Sep 302011

Here’s a question I’ve been meaning to ask Townspeople, a question that’s likely a bit outside many of our participants’ comfort zone, but I hope you have the stones to answer, even with limited knowledge of the subject matter: What are your three (3) favorite jazz recordings (individual songs, not entire albums)?

Because this topic is outside my comfort zone I’m not going to be a hard ass regarding your definition of the term “jazz.” If you want to suggest a vocal performance of a “standard,” Chuck Mangione’s “Feel So Good,” or some Lydia Lunch “No Wave” track, be my guest.

On the other hand, if you really know your shit and welcome the chance to dig into this topic, I encourage you to specify the recordings you favor, not just throw out any one of an artist’s dozen takes on the same track.

Before I forget, here are my three favorite jazz recordings, in no particular order:

  • John Coltrane, “Olé”
  • Ornette Coleman, “Ramblin'”
  • James Blood Ulmer, “Layout”

  57 Responses to “Your Three Favorite Jazz Recordings”

  1. Love Supreme made me walk funny for a week. I first heard it in college and I remember it blowing my mind. It was a matter of the right music at the right time.

    I’m a fan of the big bands. As a former trombonist and drum corps enthusiast, I have a soft place for the recordings of Stan Kenton. I don’t know that I have a favorite, but if you put a gun to my head, I might go with Cuban Fire. Lots and lots of really loud brass, like most of Kenton’s stuff.

    I’m also a fan of the lesser-known Don Ellis. He was a trumpet player who really gave new definitions to “Adventures in Time. Just look him up. He had some wild ideas, but what kills me about his work is that he was able to make bands actually swing in the oddest time signatures. By the 70s, he got into the whole jazz-rock thing, like most (even Kenton) did. I guess we all have to make a buck. Even these recordings are pretty different. This guy refused to play by many rules. Probably my favorite record of his was a double called Tears of Joy. It was recorded live. At this point, he added a string quartet AND a brass quintet to his standard big band. Lots of ridiculous soloing and crazy time signatures in addition to these augmentations make for a very adventurous recording.

    I love Jimmy Smith’s stuff. Horace Silver. Of course, Miles. The usual stuff. Ask me tomorrow and I may give you a different answer. But Love Supreme is the one for me. I know that may be a little typical, but it’s the truth.



  2. shawnkilroy

    Dexter Gordon-Tanya
    Chet Baker-Look For The Silver Lining
    The Lounge Lizards-Bob The Bob

  3. misterioso

    Like TB I acknowledge the impossibility of answering this question. Also like him, A Love Supreme was probably the first jazz record that made a huge impact on me. Another, seemingly by way of contrast, was the great Benny Goodman Live at Carnegie Hall 1938. Unlike TB I have never warmed up to Kenton.

    Today’s top three is no more permanent than my top three rock songs. But:

    –Charlie Parker, “Ko Ko” (1945)

    –Grant Green/Sonny Clark, “It Ain’t Necessarily So” (1962)

    –Jazz Messengers, “Infra Rae” (1956)

    –Tina Brooks, “Good Old Soul” (1960) Been listening to this record (True Blue) a lot lately. Just great.

  4. This is so subject to change on an hourly basis, but as of this hour:
    Philip Cohran and the Artistic Heritage Ensemble “The Minstrel”

    Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder

    Mulatu Astatge – Tezeta

  5. Jazz has always pretty much left me cold, even though I’m a sax player. I’ve tried for decades to get into it in all its forms and I’ve seen a number of jazz greats live but for the most part it doesn’t evoke any sort of emotional response. I suppose I’m an uncultured Philistine, but too much of jazz is aimless noodling that ultimately bores me. But then endless and aimless noodling in rock bores me too, like “Nantucket Sleighride” and “Spoonful”. Give me a little structure and things improve immensely. I do like some of the rock/jazz crossovers like Mahavishnu Orchestra.

    I know it’s an album and not a song so it doesn’t count, but my favorite jazz recording is Carla Bley’s Escalator Over the Hill. I like it because it’s wildly ambitious.

  6. misterioso

    I didn’t care much for that first one, but the Mulatu Astatge is really great. I had never heard that before or anything by him. Thanks for that. The Lee Morgan of course is classic.

  7. I too would give you different answers based on the hour.

    John Coltrane, “Impressions”

    Miles Davis, “On the Corner / New York Girl / Thinkin’ One Thing and Doin’ Another / Vote for Miles”

    Mulatu Astake and the Heliocentrics (thanks for the reminder, Tvox!), “Masengo”

  8. A quick reminder all: if you post 4 or more links your comment is automatically held for moderation. I know Oats wasn’t trying to stretch the boundaries of us listing three (3) favorite jazz tunes, but there is a reason beyond the “Links Linkerson Rule” for asking us to do so.

