One Nation under Swing!


This list of approximately 20 recordings contains my personal favorites, which means it will change from time to time and at the bottom is what I'm listening to now. CBP 

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John Coltrane: Love Supreme

Coltrane stands as the next major innovator after Charlie Parker. His harmonic advancements and improvisational approach altered jazz from his day forward. Perhaps more importantly, his lyricism, tone and compositions feature a passion and spiritual quality unsurpassed by any jazz artist. Coltrane's recordings encompass a wide variety of styles and you will end up with more.

Miles Davis: The Complete Concert 1964: My Funny Valentine + Four and More

Miles Davis' career honed and launched many others. The sensitivity of this famous rhythm section (Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams and Ron Carter) following, leading, prodding, Davis and saxophonist George Coleman is a hallmark of a "real group" and post bop jazz at its finest. It is unbelievable that this compilation is actually one concert. Eventually you may want to check out the "Live at the Plugged Nickel" sessions which is even further evolved.

Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus

Perhaps no other jazz artist has reached this level of mastery over the elements. Newk's penetrating sound, his ability to play with time; race ahead and lay back,  his command of post bird vocabulary - innovating his own, all while infusing great energy to every performance is absolutely phenomenal. Another incredible recording is The Bridge.

Wayne Shorter: Speak No Evil

To follow Shorter's career from his days with Art Blakey, through Miles, through Weather Report, and to his present group, is to track the development of Jazz since Coltrane. His compositional legacy forms a foundation for all jazz artists during their formation and after. This recording features an all star group at their very best.

Charles Mingus: Dynasty

Jazz is not a technical music - meaning that technique is not what is important but rather the means to an end. Mingus' music is as complex as any but the technique is not what strikes you. His music captures the soul, humor and simplicity that makes the music unpretentious, exciting, and great fun.

Gil Evans: Svengali

His collaborations with Miles Davis are most often found on these lists but I want to point to some music he created later on with a unique band featuring saxophonist Billy Harper. You hear all the stuff that gained his arranging legendary status but you will also hear his ability to captain a group of hand picked musicians, and turn the "boat" over to them. This talent is probably one of the main reasons he and Davis were such great collaborators.

Herbie Hancock: Maiden Voyage

Impressionistic jazz at its finest performed by the very innovators who created it. This is the Miles Davis group with the great Freddie Hubbard taking the trumpet chair. This recording persuaded me, and many others, to take up music.

Charlie Parker: Massey Hall

Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Charles Mingus, Bud Powell and Bird. Need I say more! These are the founding fathers of BeBop reunited under some unusual circumstances and what ensues is fantastic. There are all kinds of stories surrounding this recording which could fill a trivial pursuit game.

Weather Report: Forecast: Tommorow

To clear the con-fusion regarding "fusion", this recording is a compilation of some of WR's finest material and clearly establishes the group's importance in the evolution of jazz. This is not the sissy "smooth jazz" often associated with fusion. Truly a fusion of world musics from folk melodies, funk foundations and grooves, to jazz intricacies and craftsmanship, and musique electronique.  Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul, the founders, drummer Peter Erskine, and electric bass innovator, Jaco Pastorius came together for a number of years and perfected the blend of Jazz and Rock/Funk/etc are featured in a DVD within the set. 8:30 stands as one my favorite recordings of the group.

Joe Henderson: Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn

Wayne Shorter claimed much fame, for good reasons, as "the" post Rollins/Trane voice. However, Joe Henderson was eventually given proper due for his equally distinctive voice. This recording features Joe in a variety of settings and displays his incredible prowess and sensitivity. I believe this recording even won a Grammy. A year later he recorded a great CD So Near, So Far, a series of tunes recorded by Miles Davis.

Woody Shaw : Love Dance (included in a double CD set)

I would argue that the late Woody Shaw is the last truly unique trumpet innovator to date. While his cubist compositions help forge what I call the second wave of impressionism of modern jazz during the 70s (including McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter) his trumpet style had an innovative harmonic approach combined with an  aggressive rhythmic attack, gorgeous sound, and sensitive lyricism.

Art Blakey: Roots and Herbs

The University of Art Blakey has many, many famous graduates, quite a few  went on to graduate studies with Miles Davis. In some respects it is ridiculous to try to pick a "best" for any of these artists so I just have to say I love this one. Lee Morgan, the fire breathing trumpeter is in rare form and again, a "real group" sound. Art Blakey's drumming is integral to all post bop drummers and his approach to the band has set the pace for everyone since.

Horace Silver: The Cape Verdean Blues

The other "University" was led by former Messenger founder, Horace Silver, whose compositional skills defined post bop. His "graduates" are a who's who of greats including Joe Henderson and Woody Shaw who are featured on this recording along side legendary trombonist J.J. Johnson and bassist Bob Cranshaw.

John McLaughlin: Que Alegria

Most famous and historically important for his band; The Mahavishnu Orchestra, this recording highlights McLaughlin in another context, one of many he has explored. This quartet format exposes his soulful and raw musicianship in a semi  "unplugged" fashion and justifies his standing as one of our generation's greatest musicians. His most recent recording is To the One

Lee Morgan: Live at the Lighthouse

This is some "sh*t" here! Not for the faint-hearted. While jazz was highly eclipsed during the seventies, it certainly didn't stop folks from doing it or even advancing it. Lee was notoriously cocky - perhaps due to his fame which came at 16 with Dizzy - and the music has an edge which really displays this direction of Post-Bop music.

