Jazz has had a universal appeal since its inception. As soon as the music left its cradle of New Orleans
in the early years of the 20th century it quickly spread to all corners of the world. Europeans were among the first non-Americans to embrace the music and place their unique twist on it. Below are 10 classic European jazz recordings.
Beginning the list is Mosaic's massive box set of guitarist Django Reinhardt
's Swing/HMV sessions. Reinhardt is arguably the first real innovator in the European jazz scene. His music has spawned a subgenre, the so called Gypsy Jazz or Hot Club, that continues to go strong.
Swedish baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin
was one of the first "stars" of the Nordic Jazz scene. His lyrical style and buttery tone mark all of his work that Dragon reissued chronologically. Danny's Dream
is the only one without guest appearances therefore making Gullin's the dominant voice on these sessions.
The mid 1960's saw a blossoming of both filmmaking and jazz music in Poland. Pianist and film composer Krzysztof Komeda
remains one of the most individualistic and singular improvisers to have originated from Poland. His 1965 live recording Astigmatic
is considered one of the best jazz albums of all time.
Jazz made inroads early into England and the rest of the UK. Some of its first English proponents emulated their American counterparts faithfully. In the 1950s and 1960s a movement started that aimed at creating unique British brand of jazz. One of the highlights of that era remains pianist Stan Tracey
's Jazz Suite: Inspired by Dylan Thomas's "Under Milk Wood"
The fusion of jazz with ethnic music was becoming popular starting in the 1950s. Serbian trumpeter Dusko Goykovich
brought Balkan harmonies and melodies into jazz with his superb Swinging Macedonia
. It remains one of the best examples of the genre and one of the most accomplished jazz albums.
Often compared to bandoneon player and composer Astor Piazzolla
, saxophonist Pedro Iturralde
was one of the first to infuse the folk music of native Spain into jazz and classical pieces. His collaboration with guitarist Paco de Lucia Flamenco Jazz
remains one of the best examples of the marriage of two musical heritages.
If the phrase fire breather did not exist before saxophonist Peter Brötzmann
it should have been coined to describe his style. One of the pioneers of the European free improvisational scene his Machine Gun
is a powerful and passionate statement and sort of a manifesto for the Avant-Garde music that came from western Europe. Despite being recorded in 1968 it has stood the test of time and remains a refreshing, stirring and fascinating record.
Trumpeter Enrico Rava
brought his trademark contemplative and lyrical style to his ECM debut Pilgrim and the Stars
. The elegant and atmospheric record is the musical equivalent of an edgy, art house film. The dynamic and passionate album is stimulating and poetic, simultaneously cerebral and visceral.
The Zen like serenity of saxophonist Jan Garbarek
does not distract from the innovative ideas that abound within it. The sublime pieces unfold like sonic landscapes conjuring images of lush, green fields and the crystalline glaciers of the arctic circle. It is an apt, musical tribute to his home land of Norway.
Iturralde and Komeda were not the only ones to engage in the musical freedom of jazz while living under totalitarian rule. Pianist Vyacheslav Ganelin
and his Ganelin Trio
released a bold and free flowing album, Ancora Da Capo
in 1982 while living under Soviet regime. The innovation and the ingenuity of the work makes it a landmark in history of jazz while the political climate in which it was recorded makes it more poignant. Django Reinhardt The Complete Django Reinhardt and Quintet of the Hot Club of France Swing/HMV Sessions 1936-1948
(Mosaic) Lars Gullin Danny's Dream: Volume 8, 1953-55
(Dragon) Krzysztof Komeda Astigmatic
(Power Bros Records) Stan Tracey Jazz Suite Inspired by Dylan Thomas's "Under Milk Wood"
(EMI) Dusko Goykovich Swinging Macedonia
Enja Pedro Iturralde Flamenco Jazz
(MPS) Peter Brötzmann Machine Gun
(FMP) Enrico Rava The Pilgrim and the Stars
(ECM) Jan Garbarek Dis
(ECM) Ganelin Trio Ancora Da Capo