It seemed like a good idea in the meeting ...
38. Sun Ra
Lanquidity / Evidence, 1978
You're sitting there on your couch, watching TV, when suddenly your idiot box is swallowed by a black hole that opens up in the center of the floor and expands, ever outward, till it stops just short of you. Peering over the edge, you see teams of midgets playing roller hockey on the rings of Saturn, and like God, you pronounce it good. After the experience, you suddenly understand the legendary Sun Ra's Lanquidity, a five-track epic that delivers on jazz's improvisational sense of wonder while all the time leavening its fairy dust with the distinct, bluesy pulse of dread. We live in a world of wonder, all right, just inches from the abyss.
39. Uri Caine Trio
Live at the Village Vanguard / Winter and Winter, 2004
Pianist Caine is equally adept at highbrow classical and downtown experimental jazz, his penchant for deep explorations even leading to a recent drum 'n' bass blowout with New York theater buffoons Boomish and Bedrock. This live set with drummer Ben Perowsky and bassist Drew Gress shows the son of Philadelphia University professors dissecting Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti" and Jimmy Van Heusen's "All the Way" like they're two sides of the same coin. Caine's melodic wit and wondrous fingerings could turn a Britney Spears track into a clever commentary on American banality.
40. Billy Paul
360 Degrees of Paul / Sony, 1975
"Me-ee ay-and Mrs! Mrs. Jones! Mrs. Jones!" stand among the 12 most famous syllables in the history of pop music. That same mixture of confident strings and sodden heartbreak is all over 360 Degrees--a terrific album overshadowed by a towering single. In hindsight Paul's distinct nasal tenor should be declared a national treasure. Listen to the ease with which he slides up the scale and wonder why some of today's pretenders don't hear this and go pump gas for a living.
41. Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker / MCA, 1986
Tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker's performances were already extensively well documented by the time he released this, his solo debut, which was, not surprisingly, extremely cohesive with challenging material that brought out the best of a stellar cast. Brecker's songs are by turns melancholic and vigorous, from Don Grolnick's "Cost of Living" to the hard-bopping "Nothing Personal," which has become a modern standard of sorts. The album is full of memorable solos by the likes of Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden and Kenny Kirkland, but the trophy goes to Brecker himself, who regularly erupts in flowing, zigzagging solos that show why he practically reinvented both the pop and jazz tenor saxophone in the 1970s.
42. Shirley Scott
Soul Shoutin' / Prestige, 1963
She once showed up as the musical director for Bill Cosby's Philly-based show You Bet Your Life, but in the '60s Shirley Scott was a Hammond B3 organ player par excellence who recorded with Stanley Turrentine, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Dexter Gordon. She recorded often for a variety of labels, and Soul Shoutin' comprises some of her best work. Scott's biting tone and percussive style coupled with her deep soul feeling make this reissue a must-have. Standout tracks include "Deep Down Soul" and "Gravy Waltz." With drummer Grassella Oliphant and Major Holley and Earl May on bass, Soul Shoutin' proclaims the queen of organ soul at her peak.
PW's 2015 Gift Guide
Calendar: Nov. 25-Dec. 2
Artie Lange knows the score
Calendar: November 18-25