The 25 Essential Jazz Records Every Man Should Know

Best Jazz Albums every man should know

You’ve built the bookshelf, covered it with great books, but it needs a little something more. Some classic records perhaps? Why not treat yourself to this essential guide to the best jazz albums in the history of recorded time – bar none?

Ok that claim may be a little strong, but for those of you who have never ventured into the exquisite world of Jazz (or for those needing affirmation on their collection) we at ManMade have put together this list of the all-time greats, plus a guide on why and how to enjoy them. Buckle up.

Best Jazz Albums: THE STANDARDS

These are the jazz records you simply cannot miss. These are the 2001: A Space Odysseys and Goodfellas and Ghostbusters. Start here and see what strikes your fancy.

Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

1. Kind of Blue – Miles Davis

The most influential jazz album there is. Period. Widely considered one of the best jazz albums of all time.

2. Time Out – Dave Brubeck Quartet

The soundtrack of New York City’s bachelor pads in the 60’s.

3. Blue Train – John Coltrane

Coltrane’s first album as band leader and the album that first demonstrated Coltrane Changes.

4. Mingus Ah Um – Charles Mingus 

The coalescence of Mingus’ influences: driving Hard Bop and old-timey Gospel, plus a little Third Stream, Free Jazz, and classical music.

5. The Shape of Jazz to Come – Ornette Coleman

The birth of Free Jazz and the groundwork for Avant-Garde Jazz.

6. The Complete Savoy and Dial Sessions – Charlie Parker

No list of jazz albums would be complete without the word from Bird. Get your Bebop fix here.

7. The Complete Hot 5 and Hot 7 Recordings – Louis Armstrong

The first true standard for jazz soloists.

Best Jazz Albums: NEXT STEPS

You’ve dabbled about now, you have a good sense of the groundwork, and you’re ready for something a bit meatier.

8. A Love Supreme – John Coltrane

Nearly a gospel album, Coltrane is the only horn in the quartet and gets all the freedom he needs. As essential a jazz record as they come.

9. Ellington at Newport – Duke Ellington

At a time when big-bands were dwindling, this concert revitalized Ellington’s career and literally changed the course of music in 20th century.

10. Moanin’ – Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers

The essential hard bop album, with traces of gospel and blues.

11. Birth of the Cool – Miles Davis

Literally the birth of Cool Jazz and one of Davis’ many and defining rebirths.

12. Somethin’ Else – Cannonball Adderley

Adderley brings the Bebop, Art Blakely the Hard-Bop, Sam Jones the bass, Hank Jones the Swing, and Miles Davis the Cool.

13. Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 1 – Thelonious Monk

Monk is second only to Duke Ellington as most recorded jazz composer, which says something since Ellington composed more than 1,000 songs, while Monk had only about 70.

Best Jazz Albums: DEEPER CUTS

Now that you’ve developed your taste, here are the good ol’ deep cuts for those who are ready – plus some lesser known, but highly regarded, game-changing albums.

14. Saxophone Colossus – Sonny Rollins

Only five soulful songs and every one became a hit. Don’t miss it.

15. Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown – Sarah Vaughan

All Music calls it “one of the most important jazz-meets-vocal sessions ever recorded.”

16. Concert By The Sea – Erroll Garner

A janky recording of one of the all time great pianists who couldn’t read a lick of music.

17. Out To Lunch – Eric Dolphy

The high point in 60’s avant-garde jazz.

18. The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery – Wes Montgomery

Trademark thumb-picking and octaves-employed, this record established Montgomery as “the most formidable modern guitarist of the era.”

19. The Blues and Abstract Truth – Oliver Nelson

This post-bop classic explores the structure of the blues with a killer lineup and great subtlety a la Kind of Blue.

THE FAR OUT STUFF (MIXED GENRES AND GREAT HITS)

Kopi Luwak is to coffee, what these albums are to jazz.

20. Head Hunters – Herbie Hancock

The defining moment for Jazz Funk and the one of the best-selling jazz fusion albums of all time.

21. Bitches Brew – Miles Davis

An older Davis rejects typical jazz rhythms and experiments with electric instruments and freer, rock-inspired style.

22. Speak No Evil – Wayne Shorter

Describing the album, Shorter said, “I was thinking of misty landscapes with wild flowers and strange, dimly-seen shapes — the kind of place where folklore and legends are born. And then I was thinking of things like witch burning too.”

BONUS: DINNER PARTY SOUNDTRACKS

Disclaimer: All of these are truly great albums and should be given a properly focused listen… that said, they’ll be a perfect soundtrack for your next dinner party.

23. Go! – Dexter Gordon 

You’ll feel the nightclub surround you in all the best ways.

24. Getz/Gilberto – Stan Getz & João Gilberto

Lilting, intimate, and relaxing, it spawned a bossa nova craze and won the 1965 Grammy for Best Album.

25. Clifford Brown and Max Roach – Clifford Brown and Max Roach

The New York Times calls it, “Perhaps the definitive bop group until Mr. Brown’s fatal automobile accident in 1956”

26. Sugar in My Bowl: The Best of Nina Simone – Nina Simone

Simone’s best from a versatile five year period.  Yes, that’s 26. We went for it!

If you’re looking for some more in-depth jazz reading check out The Every Man’s Guide to Jazz

Justin
I write for manmadediy.