Do you like jazz?
In an attempt to enhance my career (ie, boost my salary) way back in the 1990s, I started reading a lot of Visual C++ books. Visual C++ is a coding language used for creating applications and remains a sought after skill. To be sure, that particular skill’s had a dramatic impact on my life’s trajectory. Anyway, while I do enjoy reading such books, the task requires serious focus. Upon spending increasing time in a favorite book store perusing the content of various Visual C++ books, I couldn’t help but detect some low key jazz consistently playing in the background. Upon Google search, there’s plenty of hits as it relates to an association of improved reading comprehension while being exposed to certain music genres. Personally, and curiously, that book store’s subtle jazz music supported Google’s findings. Now, many years later, as I scrutinize code, there’s likely to be some saxophone, trumpet, and piano sounds playing, helping me to make sense of it. Correspondingly, the following’s my top 10 jazz album list (alphabetically, otherwise in no particular order). Links below deliver you to Spotify’s album offerings and presently sign up’s free (if you can live with the occasional advertisement). Also, I’ve viewed plenty of sites listing best jazz albums. However, this link’s an excellent source, offering a summation of 37 such lists. What’s missing from my rankings below? Reach out and let me know!
1. The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Time Out
2. John Coltrane: Blue Train <- A pleasure. Often leave it playing for days.
3. Miles Davis: In A Silent Way <- Zenful jazz. Haven’t come across else anything quite like it.
4. Miles Davis: Kind of Blue <- There’s a reason it’s largely declared the greatest jazz album. Like, ever.
5. Miles Davis: Sketches of Spain <- Of course, Spanish sounds resonate here. It’s unique (and GOOD)!
6. The Vince Guaraldi Trio: Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus <- Ever wonder if Guaraldi did anything great unrelated to Charlie Brown’s Christmas theatre production? (Yes, he did.)
7. Hank Mobley: Soul Station <- Mobley’s Wikipedia page states, “one of the most underrated musicians of the bop era…”. He’s smooth, a positive joy.
8. The Thelonious Monk Quartet: Monk’s Dream <- One of the first jazz album’s in my collection. For me, not every Monk album is as consistently good. This remains a favorite.
9. Lee Morgan: The Sidewinder <- Hard bop at it’s finest.
10. Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus <- Justifiably, Mr. Rollins regularly appears at the top of most saxophonist rankings.
1. Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers: Moanin’ <- Just shy of my top 10.
2. Michael Brecker: Tales from the Hudson <- Refreshing change. Different sounding from so many of the greats, more contemporary.
3. Clifford Brown and Max Roach <- Hard bop jazz.
4. The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Time Further Out <- Lacks the magic of it’s predecessor “Time Out”. Still, a worthwhile listen.
5. Cannonball Adderley: Somethin’ Else <- Miles Davis & Art Blakey take top billing. 🤩
6. Charlie Christian: The Genius Of The Electric Guitar <- Evokes an association with “the good old days” of past generations.
7. John Coltrane: Giant Steps <- Steady saxophone goodness. A solid Coltrane contribution.
8. The Best Of Miles Davis & Gil Evans <- Still great but prefer their “Sketches of Spain” pairing (see above).
9. Miles Davis: Highlights From The Plugged Nickel <- Performed by a group that included (but was not limited to): Monk, Davis, Hancock.
10. Miles Davis: Milestones <- Reliable Miles doing his thing.
11. Miles Davis: Nefertiti <- Miles stays in his lane with this, blasting his trumpet, delivering what one expects.
12. The Miles Davis Quintet: ‘Round About Midnight <- Happened by an old music store. Wasn’t seeking anything specific, so just went with something from Miles (good move).
13. Miles Davis: Seven Steps To Heaven <- I’ve a ~dozen Miles Davis albums. This one ranks in the top half of them.
14. Dexter Gordon: Go! <- Not a bad track on the album.
15. Joe Henderson: Inner Urge <- Successful mix of instruments (sax, piano, bass, drums).
16. Diana Krall: Line In Paris <- Has me re-thinking my general dislike of jazz with vocals. Her remake of Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are” (track 12) had me reminiscing.
17. Wynton Marsalis: Black Codes (From The Underground) <- Serves as a reminder to sometimes seek out the unknown. Refreshing. Different. Solid.
18. Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Um <- Also just shy of my top 10. Commonly appears on “must-have” jazz album lists for good reason.
19. Hank Mobley: The Turnaround <- Lively. Start your day off right with fun Track 1, “The Turnaround”.
20. Hank Mobley: Workout <- Mobley’s one of my favorite jazz artists. That said, “Workout” comes in a peg lower than “The Turnaround”, and most certainly below “Soul Station”.
21. Wes Montgomery: The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery <- Montgomery receives much praise due to his talents as a guitarist (not a jazz commonality).
22. Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section <- Upbeat. A mood booster.
23. Sonny Rollins: A Night At The Village Vanguard <- Initially, this Rollins’ offering did little for me. I’ve had a change of heart.
24. Sonny Rollins: The Bridge <- Has an interesting story behind it.
25. Horace Silver: Song For My Father <- Track 1, “Song For My Father”, instantly recognizable.
26. McCoy Tyner: The Real McCoy <- Personally, another album whose stock has risen over time.
1. Count Basie/The Complete Atomic Basie <- Possibly the hardest hard bop jazz I’ve come across. Apparently that’s not my favorite thing.
2. Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers: A Night in Tunisia <- Too many loud, brash, overwhelming sounds that I just can’t get into.
3. Ornette Coleman: The Shape Of Jazz To Come <- Uneven noise. Don’t quite get the hype. Meh.
4. Miles Davis: Birth Of The Cool <- The vocals in track “Darn that Dream” are too comical (not to be inferred kindly) for this album to be ranked any higher.
5. Bill Evans: Everybody Digs Bill Evans <- A lotta piano. And of course the piano has it’s place in jazz, but it’s a lot more of that than anything else.
6. Herbie Hancock: Maiden Voyage
7. Thelonious Monk: Brilliant Corners <- Whether or not you’re a fan of Monk, he’s distinctive. You know who it is when his album’s are playing.
8. The Blues And The Abstract Truth (Oliver Nelson) <- Includes Bill Evans and Eric Dolphy (re: “Out To Lunch”). Here, they’re better together.
9. Wayne Shorter: Speak No Evil <- A worthwhile addition to any jazz collection. That said, nothing about it really stands out.
Not For Me:
1. Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers With Thelonious Monk <-Portions of it are just too bluesy for my liking.
2. John Coltrane: A Love Supreme <- Coltrane’s capable of great things (“Blue Train” album’s outstanding). This offering falls far short.
3. The Best Of The Miles Davis Quintet (1965 – 1968) <- Not terribly lively, too dreary, no thank you.
4. Eric Dolphy: Out To Lunch <- Inconsistent, broken rhythms. Recommended by so many. Frankly, find that odd.
5. Thelonious Monk: Genius Of Modern Music, Volume One <- A far cry from “Monk’s Dream”.
6. Bud Powell: A Portrait of Thelonious <- Yes, it resembles Monk’s style, but high hopes for this album dashed! Did I mention I’m not a fan of jazz with vocals? Apparently, “…that’s his signature.“. In this particular case, Powell comes across throughout as only slightly audible (and is resultingly annoying).
During the holiday season, Vince Guaraldi’s: A Charlie Brown Christmas is a must! 🎄
Other noteworthy holiday jazz albums: “A Dave Brubeck Christmas” and “An Oscar Peterson Christmas“.