So, let’s imagine you have a friend who loves jazz, and just to make this vision a little more believable, let us make said friend 6’2″ and a little bit on the thin side. Now, you want to impress this fascinating young man with your knowledge of his loved genre of music, but you do not know where to start. I mean, you know what an untamed jungle jazz is when compared to your safe pop and rock, and yet, you know that you want to explore a little. You dream of running your fingers up and down a long, brass saxophone, or possibly putting your lips to a trumpet and giving it a blow and suddenly your guitar feels awfully small compared to the double bass next to it. Well, then my friend, you need help. Instead, because the world is not fair, what you will get is the Top Five Music Top Five Jazz Records For Beginners.
These five records are all not only jazz classics, but are also extremely accessible. These ones have been picked so that no matter what your background is, you can pick them up and most likely enjoy them. Jazz is an extremely rewarding genre of music if often a little challenging and getting a good start is essentially to enjoying it.
Ella and Louis – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong is undoubtedly the biggest star jazz has ever produced. He alone is the most responsible for bringing jazz to the public ear and pretty much every jazz musician after him has been directly influenced by his music. He is to jazz what The Beatles is to rock. Not content with mastery of the trumpet, he went on to invent the art of scat from which we have his best known hit, What A Wonderful World.
Ella Fitzgerald is the greatest singer there has ever been. You may prop up people like Aretha Franklin and Billy Holiday, or even modern day singers like Janelle Monae, and undoubtedly all their voices are certainly outstanding, but there has never been anyone to touch Ella Fitzgerald.
Together, the two of them make an excellent team in this album. There are touches of Satchmo’s trumpet, but the centerpiece is the two of them singing jazz standards. All in all, this is deservedly a jazz classic.
Try Moonlight in Vermont and They Can’t Take That Away From Me to get a feel of this album. Of the two, I prefer Moonlight in Vermont, even without the lyrics being entirely in haiku.
Takin’ Off – Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock is one of the more interesting people in jazz. Despite groundings in hard bop and a long stint under Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock has been about as much funk as jazz and a little bit of everything else on the side. He’s ranged all the way from the proto-industrial rockit to the Grammy award winning jazz take on Joni Mitchell River: The Joni Letters. Takin’ Off is his debut as a bandleader and contains what is possibly his signature tune, Watermelon Man. Try Three Bags Full and see if you like it.
Getz/Gilberto – Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto
This is one of only two jazz albums ever to win the Grammy for best album, one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time and nothing at all like any of the other albums on this list. This album brought together guitarist/singer João Gilberto and composer/pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim with American Saxophonist Stan Getz to result in the finest moment Bossa Nova, the Brazilian mixture of jazz and samba, has ever seen. This is the rare album that is not only critically acclaimed but is popular enough to spark its own craze. Doralice alone is of the class of music that will never leave your head, but The Girl From Ipanema is just perfect.
Time Out – Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck took a trip through Eurasia, and decided to make this album as an experiment in the musical style he saw there. His publisher gave it the green light on the condition that he would first record a more conventional album, Gone With The Wind. While the latter is now considered one of his lesser efforts, Time Out is one of the definitive Cool Jazz albums. Blue Rondo a La Turk‘s shifting time signatures are amusing enough to carry an entire album, but the top forty hit Take Five is very hard to beat.
Kind of Blue – Miles Davis
Miles Davis is one of the giants of music, one of those people who stand so tall over an art form that no one who follows can help but be influenced in some way by his work. For Kind of Blue, he had with him his ensemble sextet of Bill Evans on piano, Jimmy Cobb on drums, Paul Chambers on bass and both Cannonball Adderley and the incomparable John Coltrane on saxophone. This is the kind of album you define music by.