Hi, Perfectimage. About 6-9 months ago, there were a number of threads about jazz recordings, and various members (me included) posted threads talking about what they thought were the "essential" jazz recordings. You might want to look in the A-gon archives for more on this topic.
Your idea to subscribe to the Time-Life series has merit, as it will acquaint you with a number of artists, as well as giving you samples of music you might otherwise not hear. You could also buy the CD's that were released earlier this year as part of Ken Burn's PBS documentary on jazz. Additionally, you might want to rent some or all of Ken Burn's documentary on jazz. Your public library may have this series, as well as Blockbuster or Hollywood Video.
My other suggestion is one that I have offered several times on this forum: buy a book called "Jazz Styles: History and Analysis", by Mark C. Gridley (published, as I recall, by Houghton Mifflin). His book is used widely as a text in college courses on jazz, and it is an excellent book. It is easy to read, not terribly technical, and will give you a real "jump start" on understanding and enjoying jazz, America's classical music. The book also contains a discography of recommended jazz recordings. The only downside is cost -- I think the book sells for about $60 (the price for college texts is obscene). Don't be put off by the idea the book is a text, because the book is neither dry nor particularly "academic" . Infact, I'll make you a "can't lose" proposition: if you buy the book and don't like it, I'll buy the book back from you and donate my earlier edition to the public library.
I have been a serious jazz buff for about 40 years, taught a course in jazz appreciation, and have about 3500 jazz recordings, so I'd be glad to play "mentor" if that would be helpful. If you'd like to drop me a personal E-mail, I'd be glad to talk more with you. You might also include your home phone number and I'll give you a call.
To close, the best recommendation I can make for your first jazz CD is Miles Davis' great recording, "Kind of Blue", which has been rated as the #1 jazz recording of all time in many jazz polls.
My personal favorite disk : Dexter Gordon "Our Man in Paris". Fabulous sultry tenor sax by my favorite sax player. Recorded in 1950s so quality is not the same as modern day, but still a very pleasing sound. Everyone I have played it for enjoys it.
Here is my wisdom:
Whoever sais that one album is recorded better than the other album you shouldn't pay attention for it. You should only pay attention on how you like this music first. Otherwise you might be in the situation when you will play a small part of fantastically recorded CD or record, realize that it sounds very good, but then you would switch it for something that turns you up for real and let it be not as good recorded.
And finally who knows -- maybe you won't like jazz at all?
BTW: what kind of music have you been listening always?
That can give me idea to tell you precisely what you might like since Jazz has lots of kinds as well.
About 10 yrs ago, I decided I wanted to start a jazz collection, and my guide was an article/list in Rolling Stone called "The 100 Essential Jazz Recordings" or something like that. I saved the article, because after buying about half the items on the list I had to agree that the recordings and artists were fantastic and that I was actually learning a lot about jazz and which styles/eras/artists I preferred. Send me your address (postal rather than email) and I will xerox you a copy of the list. It really provided a great starting point for me.
Get a copy of the book, "What Jazz Is," by Jonny King. It's a good introduction, plus a description of 10 cuts from classic Blue Note recordings, most of which are still in print. Buy a couple, and starting learning!
There's a lot not to like about the Ken Burns series (like his treatment of the last 40 years, his blurring of jazz and swing to make jazz seem more popular than it ever was, and his absolute fixation on race to the exclusion of all other social influences on the music), but a Ken Burns sampler would probably be well-chosen. Also, Smithsonian has put out some good historical box sets over the years.
My first Jazz LP was a 10 in. recording called The Art Blakey Quintet A Night At Birdland Vol 1. I really don't reccomend any of the jazz series as they tend to be skewed, especially Ken Burns. Try this instead; get the names of several jazz artists in different genres of jazz. Find samples of them online. This way you can listen before you buy. Most jazz fans of today like the Blue Note sound. Dester Gordon's Our Man In Paris is a great example of that. The Blue Note sound was often emulated by other jazz labels of the day. Recordings were mostly live in the studio, small groups, very little post production. More spontaneous in the solos and exchanges and interplay between the musicians. Although KOB is an excellent recording, in my opinion it suffers from the Columbia production factory mentality. No exchanges between the musicians. It's Melody, solo,solo...melody. Miles' live recordings at Newport and the Blackhawk do not have this limitation and are in my opinion superior. To understand my opinion, you need to know that I much prefer live jazz or blues or rock over recordings. I frequently travel from Boston to NYC to listen to live jazz. I don't like Lincoln Center or Smithsonian events. Jazz sounds best in small intimate clubs with musicians who can play off each other.
