Sunday, November 27, 2011

Top 25 Jazz Albums of All Time

Here's a list of the top 25 jazz albums of all time.  When I eventually get around to making my top songs of the 60s list, the relative ranking of jazz and pop songs is going to present one of the biggest challenges.  There were a few jazz tracks that made my 80s list, and most of them were admittedly somewhat obscure.  I think there were even fewer from the 70s, which I do not generally consider to have been a good decade for jazz.  Fusion started out with terrific potential with tracks like Miles Davis's "Right Off" from "A Tribute to Jack Johnson", but it rapidly turned into mush.  Some artistically interesting shifts were taking place in experimental jazz, but not much of it translated to individually great tracks.

The late 50s and early 60s, on the other hand (after the peak of Sun Records and before the British Invasion) was a time when many of the very best records of any genre were jazz records.  The list to which I provided a link doesn't have dates for every recording, so I'll do that in re-listing their top 25 below.  It's not totally clear that their list is ordered, but I'm going to assume it is.

1) Miles Davis - Kind of Blue (1959)
2) John Coltrane - A Love Supreme (1965)
3) Dave Brubeck - Time Out (1959)
4) Duke Ellington - Ellington at Newport (1956)
5) Charlie Parker - Jazz at Massie Hall (released 1967, recorded 1953)
6) Herbie Hancock - Headhunters (1973)
7) John Coltrane - Blue Train (1957)
8) Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto - Getz/Gilberto (1964)
9) Charles Mingus - Mingus Ah Um (1959)
10) Errol Garner - Concert By The Sea (1956)
11) Miles Davis - Bitches Brew (1970)
12) Sonny Rollins - Saxophone Colossus (1956)
13) Art Blakey - Moanin' (1958)
14) Clifford Brown - Clifford Brown and Max Roach (1955)
15) Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane - At Carnegie Hall (released 2005, recorded 1957)
16) Hank Mobley - Soul Station (1960)
17) Cannonball Adderly - Somthin' Else (1958)
18) Wayne Shorter - Speak No Evil (1964)
19) Miles Davis - Birth of Cool (1956)
20) Herbie Hancock - Maiden Voyage (1965)
21) Vince Guaraldi - A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1964)
22) Eric Dolphy - Out to Lunch (1964)
23) Oliver Nelson - Blues and the Abstract Truth (1961)
24) Dexter Gordon - Go! (1962)
25) Sarah Vaughan - Sarah Vaughan and Clifford Brown (1955)

Not counting the two releases for which the recording and release were more than a decade apart, that give us 12 records from the late 50s (55-59), 7 records from the early 60s (60-64), 2 from the late 60s (65-69), and 2 from the early 70s (70-74).  The absence of records from before 1955 reflects, I think, the era of the album.  In fact, the inclusion of live Parker and Ellington recordings here feels a tad forced, recognizing that their absence would be noticed even though their heyday preceded the heyday of the record album.

The near absence of the 70s and complete absence of the 80s and 90s, I believe reflects quality, but it also reflects that the best jazz of the 80s never found a mainstream audience.  To the extent that any jazz is mainstream, everything on this list is well within the mainstream.  Later artists such as David Murray and Cassandra Wilson had some mainstream success, but their really great records did not have any mainstream success.  Sun Ra was one of the few artists from the 50s and 60s who stayed creative into the 80s, but there's not much of a case to include his 80s work when the earlier work is also absent here.

All in all, I would say this is a very fair list and virtually every record here has the potential to contribute to my own 60s and 50s lists when I get around to making them.

No comments:

Post a Comment