Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton/Nils Petter Molvaer
Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton: Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton Play the Blues: Live From Jazz at Lincoln Center (Reprise Jazz)
This isn't just figureheads rising to the occasion or getting back to where they once belonged, although both models pertain‑-especially for Marsalis, who enjoys the blues enough that his monster chops masticate them lip-smackingly rather than chewing them up and spitting them out. What's decisive, however, is a conception in which the members of a blues horn section interact polyphonically rather than uniting in the soulful Texas manner while blues polymath Clapton dictates as well as plays and sings a repertoire that includes Memphis Minnie and Howlin Wolf as well as W.C. Handy and Johnny Dodd. The juxtaposition may discomfit at first‑-we're not used to blues so jaunty and effervescent. But let it and it'll lift you right up. A MINUS
Nils Petter Molvaer: Baboon Moon (Thirsty Ear)
Recorded live in the studio with a worldly-wise drummer and a sonic guitarist who adds some modest Teo Macero moves, this is less techno and dubby than the trumpeter's norm, in its many quieter moments evoking the exotica stylings of Jon Hassell. "Recoil" lifts into a riff-driven guitar workout at track three before the music recedes back into contemplation, with Molvaer varying his embouchure and the drums all demonstrative as the guitar seeks out effects. Then the seven-minute title track goes all in on a crowd-pleasing finale. He's always a little too subtle. But in a way that's always the point. A MINUS
Armstrong, The Great Summit
Art Ensemble of Chicago, People in Sorrow
Art Ensemble of Chicago, The Spiritual
Ayler, Lörrach, Paris 1966
Ayler, Spirits Rejoice
Ayler, Vibrations (aka Ghosts)
Blakey, The Witch Doctor
Braxton, For Alto
Byard, The Last From Lennie's
Clarke, Volcano…Live at Ronnie's
Coleman, Ornette on Tenor!
Coleman, This Is Our Music
Coltrane, Coltrane Plays the Blues
Coltrane, Interstellar Space
Coltrane, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman
Criss, Sonny's Dream
Criss, Up Up and Away
Davis, Bitches Brew
Davis, Kurhaus 4/9/60
Davis, Sketches of Spain
Dixon, Intents and Purposes
Dolphy, Last Date
Dolphy, Outward Bound
Ellington, Duke Ellington and John Coltrane
Ellington, Featuring Paul Gonsalves
Evans (B.), Complete Village Vanguard Recordings 1961
Fitzgerald, Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie!
Fitzgerald, Ella and Duke at the Cote D'Azur
Fitzgerald, Twelve Nights in Hollywood
Gale, Eddie Gale's Ghetto Music
Green, Feelin' the Spirit
Green, Idle Moments
Hancock, Empyrean Isles
Henderson, Page One
Hill, Black Fire
Hines, Live at the Village Vanguard
Kirk, The Inflated Tear
Lyons, Other Afternoons
Mantler, Jazz Composers Orchestra
Mingus, Oh Yeah
Mobley, Soul Station
Monk, Monk Alone: The Complete Solo Studio Recordings 1962-1968
Nelson, Straight Ahead
Peterson, Night Train
Roach, We Insist! Freedom Now Suite
Rollins, On Impulse
Shepp, The Way Ahead
Shorter, Speak No Evil
Shorter, Super Nova
Smith, Back at the Chicken Shack
Smith, Prayer Meetin'
Sun Ra, Atlantis
Sun Ra, Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy
Sun Ra, When Angels Speak of Love
Taylor, The Great Concert of Cecil Taylor
Taylor, The World of Cecil Taylor
Taylor, Unit Structures
Tony Williams Lifetime, Emergency!
Tristano, The New Tristano
Nice poll Bradley. Looks like I own and voted for the top 2. I know I said I would buy any top 5 finishers I didn't own but I'm backing out on the Miles Box ($150 ouch)
I did order the Mingus, Ayler and Dolphy. I own no Mingus or Dolphy and had never heard of Albert Ayler (sorry). These three should be a great introduction.
Picked up the new Miranda Lambert today, don't let me down girl.
Gotta check out my download of Baboon Moon too, Clapton will have to wait.
- Jackie McLean: Let Freedom Ring (Blue Note 1962, placed 21st): Some of my favourite art adopts the innovations of the avant-garde, while also demonstrating that the pleasures of the past are still valid. Poet Michael Palmer is one example. This is a better one.
- Cecil Taylor: Conquistador (Blue Note 1966, DNP): On the other hand, some innovations can't be absorbed so easily. Taylor's atonal spritzes fall into this category. Schoenberg to Ornette's Stravinsky.
- John Coltrane: A Love Supreme (Impulse 1964, 2nd): Thought this would get a bunch of number one votes and win handily. Pretty challenging considering it's the other jazz album everyone has. The secret is the clarity of the structure.
- Everybody Knows Johnny Hodges (Impulse 1964, 11th): Tom once put Hodges on top of his all-time alto list. Ornette might have passed him by now. But there's swing, and then there's Hodges.
- Amalgam: Prayer for Peace (FMR 1969, 37th): There was no British jazz invasion, but there's more to the scene than exports John McLaughlin and Dave Holland. Who needs a piano?
- Miles Davis: Live in Europe 1967 (Columbia/Legacy 1967, 48th): Minus the two tracks I continue to suffer repeated download failures trying to acquire from eMusic. Beats Plugged Nickel for me because the stakes are higher.