  9. 2000 Man

    I don’t hate Take Five by Dave Brubeck.

    I don’t hate Jazzman by Carole King.

    I like Steely Dan.

    I know, I suck. I’d sell a complete collection of original Blue Notes without even thinking about it. But I tried. jazz doesn’t Rock enough.

  10. I’m more of a female Jazz vocal fan. I know that some don’t consider this Jazz, but simply popular music from the 40s and 50s.

    I have a few of the Capitol Records “From the Vaults” CDs that I listen to quite a bit as dinner music. This is from “Vine Street Divas” in the series.
    June Christy w/Stan Kenton “It’s Been a Long, Long Time”

    I was lucky enough to see Ella Fitzgerald — so I have a huge soft spot for her. She did a meet & greet before the show, and was just wonderful. As much as I enjoyed it, my 23 year-old self found it a bit sad that she was still touring when she could hardly see! But now I see that she still loved to sing and all the attention.

    and Billie Holiday
    Strange Fruit

  11. At this moment:

    1. Rahsaan Roland Kirk — The Medley (from the live album Rahsaan Rahsaan, his multiple-reed thing in its purest form.)

    2. Dave Brubeck — Audrey (amazing early Paul Desmond solo)

    3. Miles Davis — So What (A cliched choice, it’s true, but c’mon, there’s a reason why it’s the most famous jazz album ever.)

  12. I’ll fess up to the fact that most of my attraction to Kenton and Ellis probably stem from my days on a marching field more than anything else. Alot of that music was exposed to me through the drum and bugle corps activity and my general attitude of “loud and fast is better” drove its appeal to me.

    I always think it’s funny when I see Kenton in the “easy listening” section of the record store.


  13. So What and Kind of Blue. Both are obvious choices, but there’s a reason.


  14. BigSteve

    Albums would have been much easier, because I’m an album guy. Here are the tracks that come to mind:

    Miles Davis, In a Silent Way

    Ornette Coleman, Lonely Woman

    And one vocal track, Nat King Cole’s Sweet Lorraine (from the After Midnight album, all of which is great btw)

  15. BigSteve

    This thread offers many opportunities for healing after that Blood Sweat and Tears/Sympathy for the Devil abomination the other day. I wonder how many people think they hate jazz because of BS&T.

  16. BigSteve

    I think I’ve gone on about it before, but that Mulatu/Heliocentics album totally rules. And Oats, I almost went with On the Corner too, but changed to In a Silent Way on second thought.

  17. Yeah, I think Oats gets the Rock Nerd Points from me for that suggestion.

  18. mockcarr

    My favorite jazz recording is Four Brothers by Woody Herman’s 2nd Herd, for not only the great sax section unison bits, the four respective solo takes, or the coolness of the answering blasts from the brass in the arrangement, but man, that percussive, jumpy little solo Woody does on clarinet kills me.

    Over The Rainbow by Pee Wee Russell. If you hate hearing clams, he’s not the guy for you, because Pee Wee doesn’t care about the spit on the reed, or controlling vibrato, or tone, and probably wings it every damned time as though he’s barely heard the song before. This is actually one of his less venturesome numbers, but he still fumbles around the melody without any concern where it leads him, or whether it makes sense. Now with many musicians, that would irritate me, and I still really don’t know how he makes it work, but I can’t help liking him. Perhaps it’s the frailty of his playing or that it makes me imagine that I wasn’t such a lousy clarinet player all those years ago. It’s only because of him playing this, that I realized I actually like this song.

    Saturday Night by Frank Sinatra with Billy May’s Orchestra. I love the arrangement, the sound of the band, the interpretation (he had done a slower, sappier version much earlier). It’s not well known enough so ever I hear it except when I feel like it, so it’s not like a bunch of other stuff that could be objectively better. But that’s not what you asked anyway.

  19. For the impossible task I picked three of my favorites, scanned my iTunes listings and picked.

    Chet Baker – Let’s Get Lost

    Charles Mingus – Fables Of Faubus

    Lester Young – I Didn’t Know What Time It Was

    Dad loved Chet and so I’ve been listening to him since I was a baby. And I love his singing voice as well. Mingus needs no comment. Young to me is the best; he’s not the revered sax player like others but to me he’s pretty much perfect.

  20. mockcarr

    If I could pick one song my dad and I would “reach” on, it’d be Brubeck’s Blue Rondo A Turk. I think if there was one musician in the world he wishes were still alive, it’d be Paul Desmond.

  21. hrrundivbakshi

    Two things:

    1. As you know, mockcarr, we REACH on “Four Brothers.” That tune is without flaw and without peer in the big band canon, as far as I’m concerned.

