Jazz It Up
by Tim Ziegler
John Coltrane - Blue Train
The opening notes of the title track are among the most recognizable, and joyous, in jazz. If you need one bop record, this is it. Coltrane assembled an amazing and swinging group for one of his favorite recordings of his own, and his only outing for the Blue Note label.
John Coltrane - A Love Supreme
A Love Supreme, Coltrane’s classic quartet at their peak, defies genre or style, and transcends into the spiritual; indeed, Coltrane called the 1964 recording - four part suite – his “attempt to say ‘THANK YOU GOD' through our work.” Quintessential for any collection.
Thelonious Monk - Genius of Modern Music Vol. 1
These first recordings as a band leader for Monk, recorded in 1947 and 1948, are the seeds of a, yes, genius composer and player, and include some of my favorite Monk songs and melodies – “Well, You Needn’t,” “Ruby, My Dear,” and the masterpiece, “’Round Midnight.”
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - Moanin’
Art Blakey was and is the heartbeat and rhythm of the Blue Note label, and the title track here may be the theme song of the label. The Jazz Messengers served as a kind of proving ground for the best young jazz players, and Moanin’ is like an all-star team. Trumpeter Lee Morgan, pianist Bobby Timmons, with Benny Golson on sax and Jymie Merritt on bass combine with Blakey for the drummer’s swingingest and best known album.
Sonny Clark - Cool Struttin
Come for the cool groove of the title track, stay for the style and rhythm of pianist Sonny Clark – a favorite Blue Note records sideman. Other highlights include the Miles Davis composition “Sippin’ a Bell” featuring Miles’ ace rhythm section of bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones - Jackie McLean shines on alto sax here too.
Miles Davis - Birth of the Cool
The three sessions from 1949 and 1950, – Miles’ first as a bandleader – introduced a relaxed mood and larger group arrangements into the bop mix, literally creating the cool jazz style/genre. Band members include jazz masters Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz, and Max Roach. This reissue from last year include live sessions from the same period for the first time on LP, and features beautiful booklet of photos and liner notes.
Ella Fitzgerald - Sings the Cole Porter Songbook
The first album Ella recorded for Verve, and the first and greatest of her many landmark songbooks. When Norman Granz, Verve’s founder and the producer of the album, played it for Porter before its release, Porter exclaimed, “My, what marvelous diction that girl has.” Songs like “Night and Day,” “De-Lovely,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” – unparalleled in American song, and these performances.
Billie Holiday - Songs for DistinguÉ Lovers
One of her last small group sessions, including the great Harry “Sweets” Edison, Ben Webster, and Barney Kessel, this is Billie delivering a haunting and dark sound, at her purest and rawest, and that is hard to match.
Charles Mingus - The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady
Described by Mingus himself as “ethnic folk-dance music,” The Black Saint & The Sinner Lady is a single song cycle rather than a traditional jazz album of separate tracks. The intricate arrangements and raw emotional swings of the piece make it a highlight of Mingus’ career, and one of the most compelling listens in jazz.
Eric Dolphy - Out To Lunch
One of the most celebrated avante-garde jazz albums, Dolphy’s lone Blue Note date as a leader is his most realized work. On side one, including “Hat and Beard” - a nod to Thelonious Monk – Dolphy splits between bass clarinet and flute, and on side two you hear his searching and wandering alto; in the liner notes, he comments that “Straight Up and Down” was meant to evoke a drunken stagger.
Lee Morgan - Sidewinder
The album – one of the most influential soul jazz albums ever recorded. The title track – a cross-over hit on the pop charts when it was released in 1963. The album cover – iconic. The band – Morgan on trumpet, Joe Henderson on tenor sax, Barry Harris on piano, and the rhythm section bassist Richard Davis and Billy Higgins on drums– swingin’!
Stan Getz / Joao Gilberto - Getz/Gilberto
The quintessential bossa nova album, this record popularized the budding Brazilian borne genre when it was released in 1963. Most famous for “The Girl From Ipanema” featuring Astrud Gilberto on vocals – who was not a trained singer, and only chosen because she knew English (and was married to Joao Gilberto, the co-leader of the session and the song’s composer). Other highlights of this beautiful and timeless album include “Corcovado” – the only other track Gilberto sings on – and “Desafinado.”
Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - Ella & Louis
Released in 1956, this is the first of three duet albums between these jazz giants for the Verve label (they had recorded together for the Decca label nearly a decade earlier). The songs were chosen by Verve founder Norman Granz, and his selection of 11 slow- to mid-tempo tunes from the Great American Songbook were a perfect fit to showcase a delightful, respectful interplay between the two. Highlights include “Cheek to Cheek” (Irving Berlin), “Moonlight in Vermont” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”
Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie - Bird & Diz
This 1952 collection is one of bebop’s key artifacts and also represents two jazz milestones: the one and only time that pianist Thelonious Monk recorded with the dynamic duo, and the last time Gillespie and Parker appeared together in the studio. It also features the red-hot rhythm section of bassist Curly Stewart and drummer Buddy Rich.
Oliver Nelson - The Blues & The Abstract Truth
The saxist/composer/arranger offers up six unique takes on the blues for this 1961 classic, alongside one of the great pick-up bands in jazz history: Eric Dolphy, Freddie Hubbard, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, and Roy Haynes.
Duke Ellington - Money Jungle
The latest from the acclaimed Blue Note Tone Poet Series: On September 17, 1962, Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach gathered at Sound Makers studio in NYC and recorded Money Jungle, one of the most celebrated jazz trio albums of all time. Generational and stylistic differences between the three masters led to fearless music-making of the highest order. The album was originally released on United Artists and featured 7 of Ellington’s indelible compositions including “Caravan,” “Solitude,” and a stunning version of “Le Fleurs Africaines (African Flower).” By going back to the original analog stereo master the Tone Poet Edition presents this classic album with superior sound quality.
Hank Mobley - Soul Station
An incredibly warm and lovable album. Mobley’s smooth sound and warm solos combine with the top notch and comfortable backing of Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass – both of whom were playing with Mobley in Miles Davis’ group at the time – and master Blue Note drummer Art Blakey. The title blues track leads this swingin’ session. One of my favorite album covers.
Chet Baker - Chet Baker Sings!
The latest from the acclaimed Blue Note Tone Poet Series: The album features Chet’s indelible vocals and sterling trumpet playing with two different quartet line-ups both featuring pianist Russ Freeman on a set of classic standards that he made his own including “My Funny Valentine,” “That Old Feeling,” and “I Fall In Love Too Easily.” For the first time in more than 60 years, this definitive edition was cut from the original master tapes in the correct order with pristine fidelity. The gatefold packaging includes additional session photography by William Claxton.
Horace Silver – Doin’ The Thing: Live at the Village Gate
The thing is live jazz, and live jazz is the thing! "We'd like for you all to help us get in the groove, let your hair down, and come on and get in the music with us," says Horace Silver in the spoken introduction to Doin' The Thing, the only live album the great pianist made during his remarkable 3-decade tenure on Blue Note Records. Recorded in May 1961 at the Village Gate in NYC, this exuberant live date featured Silver's great quintet with trumpeter Blue Mitchell, tenor saxophonist Junior Cook, bassist Gene Taylor, and drummer Roy Brooks.
Johnny Griffin - Introducing Johnny Griffin
Part of the Blue Note 80 vinyl reissue series, celebrating Blue Note’s 80th Anniversary in 2019, Introducing Johnny Griffin is mastered from original analogue sources and pressed on 180g vinyl. Tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin blew out of Chicago and made his debut album for Blue Note Records in 1956, steering a nimble quartet with pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Curly Russell, and drummer Max Roach through a fantastic set of originals and standards. From the blistering opener “Mil Dew” to the loping “Chicago Calling” and bluesy “Nice and Easy” Griffin’s staggering technical ability and buoyant swing is readily apparent at every twist and turn.
Jazz It Up
by Tim Ziegler
Tim Ziegler is the Director, Classics and Jazz for Universal Music Enterprises, Universal Music Group’s catalog division. He feels blessed to work with Blue Note, Verve, and Decca on their world class and inspiring catalogs. He got interested in jazz in high school when his best friend’s dad mentioned Thelonious Monk’s “angular music”(thanks, Dave!) and has been evangelizing it for work in one form or another ever since. He lives in Pasadena with his family and their two dogs, Charlie and Blue.