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The 100 best jazz albums you need in your collection

These days you can’t read a website or pick up a newspaper without being told that jazz has suddenly started to become popular among 18-25 year-olds. Strange, right? Like being told that grime is now the go-to music of choice of octogenarians. But there it is. Data doesn’t lie. Which means in real terms that more Miles Davis albums are being sold than they have for a decade. There is even a “Jazz For People Who Don’t Like Jazz” playlist on Spotify, even though there are more jazz playlists on Spotify than ever before.

Fifteen years ago, something similar happened to me, as, having watched Ken Burns’ masterful jazz miniseries (inspiringly called Jazz), I developed an intense curiosity for the genre and for six months immersed myself in a world I had previously only flirted with. 카지노사이트

So there I was, in the large HMV near Selfridges on London’s Oxford Street, sometime in April 2003, around 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. I’d just dropped about £80 – on Elephant by The White Stripes, Blur’s Think Tank, a second copy of the Strokes’ first album, a new Marmalade compilation (their “I See The Rain” had recently been used in a Gap ad), plus The Last Waltz and The Wicker Man on DVD. On top of all this I had, uncharacteristically, also spent another £40 on three jazz CDs: one fairly useless acid jazz compilation that I would never play again and two of the greatest records I’d heard for over a year: John Coltrane’s Steps and Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite. I bought both at the suggestion of friends, having just started to watch Jazz. Both were suggestions that almost changed my life.

And for weeks afterwards I went back for more, building up a jazz library that threatened to dwarf everything else in my collection. Having kept jazz pretty much at arm’s length for the best part of my life, I found myself embracing it as an estranged father might embrace his long-lost kin. Getting into jazz is like suddenly discovering you have an extended family you knew nothing about, although the family in question runs to thousands of members. Like turning the world upside down and finding another one underneath, a world where they only ever listen to jazz.

Soon, jazz started to replace every other form of music in my life. If I were on Desert Island Discs, I thought to myself rather conceitedly, what would be the point of bringing your eight favourite records with you? Wouldn’t it be better to take eight things you didn’t know, eight records you could grow to love just by dint of listening to them ad infinitum? What would be point of taking your favourite Aphex Twin, Coldplay and Earth Wind & Fire records if you’re going to hear them day in, day out for the rest of your life? How many times could you listen to the first side of Van Morrison’s Moondance before it began to pale? Why not take a load of jazz records you didn’t know instead? 안전한카지노사이트

After my road-to-Damascus experiences, I became a man possessed. I only had to meet someone for five minutes before I asked them what their favourite jazz record was. Experts were eager to please; friends couldn’t stop suggesting things. One introduced me to lots of (very good) jazz guitarists, not knowing that I have a natural aversion to anyone sporting a mullet, which ruled out Pat Metheny, Mike Stern and Frank Gambale. I also developed an aversion to “soft jazz” and forswore the likes of Spyro Gyra, David Sanborn and the kind of soporific stuff you always seem to hear on Jazz FM.

Not a week went by without me adding to my CD library. In my obsession I even resorted to buying some of those 100 Greatest Jazz Hits CD compilations you find in petrol stations, the kind compiled by people who think Al Jarreau and Glenn Miller are cut from the same cloth.

Soon I began compiling an imaginary list of the best jazz records of all time, a list that started to occupy my every waking thought. I’d be in a meeting at work, trying to figure out a way to squeeze a piece about the Angolan civil war into six pages (difficult, but not impossible), and I’d begin comparing the respective voices of Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. (Was “Lullaby Of Birdland” better than “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye”? Who Knew?) I’d be halfway through a client pitch and begin wondering if Dexter Gordon’s “Getting Around” was more impressive than his popular “Our Man In Paris”. If you’ve ever made lists of your favourite rock songs about California, your favourite punk singles, disco 12 inches, songs with the name of your girlfriend or wife in them; if you read High Fidelity and thought Nick Hornby’s lists were rather pedestrian (didn’t you think he’d be more eclectic?); if you’re still reluctant to give up the clandestine obsession of your youth, by which I mean being unable to stop yourself from trawling through vintage record shop racks, mentally totting up the vinyl you’ve already got… If you’re ever done any of these things, then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

So how do you build a collection? What do you do once you’ve wandered off into the jazz section. What do you buy? Not only is there just so much… stuff, but it’s an ever-expanding world. I mean, even if you knew everything there was to know about jazz, how could you possibly own it all? There are nearly as many jazz albums as there are women in the world and how could you sleep with all of them? As with any other type of music, there are some classic records you’d be mad to ignore, but with jazz you really have to plough your own furrow. The jazz police are a proscriptive lot – look to them for recommendations and they’ll tell you that Norah Jones and Stan Getz aren’t jazz, that Blue Note shouldn’t have signed St Germain and that Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” is only ever good for paint commercials. However, these are probably the same people who, 40 years ago, would have told you that Abba don’t make good pop music or that punk was a flash in the pan. 카지노사이트 추천

And there were some things I just didn’t get. Ornette Coleman was one. At the same time Miles Davis was breaking through with modal jazz forms, Coleman invented free jazz with The Shape Of Jazz To Come. Over half a century after the event it is difficult to recapture the shock that greeted the arrival of this record, but it just gave me a headache. Coleman played a white plastic saxophone that looked like a toy, he dressed like a spiv and was a master of the one-liner, the “Zen Zinger” (stuff like, “When the band is playing with the drummer, it’s rock’n’roll, but when the drummer is playing with the band, it’s jazz”), so I really wanted to like his music. But I couldn’t. No matter how much I tried. As far as I was concerned he was improvising up his own sphincter.

