Best of 1950s: #80 – 71

As you continue to read my picks for the 100 Greatest Albums of the 1950s, it becomes clear that a few familiar names keep popping up: Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Sonny Rollins dominated the decade. Even though artists like Serge Chaloff, Lee Morgan and James Brown qualify only once throughout the list, music history wouldn’t be complete without their contributions.

80. Blue Serge

Blue Serge

Artist: Serge Chaloff

Genre: Bebop

Serge Chaloff was only 32-years-old when he recorded Blue Serge, but the erratic baritone saxophonist’s career was almost over. Within a year, spinal cancer would leave him paralyzed from the waist down; he’d be dead by next spring. Blue Serge is his final testament. Thanks to its enduring emotional beauty, he’s able to live forever. Continue reading…

79. Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book

Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book

ArtistElla Fitzgerald

Genre: Swing

Ella Fitzgerald’s sterling rendition of “Anything Goes” is one of the catchiest songs of the decade, combining an all-time vocal performance with some of the wittiest lyrics that Cole Porter ever wrote. This is a very, very long LP, and Fitzgerald’s ability to keep things lively for two hours and eight sides of vinyl is, quite honestly, one of the most outstanding achievements in modern musical history.

78. Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk

Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers With Thelonious Monk

ArtistArt Blakey & Thelonious Monk

Genre: Hard Bop

The most innovative pianist in jazz history meets the world’s most talented drummer. Initially, it seems that Thelonious Monk’s herky-jerky rhythms and start-stop melodies are too chaotic for Art Blakey’s aggressively uptempo style. In the end, however, the Jazz Messengers — especially tenor sax player Johnnie Griffin — prove to be the perfect match for Monk’s angular arrangements and complex compositions.

This collaborative LP shows that Monk’s idiosyncratic musical personality can mesh well with anyone. However, it’s no mistake that Blakey’s thunderous drumming garners top billing. Continue reading…

77. The Cooker

Lee Morgan the cooker

Artist: Lee Morgan

Genre: Hard Bop

This just might be the hardest hard-bop ever recorded. Lee Morgan’s trumpet solos are full of fire, but the rhythm section of Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones is even more powerful. They provide the sturdy backbone necessary to support such bedlam.

Morgan had already studied under the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and John Coltrane, but The Cooker was his official arrival on the jazz scene. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that the young trumpeter was only 20-years-old when the session was recorded. Continue reading…

76. Please Please Please

Please Please Please

Artist: James Brown

Genre: Rhythm & Blues

Combining R&B, doo-wop and a dash of rock & roll, Please Please Please turns the ignition on James Brown’s inner sex machine and never runs out of gas. The sheer amount of energy contained in every song puts other R&B of the era to shame. It’s a perfect album for any occasion — you can dance to it, sing to it and make love to it. Continue reading…

75. Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Song Book

Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George Gershwin Songbook

ArtistElla Fitzgerald

Genre: Swing

Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Songbook is the longest — and best — of all her classic Tin Pan Alley adaptations. Standing at a towering three-plus hours, Fitzgerald’s pop masterpiece remains as timeless as it is sprawling. But credit must also go to arranger Nelson Riddle, the frequent Frank Sinatra collaborator who provides the lush album’s lush orchestrations.

74. Tenor Madness

Tenor Madness Sonny Rollins in 1956

ArtistSonny Rollins

Genre: Hard Bop

The production on Sonny Rollins’ breakthrough LP is rich and vibrant — the sound of his tenor saxophone is full of warmth and full-bodied color, as if the instrument is gently whispering in your ear. Befitting its title, Tenor Madness is crazy in all the right ways. Continue reading…

73. Live at the Blue Note

Duke Ellington Live at the Blue Note

ArtistDuke Ellington

Genre: Big Band

On this legendary live set — expanded to two CDs and two-plus hours for the 1994 deluxe reissue — Duke Ellington and his jazz orchestra adopt a bluesy affectation. Modern music as we know it simply wouldn’t exist without his trailblazing innovations, and Live at the Blue Note is another great example why. Continue reading…

72. Misterioso


ArtistThelonious Monk

Genre: Hard Bop

Misterioso captures the Thelonious Monk Quartet’s legendary 8/7/58 performance at the Five Spot Café, which represents the culmination of Monk’s cult status. Unexpectedly, the show is stolen — for five minutes, at least — by tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin. His iconic solo at the beginning of “In Walked Bud” is, without a doubt, one of the finest moments in jazz history. Continue reading…

71. Milestones


ArtistMiles Davis

Genre: Hard Bop

By 1958, Miles Davis’ songwriting had reached new levels of creativity. Not only is the title track one of the greatest songs in jazz history; the album that bears its name is some of the hardest rocking hard bop that the legendary trumpeter ever recorded. Milestones is a must-have for any serious record collection. Continue reading…

Top 100 Albums of the 1950s
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