Five essential Modern Jazz recordings for the curious newcomer

If you are just starting to listen to Modern Jazz it is helpful to have some suggestions about where you might consider beginning.

The following suggested listening is made up of five recordings that I enjoy very much and which are easy to get hold of. Although anybody you ask will have their own list, you could do far worse than choose several or all of these to start your own collection:-

Blue Train: John Coltrane.
One of Coltrane’s great recordings from towards the end of the 1950’s. It was his sole release as a leader on Blue Note. I have written about this great session here.

Some Day My Prince Will Come: Miles Davis.
An interesting starting point for an exploration of Miles Davis’ work. You can go forwards or backwards from here- but what you will be hearing is a small acoustic band playing engaging and accessible tunes. I suggest this as an alternative to Kind Of Blue, mainly because KOB is the masterpiece that everybody else recommends. If you like SDMPWC you will buy KOB too- but if you buy KOB first then you may overlook this gem.
Miles Davis SDMPWC

Mingus Ah Um: Charles Mingus.
A great suite of tracks from a superb musician and composer (who just gets the nod over Monk for the purposes of this list). A diverse range of tracks and moods will be encountered but if you like it I’m confident that you will revisit this set often.

Home Cookin’: The Incredible Jimmy Smith.
Hammond Organ led sessions are not to everyone’s taste and this isn’t generally rated as Smith’s best- but I’m fond of it and if you want to hear blues-based soul jazz, this is a great starter. I particularly enjoy Smith’s take on the much covered See See Rider, the opening track of Side 1, featuring Percy French on tenor sax and Kenny Burrell- near perfection of its kind. There’s more here.
Jimmy Smith Home Cookin' cover-2

The State of The Tenor: Joe Henderson.
The two volumes that make up this set have been reissued together as a package. What you are getting is a fantastic live club set from one of the great tenor saxophonists. I love listening to it (even the coughing from a member of the audience adds to the live ambience).

So there you go- my five selections. Of course you could also use as a sampler. If you play through some of the YouTube clips you will soon know if you like the set that is being looked at.

Happy listening. The thousand mile journey starts with a single step!


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