50 Best Jazz Albums Of All Time: The Essential List

In the history of jazz, there are probably thousands of amazing records, so compiling a definitive list of the best album is difficult. There are, however, a handful of releases that have become essential jazz records: records that every jazz fan should own.

In recent years, this musical genre has gained a reputation for influence and critical acclaim. In this article, we highlight the top 50 best jazz albums.

best jazz albums
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top 50 best jazz albums

50. Ella Fitzgerald: Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook

The legendary jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) contributed many of the definitive versions of jazz classics during the 20th century. She collaborated with some of the best songwriters on her ‘Songbook’ series, which comprised 8 albums released between 1956 and 1964.


49. Jaco Pastorius: Jaco Pastorius

Jaco Pastorius (1951 -1987) was an electric bassist, solo artist, and bandleader. His bass playing comprises bass chords, funk riffs, lyrical solos, and innovative harmonics. From Miles Davis’s “Donna Lee” to Herbie Hancock, the Brecker Brothers, and Wayne Shorter, Pastorius brings a collection of jazz fusion royalty to life.


48. Charlie Christian: Solo Flight, The Genius of Charlie Christian

Charles Henry Christian (1916-1942) was a swing and jazz guitarist. Christian barely played as a bandleader, unlike almost every other musician on the list. His superb compilation includes his finest work with Benny Goodman (as well as some of Count Basie’s pieces) and his own quintet recordings.


47. Louis Armstrong: Satchmo at Symphony Hall

Louis Daniel Armstrong (1901 -1971). was a trumpeter and vocalist who was among the most influential figures in jazz history. His live recording from 1947 included an all-star frontline of clarinetist Barney Bigard and trombonist Jack Teagarden.


46. Wes Montgomery: Smokin’at the Half Note

“Wes” Montgomery (1923 -1968) was a jazz guitarist and one of the most influential figures in 20th-century music. In this 1965 recording. Wes displays his innovative and powerful soloing that first attracted many listeners around the world to him.


45. Dizzy Gillespie: Afro

John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie (1917-1993) was a jazz trumpeter, singer, composer, and educator.

Some of the best jazz albums document the genre’s evolution and transcend musical boundaries, Gillespie’s 1954 album of big band music shows the significant part he played in introducing Afro-Cuban music into jazz.


44. McCoy Tyner: The Real McCoy

Alfred McCoy Tyner (1938-2020) was a jazz pianist and composer

His 1967 album was an “all-jazz sessio,’ even though it was recorded after Carter left the John Coltrane Quartet. McCoy Tyner’s solo on “Passion Dance” is a masterclass in static harmony, using techniques such as inside-outside play.


43. Kurt Rosenwinkel: The Next Step

Kurt Rosenwinkel (born in 1970) is a jazz guitarist. Jazz records became more widely available in the second half of the 20th century due to the ease of recording music. Rosenwinkel had the most impact with the 2001 album The Next Step. The arrangements have become standards for a generation of future jazz musicians.


42. Herbie Hancock: Maiden Voyage

Herbert Hancock (born April 12. 1940) is a composer, pianist, keyboardist and actor. The 1964 concept album Maiden Voyage features an oceanic nautical theme. Hancock is regarded as a prototypical musician who combines electronic music with funk and pop sounds. His emergence as a pianist and music innovator first came to the fore in the 1960s. when he played in Miles Davis’s Second Great Quintet.


41. Art Tatum: Piano Starts Here

Arthur Tatum Jr. (1909-1956) was widely regarded as jazz great. He included a few live tracks from 1949 on his Piano Starts Here compilation, including 1930s classics such as ‘Tea for Two,’ ‘Sophisticated Lady’, and ‘Tiger Rag’. The album is fresh, swinging, and incredibly impressive technically, making it a must-listen for every jazz pianist as well as non-jazz fans.


40. Count Basie: The Atomic Mr. Basie

William James “Count” Basie (1904-1984) was a jazz organist, pianist, bandleader, and composer. In the minds of many, the swing era of the 1940s and 1950s embodied the excitement and power of jazz music. Count Basie composed numerous classics during this time period. On his 1958 album, Count Basie and the Second Testament Orchestra perform arrangements and compositions by Neal Hefti.


39. John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman

John Coltrane (1926-1967) was a jazz saxophonist and composer, and Johnny Hartman (1923-1983) was a jazz ballad specialist. Having collaborated on albums like Blue Train and My Favorite Things, as well as touring with Miles Davis. Coltrane made his mark as a jazz pioneer in 1963.

So it came as a surprise to fans when the group recorded with Johnny Hartman. Even in the face of such controversy, the session yielded one of the best jazz ballad albums of all time and showcased another side of Coltrane’s sax playing that nobody can match.