Thad Jones/Mel Lewis: Consumation (out of print)

Thad Jones is perhaps the most important post bop composer/arranger in the big band idiom. This band was his workshop for pushing the envelope of modern jazz composition. Thad always kept sight of the groove and his tunes, no matter how complex, always swing. Many composers have one main line/melody which gets subordinate treatment from accompanying parts and shout chorus material which sounds like a drummer whose legs and hands can only play one rhythm at a time. Not Thad Jones, his lines - all melodies -  beautifully weave every direction with unsurpassed harmonic invention. But wait there's more! If Thad never wrote a note, he would be remembered as a great trumpeter whose improvisations are as good as it gets. A series of great recordings came from Blue Note and defunct label Horizon. Mosaic issued a box set as well but I don't think it is available anymore.

Duke Ellington and his Orchestra At Newport

Forget it! Founding father Duke has so much music, so many great recordings, so much to offer. Just reach down in the Bins marked Ellington and grab one! Be prepared to hang out for a few hours if you mention Duke to any musician.

Eric Dolphy/Booker Little: At the Five Spot V1, V2

You may have heard of Dolphy but there's a good chance you've not heard of Booker Little. Be prepared to hear some outrageous music which sounds like it might have been recorded yesterday at some club.

Wynton Marsalis: Black Codes (From the Underground)

This is some shit here! The group had been performing as a unit for a long time, the musicians were in top form individually, they were all young, full of P & V and eager to make their mark. They were steeped in the post bop tradition of the music of Miles, Shorter, Blakey, Trane, Rollins and more. After this recording, they all went on to be leaders and develop their own units - they certainly have been major contributors to the idiom. Drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts recent recordings bring this band back together for some excellent recording.

Geri Allen: Gathering

There are not many musicians headed towards becoming innovators but Ms. Allen is definitely one of them. Her style is at the forefront of many of the explorative trails present in jazz today. Another release which just furthers my case: Timeless Portraits and Dreams

Dave Douglas: Magic Triangle

He has been getting quite a bit of attention lately but it is for good reason. Like Geri Allen and other seekers, he is pushing the boundaries of the tradition to find something else. This recording also features saxophonist Chris Potter.

Roy Haynes: Birds of a Feather

Roy's career goes from Charlie Parker, Coltrane, Monk, Miles, Sarah Vaughn, Stan Getz, Chick Corea, Dizzy, Roland Kirk, to Pat Metheney, Danilo Perez and John Pattitucci, there is no end to his scope! This recording brings together Roy Hargrove, Kenny Garrett, Dave Holland, David Kikoski and Haynes to perform Bird tunes. It is straight up, no frills, and tastes great.

Wayne Shorter: Footprints

So this is where jazz is headed and it figures Wayne is the one to takes us there. Finally breaking away from the rut jazz development seems to have gotten stuck in - at least where the music industry has been stuck - we now hear multiple planes of time and harmony existing at the same time. This may be hard to follow for many but hang in there and you will glimpse some real inspiring music.

Chris Pitts' recent playlist:

Branford Marsalis: Four MFs Playin' Tunes

I love this record because it sounds great, has really great playing, and Bradford's playing is soaked in everything incredible about Sonny Rollins but with an unmistakable style all his own - what more needs to be said?

Rick Margiza: Bohemia

This is truly a wonderful pastiche of global sounds chanelled by one of the top saxophonists on the planet. There is a playful undercurrent throughtout this recording which keeps all the incredible craftsmanship -for which Rick is legendary - hidden while delivering a musical journey that makes you feel like you've just had one of the best moments in your life.

Kenny Garrett: Seeds from the Underground

Kenny is probably the greatest alto saxophonist on the scene. Having cut his teeth with Miles Davis and Woody Shaw among others, he's developed into one of the most distinct and original voices in modern music. Whatever genre he enters from burning Giant Steps to gut bucket funk, he plays with absolute authority, ownership, and creativity. Pickup any of his recordings. Two of my favorites are his recordings Standard of Language and Black Hope featuring the late Joe Henderson.

Regina Carter: Reverse Thread

Ms. Carter is what I call a pure musician. Her sensitivities are such that she could be dropped into any musical situation soon she would be right at home adding her own voice. Freefall is a wonderful duet with Kenny Barron and she also released a wonderfully intimate recording featuring clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera : I'll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey.

Mike Stern: Who Let the Cats Out

Mike Stern is a guitar phenomena who gained fame with Miles Davis' return in the 80s with a band that also featured saxophonist Bill Evans, bassist Marcus Miller, and drummer Al Foster. His continued perfection of fusing bebop to Hendrix puts his music front and center to an evolution branch of modern jazz. Drummer Dennis Chambers along with high octane saxophonists Micheal Brecker, Bob Berg, Bob Franceschini, and various electric bass monsters give his band a particular energy and style that make it the heir apparent to John McLaughlin and Weather Report. He released Big Neighborhood in 2009.

Chris Potter: Lift, Live at the Village Vanguard

This guy has been getting a lot of notice and he sure can play - there are some YouTube videos of him playing unaccompanied which are absolutely jaw dropping! You can hear Wayne and Newk in his playing but he definitely has his own style. He keeps some very fast company and his music is energetic.

Robert Hurst: Bob Ya Head:

Bob Hurst was practically an innovator when he was still in his teens. The ability to set the groove with the strength and reliability of the great bassists from Paul Chambers to Ray Brown while constructing gravity defying lines like Jaco Pastorius or Ron Carter make him a phenomena. Were he to be a sideman alone, he would have gained prominence in the jazz world from his many collaborations with the majors, but he is a composer with great imagination as evidenced by this recording and the production.

Ravi Coltrane: Mad 6

Ravi is, as you might have wondered, the son of John Coltrane. To say he had some considerable measurements to deal with embarking on a career playing the very instruments his father had would be an understatement, but Ravi has emerged as one of the most unique saxophonists today and his commitment to producing music that is honest and engaging is every bit as serious as his father's.


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