    2. Did you know that Billy May was a W.C. Fields-caliber drunk? Indeed, he was legendary for being able to show up at his sessions totally pie-eyed, stumble up to the conductor’s lectern, and produce some of the swingin’est head charts on the spot for some of the most demanding customers in the industry. Many people have said he accomplished more drunk than could reasonably be expected of a brilliant tee-totaller.

  22. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey, Funoka, see what you think of this:

    My apologies if I’ve pimped this chick’s work on here before.

  23. I’m the jazz equivalent of someone who buys the best of the Beatles or Stones and is really content with the purchase.

    So What – Miles
    Ruby My Dear – The Loneliest Monk
    What A Little Moonlight Can Do – Billie Holiday

    Bonus track! My Favorite Things – Coltrane

  24. misterioso

    “Four Brothers” is tremendous. Love those early Thundering Herd records.

  25. Happiness Stan

    Totally valid question, and even thought BS&T are not the culprits in my case I suspect that deep down it was somebody like them.

    I’ve listened to Miles Davis, Coltrane, Weather Report, John McLaughlin, dozens of others, and even if two well-known jazz tracks which I’d heard before were to come on the radio and be as different in style as Captain Beefheart and
    The Carpenters I would be entirely unable to make an educated guess about who had been playing on them, which is not a confession I make with any pride.

    Jazz and hip-hop are the only two genres where I feel so entirely out of my depth that I not only don’t know where to start, but can actually break out in a cold sweat at the thought of starting to dip a toe in to begin with.

    Am I alone here?

  26. This wasn’t about taking the easy way out. Thanks for going the extra mile!

  27. Right up my alley! Who is it?

  28. Not at all. I know very little about hardcore Jazz and hip-hop is a mystery.

    A guy I play golf with (I know, but the 19th hole is often a great place to talk music) makes fun of me because I always mispronounce artists names like Kelis and Nas.

  29. ladymisskirroyale

    I’m sort of like cdm, and in general I like jazz but don’t know it very well. I tend to have more familiarity with older or vocal stuff. Off the top of my head, here would be my favorites:

    “Nuages” – Django Reinhardt
    Some version of “Green Dolphin Street”
    “Lets Get Lost – Chet Baker

    If Fred Astaire counts in this, I’d add “Cheek to Cheek.”

  30. misterioso

    ladymiss, the other day I was trying to take a mental count of how many different recordings I have of “Green Dolphin Street.” I lost track. But they’re all great. What a great tune.

  31. Louis Armstrong, “West End Blues” (almost picked his version of “St. James Infirmary” except other people also do it well).

    Bud Powell, “Glass Enclosure.”

    Art Pepper, “Everything Happens To Me” (from his 1981 show at the Maiden Voyage): a total toss-up for me, but I’m taking it over his studio version of “The Prisoner” (also utterly amazing) and several versions of “Over The Rainbow” from Tokyo 1979.

  32. hrrundivbakshi

    Haha, etc.! That talented lady is my wife! Check the rest of for more — though I think that’s her best. She’s played Blues Alley a few times, and used to do high society/old money gigs around the Charlottesville area (where she used to live), ’til she got sick of it. I’m trying not to “manage” her, now that she’s married to me — but I know a bunch of people in the DC trad jazz scene who have been itching to get her up on stage with them, and there are times when I wish she would, if only to let more of the world hear how great she is. Catherine rules!

    I’ll tell her she has another fan — and thanks. I am a proud hubby!

  33. Have you read the Pee Wee Russell bio The Life of a Jazzman, Mock? Readable and really informed and at the right length. Helped me track down a lot of Pee Wee’s music too–he was the soloist for so many different bands from the 20s into the 60s, a lot of which (the early work that is) can be found on the Classics label. Amazing to think of him coming up with Beiderbecke, with whom he was close friends, and playing with him on tunes on the 20s, and then playing with Thelonious Monk and for Oliver Nelson in the 60s and those weird last records etc–and the guy hardly ate (real stomach problems, and he lived on stewed tomatoes and milk and, of course, oceans of whiskey) for ten years.

  34. Donald Byrd – Cristo Redentor

    Thelonious Monk/John Coltrane – Ruby My Dear

    Louis Armstrong – West End Blues

  35. jeangray

    Lounge Lizards – “Big Heart”

    Mahavishnu Orchestra – “Meeting of the Spirits”

    Stanley Jordon – “Flying Home”

    Guess, I’m a dreaded Fusion fan. I dig a lot of Trad-Jazz, but these three cuts were my gateway drug into Jazziness.

    I also dig when Rock artists try to be Jazzbos — Jeff Beck’s Fusion albums, Zappa’s Jazz Rawk side, Jack Bruce’s solo stuff, Sting’s first solo album, Elvis Costello’s dabbling (“Almost Blue” & my favorite version of “My Funny Valentine”) and I still have a soft spot for that Chicago Transit Authority album.