And what is jazz anyway? Is it Koop’s Waltz For Koop, a Swedish approximation of loungecore jazz, or is it Terry Callier’s Turn You To Love, which is almost deep soul but is released on Elektra’s “classic jazz” label. The truth is, jazz is a bit of everything, something that isn’t so surprising when you consider it was born out of marching bands, the blues, minstrel music and New Orleans creole. Jazz is Dixieland, swing fusion, jazz funk, jazz rock, R&B, bossa nova, bebop, hard bop, hip hop, cool jazz, hot jazz, free jazz, trad jazz, modern cheroot-smoking Sta-Prest-sporting jazz, the lot. Some people now even call it the new chillout.

But not everyone I asked was as enthusiastic as I was. There are some people who will never like it, as the Daily Telegraph’s Martin Gayford wrote: “You can tell there must be something good about modern art just by considering the people who hate it – and the same is true of jazz.”

“Jazz is for people who don’t like music,” says GQ’s Deputy Editor; it must be fun to play, he says, because it sure ain’t fun to listen to. (“I remember this tune,” he’ll say, “which is more than the guy playing it does.”) It is, in the words of some forgotten Eighties comedian, six guys on stage playing different tunes. GQ even ran a joke about it a few years ago: “Q: Why do some people instantly hate jazz?” “A: It saves time in the long run.” Even my youngest daughter hated it at the time. Aged five, after being subjected to hours of Charlie Parker in the car one weekend, she said, “I don’t like this music. There are no songs for me to sing to.” (The only jazz tune she liked is “Everybody Want To Be A Cat” from Disney’s The Aristocats.) Unbeknown to her, she was echoing John Lennon’s little-known jibe: “Jazz never does anything.”

Some people’s innate hatred of jazz is simply the result of an unfortunate experience, but then anyone who’s witnessed Art Blakey performing a three-and-a-half hour drum solo is entitled to feel a little peeved (and I speak as someone who has seen one at close quarters). On top of this, some people just don’t get it. Like the later work of James Joyce, the films of Tarkovsky and “tax harmonisation”, the fact that some things will always lie just beyond the common understanding is something jazz enthusiasts must learn to live with.

Also, jazz has often been victim to the vagaries of fashion, destined to be revived at the most inappropriate moments. The last time jazz was really in the limelight was back in the mid-Eighties, when it became the soundtrack du jour in thousands of matt-black bachelor flats all over designer Britain and when every style magazine and beer ad seemed to look like a Blue Note album cover. Jazz went from being a visceral, corporeal music to a lifestyle soundtrack. This was the age of Style Council, of Absolute Beginners… of Sting. Buying into jazz was meant to lend your life a patina of exotic sophistication and was used to sell everything from Filofaxes and coffee machines to designer jeans and sports cars.

In his excellent book, Jazz 101: A Complete Guide To Learning And Loving Jazz, John F Szwed writes: “The life and look of the black jazz musician offered a double attraction, that of the alienations of both artist and colour. Whatever jazz might have been as an actual occupation, the jazz musician offered one of the first truly nonmechanical metaphors of the 20th century. Now, whether one has heard of Charlie Parker or not, we inherit a motion of cool, an idea of well-etched individuality, a certain angle of descent.”

If jazz started life as a subversive sexual extension of ragtime, blues, boogie-woogie and the New Orleans sound, by the end of the century it had become the soundtrack of accomplishment, a way of upstairs acknowledging downstairs in the manner of nostalgie de la boue.

But what about the music? In many ways, and for many people, jazz ended in the early Sixties, when Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Cecil Taylor suddenly became the avant-garde; in fact, almost everything that has happened to jazz in the last 50 years could be called “post-Coltrane” in much the same way that people use “postmodern”. Obviously, jazz was “free” and difficult (mad-looking Belgians with crazy hair, billowing luminescent smocks and angular, clarinet-looking instruments) or else it was nostalgic (Harry Connick Jr et al). Ironically, for a type of music so obsessed with modern and the “now”, jazz has always been preoccupied with the past, so much so that during the Eighties and Nineties it became less and less able to reflect modern culture. Everyone wanted to sound like Miles or Dizzy; either that or they went fusion mad and ended up sounding and looking like Frank Zappa on steroids.

And so, after six long months I arrived at my final selection, the 100 best jazz CDs money can buy. The selections here aren’t necessarily all benchmarks, they’re simply the best records to listen to, the ones that will give you the most pleasure. For a while it seemed like my mission was simply to collect as many versions of “A Night In Tunisia” as I could (and I did), although I eventually branched out into all areas of jazz, from New York stride piano to the Third Stream stuff (the classical/jazz crossover). There is very little trad, not much fusion and rather a lot of stuff from the golden age of modern jazz, from 1955 to 1965. Oh, and nine albums by Miles Davis.

Before I embarked on my quest I could never have pictured myself wearing a metaphorical beret and nodding along to seemingly random trumpet sounds in the comfort of my own home. But there I was, imagining myself looking out over Los Angeles from Case Study House No22, with an Avo Classic Robusto in one hand and a large glass of amarone in the other. And all I could hear was Freddie Hubbard. Mmmm, jazz. Nice.

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