Norman Geras is running another of his music-related polls, this one on readers’ nominations for their top 15 jazz albums.
The list I sent Norm isn’t ordered, since I refuse to give myself that big a headache; nor can I reasonably say that it what’s on it constitutes ‘the greatest etc.’, since I’ve no doubt the list would almost certainly be rather different if my CD collection were larger. (As a corollary, it’ll be different in sixth months time – like John Holbo, I’m apt to spend a ridiculously hefty proportion of any hike in my income on music.)
So, I offer this list in the spirit that these are fifteen albums that I really, really like, and maybe you would too:
John Coltrane, ‘Giant Steps’. Coltrane’s playing on the title track is just a force of nature, and ‘Naima’ is very pretty indeed.
Miles Davis, ‘The Best of the Quintet, 1965-8’. Since I can’t have the Plugged Nickel sessions in their entirety within the rules of the poll, this’ll do as representative of that band’s amazing achievements.
Wayne Shorter, ‘Juju’. Unbelievable energy and surprise here.
McCoy Tyner, ‘The Real McCoy’. Tyner’s way with harmony still knocks me over whenever I listen to him; if only I could work out exactly what he was up to and reproduce something like it myself …
Joe Pass, ‘Virtuoso Vol. 4’. Gorgeous, joyful, artful solo guitar.
Miles Davis, ‘Kind of Blue’. Comment superflous.
Charlie Parker, Savoy Sessions vol 5. (Any decent Parker compilation will do the trick, but since we’re confined to LP’s here, I’ll pick out this out of the feasible set partly because it’s the first bit of Bird I ever bought, partly because I particularly love ‘Parker’s Mood’.)
Brecker, Hancock, Hargrove, ‘New Directions in Music’. Smart, edgy, endlessly inventive reinvention of the legacies of Coltrane and Miles. Damn I wish I’d seen that band when they toured.
Miles Davis, ‘Decoy’. Miles takes fewer drugs, sacks the conga player, and finally does something really interesting with electric instruments. The presence of Branford Marsalis and John Scofield doesn’t hurt, it has to be said.
Ella Fitzgerald, ‘Ella Sings Gershwin’. This being the single CD from the big Verve release of the whole American Songbook, (which I can’t have by the ‘no boxed-set’ rule, damn it). ‘Embraceable You’ is worth the price of admission on its own.
Keith Jarrett Trio, ‘Still Live’. Jarrett’s improvised introduction to ‘My Funny Valentine’ is a minor masterpiece.
Martin Taylor, ‘In Concert’. Technically jaw-dropping, harmonically fiendish but wonderfully entertaining solo set.
John Scofield, ‘Flat Out’. Clever, abstracted acoustic funk with great interplay between Sco and Terri Lyne Carrington on the drums. ‘All The Things You Are’ never sounded like this before. And if ‘Sissy Strut’ doesn’t make you want to dance, well, I dunno… (I speak as someone who is notorious for being close to impossible to persuade to dance.)
Wayne Shorter, ‘Live Evil’. Rather like the Hancock/Brecker album in giving us a chance to listen to the very finest players rework the ground-breaking stuff from the ‘sixties, and none the worse for that.
Bill Evans and Jim Hall, ‘Undercurrent’. Introverted, thoughtful, humane, unmissable stuff.
If you’ve a list in mind, do tell Norm about it by emailing him here. Your deadline is midnight Sunday GMT – my bad for not mentioning it earlier.
Update: Kieran correctly points out in the comments that I probably meant to recommend the work of Miles Davis, rather than that of the all-too-plausible titan of ‘the Treorchy pitster scene’, Miles Davies. I’ve now changed the list to make this clear.
My apologies to the ghosts of both gentlemen for any crisis of identity this confusion may have provoked.