Sunday, January 26, 2014

My Top 5 Favorite Jazz Albums

Oftentimes when I listen to jazz, I listen to one album at a time. I like hearing a collection of songs that were recorded at one time. It's like a piece of history, a moment in time. How did someone improvise in one moment of time? 

And out of all the albums that I've listened to, I found it very difficult to pick my top five favorite. I love so many albums, and admire so many musicians, that many albums are tied. Yet, these following five came to mind when I had to really think about it: 

My Top 5 Favorite Jazz Albums
(Links to Youtube attached) 

1. Sonny Stitt Sits in with the Oscar Peterson Trio 
This album features Sonny Stitt on alto and tenor saxophones, Oscar Peterson on piano, Ray Brown on bass, and Ed Thigpen on drums. The album has the feel of a jam session in its improvisation and lax nature. It seems like everyone is just hanging out like good friends. The album is mostly standards in its song choices. I love the way Sonny Stitt plays on this album- he sounds so free and happy. His tone is bright and cheery- this album always cheers me up! 

Here's "I didn't know what time it was" off of the album:

2. Stanley Turrentine Sugar 
The song "Sugar" features Stanley Turrentine on tenor saxophone, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, George Benson on guitar, Lonnie Smith on electric piano, Ron Carter on bass, Billy Kaye on drums. The rest of the album features many more personnel. I love this album for its soulfulness, and the great solos. I love the way everyone interacts- there is such a strong coherence between everyone in the group. In my opinion, Turrentine has the best saxophone tone I've ever listened to. 

Here's "Sugar" off of the album:

3. Miles Davis Nefertiti 

It seemed pretty impossible to pick a favorite Miles Davis album in particular, but this is one that I always go back to because of my love of the "second great quintet". This album features Miles Davis's "second great quintet" comprised of Miles Davis on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Herbie Hancock on piano, Tony Williams on drums, and Ron Carter on bass. "Nefertiti"- the title track- is known for having the melodic instruments repeat the melody with the rhythm section improvising underneath the melodic line- this was a new concept. I love when Miles and Wayne offset each other in the melody, and I love the layering effect. I think this band interacts and communicates very well with each other- it's like they can read each other's minds! 

4. Eric Dolphy Live in Europe 
This album features multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy, and a European rhythm section. There are two volumes of this album, and I suggest to listen to them both. Dolphy is one of my favorite jazz musicians- he is sometimes considered to be "free jazz", but he is also rooted in bebop and classical music. I love that when you listen to him, you can hear a sort of honesty that you can't find in many artists. He is very vocal in his approach to improvising. It is so amazing to hear him play and improvise on several instruments so well- I want to be able to do that! 

Here's "Oleo" off of the album (Dolphy on bass clarinet):

5. Charlie Parker with Strings

I have talked about this album, and other songs from this album on previous blogs, but it truly is one of the most beautiful albums I have ever listened to! This album features Charlie Parker on alto saxophone, along with a group of string, wind, and rhythm section instruments. The album is all standards in its song choices. Yet, Charlie Parker plays every standard with so much emotion and honesty. His improvisation is tasteful and engaging. There's not much more to say other than to check it out! 

Final Thoughts: 
And I know this list left out many of my other favorite albums, (I'll do more blogs on those!) but these came to mind as ones I love to listen to all of the time. So check them out- maybe you'll find a new favorite jazz album too! 

Leave a comment below sharing your favorite jazz album(s)! 

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