Best of 1955: #10 – 1

10. Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington

Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington

Artist: Thelonious Monk

Genre: Bebop

Thelonious Monk’s playing is visionary — blocky, offbeat chords that zig and zag where more conventional pianists might bip and bop. With the backing accompaniment of Oscar Pettiford (double bass) and Kenny Clarke (drums), Monk completely transforms these ageless Ellington standards into something new and prophetic. Continue reading…

9. Julie is Her Name

Julie Is Her Name

Artist: Julie London

Genre: Vocal Jazz

Her album’s just as good as her frame. Julie is Her Name, a remarkably mature debut, showcases her immense vocal talent. The sparse arrangements, led by Barney Kessel’s distinctive electric guitar, perfectly match London’s relaxed and unhurried pace. Continue reading…

8. Clifford Brown with Strings

Clifford Brown with Strings

Artist: Clifford Brown

Genre: Bebop

Clifford Brown and Strings makes for one of the trumpeter’s most original and most unlikely albums. His natural throwback sound works perfectly within the orchestral setting, which is never flashy and always complementary. Continue reading…

7. Blue Moods

Blue Moods

Artist: Miles Davis

Genre: Cool Jazz

Blue Moods is one of the most underrated releases in Miles Davis’ extensive catalogue. A short EP at 4 songs, 26 minutes, the record boasts an all-star lineup that includes Charles Mingus and Elvin Jones. Yet all performers, Davis included, are upstaged by vibraphonist Teddy Charles, whose eerie presence brings a sense of unease not often heard in Davis’ early recordings. Continue reading…

6. Concert by the Sea

Concert by the Sea - Eroll Garner

Artist: Erroll Garner

Genre: Stride

While diminutive in stature, Erroll Garner’s style is impossibly large — his thunderous piano swells are often as vast as the ocean itself, of which the 6-minute rendition of “Autumn Leaves” is a swelling instrumental benchmark. Continue reading…

5. In a Romantic Mood 

Oscar Peterson In a Romantic Mood

Artist: Oscar Peterson

Genre: Bebop

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…

4. Study in Brown

Study in Brown

Artist: Clifford Brown & Max Roach

Genre: Hard Bop

While not as immediate as its predecessorStudy in Brown remains one of the defining works of early ‘50s jazz. In turn, Clifford Brown and Max Roach are, pound for pound, one of the greatest musical duos ever. Continue reading…

3. Dinah Jams 

Dinah Jams

Artist: Dinah Washington

Genre: Vocal Jazz

By far the best female vocal jazz LP of 1955 is this searing live set recorded by Dinah Washington in Los Angeles. Opening with a fiery rendition of “Lover, Come Back to Me” and closing with an 11-minute “You Go to My Head,” Washington’s passionate vocal intensity is matched only by the hard bop fury of Clifford Brown & Max Roach, who provide stellar accompaniment throughout. Continue reading…

2. Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins 

Thelonious Monk continued his hot streak into 1955

Artist: Thelonious Monk

Genre: Hard Bop

Sonny Rollins’ hard-bop saxophone commentary provides perfect counterpoint to Thelonious Monk’s askew piano phrasings, presenting a perfect mixture between two distinct styles of modern jazz. Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins is a bona-fide classic. Continue reading…

1. In the Wee Small Hours 

In the Wee Small Hours - Frank Sinatra

Artist: Frank Sinatra

Genre: Vocal Jazz

In the Wee Small Hours floats by in a graceful manner, an album full of extreme depth and emotion. Frank Sinatra’s singing was never better — so much control and expression in his voice. Yet the thing that really makes the record so special is the musical accompaniment, which is a perfect match to the melancholy subject matter. Nelson Riddle’s lush, dreamlike arrangements recall Bernard Herrmann at his best. Continue reading…

#20 – 11 | Top 10

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