10 Jazz Albums to Listen to Before You Die

Categories: all that jazz

Because there are multiple decades of jazz, it's almost impossible to pick the top 10 albums of all time; the hip cats with their canes and cool shades will throw their used saxophone reeds in my direction and call me a young whippersnapper.  The debate is so polemic that I might as well write about the Top 10 abortion clinics.  But so many people out there, young or even a bit older, are curious about jazz, and they're not exactly sure where to start.  So, this list will highlight the top 10 jazz albums you must listen to before you die.  It's kind of like a jazz bucket list that ensures that you used your time on this Earth to hear some of the masterpieces of a true American music.  I'll be mostly in the 50s and 60s range, but will occasionally branch out.  So, here we go. 

10. Ornette Coleman, The Shape of Jazz to Come

This album title, when it came out in 1959, was the equivalent of Babe Ruth pointing to the fences or Muhammad Ali proclaiming he was the greatest.  It was an album that said, you hear this sound, you hear what I'm laying down, everything is about to change. Ornette Coleman went from playing the sax to the trumpet, and he received scorn from Miles Davis who publicly questioned Coleman's sanity and technical ability.  And because the album is often credited as being the anchor to avant-garde jazz albums, this album might just sound a bit strange to the newbie's ear.  But Coleman was trying to move away from tradition, shattering conventional ideas of harmony and axing the piano, to create a new dimension of sound.  Give it a shot -- free of expectations.

9. Sonny Rollins, The Bridge

When you put on this album, take a tumbler of whiskey and imagine you're staring out at New York City.  After a sabbatical from music, Sonny Rollins returned triumphantly in 1962 with The Bridge.  The title track, "The Bridge," was named after The Williamsburg Bridge in New York City, which connects Manhattan to Brooklyn, and Rollins used to head down to the bridge to practice.  He's a sax player who wanted to be his own man, an individual.  This album is accessible to the novice.   

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