38. Lee Konitz: Motion

Leon Konitz (1927-2020) was an alto saxophonist and composer. From the five jazz standards, it includes, only a few melodies are featured on his 1961 album. The frontman begins a pure, inspired improvisation on what is considered his finest work.

As for the rhythm section, Elvin Jones is an impressive drummer and Sonny Dallas is a bright bassist. Despite how the match-up might seem on paper, this album is one of the best-improvised compositions in history.


37. Ahmad Jamal: At the Pershing: But Not For Me

Ahmad Jamal (born July 2. 1930) is a jazz pianist, composer, and educator. His concept and distinctive approach inspired Miles Davis, making this an essential jazz collection piece.

It is a collective recording rather than a star solo recording; intricate arrangements highlight Israel Crosby (bass) and Vernel Fournier (drums), whose jazz groove on ‘Poinciana’ proved particularly influential for young drummers.


36. Michael Brecker: Tales From The Hudson

Michael Leonard Brecker (1949-2007) was a jazz saxophonist and composer. In 1996, he released Tales From The Hudson and won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz Album and Best Jazz Instrumental Solo.

There are many musicians on this album from the mid-90s jazz scene. like percussionist Don Alias. Jack DeJohnette. Pat Metheny. Joey Calderazzo and McCoy Tyner. and Dave Holland.


35. Joe Henderson: Inner Urge

Joe Henderson (1937-2001) was a jazz tenor saxophonist. The album’s title track. “Inner Urge”. is a jazz standard and an invaluable resource for jazz students. There is a Spanish tinge in El Barrio. another standout track. and two scales are used. The last track re-harmonizes “Night and Day.”


34. Charlie Parker: Charlie Parker With Strings

Charles Parker Jr. (1920-1955). was a jazz saxophonist and composer.

A long-time admirer of classical music. including Stravinsky. Brahms. and Bartok. he always aspired to record with an orchestra. His dream of recording Charlie Parker with Strings came to fruition in 1949 with the help of harpist Mitch Miller and a jazz rhythm section.


33. Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong: Ella and Louis

Louis Armstrong (1901 – 1971). teamed up with Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) arguably the greatest jazz singer of all time. Fitzgerald’s voice is smooth and fluid, and Armstrong’s is earthy and deep. Even so, their personalities complimented each other well, and they had success on this first record. Ella and Louis Again and Porgy and Bess. a selection of songs from the opera.


32. Bill Evans: Waltz for Debby

William John Evans (1929—September 1980) was a pianist and composer. Primarily with a trio, In Waltz For Debbie which was recorded live, more standard harmonic material is used than in other releases of the era.


31. Alice Coltrane: Universal Consciousness

Alice Coltrane (1937-2007). was a jazz composer and musician. In Alice Coltrane’s fifth solo album, she plays harp and organ, along with strings. The jazz style combines free improvisation with modal elements to create a distinctive sound.


30. Horace Silver: Song For My Father

Horace Silver (1928-2014) was a jazz pianist and arranger who was active during the 1950s, especially in the hard bop era.

Besides Song for My Father, which has become a jazz standard, the album includes nine other great songs, including Clue Pasa? which is Latin-inspired…. and the kicker, a punchy, upbeat number.


29. Chick Corea: Now He Sings, Now He Sobs

Armando Anthony ‘Chick’ Corea (1941 — 2021) was a jazz composer and keyboardist. Now He Sings, Now He Sobs was his second and perhaps most famous album. Her piano trio lineup includes Miroslav Vitou’ on bass and Roy Haynes.


28. Charles Mingus: Changes One & Two

Charles Mingus Jr. (1922 – 1979) was a pianist double bassist and composer. The success of his successful comeback is often related to the two albums he released with Atlantic Records in 1975.

“Changes One” and “Changes Two,” Charles Mingus’ ‘Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love” was his obituary to a longtime idol who died just before. Four of his ballads contain a literal quote from Ellington.


27. Bud Powell: The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 1

Bud Powell (1924 – 1966) was a jazz pianist and composer. Bebop became a popular style due to his contribution, earning him the nickname ‘the Charlie Parker of the piano.‘ In 1952, Blue Note released the album featuring trumpeter Fats Navarro, tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, and his usual piano trio.


28. Art Pepper: Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section

Arthur Edward Pepper Jr. (1925-1982) was a saxophonist and clarinetist. During this 1957 session, Pepper is joined by Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones. According to All Music, the playing exhibits “a classic east meets west, warm and hot but never a lukewarm combination.”


25. Frank Sinatra: Sinatra at the Sands

Francis Albert Sinatra (1915-1998) was a singer and actor, widely regarded as one of the 20th century most influential musicians.

With the Count Basie Orchestra and Quincy Jones brilliant arrangements, Sinatra delivers definitive renditions of songs he is known for, accompanied by the Count Basie Orchestra.


