30 Platters of Jazz Perfection

WFCR Music Director John Montanari has been letting his all-genres music flag fly on the Classical Blog at NEPR, and last week posted a list of his “individual musical selections that come as close as humanly possible to achieving perfection.” Here you’ll see that he’s ranged from The Left Banke to Hank Williams to the Early Music Consort of London.

I’m following suit today, but where my tastes are about as catholic as John’s, I’m limiting my selections to jazz records. Coleman Hawkins, whose “Body and Soul” won this list’s coin toss over el perfectos like “Get Happy” and “The Man I Love,” once rejected the notion of editing a reed squeak that emitted from his tenor on Max Roach’s recording, “Driva Man.” Hawk thought it antithetical to jazz’s essential spontaneity to cut out a mistake, and while there are countless jazz recordings of a relatively flawless nature, there are many other classics that mix mastery with more routine levels of musicianship.

In chronological order, here’s my idea of 30 platters of jazz perfection that reflect a fairly representative span of styles and eras, all available as downloads. As the list unfolded, I was impressed by how many recordings made in 1964 merited inclusion but not at all surprised that several were made for Blue Note, a paragon of perfection among jazz labels. And while Louis Armstrong’s “West End Blues” belongs at the top of any self-respecting list, I selected another of the Armstrong-Earl Hines masterpieces, “Tight Like This,” because it’s the kind of performance that existed only in recorded form, whereas “West End Blues” was an occasional part of the repertoire of Pops and others. 

I’ll follow this up with a list of vocal gems in a couple of weeks.  And here you’ll find the annotated Desert Island list of jazz albums and anthologies that I put together in 2009.  I invite you to chime in with your list or any amendments you’d suggest to mine.

 Louis Armstrong and His Savoy Ballroom Five Tight Like This 1928

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