I want to learn more about jazz. Where should I start?

I have a couple of John Coltrane and Miles Davis songs on my iTunes playlist, but other than that I don't have much. I'd like to learn more about jazz. Who are some of the quintessential artists that I should be listening to and which albums should I pay attention to? It would be helpful to know some of the "all time greats" followed by the top 5 other jazz musicians/groups to listen to over the past 50 years and then perhaps the two best current jazz artists.

4 Answers

  • Anonymous
    10 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Here's a repeat of two responses I recently gave to similar questions.

    Start with:

    Louis Armstrong and King Oliver.

    Listen to the big bands of Duke Ellington and Count Basie.

    From there, find these guys:

    Charlie Parker

    Thelonious Monk

    Miles Davis

    Bill Evans (the piano player)

    John Coltrane

    Cannonball Adderly

    Bud Powell

    Dizzy Gillespie

    Sonny Rollins

    Dexter Gordon

    Eric Dolphy

    Ornette Coleman

    Oscar Peterson

    Wynton Marsalis

    Herbie Hancock

    Freddie Hubbard

    Pat Martino

    That's a good start...

    Find some books on Jazz in the library. Ralph J. Gleason, Leonard Feather and Ira Gitler have written great books on the history of jazz. I strongly recommend them.

    I cannot imagine my jazz collection without these:

    John Coltrane - "Giant Steps"

    Miles Davis - "Kind of Blue"

    Thelonious Monk - "Thelonious In Action"

    Bill Evans - "Portrait In Jazz"

    Charlie Parker - "The Complete Dial Sessions"

    Dexter Gordon - "Go!"

    Louis Armstrong and King Oliver (find the Heritage Jazz CD)

    Wynton Marsalis - "Standard Time, Vol. 1"

    Pat Martino - "Think Tank"

    Sonny Rollins - "Tenor Madness"

    Marcus Roberts - "The Truth Is Spoken Here"

    Duke Ellington "The Best of Duke Ellington" (this is a good sampler)


    I can't imagine them without these, either, but you might want to listen to these after you've acquired a taste for the genre. These recordings are far more avant garde and a bit "out there."

    Yet, they're all fun to hear, especially the Sun Ra set.

    Cecil Taylor - "Unit Structures"

    Ornette Coleman - "Free Jazz"

    Eric Dolphy - "Out To Lunch"

    Sun Ra - "Live At Montreux"

    That should get you started.

  • Paul
    Lv 6
    10 years ago

    Here are ten indisputable classic Jazz records...

    1.Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out

    2.John Coltrane - Giant Steps

    3.Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue

    4.Jimmy Smith - Midnight Special

    5.Cannonball Adderley Quintet - Mercy,Mercy,Mercy

    6.Grant Green - Idle Moments

    7.Herbie Hancock - Empyrean Isles

    8.Lonnie Smith - Think

    9.Herbie Hancock -Head Hunters

    10.Grover Washington,Jr - Mister Magic

    I would also say that whatever other kinds of music that you are a fan of can help you find what Jazz records you'd like.

    Rock fan?? Check out....

    1.Jeff Beck - Blow By Blow

    2.Jeff Beck - Wired

    3.Return To Forever - Where Have I Known You Before

    4.Stanley Clarke - Journey to Love

    5.Joe Farrell - Upon This Rock

    Soul/Funk fan?? Check out...

    1.Herbie Hancock - Fat Albert Rotunda

    2.Donald Byrd - Black Byrd

    3.Donald Byrd - Places & Spaces

    4.Grover Washington,Jr - Feels So Good

    5.Norman Connors - Romantic Journey

    Also go to you local library and checkout books on Jazz/Jazz CD's

    Checkout this link to learn more about Jazz too....

  • 10 years ago


    Count Basie -- The Best Of The Early Years

    Thelonious Monk -- Brilliant Corners

    Thelonious Monk -- Monk's Dream

    Miles Davis -- Milestones

    Miles Davis -- Best Of Columbia Years vol. 1

    Miles Davis -- Miles Smiles

    John Coltrane -- Giant Steps

    Charles Mingus -- Mingus Ah Um

  • STAN V
    Lv 6
    9 years ago

    I am interested in and collect when money allows the "New Music" i.e. avant-garde, the following will blow your socks off once you get into it and they can be difficult to get to grips with on occasion.

    My top five as follows :-

    Ornette Coleman --

    Who's Crazy? rec '82 on Affinity AFFD102.

    Town Hall 1962 on BASE 1006.

    At THe Golden Circle Stockholm vol 1 on Blue Note BNS 40021 & vol 2 BNS 40022.

    Anthony Braxton --

    Composition 98 rec Jan 19th '81 on hat ART 1984

    The Montreux/Berlin Concerts rec Nov '76 on Arista AL 5002

    Albert Ayler --

    The Hilversum Session rec Nov 9th '64 on Osmosis 6001.

    New York Ear And Eye Control rec '66 on ESP BASE ESP 1016.

    The Dedication Series vol V11 The Village Concerts rec Dec 18th '66 on Impulse AS/9336/2.

    Cecil Taylor --

    It Is In The Brewing Luminous rec Feb 8/9 '80 on hat Hut Sixteen 2R16

    John Coltrane --

    The European Tour rec Nov '62 on Pablo Live 2308 222( anything from this tour you must listen to ).

    Ascension rec '65 on Jasmine JAS 45.

    But have to include :-

    Charles Mingus as being my main man on the following :-

    Mingus In Europe rec Apr 26th '64 on ENJA 3049.

    Mingus At Monterey rec ? on America 001-002

    As for the all time greats other devotees have already listed them for you.

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