Jazz: Recommended Listening

The following is a list of my all-time favorite jazz albums. I find these albums engaging to listen to as they present the iconic idosyncracies of the artists who recorded them while simultaneously providing genius performances. Furthermore, many of the albums serve some sort of higher purpose. That purpose takes on different forms, including demonstrations of culture, history, or musical innovation. Other than the fact that Miles Davis is listed first, the albums are presented in no particular order. The music of Miles Davis was my introduction to jazz; he was the first jazz artist I grew to appreciate. A few of these albums seemingly don't fit in the definition of jazz accepted by many listeners. Regardless, I've included them here because they embody important characteristics in jazz, such as breaking down boundaries in their respective genres.

"It's not the notes you play; it's the notes you don't play." -- Miles Davis

"It's taken me all my life to learn what not to play." -- Dizzy Gillespie

If you don't usually listen to Jazz but want to start listening, I recommend checking out Kind of Blue, Moanin', Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You), Live at the Village Vanguard, and At the Pershing: But Not for Me to get started. Of these five albums, the first two and last albums give some background context for a genre in the jazz realm known as Bebop. Live at the Village Vanguard extends the genre by modernizing the sounds but still shares many similarities with these albums. The music on Dear Diz is a different genre known as big band jazz (the band consists of roughly 10 to 20 band members, as opposed to three or four members in a bebop group). Arturo Sandoval is a Latin jazz trumpeter; this album is his expression of gratitude toward his mentor Dizzy Gillespie, who himself is a central bebop figure.

If you already decided that you don't like jazz but have read this far, chances are that you have some curiosity about it. I recommend listening to We Like It Here. This album fuses the sounds of jazz, rock, and hip-hop into a genre known as fusion. While it doesn't sound like "traditional" Jazz, it still embodies many of jazz's basic concepts.