Apparently April 30 is International Jazz Day. So as a way of subverting the canon-building exercises that are sure to go on across the jazz internet today, I’ve come up with a list of my own, based on the contents of my own iPod and CD tower. Here, just because I like you, are…
50 Jazz Albums Unlikely To Make Other Lists Of 50 Jazz Albums You Will Read On International Jazz Day 2012
- JD Allen Trio, Victory! – 12 tracks in 36 minutes. Concise, thoughtful trio playing led by one of the best young tenor saxophonists around. (Much more here.)
- Fred Anderson/Kidd Jordan/William Parker/Hamid Drake, 2 Days in April – A double disc of sprawling, sputtering, ferocious liveage featuring two killer, veteran saxophonists and maybe the best rhythm team in early ’00s free jazz. A high-water mark for everyone involved.
- Borbetomagus, Barbed Wire Maggots – This one’ll take your face right off. One of their most metallic, jagged albums, and with these guys that’s really saying something. Two saxes and a guitar; many, many pedals; no mercy.
- Anthony Braxton, New York, Fall 1974 – One of his friendliest albums. It was either this or The Montreux/Berlin Concerts, but “Opus 23B,” the wildly swinging album opener, closed the deal.
- Peter Brötzmann, Nothung – The legendary German reed-eater brings his saxophone to a blindfolded three-way kickboxing match with bassist William Parker (yeah, him again) and drummer Michael Wertmüller.
- Clifford Brown & Max Roach, Clifford Brown & Max Roach – Not everything on this list is gonna be skronky or intense. If you can’t get with “Delilah,” we can’t be friends.
- Don Cherry, Eternal Rhythm – A confluence of Euros, plus guitarist Sonny Sharrock. Two extended jams, two chances to peel the top of your skull off and let the sky in.
- Ornette Coleman, To Whom Who Keeps a Record – A collection of brilliant leftovers by the 1959-61 quartet, for some reason bequeathed to the Japanese until it was assimilated into the mind-crushingly awesome Beauty is a Rare Thing box. It’s been reissued by itself since, so you’ve got no excuse.
- Alice Coltrane, Lord of Lords – The greatest version of Stravinsky‘s “The Firebird” you’ll ever hear. (More here.)
- John Coltrane, Meditations – Two side-long explorations, one harsh, one mournful and beautiful, both the sound of Coltrane ushering Pharoah Sanders into the spotlight.
- Miles Davis, Nefertiti – The moodiest (and my favorite) album by the 1965-68 acoustic quintet.
- Stacy Dillard, Good and Bad Memories – A young tenor player who reminds me of Hank Mobley. (More here.)
- Bill Dixon, Thoughts – Trumpet, alto sax, tuba, two basses and drums. A series of subdued but sometimes heart-stoppingly beautiful pieces that bring autumn with them.
- Charles Gayle/William Parker/Rashied Ali, Touchin’ On Trane – If ’90s free jazz has an ultimate statement, this album is probably it. (Much more here.)
- Dexter Gordon, A Swingin’ Affair – Gordon is one of my favorite saxophonists, and this is tied with Dexter Blows Hot and Cool for my favorite album of his.
- Grant Green, The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark – Green’s stinging guitar tone perfectly mates with Clark’s light, yet bluesy, touch on the piano. The 10-minute version of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” here is eyebrow-searing.
- Tim Hagans, Animation/Imagination – Trumpeter Hagans and producer Bob Belden meld jazz, drum ‘n’ bass, and raw energy into something totally unique. This album still represents an unexplored potential future.
- Julius Hemphill, Dogon A.D. – Indescribable, really. Earthy funk meets nerve-jangling abstraction. A total classic, finally getting its due. (More here.)
- Joe Henderson, Inner Urge – The fiercest (and the only quartet disc) among Henderson’s mid ’60s run of Blue Note albums, all of which are essential. “El Barrio” prefigures David S. Ware‘s entire career.
- Andrew Hill, Compulsion – Extra percussion brings out the beast in Mr. Hill.
- Noah Howard, Noah Howard Quartet – The alto saxophonist’s slightly Ornette-ish, arty debut, for ESP-Disk.
- Bobby Hutcherson, Dialogue – More brilliance from Blue Note’s mid ’60s crop of post-hard bop innovators. Sam Rivers enlivens things.
- Keith Jarrett, Fort Yawuh – A double live CD with plenty of groove and fervor, by one of the best bands of the 1970s (Dewey Redman on sax, Charlie Haden on bass, Paul Motian on drums).
