The 100 Jazz Albums That Shook The World

Article Index


Lennie Tristano - Tristano - Atlantic
Tristano (p), Lee Konitz (as), Peter Ind, Gene Ramey (b), Jeff Morton and Art Taylor (d). Rec. 1955

Theorist, teacher, creative thinker and virtuoso pianist, Tristano had advanced and very firmly held views about what constituted good playing practice. He expected his musicians to adhere to such views and accept whatever discipline he imposed. That it worked for others can be heard in Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, and that it was influential can be discerned through Bill Evans’s absorption of Tristano’s methods. But Tristano’s own audience remained tiny, this Atlantic album containing his moving elegy to Charlie Parker, ‘Requiem’, and his controversial multi-tracking of his own piano lines, ‘Line Up’, providing a brief moment when everyone sat up and took notice. (KS)

Dizzy Gillespie - Shaw ’Nuff - Musicraft
Gillespie (t), Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt (as), Dexter Gordon (ts), Clyde Hart, John Lewis, Frank Paparelli (p), Milt Jackson (vb), Chuck Wayne (g), Ray Brown, Curly Russell, Slam Stewart (b), Sid Catlett, Kenny Clarke, Cozy Cole, Shelly Manne (d) and Sarah Vaughan (v) plus many others. Rec. 1945-6

Those who only know Gillespie from his 1950s efforts onwards can have no conception as to the veritable force of nature his trumpet playing was in the 1940s. This CD collation of the earliest sides under his leadership, made for tiny labels such as Guild and Musicraft, will have your jaw sagging in amazement as he consistently delivers ideas that top even those of Parker. Just to keep it interesting, Gillespie also wrote some of the most enduring bop anthems, and many of them get their first outings here. These sessions, like the Parker Savoys, are the holy tablets of bop. (KS)

Sun Ra - The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra Volume 1- ESP-Disk
Sun Ra (p, mba, cel, perc), Chris Capers (t), Teddy Nance (tb), Bernard Pettaway (b tb), Danny Davis (f, as), Marshall Allen (picc, as, perc), Robert Cummings (bcl, perc), John Gilmore (ts, perc), Pat Patrick (bs, perc), Ronnie Boykins (b) and Jimhmi Johnson (perc). Rec. 1965

Ra had been making albums for his own label Saturn for a decade by the time this one slipped out via ESP-Disk, but this was the first to make a wide impact due not only to the unprecedented nature of the music (some tracks sound closer to Tibetan Buddhist music than anything being played in the America at the time) but also to the fact that ESP-Disk, a tiny label making a big noise at the time, actually got distributed outside of Chicago and New York and even made a splash internationally. Ra was on the vinyl map and never looked back. Next stop, Jupiter. (KS)

Sonny Rollins - The Bridge - RCA Victor
Rollins (ts), Jim Hall (g), Bob Cranshaw (b), Ben Riley and Harry Saunders (d).
Rec. 1962

There is a curious reluctance for some to acknowledge that Rollins came back from his 1959-61 voluntary exile a more complete and fascinatingly complex musician. The Bridge is enduring testimony to that fact: he has shed all stylistic baggage, leads from the front, plays with a new poise and freshness and with a unique identity that has stayed intact up to the present day. Although late-50s Rollins may be the stuff to get the critics panting, this was the template for all future Rollins creative ventures, whether  they be avant-garde or retro or just plain Sonny. Unbeatable music. (KS)

‘At the time it was a bit more way out than most jazz. It’s the melodic clarity that’s always been fixed in my mind’
- bassist Alex Dankworth on Sonny Rollins’ The Bridge Jazzwise Issue 71
(December 2003-Jan 2004)

Andrew Hill - Point of Departure - Blue Note
Hill (p), Kenny Dorham (t), Eric Dolphy (f, as, bcl), Joe Henderson (ts, f), Richard Davis (b) and Tony Williams (d). Rec. 1964

