Blue Note Records That Are, Ahem, “Essential”

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Fats: Not Essential

I thought we might have some fun with this. As I mentioned in a previous post, Blue Note is issuing new vinyl releases to commemorate its 75th anniversary. I was perusing my online version of The New York Times last evening and came upon this article, asking “Which Greats Were Left Off the Blue Note 100?” I hadn’t realized the first time around that Blue Note was issuing this records in any particular order and I assumed all along (and still do) that it was mostly a commercial venture and they would be issuing those records that they believe will sell the most copies. However, you can see in The Times article that they are considering these albums to be “essential,” which, of course, is a marketing ploy — but also a chance for us to talk about some of the Blue Note records we consider to be “essential” that are not on this list. Somehow, I don’t see a lot of readers of Jazz Collector putting records from Brian Blade Fellowship, Robert Glasper, Stefon Harris or Madlib on our lists of essential Blue Notes, and that’s if we’ve even heard their music, which, I have to admit, I have not. Anyway, here is the complete list, following by a comment or two from me:

Cannonball Adderley, Somethin’ Else

Art Blakey, A Night at Birdland Volume 1

Art Blakey, A Night at Birdland Volume 2

Art Blakey, Free For All

Art Blakey, Moanin’

Art Blakey, Mosaic

Terence Blanchard, Flow

Brian Blade Fellowship, Perceptual

Tina Brooks, True Blue

Clifford Brown Memorial Album

Kenny Burrell, Midnight Blue

Donald Byrd, A New Perspective

Donald Byrd At the Half Note Cafe, Volume 1

Donald Byrd, Black Byrd

Don Cherry, Complete Communion

Sonny Clark, Cool Struttin’

Sonny Clark, Leapin’ and Lopin’

