The 100 Jazz Albums That Shook The World

Article Index


Billie Holiday - At JATP -Clef/Verve
Holiday (v), Howard McGhee, Buck Clayton (t), Trummy Young (tb),Willie Smith (as), Illinois Jacquet, Wardell Gray, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young (ts), Milt Raskin, Ken Kersey, Tommy Tucker (p), Charles Mingus, Al McKibbon (b), J.C. Heard and Jackie Mills (d). Rec. 1945-47

People call Billie Holiday THE voice of jazz. However, her discography on vinyl is convoluted: her 1930s 78rpm output, where she was normally a featured singer rather than the star, had to wait until the 1960s to appear in any ordered way and the 1990s to appear substantially on CD. Ditto her 1940s Deccas. By the time she settled with Verve in 1952 her voice had darkened and lost its suppleness. This set of live performances from the mid-40s, however, finds her in good musicianly company, vocally at a peak and expressively in the mood to sweep all before her across a classic selection of material, including ‘Strange Fruit’ and ‘Billie’s Blues’. The CD configuration more than doubles the amount of material originally available on vinyl, though the sound quality on some of the “new” tracks is not exactly brilliant. (KS)

Tony Williams Lifetime  - Emergency!  - Polydor
Tony Williams (d), Larry Young (org) and John McLaughlin (g). Rec. 1969.

This bold attempt to expand the boundaries of jazz in a dramatic jazz, blues, rock, Hendrix, MC5 amalgam left temperate listeners shell shocked and critics speechless. Today, the mere mention of jazz-rock prompts cries from establishment critics of “sell-out,” but if this is selling-out, then maybe they should consider another line of work. This is jazz, rhythm and electricity writ large in a tumbling roller coaster of ideas. No wonder the album was called Emergency, with every member of the band having so much to say but so little time to
say it.(SN)
Re-issued on CD by Verve.

Cannonball Adderley - Somethin’ Else - Blue Note
Adderley (as), Miles Davis (t), Hank Jones (p), Sam Jones (b) and Art Blakey (d). Rec. 1959

Adderley was about to push into the soul-jazz era when he made this one-off for Blue Note. In a sense it was a vale to what had passed between the altoist and Miles Davis during the time they shared the bandstand in the Miles Davis Sextet, complete with Miles’ compulsive borrowings from Ahmad Jamal and the delicate balance struck between the beautiful simplicity of the emerging modernist simplicity and Cannon’s natural ebullience. Miles got the altoist to shine through ballads and burnished blowing throughout, complementing in fine style while the rest of the crew kept a discreet distance. The Blue Note RVG version contain an extra track from this session. (KS)

Review Cannonball Adderley – Somethin' Else

Charles Mingus - The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady - Impulse!
Rolf Ericson, Richard Williams (t), Quentin Jackson (tb), Don Butterfield (tba), Jerome Richardson (fl, ss, bar s), Dick Hafer (fl, ts), Charlie Mariano (as), Jaki Byard (p), Jay Berliner (g), Charles Mingus (b, p) and Dannie Richmond (d). Rec. 1963

Maybe you have to acquire a taste for Mingus before getting to this, but I’ve known people with significant non-Mingus backgrounds fall headlong for it at first hearing. Whether you come from Ellington or from Coltrane or from blues-bands, there’s stuff from this almost continuous suite to captivate you. Even techno fans – no sampling as such – will find early creative use of editing, recycling and overdubbing. Even more creative is the work of soloists such as Jackson, Byard and the amazing Mariano (later of ECM and all points east), and the unaccompanied flamenco guitar part apparently written note-for-note by Mingus himself. (BP)

Ella Fitzgerald - Sings The Cole Porter Songbook - Verve
Fitzgerald (v) and the Buddy Bregman Orchestra. Rec. 1956

Norman Granz had long cherished the ambition to have Ella recording for his label but had to wait until 1956 to make the signing. His first project for her was to record as many Cole Porter songs as they could lay their hands on in large ensemble style and release them (initially as volumes one and two) on an unsuspecting but quickly enraptured public. The idea caught on and Ella kept doing composer songbooks well into the 1960s. Nobody did it better, even though it could be said that Sinatra’s studious avoidance of such anthologies produced the greater individual legacy. (KS)

Feature Ella Fitzgerald: essential recordings

Duke Ellington - Ellington At Newport - Columbia
Ellington (p), Willie Cook, Ray Nance, Clark Terry, Cat Anderson (t), Britt Woodman, Quentin Jackson, John Sanders (tb), Johnny Hodges, Russell Procope (as), Jimmy Hamilton (cl, ts), Paul Gonsalves (ts), Harry Carney (bar s), Jimmy Woode (b) and Sam Woodyard (d). Rec. 1956

