Ten Jazz Albums to Hear Before You Die

Categories: Jazz

7. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong
Ella and Louis
Imagine it's a Friday morning, and you have the day off.  It's you and your significant other. You have nowhere to go, and it's raining.  Well, this is the album you need to be playing to create that perfect atmosphere -- an album with so much space, soaring trumpet solos, and a duet so unique and soulful even a jazz newbie can't ignore its grip on their heartstrings. It's a 1956 album dripping with nostalgia.  Plus, the band features Oscar Peterson (piano) and Buddy "Freaking" Rich (drums). Best to listen to an album with such a dreamy atmosphere to ensure, at least once, that you feel romantic and drenched in "Moonlight in Vermont."

6. Miles Davis
Bitches Brew
I'm not saying that you have to like this album.  But it's one you just have to listen to before you die; it's kind of like looking at Abstract Expressionism or listening to Morton Feldman -- it just might not jive with you.  Bitches Brew was released in 1970.  The first time I heard this album, I thought it was a joke.  In fact, I was kind of pissed.  Where was the melody?  Where was the catchy rhythm?  Well, it's so shocking the first time you hear it that it forces you to question what jazz and music can be.  It makes you think about structure and limitations of our current music.  The prison of the human ear.  Ah, enough of that.  Just listen to the album.  Chaos and cacophony defined.

5. The Thelonious Monk Quartet
Monk's Dream
Probably one of the hippest figures in jazz, Thelonious Monk was a genius who was able to see notes on the piano that didn't even exist in Western music. When he would sit down on the piano, he would strike two half notes (notes next to each other that sound awful when played together) to simulate the imaginary notes between the two piano keys.  He was so out there and amazing, and Monk's Dream (1963) is just one example, an imprint of strange and beautiful blaps and boops that were being electrified in his mind. The work is about color; it's a visual experience as much as an auditory one.

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