If you're a jazz neophyte, you'll find an opportunity here in these recordings to wrap your ears around some mellow music. Find yourself a comfortable chair, get your favorite drink handy, and just sit back and listen. Each of these discs offers the heart and soul of jazz tuned to a mellow wavelength. You'll find nothing "smooth" or "cheesy" here: just good music, created in a relaxed frame of mind.
And if you're looking for an alternative to the haste and clutter of much of today's "serious" jazz, you've come to the right place. This is serious music which just so happens to project an invitingly warm and spacious feel. Choose anything on the list: you won't go wrong. Green is for gojust press play.
Gene Ammons: Boss Tenor (1960)
A rock-solid groove and one of the best of the 50 sets that "Jug" cut for Prestige: He parties at Bill Doggett's "Savoy," soars through Bird's "Confirmation," and warmly embraces "My Romance," sounding soulfully in tune with pianist Tommy Flanagan and percussionist Ray Barretto.
Chet Baker: Sings (1954 / 1956)
Some artists seem so born for their work that their art and life are inseparable. Too thin, delicate, and ethereal for this world, Baker was simply destined to sing "But Not For Me" and "My Funny Valentine" - world-worn, wounded and weary at the age of 25.
Patricia Barber: Nightclub (2000)
A classically trained pianist, Barber proves, with beautifully melancholy versions of "Autumn Leaves," "Alfie" and other "lonely lover" standards, that she knows her way around classic jazz ballad vocals, too. A quiet set that's burning with yearning.
Miles Davis: Kind of Blue (1959)
Like Carl Sandburg's "fog," Blue creeps in on the little cat feet of the opening "So What" to enwrap the listener in a mystical blue mist. Soft in rhythm and volume but not in discipline, largely due to Bill Evans' gifts as pianist, composer, and arranger - and Miles' whispered screams.
Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim: Getz / Gilberto (1963)
The total of the saxophonist, guitarist/vocalist, and pianist/composer is greater than the mere sum of their parts. This simply magical session defies analysis and defines Brazilian jazz while introducing the world to "The Girl From Ipanema" plus the other Jobim classics "Desifinado" and "Corcovado."
Roy Hargrove: Moment to Moment (1999)
Hargrove drifts into and out of trumpet and flugelhorn dreams, floating on soft and round tones through cloud-like versions, cushioned with strings, of "The Very Thought of You," "A Time For Love," and other ballads made famous by Pat Metheny, Sinatra, and Jobim.
Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane: Johnny Hartman / John Coltrane (1963)
A vocalist seemingly destined to be lost in history's shuffle teams with a saxophonist not known for playing with singers. The result: Definitive versions of "My One and Only Love" and "Lush Life" that demonstrate emotional beauty and power which haunt musicians to this day.
Diana Krall: All For You (1996)
Krall's smoldering takes on such slow ballads as "If I Had You" and especially "I'm Through With Love" ignite her homage to the under-rated Nat King Cole Trio, a tall order for any pianist / vocalist that this set fills with relish.
Ben Webster: Soulville (1957)
The "big boss" tenor takes his turn as "gentle giant," leisurely swinging with the Oscar Peterson group through ballads and blues. "Lover, Come Back to Me" feels like a springtime Sunday walk in the park with your special someone: Sunny and warm and bursting like cherry blossoms with romance.
Nancy Wilson: But Beautiful (1971)
The personification of musical class, Wilson leads a stellar band (Hank Jones, Ron Carter, Grady Tate, Gene Bertoncini) through a ballad program that's...well, beautiful. Songs from Ellington, Mercer, Hart & Rodgers and others, but the style and grace is pure Wilson.