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!

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


Henry Threadgill: 9 Plus Essential Albums

Read "Henry Threadgill: 9 Plus Essential Albums" reviewed by Steve Cook

More people should listen to the music of Henry Threadgill. Without any actual statistics at hand, it's safe to say that one could consider his market to be niche. Yes, many jazz fans know him as a long-established creative force. He even won a Pulitzer. But he probably does not ring a bell among the many more who know jazz through legacy artists with curated, major label back catalogs or newer performers with huge-selling breakthrough albums--often, but not always, vocalists. ...


John Coltrane: A Liturgical Discography

Read "John Coltrane: A Liturgical Discography" reviewed by Steve Cook

So much to hear and so little time. The immensity of the recording legacy of John Coltrane as leader, co-leader and side player can be daunting for newcomers and long-time fans alike. Without needing to argue for the place of Coltrane's oeuvre in history, the following proposes a year-long calendar by which to experience and enjoy the tremendous volume of music he gifted us. To take the approach here, based on the liturgical calendar used by many Christian ...


What Next After Kind of Blue?

Read "What Next After Kind of Blue?" reviewed by Steve Cook

For those dipping a first toe into jazz, the Miles Davis classic Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959) is a common initial purchase or listen for many plausible reasons. Web searches for “best jazz albums of all time," or the like, bring up numerous lists that put it at the top and on newcomers' radars. Prominent placement on the Amazon (US) page for jazz CDs and vinyl--with high sales continuously propping it up--almost begs people to try it. The frequency with ...


From George Coleman to Meeco: Ten Overlooked Classics

Read "From George Coleman to Meeco: Ten Overlooked Classics" reviewed by Chris May

The only thread running through this installment of Building A Jazz Library is that of unsung quality. No particular artist is spotlighted, nor any particular genre. There are simply ten, randomly selected albums, recorded in the US and Europe between 1953 and 2021, which show jazz off at its finest, but which, for one reason or another, have only found niche audiences. Some of the artists are well known, others less so. They are Alessandro Meroli (pictured), George Coleman, Svein ...


The Essential Satoko Fujii, Part 4: Quartets

Read "The Essential Satoko Fujii, Part 4: Quartets" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

Satoko Fujii's recorded output comes at you hard and fast. It can overwhelm. In 2018—in celebration of her sixtieth birthday—the pianist/composer/bandleader released an album a month. Not download offerings, but real, handsomely produced CDs, with top of-the-line cover art and sturdy cardboard covers—jewels for the eye, ear and hand. Several other years have seen a release schedule nearly as aggressive as 2018's. And she has been at it for the entire twenty-first century, after her start a decade earlier, with, ...


The Essential Satoko Fujii, Part 3: Trios

Read "The Essential Satoko Fujii, Part 3: Trios" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

Satoko Fujii's trio work, in the classic format of piano, bass and drums, or with various other instruments making up the threesome— most notably Natsuki Tamura's trumpet—are as adventurous as anything she does. Spaciousness is more prevalent, though onslaughts of dense clusters still show up. As with every effort she puts out, she is joyously original. This Is It!Mosaic Libra Records2021 Mosaic, a piano, trumpet, drums outing, is playful and fresh, multi-layered and ...


The Essential Satoko Fujii, Part 2: Duos

Read "The Essential Satoko Fujii, Part 2: Duos" reviewed by Dan McClenaghan

Satoko Fujii releases a lot of albums. Most of them are regular CDs, but she has also moved into the Bandcamp offerings, online only. The Essential Satoko Fujii, Part 1 featured four different sides of her artistry: Solo, duo, trio, quartet and orchestra. Part 2 will showcase some of her outstanding duo discs. Satoko Fujii / Ramon Lopez Confluence Libra Records2019 Satoko Fujii and drummer Ramon Lopez had never recorded together before their ...


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