Ellington often acknowledged that the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival offered him a virtual rebirth in terms of his in-person and recording career but there is little doubt as to why. Apart from the on-site near-riot after the conclusion of ‘Diminuendo And Crescendo in Blue’, this is a well-paced record for a lounge-chair audience wanting to know what the excitement was all about. The fact that 60 per cent of the original (including just about all of The Festival Suite) was recorded in the studio in the following days due to onstage microphone problems was only confirmed decades later. The original vinyl had just three tracks: this was also the original CD configuration. A later two-CD version combines much improved sound with the complete festival appearance, plus studio extras. (KS)

Feature: Such Sweet Thunder: inside Duke Ellington's literary world

Woody Herman - The Thundering Herds - Columbia
Herman (cl, as, v) Sonny Berman, Pete Candoli, Conte Candoli, Shorty Rogers, Conrad Gozzo, Ernie Royal (t), Bill Harris (tb), Sam Marowitz, John LaPorta, Flip Phillips, Pete Mondello, Herbie Steward, Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Serge Chaloff (reeds), Margie Hyams, Red Norvo (vb), Ralph Burns, Jimmy Rowles (p), Billy Bauer, Chuck Wayne (g), Chubby Jackson (b), Dave Tough and Don Lamond (d). Rec. 1945-47

The 1945-47 Herman bands – they came to be known as the First and Second Herds – were 1940s big band punk, high on their own adrenalin, testing all the boundaries and playing stampeding music that remains some of the most exciting of the last fifty years, whatever the genre: these guys took the sophistication of Ellington, grafted it on to the bone-chilling excitement of the Gillespie big band soloists and anchored it with the insanely swinging rhythm section of bassist Chubby Jackson and drummer Dave Tough. This set, first pulled together on vinyl in the 1960s and re-jigged many times on LP and CD since, preserves the best of a truly great big band and its leader. (KS)

Jan Garbarek - Afric Pepperbird - ECM
Jan Garbarek (ts, fl), Terje Rypdal (g), Arild Andersen (b) and Jon Christensen (d). Rec. 1970

From the opening track ‘Scarabee’, the jazz world outside Scandinavia was introduced to a Nordic sensibility in jazz, the Nordic Tone. Intensity, meaning and space are essential to understanding what is probably the most misunderstood approach to jazz improvisation. Garbarek combines the intensity of Albert Ayler and the economy of Dexter Gordon but reinscribes them with Nordic folkloric allusions, to produce, in producer Manfred Eicher’s words “an alternative to the American approach to jazz,” an approach he champions to this day. (SN)

‘We knew we had something special… It’s not urban America, they know isolation, stillness and tranquility’
Manfred Eicher, founder of ECM Records on Afric Pepperbird (Jazzwise 80, October 2004)

Jimmy Smith - A New Sound, A New Star - Blue Note
Smith (org), Thornel Schwartz (g), Bay Perry and Donald Bailey (d). Rec. 1956

It’s that simple: Jimmy Smith invented modern jazz organ and this is the album (in fact, volume one of two quickly-released volumes recorded at the same February 1956 sessions) where he announced his arrival. From the off, Blue Note was looking for commercial success and his version of ‘The Champ’, though not the first Jimmy Smith Blue Note single (on Volume two rather than Volume one), delivered big time. By then the first album had delivered a blues-plus-bebop blueprint for the jazz organ trio that Smith would subsequently develop, refine and occasionally revise, but that stayed remarkably consistent in content and quality over the next decade. (KS)
CD version currently only available from Japan.

Pat Metheny - Bright Size Life - ECM
Pat Metheny (g), Jaco Pastorius (b) and Bob Moses (d). Rec. 1975

The first blooming of Metheny’s great talent as a recording artist in his own right came with this stunning trio which he led while teaching at Berklee School of Music and a member of Gary Burton’s group of the day. At this stage of career (he was 21) Metheny indulged Pastorius somersaulting on to the stage and doing back flips off his speaker cabinet, and this mixture of Pastorius’ exuberance and Metheny’s intensity, moderated by the impeccable taste of Bob Moses lends a freshness to this album that makes it seem as if it were recorded yesterday. (SN)

Subscribe to Jazzwise magazine from only £15 per quarter

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Making The Cut Mpu 300x500px

Subcribe To Jazzwise


Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

@OttoWillberg Oddly, that's also the title of one of his albums...
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
RT @mpjanisch: S/o to @Jazzwise for premiering the album trailer for my new record coming out Sept 6 on @WhirlwindRecord - shot in Studio 3…
Follow Us - @Jazzwise


© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA