A Night in Tunisia (1960), Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers Featuring the eponymous jazz standard written by Dizzie Gillespie on track one, this album exhibits some of Blakey’s finest work (not to be confused with the album of the same name released three years earlier). Blakey’s career spans numerous jazz movements, from big band (where he started his career) to hard bop and bebop, dimensions of which are captured in the five tracks of this 1960 release.
Time Out (1959), Dave Brubeck Quartet If A Love Supreme is slightly too cacophonic for your personal preferences, then you certainly will find Brubeck’s Time Out to be more accessible. It is perhaps the best (and most popular) example of “Cool Jazz”—a genre which repurposed the softer elements of bop and hard bop in favor of a more subdued approach. It has the type of songs that your grandparents may have danced to during their stint at university, like “Take Five.”
Kind of Blue (1959), Miles Davis Like Mark Twain and The Great American Novel, Miles Davis and Jazz are inseparable—it is the story of an artist and genre that are so intimately intertwined in our modern memory that it is impossible to make mention of your list of favorite jazz musicians without establishing your familiarity with Miles’ work. He is the type of artist that can simultaneously exist in the annals of elite music publications and on screen prints proudly displayed in storefronts without a ‘jazz’ section—a duality that few musicians enjoy. Kind of Blue is the vinyl in your grandpa’s cabinet that likely has a few more needle scratches than all the others—physical marks which bear the signs of insatiable listeners and late evenings.
Getz/Gilberto (1963), Stan Getz & João Gilberto It is hard to listen to this album without superimposing your own take on a Brazilian archipelago over your living room french doors, even if it is welded by a false understanding of South American tropics. If you’re familiar with Bossa Nova, then you might know Getz/Gilberto as the tonal portrait that exported the genre to North America. At the same time, it became the first non-American record to win “Album of the Year” in 1965.
Mingus Ah Um (1959), Charles Mingus This album is the perfect introduction to those less familiar with the musician and composer, who was known for a personality that was appropriately matched by his hulking stature. A jack of numerous jazz trades and master of them all, Mingus collaborated with all of the greats you can name off the top of your head—Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Dannie Richmond, and Herbie Hancock. Don’t be fooled by the album’s approachability—this album contains nuanced narratives, from tales of the genre’s pioneers to mockeries on problematic politics.
Monk’s Dream (1963), Thelonious Monk It is remarkable to think that Thelonious Monk is the second most recorded jazz composer behind Duke Ellington (who is not included on this listicle featuring albums because much of his work predates the notion of an ‘album’), which is even more remarkable when Ellington wrote over one thousand pieces compared to Monk’s 70. In order to appreciate Monk’s Dream, you’ll need to appreciate the manner in which Monk played—percussive, idiosyncratic, and dramatic. If you’re an avid jazz listener, you might also notice that the majority of the songs on here were recorded well before the album was released in 1963.
Bird and Diz (1952), Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie Any vinyl scrounger need look no further than the album art to know that Bird and Diz is a special piece of art. Two of jazz’s biggest giants come together to play some of the finest examples of bebop accompanied by the likes of Buddy Rich and Thelonious Monk, to name a few. We’re especially fond of Rich’s drum solo on the opening track, “Bloomdido.”
The Atomic Mr. Basie (1958), Count Basie Alternatively known as E=MC2 (and unabashed in illustrating the imagined reality of its title vis-à-vis the album’s cover art), The Atomic Mr. Basie consistently shows up in the types of editorials that combine art with your alleged (but all too definitive) expiration date—a la “100 albums to Listen to Before You Die”—speaking to this particular album’s ability to transcend categorical consumption. If you pick up this album, you may find that you’ve produced an indescribable itch that can only be scratched by dance, seconds after you drop the needle.
Dusted off an old album from your father's or grandfather’s collection that's worth sharing or have a favorite album that's not on the list? Leave the info in the comments section
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