Top 10 Favorite Albums of Each Decade

This is my most stupidly broad Top 10 list undertaking to date. As I started to see folks’ Top-10-(whatever)-of-the-Decade lists, I thought “gee, what are MY 10 favorite albums of the decade?” That was harmless enough, except then I thought “gee, I never compiled my top 10 albums of the 2000s either.” And so on, until I realized that I needed to break it on down by decade going ALL the way back to the 1950s, the first decade when LPs were a thing.

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Top 10 Favorite Criss Cross Records Tracks

This weekend came the news of the passing of Gerry Teekens, the head of the Dutch jazz label Criss Cross Records. I never personally recorded on a Criss Cross session, but what I heard about Gerry was pretty consistent: he liked the music he liked, he ran the label how he ran it, and through it all spent nearly 40 years as an important shepherd to so many wonderful jazz musicians, many of them either being given their first opportunities to record or being documented at a time when bigger labels were not interested.

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Top 10 Nat “King” Cole Tracks

I discovered Nat “King” Cole’s trio work early enough in my developmental process that I can’t really imagine my conception of a) swing, b) touch at the piano, or c) jazz as a vehicle for fun without his music. It’s weird for the same musician to be simultaneously hugely famous and totally underrated, but so it goes for the King, a widely-admired singer whose instrumental prowess and influence are known by far fewer. A day after his centennial, I’m still reflecting on some of his music (particularly alongside guitarist Oscar Moore and bassist Johnny Miller in the classic drum-less trio) that particularly shaped my own burgeoning musicianship – here’s some of it.

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Top 10 Favorite Roy Haynes tracks

Any day that Roy Haynes continues to walk the earth is a gift to humanity, and this, his 94th birthday, is a particularly opportune time to acknowledge that. His innovation, creativity, and technical mastery would already put him on the short list of drummers who’ve walked the planet. Factor in his longevity and the correspondingly long and diverse list of vital artists with whom he has played and there is really no parallel that I can think of. That I came up with 10 favorite tracks this happening is one thing, but it’s just kind of ludicrous that I did so while neglecting several of the most seminal albums in jazz history (Oliver Nelson’s “Blues and the Abstract Truth,” Chick Corea’s “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs,” etc.) and other noteworthy music by Lester Young, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Eric Dolphy, and so on. So here are just a few tracks that I particularly enjoy, both in totality and as examples (covering a span of over 50 years) of the wonder of the drumming of Mr. Roy Haynes.

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Top 10 Favorite Randy Weston Tracks

It’s hard to frame the loss of a 92 year old man who was productive and healthy virtually to the end as tragic, but we will greatly miss the great pianist, composer, and visionary Randy Weston all the same. He was a major figure in jazz and a huge influence on my own conception both sonically and conceptually. His powerful and ruggedly individualistic piano style was an underpinning force throughout his music, his partnerships with distinctive arrangers modeled effective collaboration, and his exploration of the cultural and musical roots of Africa were ahead of their time and unprecedentedly deep for someone whose jazz bona fides were also so unimpeachable. And if you ask me, he never lost any speed off his fastball, as his output in his 80s was as potent as that of his 20s. Safe passage Maestro Weston, and for everyone else, here are 10 of my favorites tracks of his, listed chronologically.

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Top 10 Favorite Aretha Franklin Tracks

Aretha Franklin, the appropriately named Queen of Soul, has battled health problems for years, but it is still jarring to hear that she is gravely ill at this point. While she is still with us, let’s all “Say a Little Prayer” for this regal and exceptionally potent artist, whose singing, piano playing, and overall conception have inspired and taught me like few others have. Here are some of my favorite tracks.

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