Hill’s is of course a multi-faced talent – a brilliant pianist and improviser, he is also one of jazz’s outstanding composer-arrangers. This album emphasises the latter talents: he uses his highly personal sense of composition and instrumental colour much as Jelly Roll Morton did back in the late 1920s, bringing out sensational new sonorities and ideas between the select group of musicians he is using here and goading them to some of their most eloquent playing, individually and collectively. When those musicians include the front line we have here, that makes for some very special music indeed. Depending on which CD version you come across this can be a straight version of the vinyl original or contain two extra alternative takes. (KS)

John Coltrane - Impressions - Impulse!
Coltrane (ss, ts), Eric Dolphy (bcl, as), McCoy Tyner (p), Reggie Workman, Art Davis, Jimmy Garrison (b) and Elvin Jones (d). Rec. 1961 and 1963

This was Coltrane’s second scoop into the Aladdin’s cave of music he’d made at the Village Vanguard in November 1961. The first, released as At The Village Vanguard in 1962, had whipped up a storm of criticism and, through the blues ‘Chasin’ The Trane’, served notice to a new generation about the music to come. This one went even further – India threw open the floodgates to the east in jazz, while ‘Impressions’ is 14 minutes of solid gold inspiration from Trane and Elvin. The 1963 studio fillers, ‘Up Against The Wall’ and ‘After The Rain’, are two exquisite musical punctuation points. (KS)

George Russell The Jazz - Workshop - RCA Victor
George Russell (comp, arr, boombams), Art Farmer (t), Hal McKusick (as, f), Barry Galbraith (g), Bill Evans (p), Milt Hinton, Teddy Kotick (b), Joe Harris, Paul Motian and Osie Johnson (d). Rec. 1956

One of the most important jazz albums ever. Using just six players, Russell achieves wonderful orchestral textures within these 12 compositions, thanks partly to guitarist Galbraith, and introduces the world to modal jazz (and Bill Evans) en route. Strange new harmonies, polyrhythms, pantonality and extended composition – with Russell and Gil Evans, jazz just became a complete new zone of potentialities. More influential on the jazz community directly, on Miles, Coltrane and Oliver Nelson, than through its sales, this is the one that so many musicians still check out. A masterpiece of small group playing and a masterclass on the role of composition in the music. (DH)
Reissued in 2005 on CD by Lonehill.

Miles Davis - Sketches Of Spain - Columbia
Davis (t, flhn), orchestra and Gil Evans (cond, arr). Rec. 1960

Miles already had two bona-fide large-group masterpieces for Columbia down in the plus column with Miles Ahead and Porgy & Bess by the time he and Gil Evans assembled this finely-drawn re-workings of classical pieces of music generally associated with Spain. At its core is the brooding central movement from Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, but the poignant lyricism and incandescent colours Miles and Gil invest the other pieces, including a rare Evans original, with a singularity of vision and intent that makes this a burningly bright and unified achievement. Once more they’d broken the mould, for themselves and everyone else. (KS)

Review Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain (50th Anniversary Edition)

Stan Getz - Focus - Verve
Getz (ts), Roy Haynes (d), chamber string group and Hershey Kay (cond). Rec. 1961

Nothing in the history of jazz soloist-plus-strings recordings could prepare the uninitiated listener for what this album delivers. Getz’s commission to his favourite arranger/composer Eddie Sauter was completely open-ended. What Sauter delivered was a suite that stood up as music independently of anything Getz might add melodically but that left him plenty of room to create the most gorgeous tapestry of sound and emotion, interweaving between all the richness of Sauter’s lean, expressive scores. Focus stands in glorious isolation even within the jazz tradition but is a certifiable classic within the genre that others still cite in awe. (KS)

Chick Corea - Return To Forever - ECM
Corea (el p), Joe Farrell (f, ss), Stanley Clarke (el b), Airto Moreira (d, perc) and Flora Purim (v). Rec. 1972

By the time he made this date, Corea had worked his way through a heavy avant-garde phase and out onto the sunlit plains of his own latin-based musical imagination. It had always been there in his music, but now, marrying the élan and high spirits of Flora Purim and Airto with his own naturally ebullient and melodically uplifting inclinations, Corea suddenly not only stepped forward himself past the stentorian gloom and machismo of the other fusioneers of the day, but redefined exactly what latin jazz should be about. Intoxicating music played by masters makes this an era-defining milestone. (KS)

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