Best of 1950s: #60 – 51

The 1950s were filled with prolific artists such as Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Frank Sinatra. Together, they account for 27% of the 100 Greatest Albums of the 1950s. Nevertheless, any artist who appears on this list — from Howlin’ Wolf to Oscar Peterson — deserves recognition for their accomplishments.

60. Way Out West

Way Out West - Sonny Rollins

ArtistSonny Rollins

Genre: Hard Bop

Perhaps Sonny Rollins’ most unique album of the decade is Way Out West, which finds the tenor saxophonist completing his manifest destiny and proving that he is truly a master of American music. The LP finds the ever-consistent Rollins at the top of his game, soloing over the spare accompaniment of cowbell drums and pulsating bass. Continue reading…

59. Monk’s Music

Monk's Music

ArtistThelonious Monk

Genre: Hard Bop

Even though the album’s best track is only 53-seconds long, the rest of Monk’s Music still holds tremendous value. In fact, this actually may be Thelonious Monk’s most essential recording — the most talented band he ever played with playing some of his most confident arrangements. Continue reading…

58. Porgy and Bess


ArtistMiles Davis

Genre: Third Stream

To reiterate what I’ve always said: relaxing Miles Davis music will always be the best Miles Davis music. Look to Sketches of Spain for proof. Or, better yet: Porgy and Bess. Davis and Gil Evans’ adaptation of George Gershwin’s 1935 opera remains their most seamless collaboration. Continue reading…

57. Moanin’ in the Moonlight

Moanin' in the Moonlight

Artist: Howlin’ Wolf

Genre: Chicago Blues

Plain and simple, Howlin’ Wolf’s brand of blues is down and dirty. You might even call it menacing. Willie Steele’s drumming threatens to break the speakers, while Willie Johnson’s raucous guitar is bolstered by the lo-fi quality of the recordings. Moanin’ in the Moonlight perfectly exemplifies the spirit of Chicago blues.

As producer Sam Phillips said of the album: “This is where the soul of man never dies.” Continue reading…

56. No One Cares


ArtistFrank Sinatra

Genre: Swing

Frank Sinatra’s last great collection of torch songs, No One Cares is the singer’s darkest hour. The arrangements are slow, the lyrics are desolate and Sinatra’s delivery is among his most emotional. He finishes off the ‘50s with the saddest album of his career. Continue reading…

55. A Night at the Village Vanguard

A Night at the Village Vanguard

ArtistSonny Rollins

Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz

On November 3, 1957 at New York City’s most legendary jazz club, Sonny Rollins took a dive in the deep end. Backed only by bassist Wilbur Ware and a young Elvin Jones on drums, the spare format allowed Rollins the opportunity to explore the very limits of harmonic convention. Never before had jazz been so relentless, so elemental, so powerful. He pushed the genre past its breaking point. Continue reading…

54. Piano Solos #2

Piano Solos #2 - Bud Powell

Artist: Bud Powell

Genre: Bebop

Bud Powell’s playing style is energetic but also soothing, pointing the way toward hard bop while remaining firmly rooted in bebop ballad tradition. Making use of chromaticism and frequent arpeggios, Powell was at least a decade of his time. He perfectly translated the musical language of Charlie Parker from alto saxophone to piano. Continue reading…

53. A Night at Birdland

A Night at Birdland

ArtistArt Blakey

Genre: Hard Bop

Art Blakey’s performance on Night at Birdland might be the best work ever recorded on a drum set. But the proceedings are anchored by Horace Silver, the pianist who pens the concert’s two best tracks: “Split Kick” and “Quicksilver.” Like Jazz at Massey Hall or Ellington at Newport, Art Blakey’s Night at Birdland captures a rarified concert atmosphere that translates perfectly to record.

52. Bird and Diz

Bird and Diz

ArtistCharlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie

Genre: Bebop

One of the all-time great jazz lineups is featured on Bird and Diz. On top of the title pair’s extraordinary saxophone/trumpet interplay, the band features Thelonious Monk on piano and a ferocious drumming performance from Buddy Rich.

Perhaps the most memorable song is the highly-energetic “Leap Frog,” boasting dazzling solo trade-offs between Bird and Diz above Monk’s off-minor chords, all anchored by a fiery backbeat from Rich. But perhaps the best song is “Bloomdido”: one of the most influential songs in Parker’s repertoire.

51. In a Romantic Mood

Oscar Peterson In a Romantic Mood

ArtistOscar Peterson

Genre: Jazz

Oscar Peterson’s piano is expressive yet quaint — never saying too much, yet never saying too little. And never enough is never a problem. In a Romantic Mood is, without a doubt, his finest studio LP and one of the more underrated hidden gems in the jazz catalogue. Continue reading…

Top 100 Albums of the 1950s

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