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.

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Building a Jazz Library

John Coltrane: An Alternative Top Ten Albums

Read "John Coltrane: An Alternative Top Ten Albums" reviewed by Chris May


Miles Davis once said that you could recite the history of jazz in just four words: Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker. To that you need to add two more: John Coltrane. A giant during his lifetime, Coltrane continues to shape jazz and inspire musicians decades after he passed. No other player has come remotely close to eclipsing him. New tenor saxophone stars such as Britain's Shabaka Hutchings, Josephine Davies and Binker Golding have Coltrane as their key formative influence, while Nubya ...

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Building a Jazz Library

Eddie Sauter: A Wider Focus

Read "Eddie Sauter: A Wider Focus" reviewed by Chris May


For many people, composer and arranger Eddie Sauter's reputation begins and ends with Stan Getz's Focus (Verve, 1962). The album is, indeed, a masterpiece. But it is only one of the pinnacles of Sauter's career, which started during the swing era. Nor is Focus Sauter's only collaboration with Getz. The partnership continued with the less widely celebrated Mickey One (MGM, 1965) and the even more obscure At Tanglewood (RCA Victor, 1967). Born in Brooklyn in 1914, Sauter ...

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Building a Jazz Library

Zakir Hussain: The Best Jazz / Crossover Albums

Read "Zakir Hussain: The Best  Jazz / Crossover Albums" reviewed by Ian Patterson


Zakir Hussain turned 70 on March 9th. In an unparalleled career, which began in earnest aged 7, the man widely acclaimed as the world's greatest tabla player has played with the giants of both Indian classical music and jazz. It is hard to think of another musician who has straddled both worlds to such a prominent degree. Since the 1970s, Hussain has been at the forefront of so-called World Music, experimenting with Indo-rock in Shanti, pioneering pan-global rhythms ...

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Building a Jazz Library

Saxophone Colossi: An Alternative Top Ten Banging Albums

Read "Saxophone  Colossi: An Alternative Top Ten Banging Albums" reviewed by Chris May


Miles Davis once said you could tell the history of jazz in four words: Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker. You might want to add John Coltrane, you might even want to add Davis. But however you cut it, saxophones and trumpets have been the flag bearers of the music. Trumpets got things rolling and saxophones came into their own a decade later, during the swing era, when Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young legitimised the instrument as a solo voice.

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Building a Jazz Library

Chick Corea

Read "Chick Corea" reviewed by Mark Sabbatini


In memory of NEA Jazz Master Chick Corea: 1941-2021. This article was first published at All About Jazz in 2004. Pianist Chick Corea is one of the major pioneers of fusion, with his influence since the 1960s also extending to post-bop, Latin, free-form and avant-garde jazz. He is a rarity in his proficiency and distinctiveness on both piano and synthesizers, and is one of the first players to fully exploit the potential of electronic instruments. Players ...

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Building a Jazz Library

Guitar Gods & Goddesses: An Alternative Top Ten Albums

Read "Guitar Gods & Goddesses: An Alternative Top Ten Albums" reviewed by Chris May


Although it has been present in jazz since the 1920s, when it was routinely used in rhythm sections, as a solo instrument the guitar struggled to make itself heard--literally--until the second half of the 1930s, when reliable pick-ups and portable amplifiers became available. Foremost among the pioneers of the electrified instrument was Charlie Christian, a member of the Benny Goodman Sextet and Orchestra from 1939 to 1941, when he was hospitalized with tuberculosis (he passed the following year). Christian famously ...

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Building a Jazz Library

Solo Recordings for Non-Traditionalists

Read "Solo Recordings for Non-Traditionalists" reviewed by Karl Ackermann


On January 24, 1975, a Bösendorfer 290 Imperial concert grand piano was to be wheeled onto the stage of the Cologne Opera House. Instead, a rehearsal piano, smaller, beaten-up, and out of tune, was the only instrument available to then twenty-nine-year-old piano prodigy Keith Jarrett. The pianist was not in much better shape than the piano. In pain and wearing a back brace, he was sleep-deprived and had driven over three-hundred miles from Zürich. Jarrett threatened to cancel the concert ...


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