Monday, April 6, 2015

100 Recordings That Are Important To Me

Last week, the fantastic Rochester-based drummer/arranger/composer Aaron Staebell brought his band to perform and work with the students here at Ithaca.  He had a lot of great things to say about creativity, artistry, and connecting with (as he calls them) "Normal People."

One of his "assignments" for everyone was to come up with their own list of "100 Recordings That Are Important to Me."  I think this is a great exercise.  My list isn't nearly as diverse as Aaron's (I'm sure I should spread out my listening more...), but it reminds me of some of the albums that have been influential on me over the years.  I also added a column --- comments on why the record was important to me.

I'm quite positive I'll regret leaving something off as soon as I hit the "publish" button.  But anyhow, here goes, in alphabetical order by first name (that doesn't make any sense, but at least nothing has to be first or last that way).  Enjoy!

Artist Album My Comments
Allan Sherman My Name Is Allan Loved this comedy when I was a kid.  Still makes me laugh.
Anthony Braxton Creative Orchestra Music 1976 Expanded my ideas of what a big band could do creatively.
Art Blakey Moanin' Classic hard bop.  Doesn't get any better.
Art Blakey - Clifford Brown A Night At Birdland Vol 2 Love hearing Clifford Brown with Art Blakey.
Art Lande / Jan Garbarek Red Lanta Inspired me to consider a piano/sax duo as a viable performance group.  Played duo with Gary V for a long time.
Bay City Rollers Bay City Rollers My very first album.  I already loved the song "Saturday Night" and when I saw a fellow first grader with the whole album I KNEW I had to have it. Wore it out.
Beatles Abbey Road Perhaps my 2nd or 3rd album.  I'd listen to a few songs over and over.  Didn't understand a word of it, but loved it all.
Beatles The White Album Such a wide variety of songs, moods, feelings, styles.
Beatles Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band It's an album!  The entire thing, from beginning to end, is just perfect.
Beatles Magical Mystery Tour I have never used drugs, but I imagine a drug trip may feel similar to what I felt as a kid in my dark room, listening to "Blue Jay Way" on 8-track tape.
Benjamin Britten War Requiem The Agnus Dei completely slays me.  
Benjamin Britten Les Illuminations, Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge, Simple Symphony Cassette got stuck in my car.  Listened to it MANY times for a few months.  Love the pizzicato stuff in particular.
Bill Holman Bill Holman's Great Big Band Family friend Brad Paxton lent me this record, maybe in middle school.  Such a swinging band, such great arrangements.  Bill Holman still inspires me.
Billie Holiday On Decca Her "Lover Man" made me realize how important it is for a saxophonist to hear the words of a song.
Billy Joel The Stranger My first rock concert, saw Billy Joel live at the Rochester War Memorial (Now "Blue Cross Arena" I think).  Loved all his songs.
Bix Beiderbecke Bix and Tram Got this out of the Brighton public library because it said it was jazz. I can still smell those plastic album covers they put the records into.  I don't entirely know why I got it out; I just knew it said "jazz" but I had no idea how old it was until I got it home. I just kept listening to it over and over, especially the Adrian Rollini bass sax solos.
Blood Sweat and Tears Blood Sweat and Tears 3 Album for chillin' out in high school and college.  Came back to it often.
Bob Brookmeyer The Power of Positive Swinging Bob and Clark, just swinging like crazy.  Honestly, I can't believe I like an album without saxophone this much.
Branford Marsalis Romances for Saxophone I love how Branford can play so beautifully in both jazz and classical settings.  I find this record very pretty and moving.
Cannonball Adderley Cannonball Adderley Sextet in New York I lose myself --- I feel like I'm there listening to Cannonball in the room.
Cannonball Adderley Cannonball and Bill Evans What a collaboration between two giants.
Cannonball Adderley Fiddler on the Roof What a cool concept.  Opened my ears & eyes to allow fun ideas for jazz takes on great "non-jazz" material.
Cannonball Adderley African Waltz Cannonball in a big band setting, great swinging tunes.  Listened to this a LOT after I first discovered Cannonball in high school.
CB (Clifford Brown/Chet Baker) The Two Trumpet Geniuses of the 50s Includes Clifford Brown practice tape.  Love this stuff.
Charles Mingus Ah Um Music isn't meant to be perfect --- just creative and beautiful.
Charlie Parker Birth of the Bebop After already listening to him for many years, these fairly new discoveries of pre-fame Bird got me truly excited.  Feels like going back in a time machine.
Charlie Parker Complete Dial Recordings Great studio recordings, with compelling alternate takes, too.  Includes Bird's heartbreaking "Lover Man" and several out takes of the Night In Tunisia break.
