I decided to put together this list of recommended recordings to share albums that have had a major impact on my playing and appreciation of jazz.
Update 5/15/05 - I had planned on updating this list with more recordings, but instead put together a new list.
Wayne Shorter - JuJu (1964)
I first heard this album while a freshman in college. Our jazz combo was playing "Speak No Evil," a tune that I had never heard before. I went to the library to try and listen to that recording, but it had already been checked out. Not wanting to leave empty handed, I decided to give "JuJu" a listen.
This was the first album I heard with Wayne Shorter as the bandleader, and it was also the first time I heard McToy Tyner play. Now that I think of it, it was also the first jazz album I bought (I bought it the next day) that did NOT include a trumpet player.
My favorite tracks are "JuJu", "Mahjong", and "Yes Or No"… but, of course, this album shines from start to finish.
Dexter Gordon - Doin' Allright (1961)
This is my favorite Dexter Gordon album. Both Gordon and Freddie Hubbard (Freddie was only 22 at the time!) play extremely well-crafted melodic solos. Every note sounds perfect. Gordon even manages to make ghosted/empty notes sound cool, as he charges into his solo on "It's You Or No One."
This album also happens to have my all-time favorite Gordon recording, "I Was Doing All Right." I've heard a few versions of this Gershwin tune by different artists, but none match the cool, confident, and laid-back sound on this recording. I could try to describe the sound in more detail, but I think the album photo pretty much sums it up.
When it came time to name this Web site, I instantly thought of this album and the inspiration it's given me to become a better player.
Ornette Coleman - The Shape Of Jazz To Come (1959)
As mentioned in an earlier journal entry, I first listened to this album when I was 16. I found it at the local public library. It had "jazz" in the title, so I checked it out…
At the time, I didn't realize the importance of this album to the avant-garde jazz movement. Nor did I know that it lacked traditional jazz structure and harmony. All I knew was that it sounded unlike anything I had ever heard.
I still get chills every time I hear the intro to "Lonely Woman." It begins with a droning bass line, accompanied by a driving ride cymbal. As the dark mood sets in, the horns enter with a beautiful yet haunting melody. The tune continues with incredibly creative and communicative improvisation by Coleman and Don Cherry.
Tracks like "Eventually" and "Focus On Sanity" may challenge some listeners with the frenzied melodies and sometimes dissonant harmonies, but I think this album is played with such a strong sense of control and style, that the "out" parts are always brought back "in" at just the right moments.