24. Hank Mobley: Soul Station

Henry Mobley 1930-1986) was an American tenor saxophonist and composer of hard bop and soul jazz.

Even though Soul Station did not change the direction of jazz in the way that some other albums on this list did, what it did do was showcase some of the most seriously swinging and grooving bop versions of jazz standards ever recorded.


23. Chet Baker: Chet Baker Sings: It Could Happen To You

Chet Baker Jr. (1929-1988) was an American jazz trumpeter and vocalist His album. It Could Happen To You. is composed of jazz standards swinging and singing and some beautifully melodic trumpet solos.

Many of the songs on this album have become defining performances of the artist. This is an essential jazz album for those who want to learn more about phrasing.


22. Herbie Hancock: Head Hunters

Herbert Hancock (born April 12. 1940) is a pianist. keyboardist and composer. He rose to prominence after joining Miles Davis Second Great Quintet in 1963. Even though he recorded dozens of records throughout the 1960s, including masterpieces like Miles Smiles, he found time to record for the Blue Note record label throughout the decade.


21. Sonny Rollins: A Night at the Village Vanguard

Sonny Rollins (bom in 1930) is a jazz tenor saxophonist known for being a highly influential jazz musician. The ability to produce a live album that rivals the best studio recordings takes a special kind of talent In fact. we find precisely that with Sonny Rollins’s 1957 recording A Night At The Village Vanguard.


20. Lennie Tristano: Line Up

Lennie Tristano (1919-1978) was a pianist, composer, and teacher. His 1956 album “Line Up” has no doubt been a major milestone in music. But its impact goes beyond the playing.


19. Lee Morgan: The Sidewinder

Lee Morgan (1938-1972) was a jazz trumpeter and composer.

The Sidewinder was not just a hit. It is also an addictive album infused with blues, soul, and groove that has plenty of depth just beneath the surface.


18. Oscar Peterson: Night Train

Oscar Peterson (1925-2007) was a jazz pianist. virtuoso. and composer.

In the Peterson tradition, Night Train is swinging and accessible. As it has short track lengths, it is an excellent introduction for newcomers: a jazz collection essential!


17. Miles Davis: The Birth of The Cool

Miles Davis (1926-1991) was a trumpeter and composer. He played an important role in the development of Cool jazz.

This historic recording features a nine-piece band with an unusual addition of tuba and French horn, giving it a chamber-jazz sound.


16. Cannonball Adderley: Somethin’ Else

Cannonball Adderley (1928-1975) was a jazz saxophonist.

While Cannonball might be best known as the bandleader and ringleader of Miles Davis bands. he also features in this 1958 release as a soloist.


15. John Coltrane: Giant Steps

John Coltrane (1926-1967) was a jazz saxophonist and composer. While aspiring to a more static harmonic landscape, he was deeply involved in the modal jazz revolution of the late 1950s. Meanwhile, the tenor and soprano saxophonist plotted his own contrasting harmonic upheaval.

Coltrane captured this evolution on the 1959 Atlantic release Giant Steps, a recording memorable for its rapidly changing tonalities and use of the ‘Coltrane Changes’ sequence.


14 Keith Jarrett: The Keln Concert

Keith Jarrett (born in 1945) is a jazz pianist and composer. He may have been the best musician for bridging the gap between the legendary musicians of the 50s and 60s and the 21st century. His 1975 album, The Koln Concert, sold more than 3.5 million copies, making it the best­selling solo piano album in jazz history.


13. Duke Ellington: Ellington at Newport

Duke Ellington (1899-1974) was a composer, pianist, and bandleader.

The NewportJazz Festival recorded this album for posterity. One of the highlights was a 27-chorus tenor solo by Paul Gonsalves in the bluesy, Diminuendo, and Crescendo.


12. Eric Dolphy: Out To Lunch

Eric Dolphy Jr. (1928-1964) was a jazz saxophonist clarinetist and flautist. Free jazz probably does not come to mind when you think of 1960s.

Blue Note, however, that is what Eric Dolphy album Out To Lunch accomplished in 1964: it was groundbreaking.


11. Miles Davis: Bitches Brew

Miles Davis (1926-1991) was a trumpeter and composer. His performance was inspired by Jimi Hendrix and James Brown and was driven by a desire to always analyze novel approaches to his craft.

The records themselves, however, are not the only thing that stands out about them. They are popular, and they each showcase some of the finest playing in jazz history, as well as capture definitive moments in its development.


Top 10 Jazz albums

10. Thelonious Monk: Genius of Modem Music: Volume 1

Thelonious Monk (1917-1982) was a jazz pianist and composer. When his 1947 tracks were first released on the iconic Blue Note label. they must have sounded shockingly modern.

Although different versions of this CD have appeared in reissues, all the big hits are on it. Some of Monk tunes, including In Walked Bud, and Round Midnight, his most famous composition.


9. Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto: Getz/Gilberto

Stanley Getz (1927-1991) was a jazz saxophonist professionally known as Stan Getz. and Joao Gilberto (1931 — 2019) was a Brazilian singer, songwriter, and guitarist. The fusion of Brazil Gilberto singing, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s piano playing, and the samba-jazz of Stan Getz blend beautifully with the rhythmic playing and singing.


8. Billie Holiday: Lady In Satin

Billie Holiday (1915—July 17, 1959) was a jazz and swing singer. Although her performance of Lady in Satin is not her strongest it is filled with an incredible depth of feeling that no doubt comes from her own complex life. This album, her first for Columbia Records, featured a 40-piece orchestra arranged by Ray Ellis.


7. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: Moanin’

Arthur Blakey 1919-1990) was a jazz drummer and bandleader. His hard bop masterpiece Moanin’is an absolute classic and can be found in the record collections of jazz lovers of all ages.


6. Dave Brubeck: Time Out

David Warren Brubeck (1920-2012) was a jazz pianist and composer. He is regarded as one of the most important exponents of cool jazz. Time Out, his 1959 Columbia release, was groundbreaking at the time for its unusual use of time signatures and was enormously successful.


5. Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus

Sonny Rollins (bom in 1930) is a tenor saxophonist. There are a couple of really great tracks on his album, such as Tenor Madness and Freedom Suite, but Saxophone Colossus, from 1956, is maybe his best album.


4. Omette Coleman: The Shape of Jazz to Come

Randolph Denard Ornette Coleman (1930-2015) was a jazz violinist, saxophonist, trumpeter, and composer. His album The Shape of Jazz To Come not only shows the future direction of jazz but signals the end of conventional compositions and chord sequences as well.


3. Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Urn

Charles Mingus (1922-1979) was a bassist and composer. The music he wrote was highly thematic. deliberately meant to convey a specific mood.

The Mingus Ah Um album captures Mingus writing, playing, and influence as a bandleader.


2. John Coltrane: A Love Supreme

John Coltrane (1926-1967) was a jazz saxophonist and composer. Four movements comprise this 1964 classic: ‘Acknowledgement,’ ‘Resolution,’ ‘Pursuit,’ and ‘Psalm’. Musically, these tracks are indicative of the spiritual focus the saxophonist was taking with his later works.


1. Miles Davis: Kind of Blue

Miles Davis (1926-1991) was a trumpeter and composer. This Miles Davis classic is a jazz and non-jazz fan favorite, and it appears in numerous record collections.

Davis best-selling album, Kind of Blue, is listed among the jazz best albums, Kind of Blue is widely regarded as the best most atmospheric, and most influential music ever recorded.


Top 2 Most Jazz Record Sold

1. LOUIS ARMSTRONG

Louis Armstrong (1955)
Louis Armstrong (1955). (Image credit: Herbert Behrens / Anefo, CC0 on Wikimedia Commons)

The 20th Century Masters compilation is one of the best and most jazz-sold records of Louis Armstrong. Released on March 9, 1999, and was recorded in the year 1949 to 1968.

What a Wonderful World Cabaret is a jazz music and most sold record of Louis Armstrong and was released in October 1967.

The All-Time Greatest Hits of Louis Armstrong is one of the most jazz records sold that was released in the year 1994.

2. JOHN COLTRANE

A love Supreme
A love Supreme. (Image credit: “John Coltrane” by yonolatengo on Flickr CC BY 2.0)

A Love Supreme album is another jazz music and the most record sold of John Coltrane. It was released in February 1965 and recorded on December 9, 1964.

Blue Train is one of John Coltrane’s most jazz sold records and was released in January 1958. And it was recorded on September 15, 1957.

My Favorite Things is a piece of modal jazz music, one of John Coltrane’s most jazz records sold. It was recorded on October 21-26,1960.

Conclusion

Whether it’s your first day as a music lover or you’re a seasoned veteran that has been listening to jazz for decades now, everyone can have their own personal favorite albums from this list Some may prefer a specific genre, while others may prefer a certain type of artist. There’s a wide variety of different albums on this list to suit everyone’s musical taste.

Jazz is one of the most prevalent genres out there. and with artists like Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis creating such amazing music, it doesn’t surprise anyone that jazz would make this list of the most listened to jazz albums of all time.

All the albums on this list are jazz fan favorites that have woven their way into millions of listeners’ consciousnesses. We hope you found at least a few new jazz albums to check out on this journey. which has brought you 50 of the best jazz albums ever made!

About Jayden Buckley

Hi, my name is Jayden and I am author/editor for PlayTheTunes. I remember the first time I hopped on the drums, I was hooked. Music has played an enormous part of my life, and I'm honored I get to share my experiences with you!