The 100 Jazz Albums That Shook The World

Article Index


Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto - Getz/Gilberto - Verve
Getz (ts), Joao Gilberto (v, g), Antonio Carlos Jobim (p), Tommy Williams (b), Milton Banana (perc) and Astrud Gilberto (v). Rec. 1963

Funnily enough, this spring 1963 session was close to Getz’s last serious stab at bossa nova – he’d already had massive success with Jazz Samba and Jazz Samba Encore – but it turned out to be the musical perfection perhaps no-one had actually been looking for but everyone instantly recognised on the album’s release. This is perhaps the coolest, most definitively etched marriage of melody and latin rhythm ever achieved, and it was achieved by the towering genius of Tom Jobim’s tunes and spare piano accompaniment, Gilberto’s uniquely intimate voice and guitar, a rhythm section that breathes life and colour, all of it topped by the supreme melodist, Stan Getz. All that plus Joao’s wife Astrud as a last minute show stealer and you have a classic on your hands. (KS)

Herbie Hancock - Maiden Voyage - Blue Note
Freddie Hubbard (t), George Coleman (ts), Herbie Hancock (p), Ron Carter (b) and Tony Williams (d). Rec. 1965

A classic jazz album produced at a time when such albums seemed to be coming out every other day. Essentially the Miles Davis Quintet of the day with Hubbard pinch hitting for Davis (and playing as well as he would at any point of career) it contained two Hancock originals that would assume quickly the status of jazz standards. The binary 34-bar ‘Dolphin Dance’ and the modal 32-bar ‘Maiden Voyage’, with its pre-arranged rhythmic structure that is maintained throughout, will probably be played as long as jazz itself. Add to that ‘Little One’, previously recorded by Davis on ESP, and you have the concept album to end all concept albums.(SN)

Art Blakey - Moanin’ -Blue Note
Blakey (d), Lee Morgan (t), Benny Golson (ts), Bobby Timmons (p) and Jymie Merritt (b). Rec. 1958

Blakey was in on the ground floor when it came to the evolution of hard bop into soul jazz, having co-led the first Jazz Messengers with Horace Silver back in 1956. By 1958 he’d gone through a number of versions of the band, with this becoming the blueprint version for the next half a decade. With Benny Golson and Bobby Timmons supplying hard bop anthems such as the title tune, ‘Along Came Betty’ and ‘Blues March’, and the front line soloists refining their long, elaborate post-bop lines into the shorter and more pithy soul-based hard bop lines of the late 1950s, this Blakey band, and this Blakey album, defined soul jazz. (KS)

Cecil Taylor - At The Café Montmartre - Debut
Taylor (p), Jimmy Lyons (as) and Sunny Murray (d). Rec. 1962

Taylor had been a thorn in the modern US jazz world’s side since the mid 1950s with his uncompromising approach to music-making, but up until this live date recorded in Copenhagen by the Danish Debut label he’d not made the decisive steps into free playing that would revolutionise the very basis of jazz rhythm. Here, Taylor, Lyons and Murray race pell-mell into music without metric boundaries, throwing open a Pandora’s box of possibilities that would be investigated intensely by every jazz avant-gardist worldwide for the next 20 years. Additionally, Taylor’s supercharged playing on this date was the first glimpse on record of his ability to sustain such white heat over Coltrane-like stretches of playing time. (KS)
CD reissued on Revenant as Nefertiti – The Beautiful One Has Come.

Bud Powell - The Genius of Bud Powell - Clef/Verve
Powell (p), Ray Brown (b) and Buddy Rich (d).
Rec. 1950-51

Two Herculean trio tunes – ‘Tea For Two’ and ‘Hallelujah’, both taken at breakneck speeds – make up the 1950 contribution here. With the benefit of extra CD space we get treated to two extra takes of ‘Tea For Two’, giving us an object lesson in how Powell developed his material as well as maintaining his incredible improvisational creativity. But the real jewels on this album are the eight solo selections recorded in February 1951. The level of invention Powell achieves puts this recital on equal par with anything in the recorded annals of jazz piano and makes it basic required jazz listening. (KS)

