Top 10 Unjustly Obscure Jazz Albums

Note: stay tuned over the coming months each of these “plain” lists is replaced with a full blog post with commentary on the items on the list (and, in some cases, the items that didn’t make the cut).

These should all be classics, but they are relatively unknown, and many are out of print. Hunt them down, you’ll be glad you did.

  1. Piano Portraits by Phineas Newborn, Jr. with John Simmons and Roy Haynes
  2. Blues in Five Dimensions by Mickey Tucker, with Ted Dunbar, Rufus Reid and David Jones
  3. New Orleans Suite by Duke Ellington with his Orchestra (featuring Johnny Hodges and others)
  4. Inside Track by Out of the Blue, featuring Michael Mossman, Ralph Bowen, Kenny Garrett, Harry Pickens, Robert Hurst and Ralph Peterson, Jr.
  5. Spanish Steps (reissued as Blues for Bud) by Hampton Hawes with Jimmy Woode and Arthur Taylor
  6. Album of the Year by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers with Wynton Marsalis, Bobby Watson, Bill Pierce, James Williams and Charles Fambrough
  7. Machaca by Clare Fischer with Rick Zunigar, Alex Acuna, Poncho Sanchez and others
  8. Moon Alley by Tom Harrell with Kenny Garrett, Kenny Barron, Ray Drummond and Ralph Peterson, Jr.
  9. Jaki Byard With Strings (reissued as a two-fer along with Solo Piano called Solo/Strings) with Alan Dawson and a string section comprised of George Benson, Ray Nance, Ron Carter and Richard Davis
  10. Magical Trio 2 by James Williams with Ray Brown and Elvin Jones

4 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Drew

     /  April 15, 2010

    Noah, many years ago when I first met you, you recommended Phineas Newborn’s Piano Portraits to me. To this day I go back to listen to it for the pure pleasure of great jazz piano — and from time to time to hear just how he arranged a specific tune.

    The only “problem” is that this record isn’t available anywhere (Amazon, iTunes, etc.). I bought a used copy in the record store we were at together that day some years ago. And what I did soon after was to have someone transfer it to CD for me.

    So if anyone ever finds this album, get it! It’s well worth it.

  2. thanks for the comment, drew – i remember that princeton record exchange hang quite well! and yes, like several of his great albums, this one is TOTALLY hard to find. i look forward to writing about it soon :)

  3. Richard Braun

     /  October 17, 2011

    Noah – It’s pretty tough to disagree with you on your selections. Took one look at your list of 10 greatest piano trio albums, had at least 5-6 of them (love James W.) and thanks
    for tipping me off to “Free Spirits” and “Spanish Steps” (Blues for Bud), not to mention
    Jo Jones Trio with the Bryant Bros. I love Mal Waldron, feel he was and still is vastly under-rated. He’s about the only pianist that I don’t see you mention that is at the top of my lists for too much to mention including early trio LP’s. So I checked out your picks for best solos and have most of them. I seldom submit comments, have once phoned a deejay who was playing Major Lance in the ’80’s and it was an oasis in the desert…..I’ve been listening to Kenny B., really enjoy Green Chimney’s and Wanton Spirit, but have never heard the one you suggest. Anyway, the common vein in our tastes (particularly with James Williams who has to be the best post bop and most overlooked of all) moved me to write this. Good to see your words in print, opposite of ‘misery loves company’ this is akin to ‘my goodness, there’s actually somebody else who knows these things.
    I”m going to sign up for your emails now. Take care and play what’s in your heart.

  4. Peter Zimmerman

     /  April 23, 2014

    Blues in Five Dimensions is an excellent choice. But my favorite Mickey Tucker CD is “Getting There,” featuring THE definitive version of Fats Wallers’ “Jitterbug Waltz.”

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