Ornette Coleman, At the Golden Circle Stockholm, Volume 1

Ornette Coleman, New York is Now

John Coltrane, Blue Train

Miles Davis, Volume 1

Miles Davis, Volume 2

Eric Dolphy, Out to Lunch

Lou Donaldson, Lush Life

Kenny Dorham, Afro-Cuban

Kenny Drew, Undercurrent

Kurt Elling, Flirting with Twilight

Curtis Fuller, The Opener

Robert Glasper, Double Booked

Dexter Gordon, Go

Dexter Gordon, One Flight Up

Dexter Gordon, Our Man in Paris

Grant Green, Idle Moments

Grant Green, I Want to Hold Your Hand

Grant Greet, Street of Dreams

Herbie Hancock, Empyrean Isles

Herbie Hancock, Maiden Voyage

Herbie Hancock, Speak Like a Child

Herbie Hancock, The Prisoner

Stefon Harris, Black Action Figure

Joe Henderson, Mode For Joe

Joe Henderson, Page One

Joe Henderson, The State of the Tenor, Live At the Village Vanguard, Volume 1

Andrew Hill, Black Fire

Andrew Hill, Point of Departure

Freddie Hubbard, Blue Spirits

Freddie Hubbard, Breaking Point

Freddie Hubbard, Ready for Freddie

Bobby Hutcherson, Components

Bobby Hutcherson Happenings

Bobby Hutcherson, Total Eclipse

Elbin Jones, The Ultimate

Joe Lovano, Rush Hour

Joe Lovano, Quartets: Live at the Village Vanguard

Madlib, Shades of Blue

Bobby McFerrin, Spontaneous Inventions

Jackie McLean, Capuchin Swing

Jackie McLean, Let Freedom Ring

Medeksi Martin & Wood, Combustication

Medeksi Martin & Wood, End of the World Party

Hank Mobley, No Room for Squares

Hank Mobley, Soul Station

Hank Mobley,  The Turnaround

Hank Mobley, Workout

Granchan Moncur III, Evolution

Thelonious Monk, Genius of Modern Music Volume 1

Thelonious Monk, Genius of Modern Music Volume 2

Jason Moran, Soundtrack to Human Motion

Lee Morgan, Cornbread

Lee Morgan, Search for the New Land

Lee Morgan, The Sidewinder

Bud Powell, The Amazing Volume 1

But Powell, The Scene Changes

Dianne Reeves, I Remember

Sonny Rollins, A Night at the Village Vanguard

Sonny Rollins, Newk’s Time

Sonny Rollins, Volume 1

Sonny Rollins, Volume 2

John Scofield, Time on My Hands

Wayne Shorter, Adam’s Apple

Wayne Shorter, Juju

Wayne Shorter, Night Dreamer

Wayne Shorter, Speak no Evil

Horace Silver, Blowin’ the Blues Away

Horace Silver, Cape Verdean Blues

Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers

Horace Silver, Song for My Father

Jimmy Smith, Back at the Chicken Shack

Jimmy Smith, Midnight Special

Cecil Taylor, Conquistador

Cecil Taylor, Unit Structures

The Three Sounds, Out of This World

Stanley Turrentine, That’s Where It’s At

McCoy Tyner, Expansions

McCoy Tyner, The Real McCoy

McCoy Tyner, Time for Tyner

Anthony Williams, Spring

Cassandra Wilson, New Moon Daughter

Cassandra Wilson, Traveling Miles

Larry Young Unity

That’s the list. Typed it in myself because I couldn’t copy it from the PDF.

I’ll start with the question from The Times: Which Jazz Greats Were Left Off The Blue Note 100? Well, the first one I can think of is Fats Navarro. It would seem odd that there’s a place on this list for The Three Sounds, but not Fats Navarro. Not to mention, J.J. Johnson, Thad Jones, Cliff Jordan, Johnny Griffin, Paul Chambers and a few others. You would think, just to get more Coltrane on the list, they would have included the Griffin and Chambers records with Coltrane. And, out of 100 Blue Note records, I would think Freddie Redd, Shades of Red, or Art Taylor, AT’s Delight, would have made most lists. And, from a collectible standpoint, notice that many of the big hitters are not there — no Jutta Hipp with Zoot Sims, no Mobley 1550, 1550 or 1568, no Lee Morgan Candy. I have more to say, but I’ll hold off for now. Comments?







  • Some good stuff on the list, lotta good stuff left off. For my money, I’d have left off the sides you mentioned (Blade, Glasper, Stefon Harris or Madlib – what the hell?), changed the Mobley, Dorham, Donaldson, Silver and Morgan choices, included for sure JJ’s 1505/6, Thad’s Magnificent, Clifford Jordan, Johnny Griffin, Milt Jackson. My list would be quite different, but then what else is new? Such lists never satisfy everyone: this one is unlikely to satisfy anyone on this blog, IMHO.

  • I was pretty surprised not to see a Herbie Nichols record, but as you mentioned Fats Navarro, it seems that the list is not focused at all on the earlier days of the label.

  • Just like Earl said. 100 Blue Note fanatics will probably make 100 different Blue Note list. Agreed on the Green (Grant), the Mobleys ( but not the Turnaround), for sure would add A Fickle sonance to the McLeans, the 1524 to the Kenny Dorhams, the 1530. etc…I noticed that on he list there are a few 1500. Looks like the focus is on the 4000’s. For the contemporary titles, agreed with Flow by Blanchard, a fine session. I’d like to hear that one on vinyl.

  • My favorite Blue Note of all time (well, at least as I’m typing this) is Johnny Griffin’s “Introducing Johnny Griffin”…. To me, that list can’t be complete without it.

    Five Art Blakey’s, four Sonny Rollins’, four Herbie Hancocks, three Grant Green’s…. seems a bit much. It could have been better “spread out”.

  • The list is a joke without 1527, one of my absolute favourite Blue Notes. None of the early Lee Morgan’s are there which is nuts. 1590, could that be one of the best sounding Blue Notes? Extremely good mix. The Mobley 1550 ought to be there. And where are the Dizzy Reece albums? Louis Smith, at least one should be on there, superb stuff. There’s a lot of ‘essential’ albums disregarded here..

  • No Jutta Hipp on this list?!? None? Where does the person who made this list live? I’m coming over with my MC Goldfinger Statement cartridge and scratching their eyes out…. x C

  • Gregory the Fish

    when it comes to lists, i always think “there will be disagreements. can’t avoid it” would my list be different? sure, but this isn’t too far off. then again, blue note is my favorite label, so who am i to judge?

    also, good to see cherry and ornette but where is cherry’s magnum opus, symphony for improvisers? i have seen it with NY labels, so it should qualify for the list!

