Seeking Recommendations: Original Jazz CDs

ballads-copyThe other night I was listening to Karrin Allyson, Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane. This was a 2002 Concord Jazz release that celebrated the great John Coltrane Ballads album on Impulse. I love the Allyson version, particularly since I really had never heard the lyrics to a couple of these songs, including Say It (Over and Over Again) and Too Young to Go Steady. Allyson uses three horn players on this record, Bob Berg, Steve Wilson and James Carter, and they each approach the Coltrane material in a very personal way. Her vocal interpretations are absolutely terrific. This is a great album and I recommend it highly. Which brings me to the point of this post. I’ve always been focused on vinyl and I never really took to CDs. I managed to buy a lot of CDs in the day, because they were convenient and I could put six into one of those Sony multi-players or into my car stereo and I wouldn’t have to get up off the sofa or fiddle around with the radio dial in the car. But whenever I wanted to really listen to music, it would always be vinyl.

It struck me, in listening to the Karrin Allyson Ballads record, that I listen to very few jazz records that were issued in what I would now consider to be the CD era, starting in the late 1980s when CDs first surpassed vinyl in total sales, and extending into the 2000s when CDs starting giving way to other digital formats. As I said, I do have a lot of CDs and I have a lot of music that was reissued on CD for the first time, such as sets from Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker and other artists whose recording careers preceded the CD era. I also have many of the Mosaic sets on CD, although I much prefer the ones I have on vinyl.

But as for original music issued in the CD era that was not issued on vinyl, or, like the Allyson record was first issued on CD and later issued on vinyl, I am curious about some of the music I may be missing out on. There must be at least some great jazz from that era that was never issued on vinyl, and I’m probably just not that aware of it? Or am I being too optimistic? Bottom line is, I’m asking for recommendations on some of the great jazz of the 1990s and 2000s that I may have missed out on — and other readers may have missed as well — because of an aversion to the CD format (not to mention a greater interest in the music of the earlier eras). So, fellow jazz collectors, what do you recommend and why? I’m looking primarily for original music of the era, but if some of you want to mention some of your favorite reissues I’m sure no one here will object.

Oh, just for the record (pun intended), I do own the Karrin Allyson record on vinyl, and I much prefer listening to it in the vinyl format. Would you expect anything else?


  • I’ll get the ball rolling. Check out almost anything by the Brian Blade Fellowship. Blade has been Wayne Shorter’s drummer for a number of years now but periodically records distinctive sessions under his own name.

  • “Teemu Akerblom Quartet” This came out on vinyl in 2015 on the Jazz Aggression label. I love this record start to finish. Some very talented young Finnish jazz players. Not from the CD days but worth a listen.

  • Abrasive_Beautiful

    Great post! I used to collect cd issues of the rare it unattainable sessions, but eventually I realized that it was just as satisfying to stream the material online. I sold all but a few, and there are two stand out gems that I can recommend! First, “Crystal River” by Kenny Drew Jr (TCB Music 1998) I don’t really know much about it, but I’ve listened to it dozens of times in the last few years. Also features a pretty killer version of Undercurrent! Second, “Coward Of The County” By Ginger Baker and the DJQ2O(Atlantic 1999) Baker being of course the drummer of Cream but also a great jazz drummer! It’s fairly obscure and hard to find, but well worth it.

  • Brad Mehldau – Art of the Trio 2, at the Village Vanguard. He’s awesome live.

    Kurt Elling – Live in Chicago. Recorded at the Green Mill. His more recent stuff is very adult contemporary, so not recommended. But this record is a blast.

    Sonny Rollins – Global Warming. Obviously, not up to the standards of all his classic work. But that wasn’t your question! A good record from the cd era.

    Cassandra Wilson – New Moon Daughter. Although much more folk and pop than jazz, a lovely record on Blue Note.

  • I have a soft spot for The Bad Plus album Prog, released on CD in 2007. Some interesting covers as well as a few really nice originals, in particular, the song “Thrift Store Jewelry”.

  • I don’t have many, but the ones I really like:
    Duck Baker Plays The Music Of Herbie Nichols
    Don Byron Tuskegee Experiments
    T S Monk Take One

  • Anders Wallinder

    Anything under Christian McBride’s name is great and not to be missed.

  • I think “jazz not available on other formats” is one of the great conundrums of the CD age… Because without buying at least some CDs one is missing out on some great jazz. I’d suggest:

    – Any of the Tomasz Stanko recordings on ECM but especially LEOSIA, SUSPENDED NIGHT, THE SOUL OF THINGS, MATKA JOANNA or FROM THE GREEN HILL. Similarly some of the CDs released on small Polish labels such as BOSSA NOSSA and BLUISH.