- Frank Lowe, Black Beings – William Parker‘s first record, and saxophonist Lowe’s fiercest. The most recent CD reissue offers radically extended versions of pieces originally cropped for vinyl, and the brand-new The Loweski offers 40 more minutes of music from the same night.
- Branford Marsalis, Crazy People Music – My favorite of his 1980s/1990s albums. The tunes are better, the playing more friendly and less smirky than others in his catalog…just a fun, enjoyable, non-didactic record.
- Wynton Marsalis, J Mood – The trumpet is the sole horn on this beautiful, bluesy album.
- Grachan Moncur III, New Africa – After multiple collaborations with alto saxophonist Jackie McLean on Blue Note, this trombonist moved to Paris and made this killer album for BYG Actuel. Soulful, fierce, percussive and compositionally surprising.
- Thelonious Monk, Monk. – My favorite album by my favorite Monk band. I’ve always preferred the Columbia albums to anything that came before, and this is a bare-bones masterpiece.
- Lee Morgan, Search for the New Land – The title track is a droning epic unlike anything else in this brilliant, dead-too-early trumpeter’s catalog. Everything else is blues, groove and funk.
- David Murray Octet, New Life – A later effort by the Octet, but one that’s strong enough to knock walls down.
- Sunny Murray, Homage to Africa – The legendary free jazz drummer brings in extra percussionists and gets meditative, without losing his fierce edge.
- Other Dimensions in Music, Now! – A tragically under-worshipped full-improv quartet who take Ornette’s ideas and Albert Ayler‘s, blend them, and launch them into the stratosphere.
- Painkiller, Guts of a Virgin – John Zorn goes grindcore with help from Bill Laswell and Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris.
- William Parker Trio, Painter’s Spring – A hard-swinging date featuring Other Dimensions in Music‘s Daniel Carter on sax. Proof that free jazz also offers the freedom to not scream in the listener’s face.
- Jeremy Pelt, Soul – The best album yet by one of the best trumpeters around. (Much more here.)
- Ike Quebec, Heavy Soul – So much reverb on the leader’s saxophone, it sounds like the microphone is rolled up in the carpet, but these thick organ grooves are unstoppable. (Much more here.)
- Joshua Redman, Compass – In which an occasionally too-glib saxophonist doubles his rhythm section and makes the best album of his career.
- Sam Rivers, Crystals – Known for small-group freedom, saxophonist, composer and general organizer Rivers assembled a gigantic band for this collection of finely honed mini-epics.
- Matana Roberts, Live in London – An excoriating performance by a fascinating alto saxophonist. (Interview with Roberts here.)
- Sonny Rollins, East Broadway Run Down – Every one of his albums is muscular, but this one, with its epic title track, is a bruising workout. The ballad “We Kiss in a Shadow” is the real keeper.
- Pharoah Sanders, Izipho Zam – There are a lot of people on this album, but in terms of raw impact, it might as well be just Sanders on sax and Sonny Sharrock on guitar.
- Sonny Sharrock, Black Woman – And speaking of…Sharrock took “jazz guitar” to hell, and made the flames feel terrific.
- Archie Shepp, Fire Music – Big, swinging, roaring workouts by a saxophonist with little or no sense of subtlety, but hey, sometimes you just wanna shout.
- Wayne Shorter, The All Seeing Eye – A more interesting composer than player, saxophonist Shorter’s best Blue Note album includes some killer tunes, but the best one, “Mephisto,” is by his brother Alan.
- Walter Smith III, III – A young saxophonist with killer trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire in his band. Smart hard bop that remembers melody and groove.
- Cecil Taylor, The Cecil Taylor Unit – The debut album by Taylor’s best band, one that created a unique sound blending jazz, modern classical, and frequent outbursts of almost rock-like drumming from the never less than astonishing Ronald Shannon Jackson. There’s an extended article on this group in Burning Ambulance #5.
- McCoy Tyner, Tender Moments – A larger-than-usual ensemble gives Coltrane’s pianist a chance to expand his sound. Despite its title, this is not a ballad session – it’ll knock your chair over for you.
- Buster Williams, Pinnacle – A funky record by the bassist for Herbie Hancock‘s best band, Mwandishi. Occasional vocals can’t wreck it, so you know it’s good.
- Frank Wright, Church Number Nine – Two album-side-long tracks during which saxophonists Wright and Noah Howard attempt to out-shout both each other and pianist Bobby Few. If gospel music sounded like this, I’d go to church.
- Larry Young, Lawrence of Newark – Organist Young’s spaciest, most prog album, leaving his appearance on Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin‘s Love Devotion Surrender in the dust.