Top 10 Albums of 1953

Colin’s picks for best albums of 1953

In 1953, Bill Vukovich won the Indianapolis 500, Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the double helix, and Peggy Lee made the best album of the year.

10. New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm


Artist: Stan Kenton

Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz

New Concepts of Artistry and Rhythm is the most upbeat and welcoming album in the entire Stan Kenton catalogue. Continue reading…

9. Introducing Paul Bley 


Artist: Paul Bley

Genre: Bebop

Introducing Paul Bley certainly shows potential. Already, the canuck prodigy can be called one of the most talented pianists in the world; he needs only develop his own sense of style. Nevertheless, this was one of the finer debuts of the year. Continue reading…

8. The Hit Makers!


Artist: Les Paul & Mary Ford

Genre: Country

The duo’s cover of “How High the Moon” may be their finest recorded moment ever. The rest of the LP is Paul & Ford as usual — beyond-perfect vocal melodies backed by unbelievable guitar. An early benefactor of multitrack recording, Ford’s extensive use of doubling gave her voice a dreamy clarity. Meanwhile, hubby Les is able to conjure a miniature jazz band out of one guitar thanks to his innovative layering techniques.

7. Portraits on Standards


Artist: Stan Kenton

Genre: Big Band

Example #2 of why Stan Kenton may be a better arranger/conductor than composer. This collection of covers features soft and subtle arrangements, which makes the brass climaxes all the more volcanic.

6. An Evening with Billie Holiday


Artist: Billie Holiday

Genre: Vocal Jazz

Only an evening?? (Highlights: “Yesterdays,” “Tenderly”)

5. This Modern World


Artist: Stan Kenton

Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz

Stan Kenton has always been a Cubist painter using bright Impressionist colors. On This Modern World, he finally embraces cynical abstraction. The music becomes warmer as a result. Imagine that. Continue reading…

4. The Duke Plays Ellington


Artist: Duke Ellington

Genre: Stride

A critical re-evaluation finds The Duke Plays Ellington as one of the most unique releases of the bandleader’s legendary career. A once-in-a-lifetime record from a once-a-genre artist. Continue reading…

3. Jazz at Massey Hall


Artist: The Quintet (Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Max Roach & Charles Mingus)

 Genre: Bebop

May 15, 1953. Toronto. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Bud Powell and Max Roach. On that legendary night at Massey Hall, the greatest one-off jazz collective ever assembled gave one of the greatest concerts ever performed. A historical occurrence. Continue reading…

2. Jazz at Oberlin 


Artist: Dave Brubeck Quartet

Genre: Cool Jazz

Only a select few live albums can make you feel like you’re part of the crowd, as if you were there. The Quintet’s aforementioned May 15th performance in Toronto. Duke Ellington’s 7/7/56 set at Newport. Thelonious Monk’s ’58 residency at the Five Spot Café. Just like those legendary concerts, the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s night at Oberlin College goes down as one of jazz music’s greatest performances.

1. Black Coffee 


Artist: Peggy Lee

Genre: Vocal Jazz

Call it the Court and Spark of the early ‘50s. A true masterpiece of both jazz and pop. Continue reading…

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