    There’s lots of the great Stan Tracey that is only available on CD, not least the string of live trio recordings throughout the 1990s and 2000s, including SEVENTY SOMETHING, ZACK’S DREAM, STACEY & WELLINS PLAY MONK…

    The great Henri Texier continues to release very strong recordings on a range of European (predominantly) French labels, both with his own line-up and as The Strada Sextet. WATER ALERT by the latter is very good but RESPECT with Motion, Swallow, Konitz and Brookmeyer is frankly classic.

    The late, great Paul Bley released almost too many records to count and a substantial body of his work is available only on CD. Late recordings such as NOTHING TO DECLARE, PLAYS BLUE, SOLO IN MONDSEE are all essential with anyone with an interest in solo piano improvising.

    John Taylor, another great British pianist released a number of truly marvellous trio recordings on (I think) CamJazz: WHIRLPOOL and ANGEL OF THE PRESENCE are excellent, truly contemporary trio recordings. His quartet, Meadow, sadly only issued one recording, before he died so unexpectedly: BLISSFUL IGNORANCE.

    For those with an interest in contemporary free improv CDs are unavoidable. Evan Parker has a library of CD recordings all to himself before you even get on to his recordings with his own various trio line-ups and with Alexander von Schlippenbach, the stalwart of the German free music scene. Of course, if you have no interest in this kind of music then there are many, many hundreds of recordings that can be safely ignored (but Parker’s SANKT GEROLD with Bley and Barre Phillips is a CD I simply wouldn’t be without)…

    The wily French improvisor Martial Solal — how can we not have him in our collections. There’s lots that can be found cheaply on vinyl, but lots that can’t. The live at the Village Vanguard sessions (two different CDs) and the very late 80s and 90s recordings on CamJazz… Hardly a dull recording, and much only on CD.

    I think that some of Enrico Rava’s CDs on ECM stand the test of being put alongside any of the vinyl-era greats. His NEW YORK DAYS which has both Motion and Mark Turner in the line-up is excellent but I especially like the Italian line-ups he has worked with that include a trombone player — something about the trombone really seems to kick his playing up a notch. From memory those two are THE WORDS AND THE DAYS and EASY LIVING.

    New York tenorist Bill McHenry rarely plays a cliched note and yet to the best of my knowledge has never recorded on vinyl.

    And that’s just off the top of my head. I think anyone who doesn’t normally look at ‘new jazz’ releases on CD will be staggered by how much there is. There may be lots of it that you don’t like, and there may be even more of it that simply doesn’t interest you, but if you completely ignore jazz on CD you will miss some gems. The thing that discourages me from buying more is that there *is* so much of it and frankly I only have so much listening time, and with CDs at well over an hour in some cases, I find there is simply too much to listen to, even assuming I had the time.

  • AL, you have missed some cracking music!
    Branford Marsalis & Kurt Elling, upward spiral (‘Practical Arrangement’ is amazing!!)
    ECM has so much not on vinyl..Tord Gustavsen Trio, for example.
    The Brad Mehldau CDs especially live in Tokyo or Elegiac Cycle..
    Avishai Cohen, the Bass player LP From Darkness… Don Pullen’s Blue Note lps from the 90’s
    and so so much more..

    I Have to say, streaming via Quobuz (ECM catalogue) Tidal High Res and Local files on a NAS drive through a good DAC is the way to go.. you can really achieve a great reproduction in SQ…almost as good as an analogue front end..almost!
    It’s great for checking out new music. But Vinyl is still king!

  • Joe L
    Cassandra Wilson – New Moon Daughter, is also available on Plastic now..Essential!

  • Alun you have some good taste…I echo a lot of your suggestions!

  • Vijay Iver “break stuff”
    Tore Johansen “earth stills”

  • Gregory the Fish

    matana roberts is a fairly modern player with a fairly contemporary spin on free and spiritual jazz, and her first two “coin coin” records are available on vinyl, but i sing her praises to anyone who will listen. check them out, especially the first one!

  • I highly commend to your attention vocalist Madeline Eastman. As leader, she has recorded CDs on her Mad-Kat label with Phil Woods, Kenny Barron, Tony Williams, Cedar Walton, and others.

    Sticking with the vocalist/Trane meme: Listen to how she comes on all Coltrane-like on “Gypsy in My Soul”, inspiring Barron to pay homage to McCoy Tyner. And whuda thunk that Tony Williams would play for a (relatively speaking) mainstream vocalist?

    And dig her time on “Like Someone in Love,” with the San Francisco-based Full Faith and Credit Big Band:

    Madeline Eastman, LP-free to date, is the real deal.

  • And then there’s Bob Mover’s “You Go to My Head,” recorded for the Japanese label Pony Canyon’s “Jazz City” series, featuring Benny Green, Rufus Reid, Victor Lewis, and tenor saxist Steve Hall.

    That most literary of improvisors, Bob begins his take on “I Fall in Love Too Easily” with a quote from “Pagliacci”. I handed a copy to Sammy Cahn, who called me the next day and said, “Get this guy to do an entire album of my songs.”

    In turn, I called Bob. “Cahn love what you did on “Easily,” I began. And before I could continue, Bob said, “I’ll do a whole album of Sammy Cahn tunes.”

