… “Beyond The Missouri Sky” will pull at the musical heartstrings of you men who clamor for a slower pace of life. Pair this one with your favorite brew on the patio and you’ve got something commonly referred to as bliss.
Somethin’ Else by Cannonball Adderly
Read the album cover. Cannonball Adderly’s quartet included Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Hank Jones, and Sam Jones. Wow. Sure, they come from different schools of jazz, but, in unison, lay down some incredible tracks. “Somethin’ Else” should be one of your first stops, even if you’re told otherwise.
The Köln Concert by Keith Jarrett
Anyone who knows jazz knows that piano is one of the essential keystone instruments. Keith Jarrett has a following larger than the European Union and it all started with “The Köln Concert”. An absolute 88-key marvel.
Empyrean Isles by Herbie Hancock
Sure, it’s known for the album that carried Cantaloupe Island, but damn, if this album doesn’t inspire gimlet martinis and a consideration for cigarettes, I’m not sure what does. Less celebrated than Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage,” but, to this writer, it’s the superior album.
Sunday At the Village Vanguard by Bill Evans Trio
This album is a solid piece for those of you starting out your jazz collections. The choice is admittedly subjective, but unique is always good. It doesn’t take any ramp-up time to listen to the Bill Evans Trio with their accessible jazz style. The entire album can be listened back to front without a moment of hesitation.
This list will inevitably inspire some argument or suggestions. If you’ve got an addition, change, or otherwise, we want to hear it. Leave a comment and let us know.