Modern Jazz Quartet - Fontessa - Atlantic
John Lewis (p), Milt Jackson (vb), Percy Heath (b) and Connie Kay (d). Rec. 1956

It’s difficult at this distance, with so much noise and fury intervening, to credit the radicalism of John Lewis’ brief for the Modern Jazz Quartet, but back in 1956 they were doing stunningly new things in jazz in just about every musical area – form, content, arrangement, interplay and theory. They also had a secret weapon in that all four musicians were steeped in the blues and could wail whenever they needed to, thus obviating any tendency to effete noodling when things got a little formal. Fontessa was their first for Atlantic with the fully integrated line-up including Connie Kay: it delivered a perfect blueprint for the many MJQ advances of the next decade. (KS)

Wes Montgomery - The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery - Riverside
Wes Montgomery (g), Tommy Flanagan (p), Percy Heath (b) and Albert Heath (d). Rec. 1960

Wes Montgomery simply played differently from all the others. He picked the strings with his thumb instead of a plectrum, creating a fresh, warm sound – sensitive on ballads but incisive on fast tempos. His solos would move through three stages, beginning with single-line improvisation, then shifting up a gear with passages in unison octaves, before building to a climax with lines stated in block chords. The effect was stunning and like Charlie Christian two decades earlier, his innovations were to open up new possibilities for the guitar and be the inspiration for a new generation of guitar players, including George Benson, Pat Martino and Larry Coryell, who once played Wes’ own solo on ‘D Natural Blues’ to a surprised Wes. Every track on this album is a classic and his songs ‘West Coast Blues’ and ‘Four on Six’ have become part of the jazz canon. (CA)

Review Wes Montgomery – The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery

Frank Sinatra - Songs For Swingin’ Lovers - Capitol
Frank Sinatra (v), Nelson Riddle (arr, cond) and big band. Rec. 1955-56

Sinatra the jazz singer? There are vast swathes of Sinatra recordings that could never be remotely described as jazz, but the man himself credits Tommy Dorsey and Billie Holiday as his musical mentors and, when he put his mind to it, he could phrase and swing with the best. Additionally – and crucially – he influenced just about every jazz singer and musician worthy of the name between the 1940s and today, including such people as Lester Young, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, all of whom had listened very closely indeed to Sinatra’s balladry. This classic mid-50s session puts Frankie’s jazz credentials perfectly in order and throws down the gauntlet for everyone else. (KS)

Jelly Roll Morton - Volume 1 - JSP
Morton (p, comp, arr), George Mitchell (c), Edward Kid Ory (tb), Omer Simeon, Barney Bigard, Darnell Howard, Johnny Dodds (cl), Stump Evans (as), Johnny St Cyr (bj), John Lindsay (b), Andrew Hilaire, Baby Dodds (d) and others. Rec. 1926-28

As with Sidney Bechet, it’s devilishly hard to find a single compilation of Morton that covers all the essentials. This one doesn’t quite, but does it better than most, and also does it under the auspices of remastering from original 78s by John R.T. Davies, whose expertise in this area is legendary. Morton’s miraculous flowering in this period has to be heard to be believed, with his arrangements of his own and others’ tunes so multi-faceted, so imaginative and full of incredible creative drive as to be a collective body of genius to place alongside that of Ellington and – much later – Mingus or Gil Evans. Except he did it first. (KS)

Ahmad Jamal - But Not For Me –  At The Pershing - Argo
Jamal (p), Israel Crosby (b), Vernell Fournier (d). Rec. 1958

Jamal’s ideas about integrated and disciplined trio interplay had already deeply influenced jazz’s inner circle of musicians while his piano-guitar-bass trio was around throughout the early 1950s. However, things went supernova-ish when this incredible unit made and released this jazz best-seller in 1958. Nobody remained untouched by his light-but-tight approach, his winningly imaginative arrangements and his incredible attention to dynamics. The highlight may have been ‘Poinciana’, but every track is an object lesson in how to draw the best from a tune. That it was no flash in the pan is shown by the music’s drawing power and continuing fascination today, as well as its ability to influence every new generation of pianists. (KS) Reissued on Chess.

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