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Friday, August 13, 2004
MY 10 FAVORITE JAZZ ALBUMS
Just to do something a bit different tonight, I've put some thought into compiling a list of 10 albums that I'd need for the proverbial desert island. Though most are fairly well acclaimed, it is a highly individual list. You'll note, for example, that they're all at least 30 years old. Do I think there's no albums since worthy of inclusion? No, that's not my intention. It's just that THESE albums were such a part of my mental and emotional landscape during those formative adolescent years that they impacted me - contributed towards who I am , and how I hear and feel - in a way that nothing I hear for the first time now is likely to do.
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue Ho hum, how predictable. well, maybe so. But there's a reason it's on everybody's list. Like the Mona Lisa, the Sistine Chapel, and Beethoven's Fifth.
Charlie Parker - Complete Savoy and Dial Recordings. Essential stuff, packaged in many different ways over the last 50 years, but just get the music. It's like being present at the birth of something, and also hearing a man who couldn't blow a totally worthless 8 bars even when unconcious. And with one eye open, he sunk all competition.
Thelonius Monk - Brilliant Corners ; a bit harder choice, as many of Monk's works have captivated me. But even if just for his unexpected and amazing use of the celeste in 'Pannonica', I'll give the honors to this set..
Charles Mingus - Blues and Roots ; an awesome excursion into black music history by a masterful bassist, composer and ensemble leader. As a former trombonist, I particularly enjoy the sterling work of Jimmy Knepper. I read a great interview with him in Downbeat magazine; my impression is that he and Mingus were both proud, egotistical, hard to get along with, and even a bit racist individuals. They hated each other. And it peeved Mingus to no end that the one trombonist who could truly bring to life his musical ideas was this white guy. Yet, when one listens to the music, they seem to share the same soul..
Art Pepper Meets the Rhythym Section - another one of those magic sessions where everything just came together and turned to gold. Art, one of the most talented West Coast alto sax players - and also one of the most notorious junkies in all of jazz history, which is saying quite a bit (he did many years hard time in San Quentin for armed robbery) - teams up with Mile's rythym section of the time..
Billie Holiday and Lester Young - A Musical Romance - this is another album that contains songs I remember from different albums. But it's a great idea for a compilation, with the greatest of jazz singers and man known as 'Prez' trading choruses laden with bittersweet emotion..
John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy - The Paris Concerts ; OK, another dilemma. Which Trane to pick for this list? Well, I know this is an unusual choice, but the entrance of Dolphy on flute in the 25 minute version of 'My Favorite Things' is a musical moment that still makes my hair stand on end, it is so dramatic..
Ornette Coleman - The Shape of Jazz to Come . Ornette, Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, Billy Higgins. Drawing a roadmap, in 1959, for the next 50 years and still never losing touch with the melody...
Miles Davis - In A Silent Way . Yep, he makes the list twice. Three times, if you count all the appearences as a sideman on Bird's records. And if I were doing 25 albums, he'd be on a few more times! Most people point to 'Bitches Brew' as the seminal fusion album, but I have always been more moved by this quieter, more ethereal work..
Charlie Haden - Liberation Music Orchestra This big band, packed with stellar names, makes a huge, joyous, defiant political statement through its interpretations of ballads from the Spanish Civil War.
Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.