Best of 1957: #20 – 11

20. Cookin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet


Artist: Miles Davis

Genre: Hard Bop

Miles Davis’ First Great Quintet was rounded out by John Coltrane, Red Garland, Philly Joe Jones and Paul Chambers. Their chemistry may have been the greatest in jazz history.

19. Singin’ the Blues


Artist: B.B. King

Genre: Electric Blues

B.B. King’s best work has always been his live performances — the blues is just as much a visual experience as it is an auditory one. Nevertheless, King’s debut LP, Singin’ the Blues, may be the legendary guitarist’s most complete overall effort.

18. The Sound of Sonny

The Sound of Sonny.jpg

Artist: Sonny Rollins

Genre: Hard Bop

Sonny Rollins’ seventh album of 1957 finds the master experimenting with different lineups from tune to tune. Any fan of jazz need only read the name at the top of the sleeve to recognize that this is another worthwhile LP full of great music. Continue reading…

17. Such Sweet Thunder

Such Sweet thunder

Artist: Duke Ellington

Genre: Big Band

If there was any American musician worthy of crafting an instrumental ode to William Shakespeare, it could only be Duke Ellington. This tightly-crafted and delicately arranged song cycle finds the Duke performing some of the most modern arrangements of his career. Quite a few of the tracks verge on third-stream classical, and you wouldn’t be at fault for mistaking it for the work of Miles Davis and Gil Evans. Such Sweet Thunder is another late-period classic from one of American music’s greatest masters. Continue reading…

16. Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps

Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps

Artist: Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps

Genre: Rock and Roll

Not as polished as Elvis, not as soulful as Chuck Berry, but pure rock & roll nonetheless.  When you have grit and charisma, you don’t necessarily need polish or soul.  Great guitar on this album, some of the best and most flat-out fun playing of the decade.

15. Ray Charles

Ray Charles

Artist: Ray Charles

Genre: Rhythm and Blues

Most people these days know “I Got a Woman” from “Gold Digger,” “Mess Around” from Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and Ray Charles from Jamie Foxx’s Oscar-winning performance in Ray. But to know the real Ray, you need to go back to his early Atlantic output from the early to late- ‘50s. On Ray Charles’ self-titled debut album, rhythm and blues becomes R&B. Continue reading…

14. The Clown

The Clown

Artist: Charles Mingus

Genre: Post-Bop

Look behind the makeup to find the stern, solemn face staring underneath, and you’ll start to get an idea of what Charles Mingus has accomplished here. The Clown is Mingus’ darkest album, full of ambiguous emotions and depressive tendencies. A major — albeit underrated — artistic statement from one of jazz’s great innovators. Continue reading…

13. Jazz by Sun Ra

Jazz by Sun Ra

Artist: Sun Ra

Genre: Post-Bop

Sun Ra — born Herman Poole Blount in Birmingham, Alabama, 1914 — was the most experimental jazz musician of all time. To even classify him as “jazz” or “experimental” (or a “musician”) is troubling; the pianist who christened himself Le Sony’r Ra claimed to be an alien from Saturn, and his extreme, avant-garde space music acts as evidence. Jazz by Sun Ra, his debut LP, charts a trajectory to the stars, with several psychedelic pit-stops along the way. Continue reading…

12. April in Paris


Artist: Count Basie

Genre: Big Band

There’s nothing like big band swing when it’s done right. Count Basie was 52-years-old when April in Paris was originally released in 1956. But that doesn’t mean he was past his prime. In fact, he aged like a fine wine.

April in Paris is incredibly lively and energetic, showing that the elder Count Basie still knew how to one o’clock jump if given ample opportunity. The climax of the title track is so good that the Count Basie Orchestra plays it not once, not twice, but thrice. Continue reading…

11. The Jazz Workshop

The JAzz Workshop

Artist: George Russell

Genre: Modal Jazz

George Russell was one of the most influential composers in jazz history. Using a mishmash of bebop, avant-garde, classical and pop techniques, his debut LP, The Jazz Workshop, remains one of the freshest, most unique albums of the decade. Continue reading…

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