Critic's Favorite Jazz Albums
There are a number of critic's guides to jazz music that have been published over the last two decades or so. I was curious to see what they would all agree were among the best jazz albums, focusing mostly on albums from the 1950s through the early 1960s, primarily encompassing styles such as bop, hard bop and west coast. I utilized six recent sources, each of which, consulting more than one critic, nominated 100 or more albums as eligible for a basic jazz library. In addition, I used sources of reviews from the time the album was released.
The results indicate surprisingly little agreement on which albums deserved the highest possible rating. In general, however, albums that received the highest rating from one source were favorably rated by all the other sources.
All the sources I consulted gave the following albums (listed in alphabetical order by artist) their highest rating:
1. Cannonball Adderley - Somethin' Else (1958)
2. Louis Armstrong - Hot Fives & Sevens (1925-1929)
3. The Count Basie Orchestra - The Atomic Mr. Basie (1957)
4. John Coltrane - A Love Supreme (1964)
5. John Coltrane - Giant Steps (1959)
6. Miles Davis - Kind of Blue (1959)
7. Charles Mingus - Mingus Ah Um (1959)
8. Thelonious Monk - Brilliant Corners (1956)
9. Wes Montgomery - The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of (1960)
10. Charlie Parker - The Dial Sessions (1945-1947)
11. Joe Pass - Virtuoso (1974)
12. Art Pepper - Meets the Rhythm Section (1957)
13. Bud Powell - The Amazing, Volume 1 (1949-1951)
14. The Quintet - Jazz at Massey Hall (1953)
15. Sonny Rollins - Saxophone Colossus (1956)
And that's it - 15 albums each of which received the highest rating. The following are some near-misses - that is, albums that received the highest possible rating from all sources except one:
Albert Ayler - Spiritual Unity
John Coltrane - My Favorite Things
Miles Davis - Birth of the Cool
Eric Dolphy - Out to Lunch
Duke Ellington - The Blanton-Webster Recordings
Bill Evans Trio - Waltz for Debby
Herbie Hancock - Head Hunters
Herbie Hancock - Maiden Voyage
Charles Mingus - The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady
The Oscar Peterson Trio - Night Train
Sarah Vaughn - With Clifford Brown
What's left out is surprising: no Dizzy Gillespie, no Ella Fitzgerald, no Dave Brubeck, no Stan Getz, no Sonny Stitt, no MJQ.
I also have a list of my own favorite jazz albums.