‘What are your top 10 jazz albums?’ That’s the question my brother-in-law asked me a few weeks ago. So I’ve obliged and tried to pick list. Note that this list reflects what I’m most into listening to right now, so is prone to change. This list isn’t a ‘most influential’ list or anything like that, and is not ranked. I have added a couple notes on each album and embedded a video. Enjoy!
John Coltrane “A Love Supreme” (1965)
Perhaps a cliché pick, but it’s still incredible and I feel like I pick something up every time I listen to it.
Miles Davis “E.S.P” (1965)
Miles with the ‘second classic quintet’.
Medeski, Martin & Wood "Last Chance to Dance Trance (Perhaps) Best of 1991–1996
I tried to avoid compilation albums on this list, but I’ve made an exception. MMW plays with an interesting mix influences and can (at least in concert) move from grooves to break down those grooves into something more open. ‘Chubb sub’ live.
Pat Metheny Group “The Way Up” (2005)
This Metheny/Mays album length composition has space for improvisation, but is quite prescriptive compared to much of Metheny’s work. You can hear that Metheny learned something from Steve Reich when he played his Electric Counterpoint. Here’s a live performance of the ‘opening’.
John Coltrane “The Complete Africa/Brass Sessions” (1961)
Two Coltrane albums? (Cutting to two was difficult) Multiple 14+ minute versions of the two-chord Africa? Yes, please.
Duke Ellington “Far East Suite” (1966)
A spectacular album, and my favourite from Ellington (at the moment). Here’s the title track.
Donny McCaslin “Declaration” (2009)
For contemporary players, McCaslin is one of my favourites. His albums continue to develop and move different directions (I’m planning to write a bit of a review of his latest), but for me this is his best so far. I couldn’t find a clip from this album, but here he is live. He’s great live, and you should check out this album!
Joe Henderson “In Pursuit of Blackness” (1971)
Perhaps I’m just drawn to tenor players (there are several represented on this list), but I cannot get enough of Joe Henderson.
Dave Holland “Ones All” (1995)
A solo album from one of my favourite bassists. By the way, the three jazz double bassists most influential to me are represented on this list: Dave Holland, Charlie Haden, and Chris Wood. Holland playing Mr P.C. live. Absolutely great!
Charlie Haden & Pat Metheny “Beyond the Missouri Sky (Short Stories)” (1997)
I’ve written about my love for this album here, so I won’t repeat myself. Here’s ‘Our Spanish Love Song’.
Wayne Shorter “Beyond the Sound Barrier” (2005)
So I decided I needed to add an eleventh album (it’s my list, so no complaining!) Wayne Shorter is one of my favourite jazz composers, and is represented as a composer elsewhere on this list. Putting together this list reminded me of how much I enjoy this album. Here’s a live performance of one of the tunes from the album.