This isn’t an essentials list, or a must have list, per-se. This is a small collection of albums that have held up through time for any number of reasons. This can be simple historical significance, a personal emotional attraction or just plain awesomeness of the entire album (yes, awesomeness is a technical term). Listed in no particular order:
By far my favorite album. This was THE show that put Duke Ellington back on the musical map. After a few rocky years with the public, and tastes changing (the whole rock n’ roll thing), this concert single handedly put Duke Ellington back into the stratosphere of jazz music. Every song on here is absolutely great! (and the recording quality is fantastic). And of course, there is one song that stands above all the rest —Diminuendo in Blue, Crescendo in Blue.The infamous 14 minute song.
For years I was hesitant to play it, not sure if the dancers would kill me or not, it is 14 minutes long. Then some time ago at an ABW (one of ’em held at The Bohemian Hall) I decided to play it. It got some moans and groans, but most importantly, Sylvia Sykes ran up to me and proceeded to tell me a fabulous story about this song, to which I will leave for another time or for you to talk to her about. Needless to say, the story: AWESOME!
So then through the years I felt that the dancers had matured enough to handle 14 minutes of dancing bliss; with proper warning of course. So through the years I would play it and every time I played it, more and more people got into it. To the point now, I get dancers coming up to me during a weekend asking not if, but when I would be playing the song, as they didn’t want to miss it.
The song itself is pure awesomesauce. Solid 192bpm, great ups and downs, the killer Paul Gonzalves solo, and a gigantic shout chorus at the end. What more do you want?
The year following the memorable concert from Duke, Basie took the stage. This was one of the first swing albums I was ever introduced to, and I still love it! Swingin’ at Newport, One O’Clock Jump, Roll ‘Em Pete are my three favorites. It’s the perfect Basie. A great mix of New and Old Testament Basie with killer recording quality. This was one of the first albums I fell in love with. Dance/Listen/Cook dinner to, this album is perfect for every occasion.
The concert that changed the course of jazz history. Benny Goodman, up until then, and for that matter the entire jazz community, was killin’ it! Swing and Jazz was spreading across the country and invigorating people of every color and station. However, it wasn’t until this concert that Benny Goodman was dubbed the King of Swing and swing music was solidified into the annals of music history.
Not quite the dancing CD, but who cares. There is some great music on this album. The best version of Swingtime In The Rockies, Honeysuckle Rose (that goes on forever), and of course the infamous 12 minute version of Sing Sing Sing, that both energized a dance community and pissed off Benny Goodman so much, Gene Krupa and him would never kiss and make up!
As a side, if you were lucky to be in New York that day, not only could you have made history with Benny, but later that night you could have gone and seen Chick Webb vs Count Basie at the Savoy!
Make sure to get the 2 disc set.
There are only 2 compilation CDs that I ever recommend and this is one of them. (the other one is just below this) Hi-Fi Recordings of classic tunes, Swingin’ The Blues, Take the A-Train, Apollo Jump, The Fox, and Broadway. With a great studio band recording the music in the swing tradition, this CD is an excellent starter CD. OH! And don’t let the 90’s cover with the alternative looking martini glass scare you. Trust me, the music inside the martini glass is high quality.
The other compilation CD that I recommend to new swing music ears. You can’t beat it, tons of tracks by tons of artists all from the height of the great swing era. No matter you taste, you can easily find something on here you will like. This is a great CD for dancer and DJ alike who is starting to get interested in swing music and looking to build their collection. I recommend finding a song you like off the CD and then follow down the rabbit hole of the artist who performed it. Guaranteed you will find more music you like. A must have for any new DJ.
There is a great french label called Chronogical Classics (yes it is misspelled, and yes they know that) who puts out wonderful artist based volumes. Anywhere from Bechet, to Goodman to Fats and Django. They put in a great deal of effort to release quality music with high recording quality on every CD. Each album is artist based and then done by year or year range. Sometimes, you get lucky and there are multiple volumes for the same year, like Bechet 1949. So far, I have yet to be disappointed with any CD I have purchased. Just keep in mind I heard they stopped producing some of their older volumes, so some might be out of print and only ebay or amazon to acquire, which will drive up the price.