20 songs, 1 hr 56 min, 9 min reading time.
Simply twenty pieces which give an overview of my jazz preferences.
1) “Who Knows (Quem Diz Que Sabe)” – Eliane Elias
The Brazilian maestra shows how full and orchestral a solo piano can truly be.
Album: “Paulistana” (1993)
Label: UNIVERSAL MUSIC LLC
2) “Our Song – Remastered” – Art Pepper
The first saxophone player to set my world alight, Pepper’s orchestral Winter Moon album shows how his late era playing, while still containing the prettiness of his youth, came to also embody the agonies of his numerous downfalls.
Album: “Winter Moon” (1991)
Label: Concord Music Group
3) “My Song” – Keith Jarrett
A beautiful solo rendition of one of Jarrett’s most charming 1970s compositions.
4) “Blue Train – Live At Gotanda Kan-i Hoken Hall, Tokyo/1993” – GRP All-Star Big Band
For once not a misnomer (it contained the best of GRP’s mighty roster at the time), what I especially love about this version of the Coltrane standard is that it shows how sometimes it’s not about how fast you play; you can play one note for 12 seconds and nail it.
Album: “Dave Grusin Presents GRP All-Star Big Band Live!” (1993)
Label: GRP Records Inc.
5) “Six to Four” – Phil Upchurch
In spite of its very early 90s production, Upchurch’s sparkling solos on this version of the George Benson tune are timeless.
6) “It’s Alright” – Jason Rebello
From his wonderful, eclectic third album Make It Real, this has a Latin-esque verse and an irresistibly gospelly, singable chorus.
Album: “Make It Real” (1994)
Label: BMG Records (UK) Ltd
Three absolute titans of their respective instruments combined for a trio of gorgeous albums in the early 2000s. Here’s their take on the McCartney standard.
8) “Taking A Chance Of Love” – Martin Taylor
I’m convinced Taylor would be the most famous jazz guitarist in the world were he not English. After a pensive intro he takes this solo piece at quite the lick, and then somehow, impossibly, goes faster. Then tunes down his bottom string manually as a piece de resistance close-out.
Album: “Martin Taylor In Concert” (2000)
Label: Fantasy, Inc.
9) “Lulu’s Back In Town” – Oscar Peterson
While I have some sympathy for the view that Peterson was tied to a set of licks to which he referred too frequently, he could also play with a pace and precision like nobody since Tatum.
Album: “Exclusively for My Friends: My Favorite Instrument, Vol. IV (Live)” (2014)
Label: Edel Germany GmbH
10) “Looking Up – Live At The Arsenal, Metz, France/1991” – Michel Petrucciani
A typically jaunty, uplifting piece from the tiny pianist who was just 36 when his brittle bone disease (which caused him permanent pain) and living large got the better of him.
Album: “Live” (1994)
Label: Blue Note Records
11) “Get It Yourself” – Dave O’Higgins
From an album written to be danced to, this features a trio of killer solos (Barnaby Dickinson on trombone, O’Higgins on sax and Mike Outram’s spine-tinglingly flangey guitar).
Album: “Fast Foot Shuffle” (2002)
Label: Candid Productions Ltd
12) “Black Coffee” – Claire Martin
For my money, the finest jazz vocalist ever to come out of Britain, putting a suitably sultry, late night hue on the insomniac classic.
Album: “Too Darn Hot!” (2004)
Label: Linn Records
13) “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” – Brad Mehldau
Mehldau has recorded many pieces from the ‘pop’ world, in particular Radiohead, and this take on Paul Simon’s wry break-up song combines intensity and, in its last couple of minutes, real swing.
Album: “Day Is Done (Deluxe Version)” (2005)
Label: Nonesuch Records Inc.
14) “The Man I Love” – Dinah Shore
Dinah Shore got top billing, but for me Previn was the true star of this recording. His subtle accompaniment and perfectly-judged interjections are the essence of taste.
Album: “Dinah Sings, Previn Plays” (2006)
Label: Blue Note Records
15) “The Tom And Jerry Show” – Hiromi
Japanese pianist Hiromi is a technical marvel, but is a delight to watch perform because the joy of it all is evident on her face. This tune gives an indication of her playfulness.
Album: “Another Mind” (2003)
16) “Claire Marie” – Biréli Lagrène
From early in his career when he was still somewhat in the shadow of Django Reinhardt, this track also features a blistering solo from Michel Camilo.
Album: “Le meilleur des années Blue Note / EMI” (2012)
Label: Parlophone Music France
17) “Dodge The Dodo – Live in Montreux” – Esbjörn Svensson Trio
Another gone too soon, Svensson died in a diving accident at 44. He left behind a body of artful, intelligent trio work.
Album: “E.S.T. Live” (1995)
Label: ACT Music+Vision GmbH+Co.KG
18) “Memphis Stomp” – Dave Grusin
Grusin wrote so much for film and TV that his own abilities as a pianist often went overlooked. The soundtrack for Tom Cruise film The Firm allowed him to shine.
Album: “The Firm” (1993)
Label: GRP Records Inc.
19) “Sinister Minister – Live Version” – Béla Fleck and the Flecktones
What jazz compilation is complete without a piece for slap bass guitar, drumitar, harmonica and banjo? It’s the classic quartet.
Album: “Live Art” (1996)
Label: Warner Records Inc.
20) “Flintstones” – Jacob Collier
The barely classifiable Jacob Collier, who could probably do anything he put his mind to, first came to my attention with this simply jaw-dropping, Take 6-influenced take on the cartoon theme song. It’s barking mad but utterly magnificent.
Album: “In My Room” (2016)