The 10 Best Jazz Albums for Beginners

Want to get into jazz and don’t know where to start? We picked 10 iconic albums to set the mood

miles davis kind of blue

Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

The one and only Kind Of Blue. The epitome of cool one might say. Put it on and drift away to another reality by the all-star cast Miles enrolled. I have reviewed this already before, so there’s not much to add here. It’s not humanly possible not to like this. I recommend checking out Davis’ vast catalogue further, especially ‘Bitches Brew’ which is definitely not a ‘beginner’ album.

Grant Green Green Street

Grant Green - Green Street

A severely underrated player during his lifetime, Grant Green is one of the great unsung heroes of jazz guitar. There’s nothing too fancy on Green Street; his technique is always at the service of his music. But his playing is immediately recognizable and instantly captivating. No other guitarist has ever handled standards and ballads with his brilliance.

Dexter Gordon Our Man in Paris

Dexter Gordon - Our Man in Paris

Another Blue Note classic and a prime example of bebop. After the beggining of WW2 many black musicians settled in Europe and so did Dexter Gordon for what would be a dozen-year stay. On Our Man In Paris, he masterfully covers iconic jazz standards backed by pianist Bud Powell, drummer Kenny Clarke and French bassist Pierre Michelot. Great for all occasions.

John Coltrane A Love Supreme

John Coltrane - A Love Supreme

A Love Supreme was released in 1965 and is justly considered one of the best jazz albums ever. The infamous quarter consists of Coltrane’s sax, Jimmy Garrison on double bass, Elvin Jones on percussion and McCoy Tyner on piano. The album is a four-part suite  – Acknowledgement, Resolution, Pursuance and Psalm – fueled by Coltrane’s personal declaration of faith in God and his awareness of being on a spiritual path.

 

charles mingus mingus mingus

Charles Mingus - Mingus Mingus Mingus

Mingus Mingus Mingus is from the period when physical and mental decline took the composer-bassist from being Ellington’s heir to a wounded six-year hiatus. It’s a fiery big band blitz on standards like ‘Haitian Fight Song’ and ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’. Charlie Mariano plays sensuously slurred alto sax, Eric Dolphy’s wriggling lines intensify the riffy ‘Hora Decubitus’, and the holy-rolling sax over squealing trumpets on “Better Git It in Your Soul” blow you up against the wall.

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers Moanin'

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - Moanin'

Lay down the beat, set the tempo and kick it to the highest level of the art. This is Art Blakey a hard bop master and superb drummer. Moanin’ includes some of the greatest music he ever produced along his best band. Even though it was recorded more than a half a century ago, its mixture of thunderous drums, piercing piano chords, a howling saxophone competing with traditional gospel aura, blues influences, and sophisticated jazz create hybrid soundscapes that withstand the test of time.

Clifford Brown and Max Roach Study in Brown

Clifford Brown and Max Roach - Study in Brown

Clifford Brown teamed up with Max Roach in 1954 via Dizzy Gillespie’s recommendation. They were quickly recognized as one of the best groups in contemporary jazz and Brown as a major trumpeter and composer. In 1956, Brown and pianist Richie Powell were killed in a road accident, making Study in Brown the Clifford Brown-Max Roach Quintet’s only album.

The 10 Best Jazz Albums for Beginners

Sonny Rollins - Saxophone Colossus

Joined by pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Doug Watkins, and drummer Max Roach, Sonny Rollins debuts with Saxophone Colossus, and establishes himself as a tenor player with a unique sound, a remarkable rhythmic intuition and melodic vocabulary. It’s not very often that you hear an album where the musicians are so in tune with each other.

thelonious monk brilliant corners

Thelonious Monk - Brilliant Corners

Brilliant Covers is arguably, Monk at his best. The orchestra was actually a tentet close to the format of Miles’ Birth of the Cool sessions, with a tuba, French horn, trombone, trumpet, baritone, tenor and alto saxophones, bass, drums and Monk’s piano. The great Sonny Rollins and the ferocious Max Roach are also present here.

Miles Davis In a Silent Way

Miles Davis - In a Silent Way

Miles gets to get featured twice because, well, he’s Miles. The atmospheric nuances of In A Silent Way were the ‘Big Bang’ for jazz-fusion and the prelude to the monumental ‘Bitches Brew