Top 20 Best Albums to Get to Know Jazz
Louis Armstrong once said, "If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know," and the man was right. Getting to know jazz is much more about listening and experiencing than defining the genre and all its subgenres. These 20 jazz albums were handpicked from only the very best to get you get acquainted to jazz. From classic to acid, and avant garde to Latin, it's all here!
Complete Live at the Crescendo by Count Basie
Count Basie, a renowned musician and bandleader, is considered one of the fathers of modern jazz and is always listed on the top. His talented band accompanied the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Sarah Vaughan. Complete Live at the Crescendo offers a glimpse of the master at work.
Ella & Louis by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
Ella & Louis was the first of three albums that beautifully merged the vocal charms of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. This essential jazz album offers gorgeous ballads sung by two of the most influential jazz artists and vocalists of all time.
Ellington at Newport by Duke Ellington
Ellington at Newport by Duke Ellington was recorded live at the Newport jazz festival in 1956. Ellington's band played a combination of old and new with a touch of improvisation that drove the crowd wild, earning this performance a place in every collectors' best.
Getz / Gilberto by João Gilberto and Stan Getz
Getz / Gilberto is considered one of the greatest jazz albums of all time. Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto, and Antonio Carlos Jobim concocted a delightful album that perfectly combined jazz and bossa nova. This album was both critically acclaimed and a commercial success.
Marsalis Standard Time - Volume I by Wynton Marsalis
Marsalis Standard Time offers the very best of neo classic jazz with Wynton Marsalis revisiting the greatest jazz standards of all time. This Grammy award-winning album offers magnificent execution and very enjoyable way to get acquainted with jazz.
Eleanora Fagan (1915–1959): To Billie With Love From Dee Dee Bridgewater
Grammy award winner Dee Dee Bridgewater is one of the very best contemporary jazz vocalists. With Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie With Love From Dee Dee Bridgewater, the songstress has created a truly riveting homage to Billie Holiday.
Out to Lunch! By Eric Dolphy
Although avant garde or free jazz might not be for everyone, if you want a taste, try the best. Out to Lunch! by Eric Dolphy is widely acclaimed as the best in this subgenre. Included in all kinds of best of jazz lists, Out to Lunch! showcases great musical dexterity and unparalleled creative genius.
Below the Bassline by Ernest Ranglin
Ernest Ranglin has played with greats like Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff. His fantastic guitar playing and significative musical career has earned him an accolade of awards. Below the Bassline by Ernest Ranglin offers flavourful reggae jazz with a touch of rhythm and blues.
Emergency on Planet Earth by Jamiroquai
Although Jamiroquai may be more recently known for funky disco beats, their first few albums were decidedly acid jazz. Their album Emergency on Planet Earth tops the best in acid jazz lists. Just one listen, and it's clear to see why: it features cool acid jazz beats with fabulous funk flavors.
Take Your Pick and Enjoy!
The jazz albums listed here offer a comprehensive journey from the beginnings of jazz to the most current exponents, with ample variety, and all top ranking among jazz enthusiasts. If you want to know more about jazz, take the time and offer them a listen. You might end up with a favorite album... or two!