Jazz is the alternative universe of Classical music. Jazz is as free as classical music is structured; Jazz is improvisation, classical music is faithfulness to the score; Jazz is individualism first, team second, classical music is the other way round.

Family Photo - My Top 10 Jazz Albums

I started to listen to Jazz extensively only 3-4 years ago.

Before, though I was interested to listen and know more, I could not find the right start somehow. My problem was compounded by not having friends who were seriously into Jazz and could guide me. When I walked into the Jazz and Classical section of Tower Records in KLCC then, and wanted to pick something Jazz-y up, I was intimidated by the available artists and record titles, not knowing who was who, what was what. Though strictly speaking, Tower Records' Jazz section wasn't that big, I invariably would turn to the Classical music section because of the familiarity.
The first Jazz record that really bowled me over was a compilation of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong's songs - 'Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong for Lovers' from Verve (0602498807989). Believe or not, this is the first CD I have of Ella Fitzgerald (now, you know how 'baby' I am in Jazz music). This compilation takes all the cream from the classic duet album between her and Louis Armstrong -"Ella and Louis", and put on one disc, with a few more great tracks from "Ella & Louis Again" and "Ella & Friends" thrown in - an extremely great value with surprisingly good cd transfer sound quality.

I was totally bowled over at the first track already, this disc became my favourite and was spinned again and again thereafter. Ella's phrasing and control was simply great, she imbued emotion into her songs but eschewed sentimentality, everything was done just right, and this warranted the disc to be heard again and again. The chemistry between her and Louis Armstrong was really something to marvel at.

I could not stop, I wanted more, I sought out more Ella Fitzgerald CDs, I went on to know Billie Holiday, then Sarah Vaughan.... Then I wanted to go elsewhere too.

I went onto Amazon.com and read people's recommendation lists and culled from them Jazz titles that cropped up again and again. Almost all are from that golden era of mid 20th century.

Out of all the Jazz albums I own, these are the top ten that I'll never want to go without:

Sonny Rollins (always melodious, always warm playing):
Saxophone Collossus (Prestige PRCD-8105-2)
Way Out West (XRCD24 VICJ-61040)
The Bridge (Bluebird 82876 52472 2)
John Coltrane:
A Love Supreme (Impulse! B0000610-02)
Blue Train (Blue Note 7243 5 41757 2 5 SACD)
Miles Davis:
(this one is from the Jazz heavens)
Kind of Blue (Columbia/Legacy CK64935)
Cannonball Adderley:
Somethin' Else (Blue Note 7243 4 95329 2 2)
Charles Mingus:
Ah Um (Columbia/Legacy CK65512)
The Dave Brubeck Quartet:
Time Out (Columbia/Legacy CK65122)
Duke Ellington
(Electrifying live atmosphere)
Ellington at Newport 1956 (Complete) (Columbia/Legacy C2K64932)
Happy Listening.

P.S., If you read chinese, you have to read the excellent article on his favourite jazz albums, written by Tay Cher Siang, the pianist of JZ8. Available in MTX Issue #1, downloadable from the link on the right of this page.

P.S., note to audiophiles, none of the sound qualities of the cd transfers mentioned can be described as excellent (the XRCD is the best among the lot). Some are mono recordings. I picked them more for their music content.


Karl said...

well you sure have one hell of a collection.

those top ten of yours are among the finest example of jazz album in existence

kkl said...


A good collection,no doubt.Enought to keep one swinging int the night,hugh?

Anonymous said...

Note that there are many flavors to Jazz, what you recommending are mainstream or what folks normally call old jazz. For myself, I prefer smooth jazz, which has more melodies to it. Such jazz artistes or bands include, Chet Atkins, Bob James, Dan Siegels, David Benoit, Chuck Magione,Larry Carlton, Earl Klugh, Keiko Matsui, Acoustic Alchemy, Fourplay, Hiroshima, Rippingtons. How about relabelling the title Music I Listen To-Mainstream Jazz and have another one on Smooth Jazz ?

fafafion said...

Here are some of my recomendations;

1.Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall [LIVE]-

That is the piece that I enjoy the most.I listen to this on Vinyl but I believe it is available on CD.

one of the most electrifying live musical performance in history

2.Jazz at the Pawnshop;Ah...this is another audio nirvana....spontaneous ,great recording and truly memorable.I have both the Vinyl and the XRCD versions ,which is quite good actually.

3.John Pizzarelli-All of me.A nice piece to taste the brilliance of john.


Anonymous said...

Hi hifikaki,
Have you listened to jazz cds by Venus Records Inc Japan ? If not I suggest you have a listen. You may or may not like it but if you are an audiophile and particular on the quality of recording these are good.

hifikaki said...

Karl, kkl,

Yep, they sure allow one to swing late into the night.


They are no doubt 'old' jazz, all of them are 50-60 years old. :-)
Yes, there are indeed many flavours of jazz. I briefly looked up in Wikipedia earlier and am doing some other readings to know more about jazz and its history.
Thanks for highlighting smooth jazz, I have heard some Acoustic Alchemy and Fourplay but not the others that you mentioned, so it is a good direction for me to check out more.


Thanks for your recommendations too.

hifikaki said...

Anonymous of 6.05pm,

No, I have not heard Venus Records Inc's CDs.
Cool, more things for me to check out.

cheah said...

anonymous 605.

can you get those titles locally?

Anonymous said...

Obtained locally. Sorry cannot remember where I got them. Victoria, rock corner or one of the hifi shops.

Anonymous said...

I have a few from Venus bought from Rock Corner. They tend to be pricey because of the Japanese pressing I believe.

Y.C. said...

If you're into LP playback as well, the 'old' jazz or rather classic jazz would sound and made better sense though LPs than CDs. The classic jazz CDs from by Venus Records, Japan are supposedly in 24K bits and have extremely high gain. The performances are quite recent and available also in LPs as new issues (not reissues) and sound pretty impressive. The older 180g ones are better than the newer 200g LPs to my ears. LPs available at Love Music, Ampang Park. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Good selection there. Most of my hundred odd collection are from the late 50s to 60s - the golden era of modern jazz. Recommend you hook up with Miles Davis's second great quintet and John Coltrane's classic quartet.

hifikaki said...


No, I am not into vinyl, so I have to contend with cd transfer quality. Hope one day can experience jazz in your LP setup.

Anonymous 10.24pm,
Thanks for the pointer. Any specific titles I can look out for?

GCK said...

Hifikaki, Adrian has some Venus Records CDs. Check it out.

hifikaki said...


Thanks for the tip!