You have to listen if your goal is to be the best musician that you can be. Learning the jazz “language” by listening to the greatest musicians of all time is vital to your understanding it. Learning jazz is much the same as learning a second language. Many of us learned to speak another language in school so your ability to learn jazz is definitely a goal that you can accomplish. The key is listening, and this is why I’ve come up with a list of the best jazz trumpet recordings to get you started:
Chet Baker —
- My Funny Valentine — A great introduction to Baker’s vocal style, and some sweet trumpet playing as well. All of the songs on the CD are classic ballads and great love songs.
- The Touch Of Your Lips — Another great lyrical CD, which is what Chet was known for. Quiet and romantic, with solos that are lyrical and well-built.
Clifford Brown —
- The Definitive Clifford Brown — A great compilation that features some of Brownie’s best-known work.
- Study In Brown — This CD features many masterful improvisations, and is a must-have of Brown’s work.
- Brown And Roach Inc — Great recording of the Clifford Brown and Max Roach combo that became famous. This CD also features many well-known tunes.
- Clifford Brown With Strings — Composed of many great ballads featuring Clifford in front of an orchestra. Beautiful work.
Miles Davis —
- Kind Of Blue — One of the most influential jazz albums of all time.
- Milestones — Another one of Miles’ greatest CDs. The band, which also features Cannonball Adderly and John Coltrane, swing extremely hard on this record.
- Seven Steps To Heaven — A great album featuring several great ballads, but also introduces such jazz greats as Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams at the beginning of their careers.
- Nefertiti — The last “straight-ahead” jazz album that Miles did in the late 60s before experimenting with electronics, this is a great work by Miles and Co. Features Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. Great album, great band!
- My Funny Valentine — A great live performance of ballads.
Freddie Hubbard —
- Red Clay — Although still heavily bop-influenced, this album showed that the musical direction of Freddie at the time was heading towards a fusion of jazz, rock, and funk.
- Sky Dive — While not as intense as some of his other well-known stuff, this album is full of great stuff and is worth a listen.
- Ready For Freddie — Released in the early 60s, this album features Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, and Elvin Jones — among others. Full of great compositions that are jam-packed with energy and superior solos.
- Keep Your Soul Together — Has a noticeable early-70s influence complete with the use of a Fender Rhodes, while staying true to its jazz roots at the same time. A highlight of this album is the uptempo “Spirits Of Trane.”
- First Light — Hubbard’s attempt to go mainstream with a cover of The Beatles’ “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.” This album has some great solos, and features such monster players as Jack DeJohnette and George Benson.
- The Hub Of Hubbard — Great solos where the musicians are given a little room to breathe due to the extended song lengths. This album showcases Freddie’s great tone and technical ability.
Dizzy Gillespie —
- Groovin’ High — With big band versions of many great bebop tunes, this is a solid jazz album and is a great introduction to Dizzy’s playing.
- Diz N Bird At Carnegie Hall — The great magical duo that helped to create the bebop movement. This album features great playing by both of these fantastic musicians at their prime.
- Diz & Getz — Great, fiery playing by Dizzy along with the coolness of Stan Getz. Great album.
Wynton Marsalis —
- Standard Time Volume 1 — This album is exactly what the title states… Wynton playing some of the great standards of jazz history. Features great soloing from a technical master of the trumpet.
- Black Codes (From The Underground) — Long considered one of the best of the early albums from Marsalis. This recording features brother Branford, as well as Jeff “Tain” Watts and Kenny Kirkland.
- Hot House Flowers — Some beautiful ballad playing and orchestral arrangements. Another one of my favorite Wynton recordings.
- Think Of One — Marsalis’ second release, this features some fiery solos and a great rhythm section.
Lee Morgan —
- The Sidewinder — One of Morgan’s best albums. This, along with some great playing, is a 60s version of a jazz/rock/funk fusion. It features such jazz greats as Joe Henderson, Billy Higgins, and Barry Harris.
- Cornbread — This album features some great compositions in a variety of musical styles. It also includes some great solos, and features Herbie Hancock and Hank Mobley.