First Five to buy:
Miles Davis: Kind of Blue. If you own a Jazz collection, you must own this CD. It's a given.
Charlie Mingus: Ah-Um. GREAT album. Great players. Great recording.
Weather Report: Heavy Weather. Great '70s side of Jazz. Jaco Pastorius rules the bass world.
John Coltrane: Blue Train. Gotta have it.
Anything by Kenny Barron or McCoy Tyner. Great pianists deserve a place in your collection.
Next up on the list: Duke Ellington, Parker, Herbie Hancock...just mix it up.
i started collecting jazz about 5 years ago with oscar peterson's(piano)trio playing "we get requests". when i wanted to expand beyond peterson, i looked at who was playing in his group, ie. ray brown. they i tried ray brown, ad infinitum. i enjoy and recommend artists playing standards, or interpertations of standards, such as scott hamilton, roy hargrove, charlie haden, fred hersch, as well as the oldies such as bill evans and stan getz. enjoy...
A good place to check out online is the Jazz Musical Heritage Society - http://www.musicalheritage.com/JAZZ/
They aren't necessarily the cheapest place around, but I have been very pleased with the quality of their cd's.
Lots of great suggestions here. Mine is Cannonball Adderley's "Somethin' Else." It's my understanding that this is basically a Miles LP that was released under Cannonball's name for contractual reasons (longtime jazz gurus correct me if I'm wrong.) Kind of Blue is undeniably wonderful but I find I'd rather listen to, well, Somethin' Else most of the time. I love the Blue Note sound, and the late fifties Riverside stuff. Personal faves are Hank Mobley and Lee Morgan, absolutely fantastic stuff. Donald Byrd, Milt Jackson, Kenny Drew, Sonny Stitt, MJQ, Monk, Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Sonny Rollins, oh man oh man. All that stuff from about 57-61 or so just blows me away. Can't wait to hear some of this stuff on SACD.
Clearly excellent advice from all prior posts. If I might suggest a different twist...if you haven't already done so, I would recommend if possible you take in a live session at an intimate jazz club venue. I think you'll come away with a much heightened perspective/appreciate for all your jazz CD, LP, FM, etc., listening sessions thereafter. BTW, 88.3 FM (WBGO FM) is a truly outstanding (and free) jazz station/resource. If you are outside their range, you can pick up their broadcast via the Internet. Moreover, their Web site in general is an invaluable free resource: http://www.wbgo.org/
I can't quibble (much) with most of the items listed, but all of the CDs I've listed below will give you great jazz without scaring the bejesus out of you, especially if you digest them more or less in the order shown:
1) Bill Evans-Waltz for Debby-or Sunday at the Village Vanguard
2) Miles Davis-Kind of Blue
3) Chico Freeman-Spirit Sensitive
4) Tommy Flanagan-Sea Changes
5) Modern Jazz Quartet-The Last Concert (It wasn't, but get it anyway!)
6) Clifford Brown/Max Roach-Any of the EmArcy reissues
7) Duke Ellington-Newport '58: The fairly recent 2CD reissue on Columbia where they actually blended separate mono tapes into a convincing stereo mix
8) John Coltrane-Giant Steps
9) Thelonious Monk: Brilliant Corners
10) Miles Davis/Gil Evans-The Columbia sampler CD of the big band sessions compiled from the boxed set
11) Charles Mingus: Tijuana Moods
12) Ornette Coleman-The Shape of Jazz To Come
13) Dave Douglas-Stargazer
Well, that's a lot more than one, but it is a pretty good Baker's Dozen that will give you an overview of jazz in the past half century.
Please consider buying a good tuner(if you don't already have one) and listen to as many Jazz programs as you can. Most public broadcasting and local college stations will have a Jazz program or two...or more, that will open new worlds for you. Also take in live Jazz in your area.
By listening to FM programs..and live events, your Jazz CD and album purchasing will be more accurate.
I second the Miles Davis "Kind of Blue" album as well as the John Coltrane "Blue Train". I also recommend Duke Ellington : "Live at Newport". Even though it's a live recording it's a great album. If your looking for more modern jazz, look into Joshua Redmond's "Beyond" album. I think this is his newest one and it's also a great album. I could go on and on about other jazz artists, just start listening and have fun.
Thanks for all the great replies!
I had an interesting coincidence today in that Time Life called my house trying to sell their music series. How could I saw no. I ordered the Jazz series.
SdCampbell. Thanks for the tip. It will have to wait to after christmas but I have no problem spending 60 bucks for a book. I find college text books some of the best books I have read. Sometimes I wish my music and movie library. were as good as my book library. Give me a time to listen to the new cd's and I will then take you up on that offer of further discusion.
Marakanetz: Instead of giving my music prefrences of what I currently own I want to keep an especially open mind. I am a little tired of the same old music all the time and I really want to try something completely new.
Many of the artist that were recommended are on that cd series so I think it was a smart start.
Thanks again and I will let you all know how it is.
I've huge jazz collection that I've started 7 years ago.
I knew pretty much about Chet Baker, Charlie Parker, Jerry Mulligan etc... But I could listen to them on the radio and that was good enough for me.
My first jazz records were Chick Corea's -- Mad Hatter, Lary Corryel -- 11 House, Carla Bley -- European tour 1977.
This jazz is different from traditional jazz of Charlie Parker and has some "rock flavours" once in a while.
I've been motivated for jazz by listening Frank Zappa that always had "jazz flavours" in his rock.
I have to add Dave Brubeck 'Time out' a super sounding Jazz recording that no audiophile is complete with out.
Jazz at the pawnshop - Proprius - well recorded and wonderful jazz(There are a total of 3 cd's you can get). Diana Krall - Any of her new stuff. Patricia Barber-Cafe Blue. All of these are well recorded.
Blue Note label has a new 2 disk collection. "The Best Blue Note Album in the World". It is excellent and the first disk, in particular, is packed with classics. Also, why not try the best selling jazz album ever- Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue." It's music from God and very approachable for someone new to Jazz. There is a newly mastered version out that sells everywhere for $10. Its a must have in any jazz collection.
Sonny Rollins "Way out West". "The Sound of Jazz" on Columbia, opened my heart to Jazz circa 1961, yes I am getting older!
I agree with the consensus--you can't go wrong with 'Kind of Blue' as your first draft choice. And you can't go wrong watching Ken Burns's excellent series. On top of that, the accompanying CDs are not only relatively cheap, but wonderful introductions to the legends. Buy as many of them as possible (I believe there are 24). After that, you might consider box sets, which have been a godsend to jazz lovers like me who do not already have comprehensive collections--the Monk Riversides, the Armstrong Hot Fives & Sevens, the Ellington Centennial collection, the Holiday Columbias and Verves, Coltrane's classic quartet and his Village Vanguard Sessions, the Rollins' RCAs, Miles at the Plugged Nickel ...the list goes on and on. Although few of these boxes are cheap, if you are patient you can eventually find good deals on them in the used market. I think of those listed above, I paid full price only on the Billie Holiday Columbia recordings, because I just could not wait to hear them remastered. What a revelation!
In any event, you'll get some good advice from the fine folks on this site. I'm a relative newcomer myself, and I've benefitted greatly from the expertise and insights of A'Goners.
Oh yeah, after you get 'Kind of Blue', don't wait long to pick up Charlie Parker's 'The Legendary Dial Masters,' a double CD set. These recordings must be included in any list of essential jazz. If you want to try somebody new, look up James Carter--he's the real deal.
Have a great time!
John Coltrane "A John Coltrane Retrospective-The Impulse! Years"(3 disc set): The start of an expensive addiction