The Stupid List

Dexter copyI was watching that Clifford Brown autograph (as well as Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, et al), but didn’t have enough interest to actually bid on it. To my surprise, there were only five bidders altogether, which would seem to indicate minimal interest at that price, which turned out to be $482.11. I did casually mention when I wrote the earlier post that Clifford was probably among my top five musicians of all time and that I would ponder that and do another post on it this weekend. Sometimes, as we all do, I say and do stupid things. It was stupid to even suggest that I could create a list of top five favorite musicians, when there are so many musicians I love and each musician brings something different and special to my life and my enjoyment of music. Last night I was listening to the Dexter Gordon record, Getting’ Around, Blue Note 4204, and I was thinking about how much I love Dexter and how much I treasured seeing him as often as I did in the early and mid-1970s, particularly his very first club date when he began playing again in the United States. And, goodness, what an amazing ballad performance on “Who Can I Turn To.” And then I put on two Miles Davis records, Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain, and I thought

how could I ever leave Miles off a list of favorites. And then I put on a Bill Evans record, and then an Art Tatum record, and then a Paul Desmond record, favorites all. And yet, still, I thought about that post I did the other day and what would I do if someone put a gun to my head and said I had to name five jazz musicians that were my “favorites.” So now I am going to compound the stupid mistake I made the other day by promising to think about this silly task, and I am actually going to make a Stupid List of the five musicians that emerged from my pondering. This is jazz only, so it leaves out The Beatles or James Taylor or other musicians I also revere in different genres. Anyway, my Stupid List is this: John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins. Those are easy, no thought, no questions. Next is Miles Davis. Also pretty easy. The last one is hardest. Clifford is among the contenders, as are Bill Evans, Dexter Gordon, Cannonball Adderley and Thelonious Monk. My final choice: As I suggested the other day, it is Clifford Brown. Before anyone gets wacky and talks about other musicians, say how can I even compare Clifford Brown to Louis Armstrong, as an example, I say this: This is my Stupid List. If you don’t like it, make your own Stupid List.


  • Al, My Stupid Jazz List differs from yours only in that Mingus and Silver take the place of Clifford and Sonny. I think we can agree to disagree on that. πŸ™‚

    Silver will always have a special place in my heart, as his records constitute about 1/2 of my Blue Note collection because for some reason, I stumble upon decent original copies regularly. I have always loved them, and more and more Silver is becoming a top favorite of mine.

  • I suppose as long as you call it “stupid” there’s no argument. I think your five are clearly worthy, but 10 more pop IMMEDIATELY to mind, so I won’t even try.

  • My stupid five are Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Horace Silver and Grant Green. As a guitarist at heart, I couldn’t leave my favorite Jazz guitarist off my list even if I was leaning towards Art Blakey. Great post.

  • Horace Silver
    Thelonious Monk
    Herbie Hancock
    Clifford Brown
    Lee Morgan
    Took me five seconds…I think I make the task easier by considering that for me, composition is just as important if not more important than playing, so it helps me to narrow it down easier. There’s dozens of jazz composers/musicians I love but these are easily my top five.

  • My stupid list :

    Stan Getz
    John Coltrane
    Bill Evans
    Blue Mitchell
    Herbie Hancock
    Miles Davis.

    My stupid 5 list is so stupid, it has 6 names.

  • My stupid top 5:

    Charlie Parker
    Lee Morgan
    Art Pepper
    Sonny Rollins
    John Coltrane

  • Miles
    Roland Kirk

  • My stupid list:

    Lee Morgan

  • Mingus, Monk, Miles, Evans, Rollins

  • I’ll steal HD’s list but exchange Rollins for Morgan.

  • I think a stupid list that doesn’t include duke Ellington is really a stupid list.However here it is mine
    bill Evans
    lee Konitz
    and 100 more…

  • Mingus, Miles, Trane, Bill Evans, Giuffre. How stupid to be limited to five, “Take Five” being Al’s order to be followed strictly, this includes Paul Desmond, so here I am, five no more.

