And it’s time for our annual look at the quirky and always interesting voters at the RateYourMusic website. Jazz, as usual, dominates the list, but it’s not exclusive, so we’ll just look at the jazz. As always, this is a snapshot of a moment in time. The site’s followers keep voting, so although the records at the top have amassed enough votes to remain pretty stable, lower down there’s volatility. I like the list because it gives a complete picture of the year in music (they list something like 500 albums) and because it gives an interesting perspective on what albums continue to hold the jazz connoisseur’s interest.
The top of the list pretty much duplicates Nathan Holoway’s choices, except that Giant Steps and Portrait in Jazz are considered 1960 albums and therefore not included: Kind of Blue, Mingus Ah Um, The Shape of Jazz to Come, Time Out.
Here’s what follows.
5. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers (Blue Note). “Moanin’” is what makes this album rate so high. The administrators of the RateYourMusic site even put the song’s name in parentheses after the album title.
6. Nina Simone, Little Girl Blue (Bethlehem). If I were making a case for 1959 as jazz’s most creative year, and I wanted to include a singer, I think I’d make it Nina Simone rather than Ella Fitzgerald. Simone was really the cutting edge, as contemporary listeners have come to appreciate more than did the Down Beat readers of the time.
7. The Miles Davis Quintet, Workin’. From the Contractual Marathon.
10. Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt and Sonny Rollins, Sonny Side Up (Verve)
11. The Cannonball Adderley Quintet featuring Nat Adderley in San Francisco (Riverside)
12. The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall (Riverside). This should have been included as an example of the creative power unleashed in 1959, with a ten-piece orchestra and arrangements by Hall Overton.
15. Joao Gilberto, Chega de saudade (Odeon). This is the album that made Gilberto a star in South America, though it would take a few more years, and Stan Getz, for Norteamericano audiences to appreciate him. Chega de saudade was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001, and contemporary listeners seem to have caught up with it. It is pure bossa nova.
18. Sun Ra, Jazz in Silhouette (Saturn). Another figure overlooked by Down Beat readers at the time, particularly as composer (24 got votes, Ra was not one of them). This isn’t a knock on the 1959 audience. Tastes change, and there’s no reason to suppose that one generation’s tastes are better than another’s. Still, the 1959 reader’s poll does not represent the most adventurous jazz spirit.
19. Miles Davis, Porgy and Bess (Columbia)
20. Champion Jack Dupree, Blues from the Gutter (Atlantic)
21. Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster (Verve). My kind of encounter. With Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown, Alvin Stoller
22. Ella Fizgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Songbook (Verve). Norman Granz had a knack for picking performers who had already stood the test of time, so it’s small wonder so many of his recordings have continued to stand the test of time.
23. Jimmy Smith, The Sermon (Blue Note)
24. Finger Poppin’ with the Horace Silver Quintet (Blue Note)
25. Sonny Rollins, Newk’s Time (Blue Note)
26. Bill Evans Trio, Everybody Digs Bill Evans (Riverside). Evans’ debut album.
27. The Lester Young – Teddy Wilson Quintet, Pres and Teddy (Verve). A 1956 recording, released in 1959. What I said about Verve.
28. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, Porgy and Bess (Verve)
29. Horace Silver Quintet, Blowin’ the Blues Away (Blue Note). I love the cover art here, by Paula Donohue. Blue Note rarely used graphic artists. Most of their covers were photographs by the label’s co-founder, Francis Wolff, a fine photographer. I can’t find anything else by Donohue. Too bad.
32. Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Chicago (Mercury)
33. T-Bone Walker, T-Bone Blues (Atlantic)
34. Charles Mingus, Jazz Portraits (Mingus in Wonderland) (United Artists)
35. Back to Back: Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges Play the Blues (Verve)
36. Nina Simone at Town Hall (Colpix)
37. Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges, Side by Side (Verve)
39. Henry Mancini, Music from Peter Gunn (RCA Victor)
40. Chet Baker. Chet (Riverside)
44. Frank Sinatra, No One Cares (Capitol)
47. Thelonious Monk Quintet, 5 by Monk by 5 (Riverside)
48. Roy Haynes, Phineas Newborn, Paul Chambers, We Three (Prestige)
49. Wynton Kelly, Kelly Blue (Riverside)
50. Billie Holiday, All or Nothing at All (Verve)
Others on the list: Lou Donaldson, Abbey Lincoln, Bud Powell, Chico Hamilton, Blue Mitchell, Dizzy Reece, Gerry Mulligan, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Jimmy Giuffre, Tommy Flanagan, Kenny Burrell, Idrees Suleiman, Steve Lacy, Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Jackie McLean, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. Michel Legrand, Dorothy Ashby, Frank Wess, Memphis Slim, Cecil Taylor, Dinah Washington, Peggy Lee, George Shearing, Larry Williams, Wes Montgomery, George Russell, Huey “Piano” Smith, Ahmed Abdul Malik, Donald Byrd, Little Richard, Julie London, Lee Konitz, Gil Evans, the Flamingos, Blossom Dearie, Jack Kerouac and Steve Allen, Keely Smith, Johnny Griffin, Red Garland, Buddy Rich, Max Roach, Mickey Baker, Paul Quinichette, Lou Donaldson, Sonny Stitt, Anita O’Day, Charlie Shavers, Tiny Grimes, Paul Desmond, Modern Jazz Quartet, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, Benny Golson, Milt Jackson, Ahmad Jamal, Booker Little, Sarah Vaughan, David “Fathead” Newman, Yusef Lateef, Jimmy Heath, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, the Three Sounds, Shirley Bassey, Chico Hamilton, Carmen McRae, Ernestine Anderson, Wilbur Harden,Fats Domino, Jerome Richardson, Ray Bryant, Oliver Nelson, Benny Carter, Ruth Brown, Herbie Mann, Jimmy Rushing, Oscar Pettiford, Ramsey Lewis, Barney Kessel, Lem Winchester, Mose Allison, June Christy, and that’s just a few.
This was more a year of recommitment to the tradition for Prestige than it was of innovation, but innovation was there. Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Shirley Scott pioneered the organ-tenor sax combo. And Yusef Lateef bringing his Eastern influenced sounds into modern jazz.
But also noteworthy to Prestige’s year were its Swingville and Bluesville labels, bringing jazz masters from Coleman Hawkins to Willis “Gator Tail” Jackson into the fold, with a marketing tool to get them noticed. Bob Weinstock would keep these subsidiary labels going for several years, and jazz would be the richer for it.
On to 1960!