Help Me Make a Playlist

Young Ornette Coleman

So it’s been weeks again since an update here — this seems to happen when I take on new projects away from the internet (which, according to Prince, is over? I suppose that makes this post somewhat irrelevant …)

But you, dear reader, can actually help me out with this particular project. Although the details are not fully finalized, I do know that I need to compile about 5-6 hours’ worth of great music played by jazz icons in their early careers. I figure that the collective wisdom of my readership can help me out with this one.

Please, leave a comment below if you have any favorite tracks that meet these criteria:

1) The artist is a jazz icon, a major figure in the music’s history who is immediately recognizable.

2) The recording(s) were made during the first few years’ of that artist’s recording career.

3) The recording(s) are issued somewhere on CD.

Thanks for playing — I am curious to see what kind of responses I get. Thanks also for your patience as I get my act together enough to start bringing some stuff back to the blog. Lots of ideas, just no time to write … yet. As always, stay tuned.

About Alex Rodríguez

Writer, Organizer, Trombonist
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27 Responses to Help Me Make a Playlist

  1. David says:

    Clifford Brown – Turnpike, from The Eminent JJ Johnson Vol. 1

    I think this was Brown’s second or third recording session ever.

  2. paulbradymusic says:

    Rex Stewart and Django Reinhardt: “Low Cotton,” from 1939. One of my all time favorite Django tracks.

  3. David says:

    Also, while I’m thinking about it, I think Tony Williams was like 17 or 18 when he appeared on Seven Steps to Heaven. The title track remains one of my favorite Miles tracks ever.

  4. Max says:

    The classics are pretty obvious; almost anything by/with Bird, Dizzy, Clifford, Max, Bud, etc. will probably be at least pretty good. (You might actually be harder-pressed to find a really bad track.) Given that… well, I don’t know if you’re thinking of a date limit, Alex, but how about some further-out stuff? My suggestions:

    Anthony Braxton – For Alto
    (track: “To Artist Murray De Pillars)

    Cecil Taylor – Nefertiti, The Beautiful One Has Come
    (track: “Lena”)

    Albert Ayler – Spiritual Unity
    (track: “Ghosts [First Variation]”)

  5. Lester Young, “Shoe Shine Boy”, 1936, his first ever recording. Charlie Christian and Charlie Parker must have listened to this a thousand times.

    Bill Evans on George Russell’s Jazz Workshop album (RCA, 1956). A biggie playing in a style somewhat removed from what he became better known for.

    Stan Getz in Woody Herman’s “Summer Sequence IV” (Columbia 1947, *not* the following year’s “Early Autumn”). His angelical tone is already there.

    Red Norvo’s “Dance of the Octopus”, from 1933. With Benny Goodman on bass clarinet, this will turn any conceptions about the linearity of the history of jazz upside down.

    Talking about Goodman, his “That’s a Plenty”, from 1928, a clarinet-piano-drums trio some years before Teddy Wilson and Krupa.



  6. Joshua says:

    For some reason it’s hard for me to think of the earliest works. I definitely would agree with Ornette Coleman, The Shape of Jazz to Come. Here’s what I’ve thought of:

    Wes Montgomery, “Four on Six,”
    from “The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery”

    Joe Henderson, “Jinrikisha” and “Recorda Me”
    from “Page One”

    • Re: Wes Montgomery. Although there are earlier recordings, I’d go either for track 1 of his first album as a leader (“Round Midnight”), who was probably quite a shocker, or “Gone with the wind” from his second Riverside LP (The Incredible Jazz Guitar Of…) an excellent, extended solo, where he does his single line-into-octaves-into-chords thing.


  7. Steve says:

    You could go even earlier with Ornette and get something from Live at the Hillcrest with Bley, Higgins, Haden and Cherry – maybe “When Will The Blues Leave” or “Klactoveesedstene”?

  8. Miles Davis – His solo on the master take of Bird’s “Embraceable You” (Dial, 1947). He was only 22, but you can already see why he would become such a towering figure.

    Art Tatum – his earliest recording of “Tiger Rag” (1934, IIRC).

