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.

8

Unconventional Instruments

Read "Unconventional Instruments" reviewed by Karl Ackermann


ECM regularly tops lists of the best jazz labels though their full name--Edition of Contemporary Music--would argue for a broader scope of content. A substantial number of their most popular albums, such as Carla Bley's Escalator Over The Hill (1974), Egberto Gismonti: Dança Dos Escravos (1989), Nils Petter Molvær's Khmer (1997), and many more, are not jazz per se. At least not by the traditional criteria. Looking at the presence of unusual instruments in jazz requires that we ...

13

Charles Mingus: An Essential Top Ten Albums

Read "Charles Mingus: An Essential Top Ten Albums" reviewed by Chris May


Charles Mingus was rarely a happy man and yet his music possessed a power to uplift listeners unlike that of most other composer / bandleaders before or after him. It still has that power in 2021, four decades after his passing and on the eve of his hundredth anniversary in 2022. In his personal life, too, Mingus was a mass of conflicts and contradictions. He was by turns depressed and exuberant, though mostly depressed. He could be violent one moment ...

3

John Russell

Read "John Russell" reviewed by John Eyles


On Tuesday 19th January 2021, one month after his 66th birthday, guitarist John Russell died peacefully at home after a long battle against cancer. A flurry of obituaries furnished details of Russell's life and fifty-year career as an improvising musician, some also praising his many music-related achievements far beyond his skills as a guitarist. Some obituaries alluded to key recordings and landmarks from Russell's long recording career. The selection below goes from the start of that recording career ...

36

John Coltrane: Top Ten Live Albums

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


This article is a companion piece to John Coltrane: An Alternative Top Ten Albums, which listed ten albums widely regarded as essential items in John Coltrane's discography and discussed another ten of comparable importance. John Coltrane: Top Ten Live Albums narrows the focus to club and concert recordings. Coltrane's live performances had a trajectory which was largely independent of his studio albums; he did not build set lists around his latest release. For instance, Coltrane never “toured" ...

27

Instrumental Duos

Read "Instrumental Duos" reviewed by Karl Ackermann


The early days of jazz were not always harmonious. Converted dance orchestras often sounded like unbalanced acoustic junkyards; a single violin, cornet, trombone, clarinet, tuba, drums, banjo, and piano, all fighting for attention. The piano was meant to be the glue holding the shrill and boisterous elements together. In 1921 a prodigy pianist named Zez Confrey brought his classical training and sophisticated pallet into the fray as a pioneer of the jazz duo artform. Confrey physically arranged the orchestra on ...

63

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 ...

20

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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