Evan Tanner's jazz top ten

For years, people have asked me "Gee, if I wanted to get into jazz, what should I listen to?" I used to make people "mix tapes." (Didn't everyone?) But, in the 21st Century, the 'mix tape' has been replaced with a web page and with links. This list is better described as my personal favorites -- really subjective. I'm not trying to be definitive in any way. That means, for some jazz 'experts' there will be some glaring omissions. So be it.  Let's not try to be definitive. Let's have some fun.

1. Kind of Blue – Miles Davis. The minimalist classic that everyone must know and let seep into their very being. Less is more. Gestalt. Haiku. All Blue.
Freddie Freeloader - Miles Davis
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2.Mingus Ah Um – Charlie Mingus. You can’t get much more soulful than this.Gospel, plus beautiful water colors, channeling Duke Ellington, Charlie Yardbird Parker, and Orville Faubus.
Open Letter to Duke - Charlie Mingus
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3.Live at the Village Vanguard – Bill Evans Trio. Don’t get me started. Think of a waning Sunday afternoon. Something in your life had turned you melancholy. Maybe the end of a relationship – or maybe just the end of a weekend. Maybe you want to o.d. on something stronger. You want this mood to be painted in translucent watercolors. This was a once-in-a-lifetime session that changed the our idea of what a piano trio should be – including the transformative bass playing of Scott LeFaro, who died in a motorcycle accident a month after the recording.
My Foolish Heart - Bill Evans
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4.The Jerome Kern Songbook – Ella Fitzgerald. Some of the most sexually suggestive lyrics – sung by a woman! Like “When we getting started?” Like “We have necked, till I’m wrecked… what should I expect?” Plus, the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, who also did Sinatra, which leads me to…
She Didn't Say Yes - Ella Fitzgerald
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5.Sinatra/Jobim: The Complete Reprise Recordings by Frank Sinatra/Antonio Carlos Jobim. The Girl From Ipanema – yes. But also, “Change Partners and Dance With Me.” He’s imagining that he’s asking a girl to tear herself away from a partner – he’ll ask the waiter to tell him that “he’s wanted on the telephone.” In a nightclub. In the late 50’s.
Change Partners - Frank Sinatra / A.C. Jobim
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6.Monk/Trane. Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. Thelonious Monk may have been crazy – but he insisted on putting angular humor – plink, plank, plonk – in his piano playing. Yes, he could play virtuoso standard. But, he stopped doing that early in his career and moved on to Picasso / Dada. A short partnership with John Coltrane (whom you will get to know when you absorb Kind of Blue, above).
Off Minor - Thelonius Monk / John Coltrane
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7.Wes Montgomery/Wynton Kelly Trio – Smokin’ at the Half Note. The more I listen to guitar, the more I realize that ol’ Wes really was among the very hippest of dudes – ever.
Willow Weep for Me - Wes Montgomery
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8. Jazz at Massey Hall – Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach. You have to get beyond the ancient recordings (late 40s, off the radio). There have been lots of saxophonists since Charlie Parker – but no one will ever equal him. He invented bebop – smoking hot and chromatic. But he also invented cool – Stan Getz channeled him. But, this is untamed bebop at its finest hour.
Hot House - Charlie Parker et. al.
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9. Adam's Apple / Speak No Evil – Wayne Shorter. Wayne was another one of Miles’ sax men. I think he’s highly underrated, sadly so. Wayne Shorter is first tier, up there with Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. I don’t care what anyone says. And, he is a top-tier composer of great little jazz ditties – you’ll hum them all day.
Speak No Evil - Wayne Shorter
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10. Paris Encounter: Stephane Grapelli/Gary Burton. This is a personal favorite. I doubt that many would put it on their top 10. But, this was my gateway to jazz. They used to play a song from this record, “Daphne” during the daily announcements on my hometown progressive rock FM station, KZAP-FM in Sacramento. If I had known what that record was – I only identified it many years later – I’d have stayed with the violin so I could play just like Stephane, and with a vibe master like Gary Burton.
Daphne - Gary Burton/Stephane Grapelli
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Legendary Sacramento station KZAP is on the (cyber) air again.
But, sadly, no lunchtime bulletin board, no "Daphne."

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