  • O.k. How about this list: Ray Brown,
    Percy Heath, Red Mitchell, Paul Chambers, And Niels Henning Orsted Pederson for the guys who never get mentioned..
    …and should!

  • michel, i laughed a lot more than i should admit at that. well done.

    teach: my list had mingus! and for bassists, you simply MUST include jimmy garrison!

    i’ll even be controversial and say i LOVE slam stewart.

  • Fredrik: For talking about how much you love the trumpet on your site, your list sure does have a lot of sax in it! πŸ˜‰

  • Top 5 Jazz Musicians:
    (1.) Billie Holiday (I consider her voice a Jazz instrument)
    (2.) Miles Davis
    (3.) Oscar Peterson
    (4.) Louis Armstrong (Hot Fives & Sevens)
    (5.) Dave Brubeck

  • 1,2,3,4,5: Coltrane

  • Parker
    Sonny Clark
    Hank Mobley
    Mister P.C.

  • Top Five
    1- Beyonce
    2- Kanye
    3- Taylor Swift
    4- One Direction
    5- One More

  • Congratulations, Bill. That is truly a Stupid List.

  • …That’s pretty much where I was at with it as well “doctor jazz”. Coltrane, Bird, Canonball, Ella, Evans etc. were definitely amoung the original draft picks, but I broke it down based on the “desert album” approach, and favorite go-to LPs… It came down to artists that had some personal meaning in the end. Most of the top five artists I chose had L’Ps I could listen to forever, and included any artists not in the top five list as side-men anyway. (Sort of cheated by that logic…)

  • Miles
    Bud powell

  • I forgot Dolphy! Let us never speak of this again.

  • This is my list:

    Tp: Clifford Brown
    B: Oscar Pettiford
    D: Roy Haynes
    P: Carl Perkins
    Reeds: Eric Dolphy

    I do love Kenny Dorham, but there is something about Clifford that is so special. Same with Bill Evans, Bill Evans may be the best jazz pianist ever, but I think Perkins was so underrated, I wanted to give him the nod. And I love Perkins playing, it is very distinctive.

  • 50’s
    Art Pepper
    Benny Golson
    Brubeck & Desmond
    Hank Mobley

    Stanley Turrentine
    Quincy Jones(arr)
    Lee Morgan
    Ramsey Lewis
    Dexter Gordon

    George Duke
    Janne Schaffer (Ok I’m from Sweden;_)
    Herbie Hancock

    Some did excellent work in all decades πŸ˜‰

  • Stupid five.

  • Pingback: A Couple of Golden Oldies |

  • Rich: I know, I know πŸ™‚ I could easily replace someone (not Charlie Parker though) with a trumpeter, no doubt.

  • Tough (hence, stupid?).
    The obvious choices of Trane, Miles, Bird, Mingus and Monk, are not on my go to list. So. . .

    1. Cotrane
    2. Miles Davis
    3. Joe Henderson
    4. Wayne Shorter
    5. Jackie McLean

    I could not live without the Shorter, McLean,and Henderson 60’s Blue Notes. Joe makes the list not only becuase of his group led efforts, but also as a result of the remarkable list of sessions in which he sat (Una Mas, Unity, Real McCoy, Black Fire, Point of Departure, etc . . .)

  • Cecil Taylor
    Frank Wright
    Don Cherry
    and a bunch more…

  • In no particular order:
    1. Bobby Timmons
    2. Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis
    3. Shirley Scott
    4. Phineas Newborn, Jr.
    5. Cannonball Adderly

  • Bill Evans
    John Coltrane
    Wayne Shorter
    Joe Henderson
    Andrew Hill

  • Top 5 –

    1. Miles Davis
    2. Art Blakey
    3. John Coltrane
    4. Herbie Hancock
    5. Thelonious Monk

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