Perhaps you find yourself looking for new genres of music to branch out to and add to your collection. Maybe you’re like us and wish you listened to more jazz. First, watch Ken Burns’ documentary series “Jazz." Next, purchase some (or all) of the records below, and start spinning your way into a cooler world. This list includes tracks that are both sophisticated and accessible. Loaded with standards performed by some of the greatest musicians of all time, we hope the tunes below will provide a great place to start for someone who has always wanted to get into this stuff. All of these albums can easily be found at your local vinyl shop or online.
KIND OF BLUE | MILES DAVIS (COLUMBIA, 1959)
Considered by many to be one of the greatest and most influential jazz albums ever made, Kind of Blue is the best selling jazz record of all time. This album features Miles leading the band and on trumpet, John Coltrane on tenor, and Cannonball Adderley on alto, supported by a rhythm section of Paul Chambers on bass, Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly on piano and Jimmy Cobb on the skins. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better collection of musical all-stars occupying the same space at the same time. Equally perfect for a lazy Sunday as it is for having people over for cocktails, we think you’ll find this album to be a cornerstone of your jazz collection, and one that you will be revisiting over and over. For those who really want to set it off in a serious way, be sure to pick up the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab’s release 2LP box set on 45RPM 180g vinyl, remastered at half-speed from the original master tapes. It's sensational!
TENOR MADNESS | SONNY ROLLINS QUARTET (PRESTIGE, 1956)
This hard bop thriller features some of the sub-genres best musicians hitting their stride. The opening and title track features the only known recording featuring both Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane and alone is worth the price of admission. But be sure to not miss out on the rest. This one grabs tight and refuses to let go.
SUNDAY AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD | BILL EVANS TRIO (RIVERSIDE, 1961)
The perfect suppertime jazz record, this live recording features the intimate interplay between three amazing jazz musicians: Bill Evans (piano), Paul Motian (drums) and Scott LaFaro (bass) who was tragically killed in a car accident ten days after the recording. We love listening to this record and picking up the faint conversations of the patrons and the delicate sounds of ice clinking in glasses. This is a sublime jazz snapshot with no filter necessary.
SOMETHIN’ ELSE | CANNONBALL ADDERLEY (BLUE NOTE, 1958)
Somethin’ Else is a personal favorite of ours and a great companion to Kind of Blue. Recorded just a year prior, it also features the intricate tag-team stylings of Cannonball on alto and Miles on trumpet. Joining them on this work are Hank Jones on piano, Sam Jones on bass and Art Blakely on drums. This record gets off to a familiar start with the standard “Autumn Leaves” which includes some tasty, soaring solos by Miles and Cannonball, which gives the listener the comforting feeling of an old friend coming for a visit. A quite worthy entry into the core of any jazz collection.
GIANT STEPS | JOHN COLTRANE (ATLANTIC, 1960)
This list couldn’t possibly exist without an entry by the legend, John Coltrane. The title track is one of the most popular tunes to study at jazz schools everywhere, and that along with “Naima” (one of the most beautiful pieces ever written) have become standard repertoire. In addition to composing all of the tracks himself, Coltrane definitely gets to work on this record and lays down some of the greatest solo licks of his career. Sit back, pour some whiskey, and immerse yourself in a killer listening experience sure to expand your ears and your mind.