I recently found myself doing some cleaning of my album collection. More than cleaning, it is a chance for me to revisit some albums that have, through no fault of their own, been sitting on the shelf too long.
I came to realize that I am fortunate to have the opportunity to be a jazz radio disc jockey, as well as someone who can spend hours in jazz record stores. With the decline in jazz record sales, and the bulk of jazz album sales going to big name vocalists or timeless classic recordings like Kind of Blue, it hit me that just because I have exposure to some wonderful gems of the last thirty years, doesn’t mean that everybody has.
That being said, I decided that I wanted to share my favorite albums from the last thirty or so years that, for one reason or another, might not be sitting on your shelf. And, as always, I encourage you offer your hidden gems.
1. Pilgrimage – Michael Brecker (2007)
Even without the sentimental value of this album (Brecker recorded it while battling MDS and Leukemia, and never did live to release it), it is the best jazz album over the last twenty years. The writing and improvisation from Brecker is stellar, and each member of the band play to their full potential. Winner of two Grammy awards.
Recommended tracks: Tumbleweed, Anagram
Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 3
2. Trumpet Evolution – Arturo Sandoval (2003)
Many critics called this the best trumpet album of the last twenty years. Sandoval’s ability to capture the sound and emotion of each trumpet player he honors (19 in all) is something I don’t believe any other musician has the ability or talent to do.
Recommended Tracks: I Can’t Get Started, Up Jumped Spring
Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 6
3. Beyond The Missouri Sky – Charlie Haden/Pat Metheny (1996)
To be honest, I am not a huge Pat Metheny fan. On this album however, you are hard pressed to find a track that isn’t increadibly beautiful. The two musicians are in perfect sync, and you could have this release playing in your CD player over and over for days and continually enjoy it. A Grammy award winner.
Recommended Tracks: Two For the Road, The Moon Song, Cinema Paradiso (Love Theme)
Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 1
4. The Birthday Concert – Jaco Pastorious (1981)
Jaco Pastorious decided to throw himself a 30th birthday party in the form of a concert, and what a party it was. Jaco shows why he is the best electric bass player ever, and his supporting cast (Bob Mintzer, Michael Brecker, Peter Erskine, Don Alias, and the Peter Graves Orchestra.
Recommended Tracks: Soul Intro/The Chicken, Invitation
Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 7
5. Flow – Terence Blanchard (2005)
After going through an embochure change (which just sounds painful to brass players), Blanchard came back strong with this release. Working with the likes of Herbie Hancock and Aaron Parks, this album features wonderful arrangements and performances with alot of intensity.
Recommended Tracks: Over There
Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 10
6. An Evening with Herbie Hancock & Chick Corea – Herbie Hancock/Chick Corea (1978)
Herbie and Chick had both gone pretty electric during the late 70’s, so to have them come together and do a live acoustic set was somewhat of a shock. They play extremely well together, and this concert is a wonderful result of that.
Recommended Tracks: Liza
Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 8
7. Contemporary Jazz – Branford Marsalis (2000)
Branford displays a wonderfully artistic side on the first album with this quartet, which as of today has spent ten years together. While many of the compositions are complex, no member of the band struggles with them. On the contrary, each band member shines as part of a quartet that would continue to make fantastic music together. A Grammy award winner.
Recommended Tracks: In The Crease
Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 12
8. Democracy – Kenny Werner (2006)
I know Kenny Werner is talented. But until this live recording, he had yet to truly move me. David Sanchez and Brian Blade are especially good on this album, and all of Werner’s compositions are especially good.
Recommended Tracks: One For Joni
Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: N/A
9. Lucky To Be Me – Taylor Eigsti (2006)
Just 21 at the time of the recording, Eigsti proved that he is the future of jazz piano (in addition to virtuoso Eldar). The performances show maturity, energy, and complexity. Even more impressive is 17 year old guitarist Julian Lage.
Recommended Tracks: Giant Steps, Woke Up This Morning, Love For Sale
Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 15
10. Earfood – Roy Hargrove (2008)
It is wonderful when a musician can continue to put out music that demonstrates that they have yet to peak. Roy Hargrove continues to get better and better with every album, and this no doubt is his best. While Earfood was snubbed when it came to Grammy nominations, it is widely agreed upon that it was easily the best jazz album released in 2008.
Recommended Tracks: I’m Not So Sure, Speak Low, Bring It On Home To Me
Billboard Jazz Chart Peak Spot: 7