Best of 1956: #10 – 1

10. Tenor Madness 

Tenor Madness Sonny Rollins in 1956

Artist: Sonny 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. Tenor Madness is crazy in all the right ways. Continue reading…

9. Ellington at Newport 

Ellington at Newport_ The Original Album

Artist: Duke Ellington

Genre: Big Band

Ellington at Newport, a comeback album of sorts, is one of the most famous of all jazz LPs. Recorded on July 7, 1956, it captures one of the most legendary performances in the genre’s history. The pièce-de-resistance is Paul Gonsalves’ epic tenor sax solo in the show-stopping “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue.” For seven-minutes, Gonsalves ascends to a higher plane of existence. Continue reading…

8. Elvis 


Artist: Elvis Presley

Genre: Rock and Roll

With word to Chuck D, who famously penned “Elvis was a hero to most/But he never meant s**t to me” — music as we know it would not exist without Mr. Presley. His second self-titled LP of 1956 is one of his defining statements. Continue reading…

7. Clifford Brown and Max Roach at Basin Street

Clifford Brown And Max Roach At Basin Street (Expanded Edition)

Artist: Clifford Brown & Max Roach

Genre: Hard Bop

Clifford Brown and Max Roach at Basin Street is the sound of things ending too soon. It sounds like the musicians themselves can somehow realize it too. As a result, this electrifying LP is a fitting end to the greatest partnership in hard-bop history. Continue reading…

6. Johnny Burnette and the Rock ‘n Roll Trio

Johnny Burnette and the Rock 'n Roll Trio

Artist: Johnny Burnette

Genre: Rockabilly

Johnny Burnette was a gritty sumb***h, and his Rock n’ Roll Trio matched his cockeyed intensity. Full of fuzz guitars and yelps and screams — this is rockabilly at its rawest. Continue reading…

5. The Wildest!

The Wildest

Artist: Louis Prima

Genre: Swing

For Louis Prima and his excitable cohorts, the party never stops. If you don’t believe that 1950s humor still holds up today, I highly suggest you listen to this exuberant blend of big-band jazz and lowbrow comedy. The Wildest! is one of the most flat-out fun albums of all time. Continue reading…

4. Songs for Swingin’ Lovers 


Artist: Frank Sinatra

Genre: Swing

In contrast to the solitary torch songs of In the Wee Small HoursSongs for Swingin’ Lovers is bright and sunny. Instead of the sad, lonely and drunk Sinatra, this is happy, horny and buzzed Sinatra. Frank’s voice never resounded with more confidence, and it’s his immense swagger that really makes this album swing. Continue reading…

3. Jazz Advance 

Jazz Advance

Artist: Cecil Taylor

Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz

Cecil Taylor’s piano runs are a thing of wonder, astonishing in how he conjures up a world of sound — so much sound — in such a short space. One moment he’s playing bebop, the next it’s pure atonal expressionism. Taylor’s music contains more surprises in one measure than most jazz musicians can muster in an entire career. Continue reading…

2. Elvis Presley 

Elvis Presley

Artist: Elvis Presley

Genre: Rock and Roll

On the heels of this landmark LP, Elvis Presley shot to international superstardom the likes of which have never been seen, before or since. And while some may dispute Presley’s innovation and originality, one only need listen to this 1956 debut to alleviate all doubt. Continue reading…

1. Pithecanthropus Erectus 

Pithecanthropus Erectus

Artist: Charles Mingus

Genre: Post-Bop

Emerging out of jazz’s primordial ooze like the Earth’s first bipedal amphibious fish-monkey, Charles Mingus’ Pithecanthropus Erectus represented a drastic shift in the way we listen to music. Never before had improvisation been so tightly arranged, and never before had tight arrangements felt so improvised. Featuring a 10-minute tone poem depicting the the early evolution of man, a noisy George Gershwin cover, a soft-spoken lo-fi ballad and a grand finale that joins the pantheon of great jazz epics, Pithecanthropus Erectus is one of the most important LPs in modern musical history. Without it, we wouldn’t be what we are today.  Continue reading…

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