Monday, April 13, 2020

Albums that had significant impacts on my thirst for jazz

In recent days, Facebook has been bubbling with users’ lists of celebrities or musicians that they have met or performed with, with one exception. Then it’s up to the followers to figure out which one was untrue. This is an interesting sheltering-in-place pastime.

Thanks to my parents’ modest record collection, there was some music by jazz artists in our upstate New York home when I was growing up in the 1950s and early ‘60s. But these were considered more popular music of the day, not so much with a genre tag. Sprinkled among platters by varied popular vocalists and instrumentalists, I found records by Nat King Cole, Al Hirt and pianist Eddie Heywood. They likely set the tone for my full-blown jazz appreciation that began blossoming in college, from 1967-1971, and intensified with the Newport Jazz Festival's return to its Rhode Island roots in 1981.

There is no guessing game here. I’m just listing the recordings that had a profound, early impact on my appreciation of jazz. My ears heard most of them for the first time in the early 1970s through the mid-1980s. 
These ten are listed alphabetically by artist. Call them taste shapers.

  • Cannonball Adderley, Somethin’ Else (Blue Note)
  • Miles Davis, Sketches of Spain (Columbia)
  • Duke Ellington, Ellington at Newport (Columbia)
  • Bill Evans, New Jazz Conceptions (Riverside)
  • Dizzy Gillespie, Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac (Impulse!)
  • Ahmad Jamal, The Awakening (Impulse!)
  • Junior Mance, With a Lotta Help From My Friends (Atlantic)
  • Chuck Mangione, Friends and Love (Mercury)
  • Dave McKenna, Left Handed Complement (Concord Jazz)
  • Helen Merrill, Helen Merrill (with Clifford Brown) (EmArcy)
This is a great time to revisit your own influences, be they recordings, stunning concert performances that you recall as jazz epiphanies, or crossing paths with favorite artists.

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