Building a Jazz Library

Daily articles carefully curated by the All About Jazz staff. Read our popular and future articles.

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.

BUILDING A JAZZ LIBRARY

Blue Note Records: Lost In Space: 20 Overlooked Classic Albums

Read "Blue Note Records: Lost In Space: 20 Overlooked Classic Albums" reviewed by Chris May

For anyone with a passion for Blue Note, it is hard to conceive of an album that has been “overlooked," let alone twenty of them. For connoisseurs of the most influential label in jazz history, the passion can be all consuming: if a dedicated collector does not have all the albums (yet), he or she will be aware of their existence. For all but the most hardcore aficionado, however, the chances are that there are a few discs which have ...

BUILDING A JAZZ LIBRARY

Lift Every Voice And Sing: Twenty #BlackLives Albums That Matter

Read "Lift Every Voice And Sing: Twenty #BlackLives Albums That Matter" reviewed by Chris May

Jazz has been inextricably linked with social and political protest since at least the late 1930s, when Billie Holiday made famous the leftist songwriter and poet Abel Meeropol's “Strange Fruit." The song, which has a power to move that is undiminished by familiarity, likens the bodies of lynched African Americans to fruit hanging in trees. But the alignment of jazz and protest goes back further than “Strange Fruit." It is likely to have begun with the emergence ...

BUILDING A JAZZ LIBRARY

Atlantic Records: More Giant Steps: An Alternative Top 20 Albums

Read "Atlantic Records: More Giant Steps: An Alternative Top 20 Albums" reviewed by Chris May

Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun's Atlantic Records differs in one key respect from Prestige, Riverside, Impulse!, Strata-East and Flying Dutchman, the most prominent labels covered so far in this Building A Jazz Library series. Those labels' discographies consist almost exclusively of jazz. Atlantic had parallel interests in soul and rhythm-and-blues and, later, rock. This had consequences, as we shall see in a moment. Atlantic was founded in New York in 1947 by jazz and blues enthusiasts Ahmet Ertegun, ...

Impulse! Records: An Alternative Top 20 Zeitgeist Seizing Albums

Read "Impulse! Records: An Alternative Top 20 Zeitgeist Seizing Albums" reviewed by Chris May

There can be little argument that a jazz label ever captured a zeitgeist more completely than Impulse! did during its original 1960s incarnation. In the US, the fight back against white racism was cresting, opposition to the Vietnam war was growing, outrage over the assassinations of figures of hope such as President Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X was boiling over, and inner cities were literally ablaze with protest. Impulse! entered this arena in 1961. For ...

BUILDING A JAZZ LIBRARY

Jazz & Film: An Alternative Top 20 Soundtrack Albums

Read "Jazz & Film: An Alternative Top 20 Soundtrack Albums" reviewed by Chris May

Jazz and the movies have a shared history stretching back almost a hundred years. The relationship came into its own in the US in the mid twentieth century. Elia Kazan's 1950 movie Panic In The Streets is an early example of how film makers used jazz-based soundtracks to enhance drama and atmosphere and create ambiances of social or magical realism. As the 1950s wore on, television joined the party. On big and small screens, jazz became the ...

BUILDING A JAZZ LIBRARY

Sex & Drugs & Jazz & Jive: Top Ten Stash Records Albums

Read "Sex & Drugs & Jazz & Jive: Top Ten Stash Records Albums" reviewed by Chris May

With all the transgressive flair you would expect of bohemian New York City in the 1970s and 1980s, Bernie Brightman's Stash Records made its name with a hugely entertaining series of sex and drugs-themed compilations of swing-era recordings. The first was Reefer Songs in 1976. But Brightman's legacy extends much further. There was a finite amount of this material available for Stash to source and reissue and when the well ran dry, Brightman re-focused on making original recordings. Some of ...

BUILDING A JAZZ LIBRARY

John Scofield As A Sideman: The Best Of…

Read "John Scofield As A Sideman: The Best Of…" reviewed by Ian Patterson

John Scofield is a modern-day jazz legend, one of the most instantly recognizable voices on the guitar, and an inspiration to many. In a solo career that began in earnest in 1977, Scofield has carved out his own sound on dozens of albums, including his tribute to Steve Swallow, Swallow Tales (ECM, 2020), a trio album with Swallow and Bill Stewart celebrating the bassist's compositions. It is a joyous, straight-ahead work-out, rooted in jazz tradition, yet feeding off contemporary tributaries. ...


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