Charlie Parker Complete Verve Recordings What a diverse group of music.  Bird with small groups, studio orchestras, salsa bands, "Jazz at the Philharmonic" sessions, and more.  I love the outtakes, too.
Charlie Parker Complete Savoy Recordings Some classic tunes.  Some of it is pretty raw, especially the out takes.
Charlie Parker One Night in Washington Brad Mehldau refers to Bird's playing on this bootleg as "dangerously, menacingly good."  He's totally right.
Charlie Parker The Bird You Never Heard Another bunch of live recordings with Bird at his best.
Charlie Parker Complete Royal Roost recordings Discovered these in high school.  I can't believe how real and visceral it feels to hear Bird on the radio.
Charlie Parker Every Bit of It: 1945 What a year -- Bird recordings with Sarah Vaughan, Slim Gaillard, Dizzy, Gillespie, and many more.  An amazing album.
Circle (Braxton,Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Barry Altschul) Paris Concert Double album, so packed with amazing improvisation it's hard to take it all in.
Clare Fischer Thesaurus Clare's big band writing is so, so good.
Clare Fischer Just Me Clare's harmonic language is so beautiful and captured eloquently on this album.
Dizzy Gillespie Sonny Rollins Sonny Stitt Sonny Side Up What's better than one Sonny?  TWO Sonnys.
Django Bates Summer Fruits and Unrest Such inventive big band writing.  I am a sucker for great  endings, and so many pieces on this album have bizarre yet somehow still logical & compelling endings.
Duke Ellington 1940 vol. 2 It's almost unfathomable how many pieces Duke wrote in this one year alone. Every one a gem, and Jimmy Blanton makes it swing.
Duke Ellington Such Sweet Thunder A totally different kind of Duke --- program music at its finest, telling stories, bringing out his great soloists --- Clark Terry!
Duke Ellington Ellington at Newport I love the whole backstory to this album, and of course the amazing Paul Gonzalves tenor solo.
Earth Wind and Fire I Am Just makes me want to move.
Eastman Jazz Ensemble Live at Montreaux This was the album that made me want to go to Eastman.
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong Complete Such pure joy with two great performers, each one immediately recognizable, making such a great headlining duo.
Frank Sinatra  Sinatra at the Sands Sinatra sounded great when he was younger, but singing with Basie's band in something of his "mid career" stage was a brilliant move.  Classic swing.
Fred Astaire Starring Fred Astaire Astaire was a triple threat. Amazing dancer, of course but his singing was honest and beautiful.
Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band at the Village Vanguard I don't know whether it's the Village Vanguard sound or what, but the trading between Gerry and Clark Terry is completely exciting.  I wish I'd been there, but glad this album exists.
Gerry Mulligan Presenting the Gerry Mulligan Sextet Unbelieveable how four amazing horn players can improvise collectively so well, yet stay out of each other's way and not make it sound cacophonous.
Gerry Mulligan Gerry Mulligan Quartet with Chet Baker This tape got stuck in my car cassette player for months.  Listened to it a LOT.
Glenn Gould Hindemith Sonatas How did Glenn Gould do it?  He pulled so much musicaility out of the piano, and on the seemingly emotionless PAUL HINDEMITH, for gosh sakes.
Herbie Hancock Complte Blue Note recordings This whole CD set documents a great artist at just one stage of his amazing career.  There would be many great later albums, too.
Herbie Hancock Head Hunters Herbie's 70s funk is so grooving, beautiful and honest.
Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, etc. "Frozen" Soundtrack The music snuck up on me and brought me to tears in the theater.
Jaco Pastorius Word of Mouth I loved how the fretless electric could be so passionate, even in a big band.  Liberty City is a really fun big band romp.  I remember the first time I heard it.  Why can't I write like that?
Jamey Aebersold Volume 1: How to Play Jazz and Improvise First sax teacher Don Coley gave me this record during a lesson at Twelve Corners Middle School after I told him I wanted to play in the jazz ensemble. It was the first improvising I ever tried.
Joey Baron Tongue in Groove New York downtown "Knitting Factory" scene embodied for me.  Such creativity and spontnaety.
Joey Baron/Tim Berne/Hank Roberts Miniature I can hardly believe I live in the same town as Hank Roberts.  One of the best improvisers on the planet.  
John Coltrane John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman Absolutely beautiful renderings of some amazing songs.
John Coltrane Crescent Quite simply some truly passionate, beautiful playing.
John Stetch TV Trio John Stetch's great CD reminded me to that "covers" do not always have to be standards.  Songs that mean something to us come from lots of sources. Love his arrangements.
John Williams Complete Star Wars soundtrack Max blares to this in his room so often I find it running through my head for hours.
