Best of 1957: #10 – 1

10. Way Out West


Artist: Sonny Rollins

Genre: Hard Bop

Perhaps Sonny Rollins’ most unique album of 1957 is Way Out West, which finds the tenor saxophonist completing his manifest destiny and proving that he is truly a master of American music. The LP finds the ever-consistent Rollins at the top of his game, soloing over the spare accompaniment of cowbell drums and pulsating bass. Continue reading…

9. Monk’s Music

Monk's Music (Remastered)

Artist: Thelonious Monk

Genre: Hard Bop

Even though the album’s best track is only 53-seconds long, the rest of Monk’s Music still holds tremendous value. In fact, this actually may be Thelonious Monk’s most essential recording — the most talented band he ever played with playing some of his most confident arrangements. Continue reading…

8. Close to You

Close to You

Artist: Frank Sinatra

Genre: Traditional Pop

Musically, Close to You is Frank Sinatra’s most interesting LP — a somber orchestral affair that harkens back to the magical, late-night qualities of Songs for Young Lovers. Lyrically, it’s Sinatra’s funniest. The songs are full of self-deprecating humor that paint Sinatra as a both romantic fool and a sucker for love. Continue reading…

7. Here’s Little Richard

Here's Little Richard

Artist: Little Richard

Genre: Rhythm and Blues

My favorite moments from Little Richard’s energetic debut are the saxophone rave-ups and hip-hopping beats. Likewise, the singer’s gritty voice brings R&B electricity to an unsuspecting, white audience. Here’s Little Richard is everything a rock & roll album should be, and then some. Continue reading…

6. Sonny Rollins, Vol. 2 

Vol. 2

Artist: Sonny Rollins

Genre: Hard Bop

Sonny Rollins, Vol. 2 features one of my all-time favorite jazz moments — the opening stanza of Thelonious Monk’s “Misterioso,” featuring dizzying interplay between Rollins, Blakey, Monk and Johnson. It’s a high point of the genre itself. Continue reading…

5. Super Sonic Jazz


Artist: Sun Ra

Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz

Even though Super Sonic Jazz is one of Ra’s more “conventional” LPs, this is still some of the trippiest jazz ever created. The unlikely combo of pianos (electric, acoustic and Wurlitzer), primitive percussion and left-field sensibilities go a long way in predicting the shape of jazz to come. Experimental soundscapes go hand-in-hand with traditional bebop jams, making Super Sonic Jazz one of the most astonishing albums of the decade.  Continue reading…

4. After School Session

After School Session

Artist: Chuck Berry

Genre: Rock and Roll

You can argue that Little Richard, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry shaped the course of rock and roll more than Elvis Presley. Likewise, it’s no debate that Chuck rocked harder than any of his contemporaries. He remains one of the most talented guitarists to ever walk the Earth. Continue reading…

3. Saxophone Colossus


Artist: Sonny Rollins

Genre: Hard Bop

There’s no shame in saying that Saxophone Colossus is head and shoulders the best album that Sonny Rollins ever made. His technical and melodic proficiency was at an all-time high — the solos must be heard to be believed. Continue reading…

2. Miles Ahead


ArtistMiles Davis

Genre: Third Stream

A seamless combination of cool jazz and classical, Miles Ahead is one of Davis’ greatest achievements. It’s a quiet masterpiece; one that requires close attention and patient concentration.

Davis’ flugelhorn is softer and more subtle than his occasionally piercing trumpet, and it perfectly complements the peaceful and undisturbed nature of the music. It’s amazing that such a hushed sound could come from such a large ensemble. Continue reading…

1. Brilliant Corners

Brilliant Corners

Artist: Thelonious Monk

Genre: Hard Bop

I’ve listened to Brilliant Corners a lot. It grows on me each time, but forever remains elusive. And that’s the beauty of it. It’s both Thelonious Monk’s most accessible album and his most ambiguous. Perhaps Misterioso is a more fitting title.

Then again, “brilliant corners” is a perfect descriptor. The music is full of jaded edges and sharp, pointy exteriors. Yet like the five smiling Monk’s on the cover, the space between is filled with jovial excitement. It’s one of jazz music’s most profound statements. Continue reading…

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