The Jazz Canon – 99 Quintessential Jazz Albums

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What is JAZZ, anyway?

Some people might say that jazz is just a word, used to label a genre that has grown and morphed over the course of the 20th century, and into our own time and place.

The fact is, since its inception jazz has changed to take on many forms during each era it has existed.

Some people approach me and ask, “how do I know what is good jazz, and where can I find it?”

This is a list of 99 quintessential jazz recordings. These recordings have either played a significant role in the development of jazz as a tradition and art form, or feature significant musicians or repertoire which have made jazz music into what it is today.

Disclaimer: This list is not perfect by any means; it is quite impossible to include all of the best records in one! I hope you find this to be a helpful resource, and if you notice any albums that you feel are left out, make them known in the comments below!

The Jazz Canon: 99 Quintessential Albums

  1. Art Tatum – The Genius of Art Tatum (1953)

2. Louis Armstrong – Complete Hot Fives and Sevens (1925-30)

3. Joseph “King” Oliver – King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band (1927)

4. Jelly Roll Morton – Red Hot Peppers Session (1926-27)

5. Benny Goodman – Benny Goodman Sextet (1944)

6. Benny Goodman – At Carnegie Hall (1938)

7. Bud Powell – The Amazing Bud Powell (1952)

8. Buddy DeFranco – Mr. Clarinet (1952)

9. Charlie Parker – Bird: Master Takes (1944)

10. Charlie Parker – Bird with Strings (1950)

11. Lester Young – Kansas City Swing (1938-44)

12. Nat King Cole – Live at the Circle Room (1946)

13. Dave Brubeck – Time Out (1959)

14. Thelonious Monk – Brilliant Corners (1956)

15. Hank Jones – Piano Solo (1956)

16. Erroll Garner – Concert by the Sea (1954)

17. Ahmad Jamal – Live at the Pershing (1958)

18. Cecil Taylor – Looking Ahead! (1958)

19. Bill Evans – Explorations (1961)

20. Bill Evans – Portrait in Jazz (1960)

21. Chick Corea – Now He Sings, Now He Sobs (1967)

22. Herbie Hancock – Empyrean Isles (1964)

23. Herbie Hancock – Maiden Voyage (1965)

24. Phineas Newborn – Here is Phineas (1957)

25. Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um (1959)

26. Hank Mobley – Soul Station (1960)

27. Dexter Gordon – Doin’ Allright (1961)

28. Dexter Gordon – Go (1962)

29. Zoot Sims – Tenor Conclave (1956)

30. Stan Getz – Getz/Gilberto (1965)

31. Ben Webster – Ben and Sweets (1962)

32. Pepper Adams – The Cool Sound of Pepper Adams (1957)

33. Chet Baker – Chet Baker Sings (1954)

34. Lennie Tristano – Tristano (1955)

35. Warne Marsh – Intuition (1949)

36. Gerry Mulligan – The Quartet with Chet Baker (1953)

37. John Coltrane – Blue Train (1957)

38. John Coltrane – Giant Steps (1959)

39. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme (1965)

40. John Coltrane – Ascension (1965)

41. Thelonious Monk – At Carnegie hall w/ John Coltrane (1957)

42. Duke Ellington – Money Jungle (1962)

43. Sonny Rollins – Saxophone Colossus (1956)

44. Sonny Rollins – The Bridge (1962)

45. Sonny Rollins – Sonny Meets Hawk! (1963)

46. Joe Henderson – Page One (1963)

47. Joe Henderson – Inner Urge (1966)

48. Wayne Shorter – Speak No Evil (1964)

49. Miles Davis – Kind of Blue (1959)

50. Miles Davis – Live at the Plugged Nickel (1965)

51. Miles Davis – Nefertiti (1965)

52. McCoy Tyner – Reaching Fourth (1963)

53. Kenny Burrell – Midnight Blue (1963)

54. Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane (1958)