10 Jazz Albums to Listen to Before You Die

Categories: all that jazz
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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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72 comments
Doug Elliott
Doug Elliott

Charlie Parker is a notable omission, but a good list overall.

Ryan Bartholemy
Ryan Bartholemy

You mean the white power post written by the black dude?

Brandon D. Revis
Brandon D. Revis

Sweet attempt to not look racist after your last racist ass post. What the kkk doesn't have ur back now?

Craig Duffy
Craig Duffy

Hopefully my copy of John Coltrane's Offering: Live at Temple University is waiting for me when I get home!

Candy Romero
Candy Romero

Apparently not really because the post is still up. Such bullshit on their part.

Marion Sistrunk
Marion Sistrunk

Trying to save some readers after the white power music post huh? Lol

brianhickam
brianhickam

Sonny Sharrock "ASK THE AGES" is also a gem.

bdennis2756
bdennis2756

"Headhunters" should not be on this list.  There are much better albums (Like "Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section."  It is light years beyond Headhunters).  Don't get me wrong, Herbie is one of the best and one of few masters who are still breathing, but this is not a great album.

 

fighto
fighto

@recborg I like the social playlists that you collaborate on with friends.

paulnshapiro
paulnshapiro

Slowly making my way through all of these albums at work and loving them!

schneiderdavid73
schneiderdavid73

It'd be silly to fault the choices here but I'd take "Thelonius Monk – Live at the Five Spot" over anything the man ever recorded in the studio.

OC Weekly
OC Weekly

Adam: Actually, web editor Taylor Hamby runs this, and she does a GREAT job!

Steve Ramirez
Steve Ramirez

I'm not defending Skrillex. I don't listen to his stuff, but really?

Adam Kreutzer
Adam Kreutzer

My post was in no way an endorsement of Skrillex. It just seems like the person running OC Weekly's FB account barely graduated high school.

Adam Kreutzer
Adam Kreutzer

Can you guys get a new Social Networking Intern? This person is terrible.

semaj_leinad
semaj_leinad

Hello people, there is no right or wrong here. Just one person's opinion.

OCWeekly
OCWeekly

@caleb_lund Gracias for RT!

CulturaFonds
CulturaFonds

@SweetCharlie tough one. Blue note doet compilaties met de tien beste van beroemdheden zoals Carice van Houten, zag je dit? #jazz

henrycherry
henrycherry

Who doesn't love a list that includes Armstrong and Ornette Coleman? I mean whatever your different choices may be, this list has legs, man. Mingus, Davis, Coltrane. All here. Sure Duke and Prez and Hawkins and the Yardbird miss out, but the important thing is their influence is felt. 

anahatamusic
anahatamusic

As I said these are all good albums but not necessarily the 10 best. They are what are popular all time faves. peyoteplayer, if you have hate in mind  it's all yours. Quite a few of the comments below also expressed differences. ie; 'why no Charlie Parker. Still, this is a great listening opportunity. Is Haterade your organization? Why would you venture to say my message is sponsered by Haterade?. I've never heard of it. Personally I love Jazz, play jazz piano in the clubs for the last 40 years. No Keith Jarret, no Bill Evans, no Chick Corea but what is there is excellent.

anahatamusic
anahatamusic

good albums but not the 10 best by any means. Only one white guy. No Bill Evans. Kind of a band wagon popular collection no contemporaries Short sighted and all oldies.

NoamSane
NoamSane

Interesting read, thank you. I would add Grant Green's "Quartets" released just a few years back, but dating from around 1960, as a primer on jazz guitar.

 

...but please get out your dictionary and note the difference between the words "Jive" and "Jibe."

seulbzzaj
seulbzzaj

No Charlie Parker, Lester Young, or any of Louis Armstrong's major recordings? Crazy.

elliottsharp
elliottsharp

@ArsNovaWorkshop BLACK ARK, UNIT STRUCTURES, OM, LOVE IS EVERYWHERE, NATION TIME, ECHO, LIVE AT PANAFRICAN FEST, MACHINE GUN, LIVE EVIL, etc

shit_thunder
shit_thunder

@nicklucchesi @OCWeeklyMusic The writer did a good job connecting the albums to atmosphere. Good read.

SweetCharlie
SweetCharlie

@CulturaFonds Nog niet gezien maar nu je het zegt zal ik het zeker doen :)

nicklucchesi
nicklucchesi

@shit_thunder are you going to Gateway to the West fest? i'll be back there for a few days this weekend.

anahatamusic
anahatamusic

 @peyoteplayers Saying that they are the ten albums you have to hear before you die is kinda like saying they are the 10 best. Probably few can agree on a 10 best. What you have done is misquoted me and attempted to put words in my mouth. Shoot first, aim later. You must be a Republican.

shit_thunder
shit_thunder

@nicklucchesi No. I don't think I know any of the bands playing. I don't think I've been to a hardcore show in well over a year.

nicklucchesi
nicklucchesi

@shit_thunder it's an addiction for me. I will be there

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