Building a Jazz Library

There's more to jazz than Kenny G and Wynton Marsalis.

That's why we created Building A Jazz Library. With this resource, you can home in on the players and styles essential to the past and future of jazz. Each section in this series features a brief introduction which provides some background and biographical information to shed light on each particular artist or style.

Then we list the discs. You'll find landmark material here, true high-water marks worthy of respect and attention. We recruited a special enthusiast to assemble each section in this series. These people have spent a lot of time with the subject (and probably bought way too many records to back it up). We assure you that the nuggets listed here are carefully considered and on-target.

If you're new to Jazz -- or new to an artist or style -- treat Building A Jazz Library as a primer of sorts. It will provide you with enough information to step confidently into the store (or the library) and find something tasty. Or if you're a serious collector, you might just find that a few of these recommendations may fill some gaping holes on your shelf.

Building A Jazz Library throws its doors wide open to all different kinds of Jazz fans and interests. Certain sounds may mesh with your particular tastes, and this series aims to bring you and the music together in perfect harmony. So dig in, and enjoy!

Essential Buying Tips for Building a Jazz Collection on a Budget.


Tony Bennett

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"Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business, the best exponent of a song," Frank Sinatra once said. “He's the singer who gets across what the composer has in mind, and probably a little more. There's a feeling in back of it." Tony Bennett began his career as a singing waiter in his Queens, NY neighborhood. He served in WWII as part of “the greatest generation" and returned home to his music. Two enduring career hallmarks--his inexhaustible ...


Bulletin Board Members' Picks

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Since we started the Building a Jazz Library (BAJL) series, we've assembled more than sixty collections, and that number continues to grow. We thought it might be interesting to see what readers would recommend, so we asked AAJ Bulletin Board members to provide a short list of recordings they considered essential, and the 159 different lists that came in over a six-month period added up to a tremendously diverse collection of music. The following thirteen recordings (listed ...


Jazz Masterpieces: 1956-1965

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There are times when you have to hold back and let certain music speak for itself. This list of jazz masterpieces is exactly that kind of music. By definition, these records are without flaw. (Okay, so humans are inherently flawed, but you'll have to get out a microscope to find anything that falls short here.) After surveying our editors, we compromised on this short “master" list. For listeners keen on what the definitive truth was at a certain ...


Pat Metheny: Quantum Musician

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If Pat Metheny never plays another single note, he would have already lived a “bright size life." Pat Metheny was born in Lee's Summit, MO in 1954 and first picked up his guitar at the age of twelve. By age fifteen, he was already playing with the top jazz musicians in town. In 1974, he became a part of the international jazz scene and joined a band led by vibraphonist Gary Burton. During this three year stint, he ...


Classic Bebop

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Bebop played the same part in the history of jazz that rock & roll played in the history of pop: Seemingly equal parts genius, accident, hard work, and willful rebellion, it was born of its turbulent times and forever changed the course of music. Bebop is the sharp dividing line between swing and modern jazz. It was born in the early 1940s from jam sessions led by alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, pianists Bud Powell and ...


Jazz With Strings

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Please note the title of this collection. It does not include symphony orchestras playing jazz compositions. Nor does it feature what is known as “third stream" music, which is the combination of jazz and classical elements for what is hoped to be a unified whole. No, just like the title says, this collection includes jazz musicians performing jazz with string sections. Jazz-with-strings is where the passion of jazz meets the power of an orchestra. This musical genre ...


McCoy Tyner

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Some jazz fans only have a partial acquaintance with McCoy Tyner, that being that “he was Coltrane's pianist." Indeed, it is fairly common to know McCoy Tyner only through his stellar contributions as a sideman in the 1960s, not only with Coltrane but also with Wayne Shorter, Bobby Hutcherson and Joe Henderson. Along with 'Trane, these are simply the records that everybody has heard McCoy play on.Suffice it to say that McCoy's career doesn't end there and that ...


Tomasz Stanko

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Trumpeter and composer Tomasz Stanko (b. 1942 Rzeszow, Poland) was present at the birth of modern European jazz. He's most closely associated with the man who was at the center of seemingly all art forms in Poland in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Krzysztof Komeda. Although his early work has been described, even by himself, as “free" or “avant-garde," one can always hear a melodic lyricism in Stanko's lines which softens the overall effect. An example of ...


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