Listening to Music…My Favorite Albums….

In honor of #ThrowbackThursday I want to share with you the 10 records that most influenced my playing (in no particular order).

I’ve linked each title to the album on Amazon for convenience.

1) Erroll Garner  “The Original Misty” : I’ve written about my love for Erroll Garner at length in two separate posts already (prepare for a third on his upcoming birthday, June 15), one about his music and the second about the book. After finishing the book and re-watching the documentary several times, I am feeling more inspired by his music everyday. Right now I am intensely studying his ballad playing. If you haven’t checked out this record yet, DO IT! You will love “Misty” and “Rosalie”.

2) Dinah Washington “For Those in Love”  : My favorite singer of all time; I’ve written about my love for her albums in a MusicMonday post. This record remains my favorite of all time because of the great arranging, excellent band, and great choice of tunes. I’ve stated it before and I’ll state it again, this might just be the perfect record. Check it out.

3) Sonny Clark “Standards” : I love Sonny Clark and I spent many years studying and transcribing his work. He’s definitely in the Bud Powell school of piano, but a little bit “softer” than Bud or, another favorite of mine, Hampton Hawes. This record is simple and understated but super swinging. The songs aren’t heavily over-arranged and the tunes are junkebox length. “I Cover the Waterfront” and “Blues in the Night” stand out.

4) Clark Terry “Clark After Dark” : Who doesn’t love Clark Terry. I’ve known Clark all my life. My father has all his records and I love nearly all of them, but I come back to “Clark After Dark” all the time. “Misty” and “Georgia” are phenomenal, but every tune is pretty spectacular (listen to the ending of “Nature Boy”). Clark is in his prime technically and artistically (the album was released in 1977) and I really like the orchestra behind him. The arrangements are dramatic and sweeping; it will take you through a range of emotions. Sidenote: If you listen closely to “Girl Talk” you can hear two flugelhorn solos happening at the same time. Evidently when they recorded the album the producer didn’t like Clark’s solo and wanted him to re-record it, but because of the lack of isolation they were never able to fully remove the first solo. 

5) Carmen McCrae “Sings Loverman & other Billie Holiday Classics”: People often say they hear Carmen in my singing, but if they do it’s only from this record! This is the only Carmen record I own. I fell in love with this album the first time I heard it and because of the super swinging band (Walter Perkins!) I return to it again and again. I’ve recorded several of the tunes from this album including “I’m Gonna Lock My Heart & Throw Away the Key” and “What a Little Moonlight Can Do”. My favorite song on the album would be “Miss Brown to You” though, it’s an absolutely perfect tempo.

6) Charlie Parker “Charlie Parker with Strings”: When I was born this was the only record I was allowed to hear for a long time. My father believed it was the most beautiful music ever recorded and he wanted me to know that beauty from an early age. People often ask me if I got tired of it (or am tired of it now), but I’m not. I love it. It is gorgeous. This is a must have in any record collection (serious Jazz fan or not). “Just Friends” is my favorite.

7) Jay McShann “Last of the Blue Devils”: Jay McShann was from Muskogee Oklahoma and I met him once just before I went away to college. He was very kind to me at the time and we struck up a friendship over the phone. I would call and ask him questions about his life and history (Charlie Parker played in his band as a young man) and also what kind of music he listened to now. I once asked “Who is your favorite modern pianist?” I meant “contemporary” when I used the word “modern”, but Jay just laughed and said “Art Tatum is pretty modern to me.” When I explained myself he admitted to liking Benny Green’s records (also a favorite of mine). This record is very swinging and full of blues, which I love. I know these blues but never sing them in public! My favorite is “Fore Day Rider” (so dirty) and Jay’s solo piano piece “Just For You”.

8) Red Garland “Red Garland’s Piano”: It’s hard for me to pick between this album and Red’s record “Groovy”. His style of piano playing mixes the bebop tradition (Bud Powell) and the block chord tradition (Erroll Garner, among others), and so it’s a natural love for me. NEVER over-arranged and often not arranged at all, I love the tunes and the relaxed way in which he presents them. “Stompin at the Savoy” and “Please Send me Someone to Love” are great examples of his style. Also, for some reason these records always make me feel like it’s summertime. Have a glass of iced tea and sit on your porch while you check it out.