    It hasn’t happened yet.

    I can’t find a copy of this one on the Internet, but from the same CD:

  • Andrew Hill Passing Ships and Timelines (both Blue Note sessions unissued till late 90’s or 2000)

    Eric Dolphy Illinois Concert

    Chico Hamilton Ellington Suite (featuring Eric Dolpy)

    These come to mind right away

  • geoffrey wheeler

    I have a number of CDs that were never issued on LP, among them CDs issued on Bob Sunenblick’s Uptown Records. Other than vocalists of the 1930s through ’50s, I have little to no interest in vocalists of the past 50 plus years. They simply don’t exist for me. Exception is Erin Bode who I heard perform live in St. Louis and bought her CD. She is perhaps the sexiest singer I have ever heard and she doesn’t seem to do it by artifice. In addition to tons of reissues, there is a lot of stuff on CD never issued on LP for anyone of a mind to have CDs in their collections. I do know highly sensitive collectors who get splitting headaches if one mentions “CDs” and will roll on the floor in agony if you play one for them. Fortunately, most of the collectors I know are reasonably sane AND they have clean floors without their having to roll on them.

  • PSY Gangnan Style
    ( Just havin’ fun before Hurricane Matthew hits here in Jupiter, Florida)

  • Bobby Watson and Horizon were perhaps the best live band of the early 1990s. Post Motown Bop (Blue Note) and Present Tense (Columbia) are both terrific records with memorable tunes played by a band with an instantly identifiable sound. Buy on sight.

  • I have a pile of great cds for sale(on Sax on the Misc.for sale.
    Imports,rare stuff.(Dick Morrissey,Steve Grossman

  • Fully agree with Gregory the Fish

  • Terryfromflorida

    Hank Jones The Oracle is a fantastic 1989 cd. It can be difficult to find and a little pricey for a cd but well worth the effort.

  • geoffrey wheeler

    The International Association of Jazz Record Collectors (IAJRC), based here in the States, has issued over the years an extensive line of jazz LPs that included much material never before previously issued. When IAJRC replaced its LP program with a CD program, very little of that material had been issued before either. This includes concert and club recordings. CDs are still available and may be found on the IAJRC website. Laserlight also has some very nice jazz CDs that have never been issued before. This includes the Stan Getz February 12, 1969 Paris concert CD “The Song is You” with Stanley Cowell, Miroslav Vitous, and Jack De Johnette. The group and the music are exceptional.

  • Mulgrew Miller & Wingspan :The Sequel
    Dave Holland Quintet: Not For Nothing
    James Carter: Jurassic Classics
    Jeremy Pelt: November
    Dave Holland Big Band: What Goes Around
    Eric Alexander: The First Milestone
    Branford Marsalis: Eternal

    All wonderful music but I agree that when at home in front of the hifi that vinyl is my vastly preferred media. But on a long car ride you sure can’t beat any of the above in CD mode. I think any jazz fan will love any one of the above. Not a big avant gardist but I do enjoy Roy Campbell’s Ethnic Stew and Brew Delmark CD a whole lot also.

  • geoffrey wheeler

    In an ecumenical spirit, I agree with everybody, although many of the names cited I know nothing about. James Carter was unknown to me until I put on one of his You Tube performances of the Parker with Strings arrangement of “Laura.” The orchestra was conducted by master musician, Lennie Niehaus. On tenor, Carter shows a bit of Don Byas in his playing, but he’s no Don Byas. But then who is?

  • Sam Phipps—-
    What kinda cds you gots? Can you emaila list.

  • Horace Tapscott – The Dark Tree vol. 1 & 2 (r 1989, p 1990)

  • Kristian kristiansen

    I covered and still cover Scandinavian and European jazz on CDs from this period, they are on par with American jazz by that time in my opinion, listen to pianists like Thomas Clausen, Jan Lundgren, Carsten Dahl, or Italian pianist Stefano Bollani, all world class, or guitar player Ulf Wakenius, I could go on.
    But I had another passion which is to tape live radio FM jazz concert since the mid 1960s, in later years on an old Revox G36 providing master tape quality, the first owner of that Revox, which in reality was a Studer for the market, was Swedish pianist Jan Johansson, another jazz great. But so much good live musoc has been trabsmitted on radio during this period, a lot now appearing on CD and you tube as well.

  • My entry would be the Polish pianist Marcin Wasilewski Trio. As much as I love classic 50’s sessions I ventured upon this guy in Amazon by accident and became hooked instantly I love his music and recommend it very highly to all my fellow jazz collectors. Another perdon would be vocalist Wanda de Sah and also Sue Raney.

  • Marvin, I haven’t sampled the Marcin Wasilewski Trio in their own right, as it were, but for four or five years they were Tomasz Stanko’s rhythm section — specifically for: Soul of Things (2002), Suspended Night (2004) and Lontano (2006) — and fine records they were too.

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