1,000 Jazz Albums You Should Hear Before You Die (1-20)

I’ve decided to start a weekly list of jazz albums, twenty at a time, that should be heard before you die.

Every week I will offer up twenty more, in no particular order and with no ranking system or common theme (other than jazz of course).

Hopefully these lists will inspire you to seek some of these albums out that perhaps you haven’t heard before, or revisit an old favorite that the list might remind you of that is collecting dust on your shelf. And as always, we want your thoughts on any or all of these albums. Either way, let’s get started with week one, and in no particular order, albums one through twenty.

1. standard time vol. 1Standard Time Volume 1 – Wynton Marsalis (Columbia, 1986)

2. moaninMoanin’ – Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers (Blue Note, 1958)

3. live in parisLive in Paris – Diana Krall (Verve, 2002)

4. heavy weatherHeavy Weather – Weather Report (Columbia/Legacy, 1977)

5. prime timePrime Time – Count Basie and His Orchestra (Pablo, 1977)

6. big swing faceBig Swing Face – Buddy Rich (Pacific Jazz, 1967)

7. the danish radio big band plays thad jonesThe Danish Radio Big Band Plays Thad Jones – Danish Radio Big Band (Marco Polo, 1997)

8. kind of blueKind of Blue – Miles Davis (Columbia/Legacy, 1959)

9. live in timeLive in Time – The Mingus Big Band (Dreyfus, 1996)

10. ready for freddieReady for Freddie – Freddie Hubbard (Blue Note, 1961)

11. i'm with the bandI’m with the Band – Tierney Sutton (Telarc, 2005)

12. re-imaginationRe-Imagination – Eldar (Sony, 2007)

13. light as a featherLight as a Feather – Chick Corea and Return to Forever (Polydor, 1972)

14. in pursuit of the 27th manIn Pursuit of the 27th Man – Horace Silver (Blue Note, 1970)

15. ella and louisElla and Louis – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (Verve, 1956)

16. to a finland stationTo a Finland Station – Dizzy Gillespie and Arturo Sandoval (Fantasy/OJC, 1982)

17. my favorite thingsMy Favorite Things – John Coltrane (Atlantic, 1960)

18. the new boogalooThe New Boogaloo – Marcus Printup (Nagel-Heyer, 2002)

19. don't try this at homeDon’t Try This at Home – Michael Brecker (Impulse!, 1988)

20. maiden voyageMaiden Voyage – Herbie Hancock (Blue Note, 1965)

The beginning of a very long road, but I hope you can share your thoughts, and maybe find yourself a new CD to pick up!

32 Replies to “1,000 Jazz Albums You Should Hear Before You Die (1-20)”

  1. I’ll be looking forward to your posts, a few suggestions – how about a few comments on each album indicating why it made the list. Kind of Blue is a no brainer but The New Boogaloo? Who is Marcus Printup?

    Also hope you do not keep this too middle of the road. Everyone should hear the Chicago Art Ensemble before they die.

  2. Have you created this list already, and is it coming in any particular order? Because I know some of these albums as being WAY down on my list of things one really should hear. Jelly Roll at his best, Gil Evans Out of the Cool, electric Miles, Cecil Taylor solo, Ornette, Monk, Sonny Rollins, Billie Holiday, Betty Carter, John McLaughlin, Charlie Parker — not to sound old and fogey because Blakey’s Moanin’ is a good choice, but to *start* with Wynton? And then Ms. Krall 3rd!!! What are these choices based on, your taste or some further criteria?

    1. There is absolutely no ranking system or particular order that these albums come in. For example, I do not believe that Wynton’s Standard Time Vol. 1 is the top album that every one should catch, just one out of a thousand.

      More than anything else, it is a (very long) list of releases that should just be heard, in my mind.

  3. Everyone should hear the Chicago Art Ensemble before they die.

    And the Art Ensemble of Chicago as well. 😉

  4. Nice selections, definitely not my top 20. There is plenty of good jazz to sink our teeth into and many seldom talked about gems hidden in the complete list.

  5. I also have a long list and I add more and more as I discover new jazz artists and releases through KPLU and my ZunePass service from Microsoft.

    A suggestion and question:

    Dudley Moore was a hysterically funny comedian and well-known actor. If you love jazz and great piano, you will love Moore more for his music than anything else.
    If you like something mellow verging on New Age, try his “Songs Without Words”.

    Could you please compile your list into a single, downloadable Excel/CSV? It would be great to have all your suggestions in one spot and categoried by Vocal, Piano, Sax, etc.

  6. Here is a jazz die hard lover. My top 5 jazz albums are there in your first 20 jazz albums list. I really feel happy when all these there

    Standard Time Volume 1
    Live in Paris
    Big Swing Face
    Kind of Blue
    Ready for Freddie

    I regularly read all the stuffs about jazz here. Please keep the work same, i love to visit here

  7. Hi,

    What a great list. I am always on the look for top lists, and your list is great starting point. Lists are very useful.

    I found your blog from yahoo. Really Good post.

    Will visit again.

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