Top 10 Albums of 1950

While LPs weren’t all that fashionable in 1950, the beginning of the decade saw the releases of several classics made by artists that would later go on to define the era. Charlie Parker tops the list; an obvious choice. But also making waves are Bud Powell and Stan Kenton, two innovative pianists who would play large roles in shaping modern jazz throughout the 1950s. Frank Sinatra, Les Paul and Ella Fitzgerald, along with two unlikely, foreign oddities from Central and South America, round out the list.

However, the most surprising inclusion might be the posthumous release from the late, great Bunk Johnson. 69-years-old when he died of a stroke, Johnson’s final album is a fascinating look at the origins of jazz as interpreted by a first generation jazzman.

Without further ado, here are my picks for the Top 10 albums of 1950.

10. Ella Sings Gershwin

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Artist: Ella Fitzgerald

Genre: Swing

Always a pleasure to hear one of the greatest singers of all time. Especially when she’s singing Gershwin.


9. Piano Solos

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Artist: Bud Powell

Genre: Bebop

Not as good as the sequel, and not as good as Thelonious Monk, but Piano Solos #1 is another reason why Bud Powell should be given his due as one of the progenitors of modern jazz.


8. Sones of Mexico

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Artist: Trio Aguilillas

Genre: Son jaracho

“This delightful mariachi tape is only six songs and 19-minutes long, which means even a staunch musical conservative could grow to appreciate this.”


7. Swing and Dance with Frank Sinatra

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Artist: Frank Sinatra

Genre: Swing

“…I could listen to Swing and Dance with Frank Sinatra twice, maybe three times in a row before my natural Sinatra fatigue would kick in.” (<<LINK>>)


6. Voice of the Xtabay

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Artist: Yma Sumac

Genre: Exotica

The voice of Yma Sumac is one of the most impressive musical instruments of all time, something that truly must be heard to be believed. Because of my general unfamiliarity with the culture, Sumac is as Peruvian as my palate gets. Even though the backing orchestration is Hollywood’s idea of South America, Sumac’s Incan inclinations transcend the cheesy fanfare. Her voice is ancient and timeless, and the song “Ataypura” is featured in The Big Lebowski, which is even more timeless. A winning combination.


5. The New Sound

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Artist: Les Paul

Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz

“Even though Les Paul is a household name, the man’s music is seldom heard…” (<<LINK>>)


4. The Last Testament of a Great New Orleans Jazzman

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Artist: Bunk Johnson

Genre: Dixieland

“Bunk always stayed true to his original essence — an authentic Nawlins sound circa 1908.” (<<LINK>>)


3. Piano Solos #2 

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Artist: Bud Powell

Genre: Bebop

“Who needs hair of the dog when you have Piano Solos #2?” (<<LINK>>)


2. Innovations in Modern Music 

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Artist: Stan Kenton

Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz

“Kenton is easily one of the most underrated jazz composers of the entire 20th century…Considering the era and the context, this is one of the most daring jazz releases of all time.” (<<LINK>>)


1. Charlie Parker with Strings 

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Artist: Charlie Parker

Genre: Bebop

“It is defiantly modern and extremely contemporary, and even from a retrospective standpoint it doesn’t need gimmick or nostalgia to get by.” (<<LINK>>)

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