Twelve Tracks

These are the twelve tracks mentioned in the Jazzman piece:

There’s something about listening to certain tracks over and over and over again. Maybe it’s that we successively mythologize them as each minute detail becomes mountainous. But it’s one of the pleasures of recorded music that we can have this repeated enchantment and deeper pleasure of the gems of music.

Coleman Hawkins with Eddie Haywood, The Man I Love

Coleman Hawkins and Eddie Haywood make this a special rendition of the well-known classic standard that is often even hard to follow. Of course, without the lyric there is more freedom maybe, and all the great singers have gone classic on this tune. But the power and invention of the form and shape make all other instrumental versions seem, well, prosaic. Hawkins’ surprise entrance at around 2:40 is electrifying.

Billie Holiday, All of Me, 1936

Impossible to explain why this particular version has such power. Maybe it’s the Lester Young solo in such an unusual spot. Really, though, it’s the wonder in Holiday’s ability to reinvent the melody each time she sings, making more and more apparent the desperate plea of the lyric. The phrasing in the band is inimitable.

Miles Davis, Boplicity, Birth of the Cool

Always mysterious with Miles and Gil Evans. The song itself is so slippery and the way it unfolds so dream-like. The playing blends ensemble work and soloing into a seamless whole — a rare skill for arrangers’ groups even today.

Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane, Nutty, Monk and Trane, Riverside

A perfectly complex expression of simplicity.

Gil Evans, Barbara Song, The Individualism of Gil Evans

This one contains multitudes. Listen to the individual voices in the ensemble. The Wayne Shorter solo. The rub between Elvin’s drums, Peacock’s bass and the rest of the band. Listen to the voicing of the groove itself and how it swallows the melody. Listen to Gil’s piano playing. Then think about the Kurt Weill original and imagine how you got here.

Ornette Coleman, Congeniality, The Shape of Jazz to Come

This recording is so optimistic and bright. This is one of the best examples of the ensemble playing that Don, Charlie, Blackwell, and Ornette created and perfected. This is far from “free” playing – everything happens here by design.

John Coltrane, Alabama, Coltrane Live at Birdland

Depth of emotion and feeling. The most personal and simple of statements about the most horrible of events. And no undue effort to achieve the expression. Even knowing this is an edited together piece changes nothing of the power. The editor did his work properly.

Cecil Taylor, Enter Evening, Unit Structures

Unrivaled color and texture on this track, and a full entwining of the composer’s piano playing and compositional voice. So early in his career and yet so completely formed and hinting at all the great music to come.

Woody Shaw, Cassandranite, Cassandranite

Woody at his young best. What can you say? This should have been on Blue Note because if it had it would not have been a “rarity.” Those lines blazed a radical new trail that still informs new generations of musicians.

Charles Mingus, Open Letter to the Duke, Mingus Ah Um

How did they rehearse this piece? All the parts are so organic, all the tempo changes so natural and unexpected, all the parts played as if they were their own melodies. This piece illuminates the composer’s mind.

Julius Hemphill, Dogon, A.D.

What a beautiful voice and a unique conception. Baikida Carroll’s trumpet is loud and clear here, and the rhythm section of Abdul Wadud on cello, and Phillip Wilson on drums invents all-acoustic, odd-meter funk in a pure, reverb-free environment. This piece has long been a road map for musicians to follow.

Wayne Shorter, Children of the Night, High Life

From the pen of the master, a reworking of one of his early pieces. There are so many layers of parts and instruments here, and so much depth to the rhythm. Rejoicing when this record came out, and discouragement after encountering the incomprehensible critical demolition. As with all of these pieces, repeated listening reveals more and more meaning.