9) Coleman Hawkins “Today and Now”: I had this album on vinyl long before I could find it on CD. I was so obsessed with it that I bought a second copy on vinyl AND taped it to cassette so I wouldn’t wear it out. This band of Coleman Hawkins (Tommy Flanagan on piano, Major Holley on bass, and Eddie Locke on drums) was always a favorite of mine. “Love Song from Apache” is gorgeous and haunting. I would love to know why they chose to record this song (which is actually the love theme from the movie “Apache”), and if you know please tell me. It’s an unusual choice, in my opinion, but Tommy Flanagan really plays it beautifully.

10) Freddie Hubbard “Hub of Hubbard” : Freddie is really adventurous on this record, and I think that’s why I like it so much. It’s a little bit loose and a little bit free at times, but the band moves so fluidly together that it’s amazing. I’ve listened to “The Things We Did Last Summer” easily more than 1,000 times and each time I find something new to think about. This record will take you on quite the journey. 

Here I am practicing in the early days....

Here I am practicing in the early days….

Thanks for reading! Do you have these albums? Do you love them? Do you hate them? Let me know –

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8 Responses to Listening to Music…My Favorite Albums….

  1. Morris Nelms says:

    It’s funny, the CDs on your list I have that I listen to regularly are Bird with Strings and Last of the Blue Devils. I have other CDs by all the artists you cite that I’ve listened to obsessively. Garner, Concert By the Sea and Magician; Dinah Washington, I had a vinyl compilation of her work, so I don’t know what albums they drew from–I LOVE her versions of For All We Know, Stardust, Blue Skies; Sonny Clark, at one point I had cassettes of The Sonny Clark Trio (with the tune Be-Bop) and Blue Serge; Clark Terry, hard one–so many good things–I love the Porgy and Bess CD, and the Oscar Peterson Trio plus one, as well as the duo with Oscar Peterson on Pablo–I learned so much about articulation from listening to him scat; Carmen McRae, Camen Sings Monk is my fave, although I also like The Great American Songbook for her version of The Ballad of Thelonious Monk; Bird, I love the Complete Bird at Birdland, since it’s Bird with Art Blakey and Bud Powell among others; McShann, Some Blues and 4 cuts from an album from 2003 called Goin’ to Kansas City–that one inspires me because he sounds great and he’s in his 80s!; Red Garland, the quintet dates with John Coltrane that Prestige released as vinyl twofers–obviously they have other names now; Hawkins, The Indispensable Coleman Hawkins and another odd import called Somebody Loves Me–that one has some live duo recordings of Hawkins and a pianist whose name I can’t recall–but he plays great stride, etc., behind Hawkins–I love Hawkins’ composition Picasso, which is on the Verve Jazz Masters set; Hubbard, yes indeed on Hub of Hubbard–I bought that one for Just One of Those Things–I couldn’t believe anyone could play that fast!–the Blue Note Best of Freddie Hubbard is really nice as well–my wife loves that one. Great list. Thanks for posting.

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  2. Pingback: Music Monday: Jay McShann & the Kansas City Sound | The Undisputed Champian

  3. Jimmy Vickers says:

    I’m with you on all these albums…all incredible and seminal. You should check out the Carmen album “Bittersweet”…her version of “When Sunny Gets Blue” is definitive. The entire album is made up of melancholy ballads…perfect for rainy afternoons and meditative listening!

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  4. Hi Champian,
    I have and love most of these albums, and enjoyed reading this very much. As a result I downloaded the “Clark After Dark” album and the Dinah album, and look forward to checking them out, thanks!

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    • Jon, thanks for reading! I’m so glad you downloaded those records and now I can’t wait to hear what you think of them. Clark is also on the Dinah record, the personnel is pretty stellar. What do you think of “Clark After Dark”?! 🙂

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  5. Glenn Bengry says:

    Red Garland…………. ohhhhhhhhh, Red Garland. In a class by himself Ahmads blues is the tastiest stuff ever.

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