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.