John Zorn Naked City Ugliness and anger are not sentiments I often feel the need to express in my own music.  But when I do, I take inspiration from Zorn and his ability to express them so effectively.
Kenny Wheeler Music For Large and Small Ensembles The 16 bar shout chorus in the movement called "Consolation" is some of the greatest written music I've ever heard.
Lee Konitz Motion Back in college, when we had a non-chorded trio, this album really inspired me.
Lee Konitz/Gary Versace Organic-Lee I can't believe my buddy Gary got to record a duo album with one of my all-time top idols.
Lee Morgan The Sidewinder Lee's Morgan's visceral trumpet playing is so real and "in your face."
Lennie Tristano Crosscurrents Such a distinctive take on jazz.  Still not sure why they call it "cool" jazz, though.
Leonard Bernstein Symphonic Dances from West Side Story/Candide/On The Town Perhaps the most moving music written in the 20th century.
Louis Armstrong Hot Fives It wasn't until the last 10-ish years that I realized how much I love these.  Wish it hadn't taken me so long.
Michael Jackson Number Ones Brings me right back to watching MTV after school with my friends in the early 80s.
Miles Davis Live in Europe Brilliant Herbie/Ron/Tony playing.   Herbie's solos are unbelievable.
Miles Davis Live at The Blackhawk Love the high energy, up-tempo tunes --- totally different than the more relaxed Workin' & Steamin' recordings.
Miles Davis Tutu So many "jazz guys" don't like Miles' electric/rock/pop stuff.  It was all just Miles to me.
Miles Davis In a Silent Way Amazing meditative music.
Nat King Cole Cool Cole (4-cd set) Such rich, smooth and clear rendering of classic songs.  Nobody sounds like Nat Cole.
Oliver Nelson Blues and the Abstract Truth One of my first studies in arranging.  Bluesy, swinging and effective.
Original Broadway Cast "Annie" Soundtrack We listened to this in 5th grade, over and over.  Still love it.
Ornette Coleman Beauty is a Rare Thing (Complete Atlantic Recordings) So many amazing melodies.  So many classic albums in this set.
Ornette Coleman - Dewey Redman New York Is Now! Dewey's playing is so creative and unique.  Really compelling pairing with Ornette.
Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X Unbelieveably good collaboration.
Paul Hindemith Symphonic Metamorphosis Used to practice one of the piccolo solos to get my chops up.  I find Hindemith's pseudo-tonality really compelling and beautiful.
Paul McCartney All The Best As a kid, I didn't know there was a difference between Paul's solo stuff and the Beatles.  It was all good.
Ringo Starr Oh My My (single) I think perhaps the very first single (45rpm record) I owned when I was maybe 5 or 6.  My brother and I drove our parents crazy air banding this tune over and over and over and over...
Robert Johnson Complete Recordings My dad loved this stuff, so I gave him this set once.  I just got it back last week.
Ron Miles Witness Met Ron in Colorado, and found his voice really unique.  Interesting and different.
Sly and the Family Stone Greatest Hits Some buddies in college got me hooked on this stuff.  Still love it.
Sonny Rollins Saxophone Colossus A classic, of course.
Stan Kenton New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm Family friend Brad Paxton gave me this album when I was in middle school.  It was so cool how he talks with care about each member of his band
Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life Such passion and beauty.
Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Presenting the Jazz Orchestra Thad's writing has always inspired me, and Mel's understated drumming is simply perfect and swinging.
Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Live at the Village Vanguard Thad's writing has always inspired me, and Mel's understated drumming is simply perfect and swinging.
The Muppets The Muppet Movie Soundtrack Muppets were a huge part of my childhood.  I cried when Jim Henson died.
Thelonious Monk Thelonious in Action Johnnhy Griffin blows his ass off with Monk.
Thelonious Monk Discovery Live at the Five Spot Sonically crappy, but Coltrane's playing is amazing.  
Thelonious Monk Thelonious Monk Trio His solos are so logical and rhythmic.  I've transcribed a bunch of them and love every one.
Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane At Carnegie Hall I can't believe they JUST FOUND THIS tape something like 10-ish years ago.  Amazing.  Trane totally embodied Monk's music without sacrificing his uniqueness at all.  A perfect fit.
They Might Be Giants Join Us For whatever reason I didn't really know TMBG back in the 80s, but their recent kids albums have gotten me excited about them.
Tim Berne Diminutive Mysteries (Mostly Hemphill) Hank Roberts!  Joey Baron!  Dave Sanborn!  So cool.
Various Artists from Roulette Concert Series A Confederacy of Dances Vol. 1 I got this because of one wacky piece called "Canon Y" but discovered I loved lots of others on the CD.
Weather Report Heavy Weather I love how Weather Report was really a group, even though it was made up of disparate musical personas.

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