Last week, when jazz critic Terry Teachout offered a list of 30 classic albums for beginning jazz listeners, he also asked readers for their suggestions. There was a flood of responses. Here is a sampling:
You have misinformed your readers by only including one female (Billie Holiday) among your list of 30 "big-leaguers" and "major players of the past." . . . I draw your attention to The One who contributed to the greatness of jazz by virtue of her inventive singing -- the irrepressible Ella Fitzgerald. Her soaring, soulful and "scattered" voice contributed, as much as (if not more than) any other instrument, to the innovations in jazz as those that you list.
Ella Fitzgerald, "Pure Ella" (Polygram). She not only encompasses so much of what jazz is all about, but the elegance of her delivery combined with her brilliant take on so many familiar tunes will get novices and experts alike hooked on the First Lady of Song. . . . It is a must-have for any jazz fan -- or any music fan for that matter.
"Ella and Basie" (Polygram). A buried treasure from 1964. The great jazz singer paired with a top-flight big band. . . . If your toe doesn't tap to this one, get your ears checked!!!!
The Dave Brubeck Quartet, "Time Out" (Sony). Brubeck, a genius known for being able to play different songs with each hand at the same time, incorporated 9/8 time, 6/4 time and even 3/2 time. This album is an education on what is possible with jazz.
Art Blakey, "Moanin' " (Blue Note). I was surprised you didn't have this one on the list!
John Coltrane, "My Favorite Things" (Atlantic). This release defines modern jazz in my opinion.
Sun Ra, "Space Is the Place" (GRP). One of the Man From Saturn's most accessible recordings. And also: Eric Dolphy, "Out to Lunch" (Blue Note). An airy, gentle masterpiece.
Ornette Coleman, "The Shape of Jazz to Come" (Atlantic). Coleman's impact on the '60s and subsequent developments in jazz is perhaps exceeded only by John Coltrane.
Miles Davis, "Live-Evil" (Sony). Even more than "Bitches Brew," "Live-Evil" crackles with a raw, electric energy that shares rock's fondness for sonic intensity without having to rely on that intensity as an end in itself.
Oliver Nelson, "The Blues and the Abstract Truth" (GRP). Bill Evans, Eric Dolphy, Roy Haynes, et al. playing Nelson's wonderfully lush compositions. Ear candy with substance and depth.
Cannonball Adderley, "Somethin' Else" (Blue Note). Cannonball leads the Miles Davis band. If Wayne Shorter gets a plug, Cannonball certainly deserves one, too.
Django Reinhardt, "Djangology" (RCA). The omission of guitarists (with the exception of Pat Metheny, a dubious selection) is inexcusable! Any number of important guitarists -- Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, etc. -- could have been included, but I choose Django, who arguably defined the sound of jazz guitar in the '30s.
Bobby Hutcherson, "Dialogue" (Blue Note). Not only showed that vibraphone and marimba (especially vibes) could really cook, but a true underappreciated giant of jazz.
Julie London, "Cry Me a River" (Disky). One of the most underrated jazz female vocalists. Her timing and tone were impeccable. One listen to any of her albums and you can readily hear whose female vocal style Diana Krall studied.
"John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman" (GRP). Probably the most accessible Coltrane work for the novice, but also one of the most magnificent collaborations ever recorded. It is one of my desert island classics!
"The Verve Story: 1944-1994" (4-CD set) (Polygram). There must be a million box sets out there. I got this as a gift several years ago, and it is a jewel.
Teachout's list largely ignores jazz singers. His only pick in this area is "Lady Day: The Best of Billie Holiday." How about June Christy, "Something Cool" (Blue Note) or Chris Connor, "Lullaby of Birdland" (EMI) or a more recent vintage CD such as Diana Krall, "Live in Paris" (Universal)?
Patricia Barber, "Verse" (Blue Note). She is an exceptional singer, pianist, songwriter, and is bridging the gap between 20th- and 21st-century jazz.
Chick Corea and Return to Forever, "Light as a Feather" (Polygram). So many groups that tried to do what occurred here were inspired by this. This is some of the earliest and most beautiful fusion music created.
"Charlie Parker With Strings" (Polygram). It is a great introduction to "Bird" for the novice. A bebop example of him might even prove to be a turnoff for the new-to-jazz listener.
Gerry Mulligan Quartet, "The Original Quartet with Chet Baker" (Pacific Jazz). Some of the best of the "West Coast sound," which Teachout rather stinted in his list; these guys are hip, cool, swinging.
Curtis Counce, "You Get More Bounce With Curtis Counce" (Contemporary/OJC). A fun and lively album that's a great intro to West Coast jazz.
"Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington" (OJC). Monk's unique angular style applied to standards almost everyone knows and loves.
"Teddy Wilson: 1942-45" (Melodie Jazz Classics) has some wonderful tracks on it. I also think the "Ken Burns Jazz Collection: Benny Goodman" (Sony) CD shows how good he was even when he was a very young man. . . . I also like the "Ken Burns Jazz Collection: Thelonious Monk" (Sony). All three CDs are very accessible for the jazz novice.
Keith Jarrett, "The Koln Concert" (Polygram). This album demonstrates Jarrett's stand-alone talent as well as his unique style.
Bill Evans, "The Best of Bill Evans" (Polygram). As good an example of his talent as "At the Vanguard," this album has eight cuts representing some of his best work, three of which are just him playing piano without accompaniment.
Antonio Carlos Jobim, "The Composer of Desafinado Plays" (Polygram). This album has to be included if one likes Getz/Gilberto.
"Ella and Oscar" (Pablo). The 1974 recording by Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson. Wonderful material, flawless vocals, and impossibly good piano, this one had it all.
Joe Pass, "Virtuoso" (Pablo). Solo guitar, astonishingly inventive and technically perfect.
Chet Baker, "In Paris, Volumes 1-3" (Uni/Verve). He is an icon. Now hear his music.
Art Tatum, "The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Vol. 8" (Pablo). Ben Webster sits in. A great way to introduce two of the greats.
Charles Lloyd, "Forest Flower: Live in Monterey" (Rhino). Seminal? I guess not. Bestseller? No. But this album, featuring Charles Lloyd, Jack DeJohnette, Cecil McBee and Keith Jarrett -- probably the best lineup of young talent in its time -- made this 17-year-old a jazz lover for life. And at age 52, it's still my favorite.
Bill Bruford, "Earthworks" (EEG). The most successful rock drummer (Yes, King Crimson a number of times, Genesis, etc.) went back to his jazz roots and has been shaking the talent loose.
Lexington Park, Md.
Erroll Garner, "Concert by the Sea" (Sony). A tour de force by a truly unique pianist who played like a whole big band most times.
Tierney Sutton, "Unsung Heroes" (Telarc); "Blue in Green" (Telarc). Frankly you can keep Diana Krall. My singer of preference is Tierney Sutton.
Southern Shores, N.C.
Peter Brotzmann, "Machine Gun" (FMP). One of the seminal records of European modern jazz, a sweaty hurricane of an album.