Inspired (and prompted) by Norman Geras’s list of a dozen jazz records he’d be happy to be stranded with on a desert island my own twelve follow:
My first introduction to jazz was a cassette bought for me by an old girlfriend. The cassette a compilation of Miles Davis’ tracks, Mellow Miles. That led me to my first choice (the usual entry point?)
That prompted me to explore more of Miles Davis. There are many great albums. I remember for a while listening avidly to the Gil Evans orchestrated works – almost with Sketches of Spain on a loop. The one I listen to most after Kind of Blue is I think
2. In a silent way - Miles Davis
Davis’s talent in picking out other musicians led me to look at the people he worked with. The first whose catalogue I really explored was John Coltrane. I’d have from him classic quartet
3. Ballads - John Coltrane
if only because my young daughter happily sits listening to it, thoroughly engrossed. Going through the Coltrane Impulse CDs I came across various collaborations by Coltrane. There is a lovely album with Johnny Hartman (and years laterbut I would choose his album with Duke Ellington (if only to ensure that Ellington appeared on the list) so
where Ellington’s piano playing wonderfully complements Coltrane.
There are a number of great Coltrane live albums. The one with Thelonious Monk at the Carnegie Hall is fabulous but I would choose
for the desert island. Coltrane’s classic quartet, multiple versions, and unrestrained.
Working through Coltrane’s catalogue I then branched out into other musicians from the same era (and just before). There were many whose work I enjoyed: Coleman Hawkins; Dexter Gordon; Chet Baker; Cannonball Adderley; Bill Evans. I started reading about the characters. I then came across a book, But Beautiful by Geoff Dyer. If you like jazz (whatever era) and you’ve not read this do yourself a favour and order it before reading on. Dyer imagines scenes from the lives of various musicians, held together with an over arching narrative based on Ellington. The book is being reprinted this year. At its end it contains an essay, and some recommended listening. The essay is provocative (some digs at the Wynton Marsalis view of jazz (which I have some sympathy with, despite having attended a couple of fantastic concerts by Marsalis and his Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with some star solos by Joe Temperley) and praised some of the European jazz – particularly from the nordic area. The essay was preaching to the converted in some ways. Following up the musicians who’d played with Miles Davis I came across Keith Jarrett, and from Jarrett, ECM. The bulk of my CD collection now (aside from Doctor Who audio adventures, and box sets of radio comedies) is from ECM.
From Jarrett himself I would have his solo outings
6. Keith Jarrett: Koln concert
(because it’s where I came in – although I could happily choose any of the solo concerts, From Vienna, Bregenz, Lauzanne, Tokyo, London, Paris, La Scale, Rio, and on and on) and the beautiful pared down
7. Keith Jarrett: The Melody at night with you
I like Jarrett’s standards trio but enjoyed more his European quartet from the 70s with Garbarek on saxophone. There are few recorded albums of the quartet but my favourite is
8. Keith Jarret quartet: Belonging
Garbarek is the musician I have had most pleasure from watching live. His quartet with Weber, Mazur, and Bruninghaus offers little engagement with the audience, no light chat, no introductions, but is an organic machine, each member seeming to know what each other is about to do. From Garbarek I would choose
9. Jan Garbarek – Rites
which has the wonderful Her Wild Ways and
10. Jan Garbarek – Twelve Moons
From Garbarek and Jarrett I worked through others in the ECM catalogue. I have particularly enjoyed
11. Tomasz Stanko – Litania
My final choice is a British musician, Andy Sheppared. One of the shops in Edinburgh where I bought various jazz CDs was an ECM supplier. After my weekly browse one week the guy at the desk recommended
12. Andy Sheppard – Learning to Wave
suggesting he was quite like the ECM artists I was buying regularly. So like them was Sheppared that he now records for ECM.