1952 saw the release of several jazz masterpieces from a wide range of jazz masters. They fill out the top portion of my picks for the best albums of 1952.
10. Young Man with a Horn
Artist: Miles Davis
Davis’ second LP found him once again toeing the lines between cool jazz, bebop and “hard” bop. His renditions of “Dear Old Stockholm” and “How Deep is the Ocean?” are highlights of his early Blue Note output.
9. Billie Holiday Sings
Artist: Billie Holiday
Genre: Vocal Jazz
“Nobody else has the unique affectation that Holiday possesses; able to draw out the final syllable in an all-knowing almost-annoying persuasive drawl. Every song—every melody—is memorable just for Holiday’s mannerisms.” <<LINK>>
8. Johnnie Ray
Artist: Johnnie Ray
“Johnnie Ray was an early antecedent of rock ‘n’ roll — his affected over-emoting is both sultry and full of starpower.” <<LINK>>
7. Moanin’ the Blues
Artist: Hank Williams
The last LP released during his lifetime, Hank Williams’ Moanin’ the Blues is even more country than the first. But unlike Hank Williams Sings, with its rustic flavor and Dust Bowl Americana, Hank’s follow-up is a more up-tempo, honky-tonk affair. Moanin’ the Blues brings country & western down south — more pop-oriented, but also more ‘Murican. R.I.P.
6. Wizard of the Vibes
Artist: Milt Jackson
“This album is an essential recording for both bebop and vibraphone enthusiasts.” <<LINK>>
5. Oscar Peterson Plays Duke Ellington
Artist: Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson’s expressive piano playing helps turn these classic Duke tunes into the quaint miniatures they were always meant to be. Accompanied only by Barney Kessel on electric guitar and Ray Brown on double bass, this is easy listening jazz with layers of subtlety just below the surface.
4. Genius of Modern Music (Volume Two)
Artist: Thelonious Monk
Pointing the way toward both hard bop and the avant-garde, Thelonious Monk’s Genius of Modern Music series ranks among the most influential recordings of the 20th century. Francis Ford Coppola notwithstanding, this Volume Two may be the greatest sequel of all time.
The angular melodies and cubist chord progressions, the eerie harmonies and intrepid piano playing — every last sound is quintessential, idiosyncratic Monk. He is without compare.
3. Bird and Diz
One of the all-time great jazz lineups is featured here. On top of the title pair’s extraordinary sax-trumpet interplay, the band is filled out by 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 is “Bloomdido,” the leadoff: one of the most influential songs in Parker’s repertoire.
2. The Amazing Bud Powell
Artist: Bud Powell
“This album seals it for me — the crowning achievement of a true American master, one of the greatest pianists of all time.” <<LINK>>
1. Ellington Uptown
Artist: Duke Ellington
Genre: Big Band
“Ellington Uptown is quite possibly Duke’s finest studio album (his 1930s recordings remain his best work, but that’s a different story).” <<LINK>>