  36. machinery

    Too many to count. But I’m cool with anything that has the typical second Miles Davis Quintet in it — so this includes a lot of stuff by Shorter and Hancock. My fav period is jazz guys in suits and ties, smaller groups, etc. The exception might be Mingus. Though Mingus alone on piano is super. Monk is the only guy (maybe with the exception of say Beethoven) who deserves the overly-used term “musical genius.”

  37. mockcarr

    I’ll have to check that book out, MWall., but with the recent Borders closeout, I’ve got a big stack to work through first. As usual, most of what I know of him is from liner notes, and bits here and there while reading about other guys.

  38. I’m not much of an instrumental jazz fan. I can forage backwards though blues and folk but most jazz misses something for me. I do like a lot of vocal standards so I can go with that:
    Billie Holiday “Strange Fruit”. Just an astounding backstory on that track.
    Frank Sinatra “All the Way” Interesting story about Billy May but I’ve got to go with the Nelson Riddle arrangements.
    Ray Charles + Count Basie “One Mint Julep” just jumped off the first Ray Charles compilation I ever heard and Genius + Soul = Jazz is pretty great all the way through.

  39. ladymisskirroyale

    I have a soft spot for them, too. Plus Soul Coughing, and when Blue Note Jazz recordings started being sampled by hip hop artists.

  40. bostonhistorian

    I love Art Tatum’s “Willow Weep for Me”

    I can’t pick a favorite from Count Basie’s Complete Decca Recordings (1937-39), but Jive at Five is a great one:

    I’m also a big Ken Vandermark fan. He sometimes gets way out there on the edge, but “vehicle (for magnus broo)” by The Vandermark 5 blows my mind every time I hear it:

  41. jeangray

    Yes, I’ve been digging on the Verve remix project quite a bit lately.

  42. jeangray

    Once again misterioso confirms my suspicions. “The Minstrel” is mind blowingly good & Mulatu Astatge has been the NPR/hipster World Music go-to-guy for some time now.

  43. Very nice – if she plays DC, I’m there. Thanks for the web site.

  44. misterioso

    I get it now. You don’t really like jazz, but you do like stuff by people who like jazz but don’t actually play it. This is sort of how I am with country music.

  45. sammymaudlin

    Speak No Evil – Wayne Shorter
    Kind of Blue – Miles Davis
    Our Man In Paris – Dexter Gordon

    It was hard to not put Coltrane’s Giant Steps on and it was hard to intentionally exclude Duke Ellington as “Big Band” rather than jazz. My choice, I know.

    This is a cool thread. There is so few jazz that I know of, let alone like and this list gives me a chance to poke around some more.

  46. So, now this is Jazz Town Hall? Hopeless…

  47. bostonhistorian

    Given that Basie from the late 1930s rocks harder than a lot of “rock” music, I’m not worried.

  48. jeangray

    And this comes from the Grant Green fan. You are precious misterioso.

  49. misterioso

    Yeah, me and Chrissie Hynde. But, yes, I would say Green’s records as a leader or as a sideman up to ’64 or so are mostly tremendous. (His later stuff does not interest me.) Idle Moments, Street of Dreams, all the stuff with Sonny Clark, etc., are just great. But feel free to tell me otherwise.

  50. jeangray

    “Lonely Woman” is incredible! Those harmonies between the sax & trumpet, plus Charlie Haden on bass. Coleman got a little too “out” there later in life, but this is jus’ perfect.

  51. jeangray

    WoW! I was not familiar with Vandermark, but this track is astoundingly good. Thanx for the heads up.

  52. jeangray

    My point was that by his own admission, Grant considered himself to be a Blues guitarist that somehow stumbled into playing Jazz. Hence a forefather of Fusion, one might say…

  53. jeangray

    Love you…

  54. jeangray

    Hey! That Wayne Shorter track is da bomb. I’m not so familiar with his solo stuff. That one’s a keeper, I’ll have to check out the whole album. Thanx.

  55. misterioso

    Ahh, could be, but I’ll try not to let that diminish my admiration for his work. But it won’t: Miles is virtually the father of fusion and my lack of interest in most of his post-1968 work has never lessened my appreciation of everything that came before.

  56. jeangray

    Dude. That’s so… “Dylan Goes Electric” of you.

  57. misterioso

    Yes, guilty as charged, I suppose. But I mean, it isn’t like I am sitting at home yelling “Judas” over Weather Report or Return to Forever records. They don’t anger me: they just don’t interest me. I recognize the fact that “music must change” and all that good stuff. In theory.

Lost Password?

twitter facebook youtube