Twelve jazz albums to send to Mars

I have just finished reading “Incontri con musicisti straordinari –La storia del mio jazz”di Enrico Rava,maybe the first Italian musician who played with famous jazzmen in US and all over the world,such as Steve Lacy,Don Cherry,Joe Henderson,and Gato Barbieri.

I found the book very entertaining and informative,and it’s surely a recommended reading if you can read Italian. (BTW,its title could be translated as “Meeting extraordinary musicians –The history of my jazz”,in case the book is ever published in US.).

Among the many stories that Rava tells,he reports that many journalists have asked him about the 10 albums he would ship to Mars to let Martians know about jazz. The question is quite weird,IMHO,but the answer is interesting,even if he mentions a little more than just ten records.

1) Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven (1927) – Satchmo at his best,with the absolute masterpiece Potato Head Blues. According to Woody Allen,one of the reasons for which life is worth living. More info here,and this is the Amazon page for buying it.

2) I’m coming Virginia – by Bix Beiderbecke and Frankie Trumbauer (1927),a demonstration of how modern Bix’s sound and phrasing are. Can be found in this collection.

3) Duke Ellington and the Blanton-Webster Band – The orchestra with Ben Webster and Jimmy Blanton that was active between 1940 and 1942. According to Rava,Cotton Tail,Concerto for Cootie,Ko Ko,and Conga Brava are the real jewels of this band,and can be found in the Never No Lament – The Blanton-Webster Band remastered album.

4) Any album by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie – Rava doesn’t make any specific recommendation,but I’d suggest The Complete Savoy and Dial Master Takes,a 3-CD box that includes all Bird’s early studio recordings.

5) Billie Holliday with Teddy Wilson’s Orchestra and Lester Young (1939) – The most charming singer in jazz history,says the author. I don’t own this record and unfortunately Rava doesn’t provide more details about it. After a search on Amazon,I guess he means this album.

6) Birth of the Cool (1949-50) –by Miles Davis of course,with Gil Evans,Gerry Mulligan,John Lewis,Lee Konitz,and others. A break from bebop and the inspiration for all the West Coast jazz that followed.

7) Solo Monk – All Thelonious Monk’s records are compelling,thus picking just one is quite arbitrary.

8 ) Any recording by Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker – It’s easy to find re-edited versions of this music,so I selected the one that returned from an internet search,The Best of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet with Chet Baker.

9) All albums by Miles Davis – Having to choose just one,Rava selects Porgy and Bess,with Gil Evans Orchestra.

10) Tijuana Moods – Charlie Mingus’ journey on this Mexico town near the border with the States.

11) Study in Brown – by Clifford Brown and Max Roach,but all records by Brown are a must-have for any trumpet player.

12) This Is Our Music – by Ornette Coleman,with Don Cherry,Charlie Haden,and Ed Blackwell. One of the best examples of the free jazz revolution.

It’s apparent that the fact that Rava is a trumpet player has affected his choices. Nevertheless,I found this list very interesting and I am going to grab the CDs I don’t have already.

I don’t listen to much pre-bebop jazz (shame on me!) thus my list would be quite different. Sooner or later I am going to publish it in this blog. By the way,what are your favorite albums?

4 comments to Twelve jazz albums to send to Mars

  • Ericdano

    Great,so,nothing from the last 30 years?

    These sort of lists are stupid. You can send a single blue ray DVD to mars that would have 20 times the music. In fact,if you sent 12 blue ray DVDs of 256 bit rate recordings you could probably have several thousand albums……

    Wouldn’t that make more sense than to send just 12? Wouldn’t some other intelligent life want to see and hear as much about a new place and life than just 12 things? I mean,if you had to send 12 plants to mars and you like say pine trees (like the selection of music you chose) but you left out everything else (like say jazz fusion,just about everything post 1970) then the Martians would think that our whole planet is pine trees and sorta the same jazz music…..

  • Francesco

    Thanks for letting us know your strong opinion,Eric. However,I am afraid you are completely missing the point.
    More precisely,the TWO points in this post.

    The first point is that people –including Martians –are often too busy to listen to several thousand albums,as you propose. Most people,including many of those who make music for a living,have barely the time to listen to a couple CDs each day. If I were given 1000 CDs I wouldn’t know where to start without some guidance,especially if they were from a style/period I know little or nothing about. This is the exact purpose of these lists,in case you haven’t noticed.

    The second point is that this list doesn’t come from an unknown Joe Doe.

    If John Coltrane,Michael Brecker,or Sonny Rollins had published the list of their favorite records,I bet you would eagerly browse it,and probably buy or download the titles you don’t have already. This is reasonable because understanding what these masters think and like is interesting to everyone who loves music. When I read that Coltrane included Hank Mobley among his heroes,I run to the local record store and grabbed “Roll Call”. Coltrane had the credibility to decide who is worth listening to.

    Fortunately,credibility isn’t a binary,yes/no feature,and there are many degrees of credibility. The list in this page comes from a jazzman who has been played for half a century with the most respected musicians all over the world. He might not be in the same league as Coltrane and Davis,but surely he is part of the history of European jazz,if not jazz tout court.

    Maybe you don’t know Rava,or maybe don’t like his music,or perhaps you don’t care at all about jazz outside US,but this detail concerns you and only you. It doesn’t make this information less interesting for the rest of us.

  • I made a list of ten a few years ago.

    I do find these kinds of lists interesting. Obviously the idea of sending jazz to Mars is facetious. But I’m always looking for something really great to add to my collection,and a nice short list by someone I trust gives me a good starting point for my music shopping.

  • Francesco

    This “Martian list”has the same spirit and purpose of the “10 cds/books/whatever I’d bring with me on a desert island”with a futuristic tweak. Thank you for showing that you liked it,if you wish to publish your list here you’re welcome.

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