    Dizzy – “Pickin’ the Cabbage”, with Cab Calloway (1940), his solo and I think it’s one of his earliest arrangements. He’s got earlier solos with Teddy Hill (King Porter Stomp, 1937?), and Lionel Hampton (“Hot Mallets”, 1939).


  9. Oliver-Armstrong sessions on Gennett in ’23-many choices.

    Eldridge supposedly in 1930 w. Clarence Williams Jazz Kings (hard to find), but an unfortunate long gap until his stuff w. Teddy Hill in 1935 on Vocalion.

    Jacquet w. Hampton in ’42-Flyin’ Home.

    Earlier Brownie-“I come from Jamaica,” “Ida Red,” w. Chris Powell Blue Flames available on “Beginning and the End.”

  10. Lee Konitz – Yardbird Suite (w/ Claude Thornhill, 1947).

    Coleman Hawkins – “Hello Lola”/”One Hour”, from 1929, by the Mound City Blue Blowers. Probably easier to find under Coleman Hawkins’ name. Also featuring Pee Wee Russell, Glenn Miller, Eddie Condon, and Gene Krupa.


    PS Best choice for the King Oliver 1923 Gennetts feat. Satchmo is the Off the Record/Archeophone. Worth considering the 1923-25 Fletcher Henderson recordings feat. Armstrong.

    • And if you get hold of a good Claude Thornhill compilation for the Konitz track, I’d look for a good early arrangement by Gil Evans.

      Since Sony/Legacy has not done anything proper with their masters, I’d go for something by Hep.


  11. For that matter, hearing the contrast between Henderson recordings pre-Armstrong and those after is pretty interesting.

  12. Andy Derrick says:

    I like the Blue Note sound of the 50’s and the following hopefully fit the criteria

    Art Blakey – Mosaic – Down Under
    featuring young Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter

    Horace Silver – Song For My Father – The Kicker
    Featuring a young Blue Mitchell and Joe Henderson.

  13. Alan Kurtz says:

    As much as I deplore domineering bass solos, I must nominate Scott LaFaro’s work on The Arrival of Victor Feldman (Contemporary, 1958). This wasn’t LaFaro’s debut recording, but it was his first major showcase. It is stunning.

  14. I don’t know whether these two fit in your list, but just in case:

    Pat Metheny – Bright Size Life (ECM 1976). PM’s first effort as a leader and an early recording of Pastorius too, who months later released his own debut as a leader…

    Jaco Pastorius – Jaco Pastorius (Columbia 1976).


  15. Before I (try to) stop for now, you have early Mingus and Dolphy in

    Charles “Baron” Mingus West Coast 1945-49 (UPCD2748)

    Dolphy can be heard on “The Story of Love” (#22)


  16. Thad Jones and Hank Mobley recording for Debut in 1953.

  17. Alan M says:

    I was listening to Christian McBride’s ‘Gettin’ To It’ earler today. What a debut that is!

  18. Jake says:

    You can’t go wrong with any track off Monk’s early “Piano Solo” on Vogue. (FWIW, Ethan Iverson has written that this is some of his favorite Monk.)

  19. SeanG says:

    Keith Jarrett and Jack deJohnette on Charles Lloyd’s Forest Flower. Unbelievably fresh.

    Herbie on Donald Byrd records.

    And to reiterate…..any of Ornette’s early records, esp. Free Jazz! A young Freddie Hubbard, Scott LaFaro, Dolphy (not that those two were ever old, sadly).

  20. Charlie Christian and Jimmie Blanton died too soon to talk about an early part of their *recorded* careers (Christian started recording in 1939 but had been professionally playing for some years and was quite known in the Mid- and Southwest), but an early broadcast of “Flying Home” for Christian and, perhaps, “Jack The Bear” for Blanton should be in the list, I guess.

    Although “Flying Home” is forever associated with Lionel Hampton, in Goodman’s Sextet at the time, it’s a riff Christian brought in from Oklahoma, possibly composed by pianist Leslie Sheffield (who had been an earlier boss of Christian’s).


  21. Hey Alex, is this still open?

    Just remembered, Lennie Tristano’s early piano solos from c. 1945, especially his take on “What is this thing called love?” which he begins with the melody on the left hand and the comping on the right.


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