Top Ten lists are, as everyone who saw High Fidelity knows all too
well, one of the great and ancient hallmarks of a music geek’s thinking.
But I normally don’t engage in that. In fact, I’m usually far too haphazard
about things. However, I have on occasion been asked to formulate a
couple of lists for people who wanted to get into new jazz or explore
things that they wouldn’t know to look into unless someone told them
about it. I wrote this for a couple of people over on The
Culture Mailing List. I know it’s cheating to make a top ten MP3
disc list, but it’s much too hard for me to compile a list of jazz worth
having unless it’s a long list!
jazz mp3 disc top ten list
Disc 1: Trane: as complete a collection of the works of John Coltrane as possible.
Sorry, but he’s crucial. It’d have Giant Steps, Blue Train, A Love Supreme,
The Major Works of… (though I could live without Ascension, I guess,
or at least without one version of it), Live @ the Village Vanguard
(both times), as well as the complete Live at the VV box set, My Favorite
Things, The Gentle Side of…, Stellar Regions, Sun Ship, Interstellar
Space. That’s enough of Trane.
Disc 2: Miles Davis. At least a few things from each period: early
would be him kacking through solos with Bird; later, the cool stuff
like Birth of the Cool, and then All Blues, Sketches of Spain, Seven
Steps to Heaven; later still, the band with Carter and Shorter, Nefertiti
being the truly essential IMHO; some of the early fusion, like Bitches
Brew and In A Silent Way; Pangaea and Agharta (live albums); and Aura,
which is a fun odd late Miles with jazz fusion and orchestra album (really
a Palle Mikkelborg (?) album with Miles soloing.
Disc 3: Free jazz explosion: Ornette Coleman’s classic stuff — The
Shape of Jazz To Come, Something Else!, Free Jazz. Also Dancing in Your
Head and my fave Coleman album, which is Science Fiction (aptly named,
actually). Some Don Cherry (Coleman’s trumpeter sideman, father of Neneh
the rapper) such as Humus and Mu; some Cecil Taylor and Anthony Braxton
if I could fit it onto the disc.
Disc 4: EuroJazz: Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli. I have this
MP3 disc already actually, Django box set and ton of Grappelli. All
Disc 5: Now That Trane’s Dead What Do We Do?: Eric Dolphy’s Out to
Lunch (not post-Trane but in the spirit I think); Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s
flute album which I only heard last week, and the title of which I forget;
a bunch of Pharoah Sanders like Thembi and Karma and especially the
second half of the first track of Tauhid. Throw in McCoy Tyner’s live
Atlantis and his album Sahara.
Disc 6: Roots: some Joplin and other ragtime. any available Sidney
Bechet with good sound (I have an obscure French compilation that does
the work wonderfully); Duke Ellington (a best of is good enough); some
Jelly-Roll Morton; some Lester Young, some gospel like old Mahalia Jackson,
some blues too if I have room. Robert Johnson is useful for context.
oh, and Charlie Parker of course: Bird. Bird live, Bird in studio. I
will hear him in a plane. I will hear him in the rain. I like my Bird
and I don’t care, I’ll listen to him everywhere.
Disc 7: New Monasticism: Monk, all of this disc would be Thelonious
Monk. Monk Alone, Monk’s Music, Brilliant Corners, Monk with Trane,
Monk plays Standards, Monk’s Dream, Blue Monk…
Disc 8: Big Bands… maybe Duke could go here. Some Basie. No Glenn
Miller, thank you. Bob Mintzer for interesting and crazy stuff, especially
the tracks Meeting of the Minds and Computer. Dizzy Gillespie’s big
bands, such as the Live at Newport (great album) and the United Nations
Orchestra (a late Diz album).
Disc 9: And Now?: Medeski, Martin, and Wood’s Friday Afternoon in the
Universe and anything by them live (bootlegs!!!). Steve Coleman and
Five Elements’ Tao of a Mad Phat. Matthew Shipp’s Prism. Maybe a little
Jan Garbarek if I am in a soft mood when burning my MP3 discs.
Disc 10: Vocalists: a bunch of late Billie, like the Lady in Autumn
box set. Some Ella, especially the albums with Louis Armstrong. Some
Louis; some Chet Baker (especially if there is an attractive woman on
the island with me, in which case a Getz/Gilberto album would also be
useful); some Carmen McCrae, like her Monk album; Betty Carter (forget
the album, didn’t get custody of it but it has a version of My Favorite
Things on it); Bessie Smith; and the hottie I saw in Seoul last week
who scatted like nobody’s business.
Major omissions I could live with that come to mind: Sun Ra (but I’ve
not heard everything), Shepp, Ayler (if I could sneak in his Ghosts
or else his awful but hilarious funk-atonal-jazz-crossover album New
Grass, I’d be pleased); also a lot of contemporary stuff that I used
to like (as in a lot of Branford Marsalis); a lot of interesting jazz-crossover
experiments like acid jazz stuff. I’m very focused on about 1960 on,
and on saxes.
jazz audio CD top ten list
okay, okay, here’s a smaller, condensed audio CD list. In no particular
1. Coltrane, A Love Supreme. Sorry, obvious, but…
2. Monk’s Monk Alone (one or the other disc of the two)
3. Ornette Coleman, Science Fiction (original single CD)
4. Coltrane’s Impressions, if only for the duo with Dolphy on the first
track, or some other of the many live albums that kill me everytime
(like Afro Blue Impressions), or else maybe Giant Steps, trad as that
radical hard bop album really is…
5. Miles Davis, Birth of the Cool OR Bitches Brew
6. Miles Davis, Nefertiti (jazz impressionism, for me)
7. Medeski Martin & Wood, Friday Afternoon in the Universe
8. Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s obscure but cool flute album (which I heard
last week and fell hard for)
9. Eric Dolphy Out To Lunch
10. Bird, Swedish Schnapps (sentimental bastard I am indeed, this pushes
an old button)
Might make a totally different list a month from now. Never know…