My Eight Favourite Jazz Albums (Part Two: Sultry Essentials & Freeform Squawking)

Welcome back. Hope you’re feeling peachy. No better way to put this – here’s the other four of my eight favourite jazz albums (and if that sounds confusing, take a peek at yesterday).

Charles Mingus - Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus
Charles Mingus – Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus

Record company says, we like your new album Mr. Mingus, what would you like to call it? But never mind all of that… what we have here are some premium cuts of jazz, and no mistake. All the fatty, extraneous bits taken off – just the sultry essentials left behind. And hello double bass!

Duke Ellington - Ellington at Newport
Duke Ellington – Ellington at Newport (1956)

When you conjure up the sound of ‘jazz’ in your head, what do you hear? For me, it’s some combination of this album and Mingus, Mingus… Both records are so elemental and expertly crafted. Yet if that makes them seem dull, predictable, or worthy, the mistake is assuredly mine and not theirs. Ellington at Newport is a barnstorming thrill from start to finish – the sort of thing Kerouac’s characters in On the Road seek in the breathless pursuit of a good time. (If I was inclined to self-mythologize, I’d say I finished my copy of On the Road in a coffee shop under the Empire State Building. In truth, it was a Starbucks, and simply because I was too scared of heights to join my sightseeing sister a hundred floors above.)

Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Boy Named Charlie Brown
Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Boy Named Charlie Brown

And talking of the past, here’s an ironclad way of journeying back to childhood – the uncannily excellent soundtrack to an old cartoon as familiar as the moon. How can something so firmly lodged in memory also sound so nimble and so fresh? Search me (but I’m guessing it wasn’t easy). Of all the tracks on this album, of course, it’s surely Linus and Lucy that is the hardest to resist. My advice: don’t. Find again, if it were ever lost, that spring in your step, and wear your hat on the side of your head. Everything really is so much nicer like that.

Sun Ra - Space Is the Place
Sun Ra – Space Is the Place

Last but not least: not the past but this oddball glimpse of the future. Who is Sun Ra? Where is he from? And what does he want? I’ve no earthly clue, and I’d wager he didn’t either. He stuck around awhile, is all, and freaked out a bit with (quoting “interlocking harmonies, African percussion, manic synthesizer lines, and joyous ensemble blowing,” all of which, naturally, came together “into some sort of church revival of the cosmos.” What can I say? Another mighty fine choice if you like your jazz with a decent amount of freeform squawking thrown in the mix. And, ah, kind of spacey.

For more of same…

Right then, I’m off to read about today’s Arsenal game (so close yet so far). First though, if you did want to use the comment section just below these words to share your favourite jazz albums let me quickly assure you of the following. I’d definitely be both: a) excitable and giddy; b) [I mustn’t lie] surprised.

Empire State Building


About newjonnytransit

Same as ever, only better.
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