  • Gregory the Fish

    wow. Blue note is NOT my favorite label is what i meant to say.

  • No Thad Jones record on the list is a shame … the same about Jutta, Griffin, Shades of Redd … This is of course a subjective judgement, but …

  • Is there a way to learn the actual decision-maker(s) on this list within the company? Though the impetus for profit is an acceptable given within this list’s production, I love the idea of Al and the JC community becoming a sounding board for this new generation of Blue Note suits to make their future decisions! Arguably, the jazz collectors I read on this site have a deeper, broader love for these recordings than a contemporary executive ever could.

  • Hi Everyone,

    I have always found these lists should never be taken too seriously and are really only for the beginner for the most part.

    I have seen , and I am sure you have also , these lists that claim
    “Top 100 Garage / Psych / Jazz , pick whatever genre LP , you must hear , or own before you die”

    Same extends to books.

    The picks are usually mainstream and don’t take into consideration any of the more unknown and popular underground elements of any musical taste.
    They aim for the mainstream.

    Hence in this case we see no Jutta Hipp , Paul Chambers , Certain Hank Mobleys etc etc

    Just a thought……

  • Ok, would anyone mind these ones being added ?

    Horace Silver – Finger Poppin’ 4008
    Ike Quebec – Soul Samba 4114
    Jutta – 5056 10″

  • Never take lists seriously 😉

  • outrageous ! total tosh…. NO.. Kenny Dorham – Round About Midnight At The Cafe Bohemia.
    Shame on them.
    Madlib!!! indeed!! ahhhhhh

  • Wouldn’t Don Cherry’s “magnum opus” be Relativity Suite on JCOA or the Berlin Jazztage orchestra piece, Eternal Rhythm?

    I think his most sympathetic partners were found in Dollar Brand and among the Swedish contingent in the late ’60s/early ’70s, fwiw.

  • One thing to keep in mind is that this is NOT an “audiophile” reissue series, but rather a generalist, overview, “let’s get more people into Blue Note” series. So, I completely understand why they would not want to limit themselves to pre-1965 releases. It makes perfect sense to say “hey, we are still relevant here people!” by including more recent records.

  • The list can’t be complete without Johnny Coles (4144), Stanley Turrentine (4039), Kenny Dorham (4063), they didn’t choose Hubbard’s best work “Open Sesame” – and – no “Blowing in from Chicago”

  • I was hoping to see BN address it’s egregious latter day neglect of Andrew Hill (especially Smokestack and Dance with Death) and Sam Rivers (especially Fuschia Swing Song). Good to see Taylor’s Conquistador back in print, however. The absence, as others have noted, of Herbie Nichols is a scandal.

  • This is the first batch, Don Was president of BN said all of them are going to be released eventually. Why these to start , who knows , not because of easy listening – out to lunch in the first batch, Coleman next batch!

    Their market is the younger buyer who won’t spend on audiophile records.

    Its a great way to introduce the next generation to jazz and blue note…IIRC there was some discussion on aging out Of jazz collectors here a while back

  • Gregory the Fish

    clifford: it’s all a matter of opinion, i suppose. but i LOVE that album.

  • Everyone pointed out the obvious ones already, so no point in piling on. Fickle Sonance is the one that stands out to me. I will say the Glasper and Madlib records are essential in my view, so they weren’t wrong there.

  • This reissue series is just the first 100 titles to be re-released. If I remember correctly they are going to re-release the entire Blue Note catalog or as much of it as possible. Non-audiophile & priced around $20 USD. Hoping to bring Blue Note Jazz to a new generation of music fans.

    If it interests anybody… ECM will be & Bethlehem Records has been doing a vinyl reissue series as well. Some of the Bethlehem titles have been pressed on 10″ vinyl record.

  • Leapin’ and Lopin’ by Sonny Clark.. St Germaine’s Tourist is also nice.

  • BN 1542 Sonny Rollins –> DECISION… best blues sax ever !!!

  • what about a Blue Note lovers on line poll?

  • Andy: Leapin & Lopin is already on the list, & I agree ought to be

    Glasper & Madlib are not my idea of jazz, but then I don’t guess BN said the list was only jazz

    Why non-audiophile? won’t they be using the best of modern remastering? seems a pity not to

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