- John Coltrane: Crescent (Impulse 1964, 54th=): The darkest hour is just before A Love Supreme. Side two shows how good the rest of Trane's band was.
- Miles Davis: The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel (Columbia 1965, 5th): Based on available evidence, the tightest live group in jazz history at their tightest point. Not a weak track in seven discs.
- Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Rip, Rig and Panic (Limelight 1965, 16th=): The history of tenor, manzello, stritch, and everything else you can blow into. Also: yet more Elvin Jones.
- Eddie Gale: Eddie Gale's Ghetto Music (Blue Note 1968, DNP): From Africa to Brooklyn, from church to stoop, it's all blues.
- Duke Ellington: Far East Suite (Bluebird 1966)
- John Coltrane: Ole Coltrane (Atlantic 1961)
- Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins (Impulse 1962)
- Albert Ayler: Spirits Rejoice (ESP 1965)
- Miles Davis: In a Silent Way (Columbia 1969)
- Larry Young: Unity (Blue Note 1965)
- Andrew Hill: Point of Departure (Blue Note 1964)
- John Coltrane: The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings (Impulse 1961)
- Krzysztof Komeda: Astigmatic (Power Bros 1965)
- Cecil Taylor: The World of Cecil Taylor (Candid 1960)
- Hank Mobley: Soul Station (Blue Note 1960)
- Thelonious Monk: It's Monk's Time (Columbia/Legacy 1964)
- Albert Ayler: Spiritual Unity (ESP 1964)
- Archie Shepp: Fire Music (Impulse 1965)
- Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Now Please Don't You Cry Beautiful Edith (Verve 1967)
- Getz/Gilberto (Verve 1964)
- Duke Ellington: The Far East Suite (1966, RCA) 
- John Coltrane: A Love Supreme (1964, Impulse) 
- Duke Ellington: Meets Coleman Hawkins (1962, Impulse) 
- Charles Mingus: Mingus at Antibes (1960, Atlantic) 
- Johnny Hodges: Everybody Knows Johnny Hodges (1964, Impulse) 
- Sam Rivers: Fuschia Swing Song (1964, Blue Note) 
- Paul Desmond/Gerry Mulligan: Two of a Mind (1962, RCA) 
- Albert Ayler: Spiritual Unity (1964, ESP-Disk) 
- Amalgam: Prayer for Peace (1969, FMR) 
- Jackie McLean: Let Freedom Ring (1962, Blue Note) 
For honorable mentions, start with my Core List: http://goo.gl/6SMWQ
I would probably go deeper than that. In particular, a lot of very good Andrew Hill and Jackie McLean discs got cut there. One artist I should have done some research on was Ornette Coleman: his Atlantics straddle 1959-60 and I'm rusty on the later discs.
The one that's raised the most eyebrows is Amalgam: a Trevor Watts quartet, the first real masterpiece of the burgeoning English avant-garde scene.
One I especially wish I had worked into the ballot somehow was Budd Johnson's Let's Swing. I was pleasantly surprised to see that somone had voted for one of the Earl Hines quartets that featured Johnson: Live at the Village Vanguard. Hines' long out of print Up to Date is every bit as good.
One record I'm surprised didn't fare better is the Wynton Kelly/Wes Montgomery Smokin' at the Half Note; another is John McLaughlin's Extrapolation. Figured we had more guitar fans here. Also, for that matter, Bitches Brew: first jazz record I really listened to, mostly because roommates likes to play it as late night chill out music.
I will bravely give some of those top jazz albums in the poll a try. But are they mostly free-form, bee-boppy, improvisational jazz noodling? Cuz mostly that stuff makes me feel like biting the head off a bat, or doing something, anything, to stop the pain. But I'm tryin' Lord, I'm tryin'.
Peter - I'm guessing that you've heard some avant-garde/free jazz (probably not bebop) and not liked what you've heard. I'd say very little of the Top Ten of this poll approaches those boundaries. A few do, though - the Ayler is trio work, but Ayler will probably not be to your taste. The Dolphy is "out," but hardly noodling - pretty structured. The Mingus might seem a bit discursive to you. But I'd give all a try, except maybe the Ayler, if you're really opposed to free.
Voters wrote in seven of his albums total, with only Ellington and John Coltrane and Featuring Paul Gonsalves not getting more than one vote. To be honest, I was surprised he was so well represented
Duke Ellington and His Orchestra featuring Paul Gonsalves (Fantasy 1984) made my list.
Bradley - Feel free to post my ballot - I'm out of town and don't have access to my sent email until late tonight.
Here is my ballot
Guess my only surprise was the Ellington band receiving small change .... and Money Jungle as his best 60s workActually, Meets Coleman Hawkins was ranked higher, so that makes two albums in the top 10, and three in the top 20 (or four if you count Johnny Hodges). Voters wrote in seven of his albums total, with only Ellington and John Coltrane and Featuring Paul Gonsalves not getting more than one vote. To be honest, I was surprised he was so well represented.
(alphabetical order, no artist repeats, 10 points each)
Albert Ayler – Spiritual Unity
Don Cherry/Ed Blackwell – Mu (first and second sessions)
Ornette Coleman – Ornette!
John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
Miles Davis – Complete Plugged Nickel Sessions
Duke Ellington/Charles Mingus/Max Roach-Money Jungle
Booker Ervin – Freedom Book
Ella Fitzgerald – Twelve Nights in Hollywood
Thelonious Monk – Live at the “It” Club
Cecil Taylor – Nefertiti, The Beautiful One Has Come
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.