Best of 1956: #25 – 21

25. Count ‘Em 88

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Artist: Ahmad Jamal Trio

Genre: Bebop

A little-known yet highly influential genre innovator, Ahmad Jamal’s lengthy solo piano vamps were early progenitors of modal jazz. You might even call him a visionary. Count ‘Em 88 is his defining statement. This lo-fi recording finds the underrated songsmith at his absolute best  — slightly left-of-center cocktail-jazz. Jamal plays his solos atop spare accompaniment and minimalist chord changes, which somehow results in an extremely relaxing and comfortable listen.


24. The Toshiko Trio

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Artist: Toshiko Akiyoshi

Genre: Bebop

An admirable effort from one of the greatest Japanese jazz musicians of the era, The Toshiko Trio is perhaps Akiyoshi’s most consistent overall set. Other than Thelonious Monk, no other pianist used strategic silences quite as often or effective as Akiyoshi. It’s for this reason that “Kyo-Shu” and “Soshu No Yoru” are my two favorite tracks.


23. Finger Style Guitar

Finger Style Guitar

Artist: Chet Atkins

Genre: Country

“This collection of instrumental standards finds Tennessee-born guitarist Chet Atkins channeling the country-folk-Americana of Merle Travis. While not as brazen as his idol, nor as innovative as his lone contemporary, Atkins still delivers a clean-cut, technically-accomplished LP of classic country & western.” Continue reading…


22. Dinah!

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Artist: Dinah Washington

Genre: Vocal Jazz

After the intense hard bop of her Clifford Brown & Max Roach collaborations, Dinah! returns Washington to a more traditional vocal jazz setting. Likewise, her singing is slightly more subdued, though she can still erupt into fiery passion at any second. The best parts of the album are when she does just that.


21. Fontessa 

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Artist: The Modern Jazz Quartet

Genre: Cool Jazz

Milt Jackson and The Modern Jazz Quartet provide a masterclass in restrained showmanship. Eerie, sophisticated and slightly pretentious, but in all the right places.

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