Best of the Best!

The Best Albums from the Greatest Artists in Jazz!

Copyright © 1996, 2000 by David Reitzes




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Looking for advice on the best albums from the greatest artists in jazz, artists like Carmen McRae, Charles Mingus, Modern Jazz Quartet, Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, Lee Morgan, Joe Morris, Jelly Roll Morton, Anita O'Day and more? You came to the right place.

What follows are my picks for the very Best of the Best. As of this writing, every CD listed is available for sale at, and clicking on an image will take you directly to the appropriate page, where you can listen to free audio samples with RealPlayer.



Carmen McRae

Priceless Jazz Collection

Her biting wit and unique way with a lyric have made Carmen McRae an idol to many of today's young jazz singers. Here she interprets standards as only she could.


Charles Mingus

Thirteen Pictures: The Charles Mingus Anthology

One of jazz's greatest composers and bassists, Mingus' music is steeped in the blues and radiates soul. Here are his best-known tunes, including "Haitian Fight Song," "Goodbye Pork-Pie Hat," and "Meditations on Integration."


Modern Jazz Quartet

Dedicated to Connie

The MJQ embodies excellence and sophistication in jazz. This live recording includes standards "Django", "Pyramid" and "Bags' Groove." Pianist John Lewis said of this album, "In my opinion, never before or since has the Modern Jazz Quartet played better."


Thelonious Monk (The Composer)

Best of the Blue Note Years
(EMD/Blue Note)

Warning: Monk's music has been determined to provoke thinking, which experts caution is one of the leading causes of unrest in the world today. Worse, he's more fun than the proverbial barrel of monkeys. This collection offers a glimpse of pure, undiluted Monk genius, including "'Round Midnight" and the original recordings of "Ruby My Dear," "Criss Cross," "Misterioso" & more.


Thelonious Monk (The Bandleader)

Monk's Music

At the Riverside label, Monk stretched out on expanded versions of his classics with some of the greatest accompanists of his career, like John Coltrane, Art Blakey and Coleman Hawkins, who all appear on this amazing CD. Includes "Well You Needn't."


Thelonious Monk (The Pianist)

Thelonious Himself

Critic Gunther Schuller: "Unhampered by other players and beholden only unto himself, Monk ruminates thoughtfully and caressingly, continually extracting and paring down to the essence of each melody and harmony. They all have a beauty and haunting lyricism."


Also recommended from Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane

Trane's virtuosity and relentless probing of melody and harmony made him an ideal interpreter of Monk's tricky tunes. Few recordings document this triumphant team-up, and they are precious indeed.


Wes Montgomery

Incredible Jazz Guitar

Montgomery was to jazz what Hendrix was to rock, the guitar genius who permanently expanded the instrument's vocabulary, influencing all who came after. He was also a world class improviser, as this album demonstrates. But no, Hendrix isn't on it.


Lee Morgan

The Sidewinder
(EMD/Blue Note)

Trumpet king Lee Morgan rose to prominence as a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. This is his most enduring album as a leader.


Joe Morris

(Aum Fidelity)

A true guitar original, Morris improvises freely but thematically, probing melodies to unlock their innermost secrets.


Jelly Roll Morton

The Pearls
(BMG/RCA Victor)

Morton claimed to have invented jazz. Of course he did no such thing, but only a composer, pianist and bandleader of his stature could've gotten away with such a boast. This CD collects the finest moments of one of the founding fathers of the music.


Anita O'Day

Anita Sings the Winners

Critic Will Friedwald has noted, "Only a particular kind of person could be as unpredictable as O'Day, and only an even rarer breed of artist would choose to build an art form on these qualities." She sings with the vocal daring of an Ella Fitzgerald, and the sophisticated sensibilities of a Mel Torme combining to make every song she touches her own. This album is one of her best.




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