If you will do a search in the A-gon archives, using my member name "Sdcampbell", you should find some of the lists and articles about jazz I've contributed. You should also do an archive search using the word "jazz" to see what you find. Have fun, and enjoy discovering the world of jazz and blues.
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Sdcampbell has given us some really good posts on jazz, so his advice for a starting point is very good advice. Also, here are some threads to get you started (since the search function at Audiogon doesn't seem to index all the threads past a year or so):
Your favorite Blues Album?
Blues "must have, top 100" list?
Jazz Recs for Classical Music Fan
If radio is available to you, consider finding a local radio station with jazz programming and tuning in over a period of time. That's a good inexpensive way to begin exploring what styles of jazz may be of interest to you before making purchases.
Also, if you have a public library nearby with CDs available on loan, there's another good source for explorations.
Hmmm, that list could be long and distinguished. Resources I've used include Amazon's essentials by artist and AMG (All Music Guide). The AMG site in particular has reviews and ratings which should guide you to the 'best' by a particular artist. Amazon also provides sound clips to get a sense of the song. Use both to narrow things down.
Miles Davis: Kind Of Blue*, Relaxin', Round About Midnight, Sketches Of Spain, Miles Smiles, In A Quiet Way
John Coltrane: Soul Trane, Blue Train*, My Favorite Things*, Giant Steps, Ballads, ..and Johnny Hartman, A Love Supreme*
Thelonious Monk: Genius Of Modern Music, Straight No Chaser, ..and John Coltrane
Wayne Shorter: Speak No Evil*, JuJu, Night Dreamer
Lee Morgan: The Sidewinder*, Search For The New LAnd
Herbie Hancock: Maiden Voyage, Empyrean Isles**
Hank Mobley: Soul Station*, Roll Call
Yusef Lateef: Eastern Sounds*, Live At Peps*
Art Blakey: Moanin'*, Like Someone In Love*, At The Jazz Corner Of The World
Sonny Clark: Cool Struttin'*, Dial S For Sonny
Kenny Dorham: Quiet Kenny*, Whistle Stop*
Kenny Burrell: Midnight Blue*
Jim Hall: Concierto*
Cannonball Adderley: In New York*, In San Francisco, Quintet Plus, Know What I Mean
Wes Montgomery: Full House*
Modern Jazz Quartet: Concorde, Django
Freddie Hubbard: Hub-Tones*, Blue Spirits
Charles Mingus: AhUm*, East Coasting, Picanthropus Erectus
Eric Dolphy: Outward Bound, Out To Lunch
Andrew Hill: Judgement*, Point Of Departure, Dance With Death
Sam Rivers: A New Conception*
Booker Little: Victory And Sorrow*
Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges: Back To Back*
Duke Ellington/Ray Brown: This One's For Blanton
Jackie McLean: Capuchin Swing*, A Fickle Sonance, Bluesnik, Jackies Bag, One Step Beyond, Right Now
Booker Ervin: The Freedom Book*, The Book Cooks, The Trance
Don Wilkerson: Elder Don
Jimmy Smith: House Party, Midnight Special, Back To The Chicken Shack
Larry Young: Unity
Grant Green: Idle Moments*, Matador*
Keith Jarrett: The Koln Concert, Tokyo '96
Art Pepper: ..Meets The Rhthym Section*, +11, Thursday Night At The Village Vanguard, Smack Up
Chet Baker: Chet
Donald Byrd: Byrd In Flight, Byrd In Hand*
Lou Donaldson: Quartet/Quintet/Sextet*, LD+3, Swing And Soul
Bill Evans: Waltz For Debby*, Sunday At The VV*, Interplay
Tina Brooks, True Blue*
Clifford Brown And Max Roach*
Oscar Peterson: Night Train, Sound Of The Trio
Chick Corea: Tones For Joans Bones, Now He Sings Now He Sobs
Tommy Flanagan, The Cats
Curtis Fuller, The Opener
Dexter Gordon: Go!, A Swingin' Affair*
Joe Henderson: Page One*, Mode For Joe
Elmo Hope: Trio/Quintet*
Gil Melle: Quintet/Sextet*
Thad Jones: The Magnificent..*
Oliver Nelson: The Blues And The Abstract Truth*
Herbie Nichols: The Prophetic
Horace Parlan: On The Spur Of The Moment*, Up And Down
Bud Powell: The Amazing V1&2
Ike Quebec: Blue & Sentimental
Archie Shepp: Goin' Home
Sonny rollins: Sax. Colossus*, Way Out West, The Bridge, Plus 4
Horace Silver: Song For My Father*, Six Pieces Of Silver, Cape Verdean Blues*, Tokyo Blues, Blowin The Blues Away, Silvers Serenade
Stanley Turrentine: Look Out, Never Let Me Go, Blue Hour
McCoy Tyner: The Real McCoy*, Today And Tomorrow
Mal Waldron: Mal/2, Mal/4
Randy Weston: Little Niles
Phil Woods: Phil Talks With Quill, Bop Stew, Rights Of Swing*
Ben Webster: At The Renaissance
Art Taylot: AT's Delight
Dizzy Reece: Blues In Trinity
Pete LaRoca: Turkish Women At The Bath*
Bobby Hutcherson: Happenings
Paul Chambers: Bass On Top
That might be a good start. ;-))
House of Blues Essential (Box Set) would be a decent start for a broad intro to the Blues. Throw in some Stevie Ray Vaughan (eg Real Deal Vol 2), the Willie Dixon Chess Box (Dixon songs covered by a bunch of other artists - all classic blues songs), and maybe some Allman Bros, Susan Tedeschi, and you're covering a lot of ground. There's also a great acoustic blues CD called Hellhound on my Trail - the Songs of Robert Johnson (covered by others) that I really enjoy.
Hey, and don't forget - Cream, the Yardbirds, and Zep I of course. Being a rock fan you've probably already listened to a lot of blues covers with a heavier drumbeat.
The long list from rrsands is just amazing, especially for Tidal users like myself. Not only has the list helped expand my exposure to jazz, the sound quality of those albums that are available on Tidal is excellent, and most are available. I don’t know if record sound quality was a factor when the list was compiled, or if it is just a collection of each artist’s best albums, but almost every album on the list is a home run when streamed from Tidal. I’m so glad I found it. I added 95% of them to My Albums collection. It’s amazing how well that old list works with music streaming today, and how well curated it is for SQ.
A second on ebm's Muddy Waters suggestion. Some other essentials are best of collections of Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Big Joe Turner, Sonny Boy Williamson, Robert Johnson, Lowell Fulsom, Jimmy Reed, Ray Charles, the three King's (Freddie, Albert, and B.B.), John Lee Hooker, Mississippi Fred McDowell, T-Bone Walker, Son House, Memphis Slim, Amos Milburn, Big Mama Thornton, and Lightnin' Hopkins. That will be a good Blues starter kit. It will also show you from whom all the mid-60's onward white would-be Bluesmen (and women) stole their stuff!