Rotten Tomatoes for Jazz?
October 9, 2012 9:50 AM   Subscribe

I'm buying CDs for a friend to fill in his jazz collection. What are good online resources to help me pick the best discs?

My friend is a jazz fan. He has lots of discs by his favorite artists, but there are still a lot of CDs he doesn't have.

I'm looking for sites that will help me figure out which discs are the best discs.

So, for example, say he likes Miles Davis but only has half of his CDs. What would be a good resource to help me figure out that Disc X is a classic but Disc Y is a badly-recorded bootleg?

Fan ratings are great, but something with some knowledgeable criticism would be even better - something along the lines of Rotten Tomatoes would be terrific.

Something that is both sortable by numeric ratings and complemented by text reviews would be ideal.

I would especially like something with albums ranked for each artist - so, using the Miles Davis example, a list of the best Miles albums would let me go through and check off which discs my friend has and then get the top albums he doesn't have.

(Note: I'm not worried about buying him something he already has; I have a good idea of what artists he likes and what discs he owns.)

Thanks!
posted by kristi to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
AllMusic.com has good coverage - although their star ratings don't always seem to aptly summarize the text review. It also has check marks to indicate the most essential recordings by the artist.
posted by Egg Shen at 10:04 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I were you, I'd just start browsing a ton of "best jazz albums" lists (here's a google search that give you a whole bunch of starting points), and you'll quickly start noticing the common favorites. So long as we're not dealing with jazz within the last twenty-some-odd years, it's pretty easy to start picking up on the critical consensus.

Knowledgeable criticism is good, but for the classic albums the fans really have figured most of it out. Jazz critics tend to be be strongly opinionated and often partisan to one 'true' concept of jazz, so when you find one you really click with it's an awesome resource, but as a whole they're not going to steer you to the essentials any better than the wisdom of the masses (for example, Kind of Blue and A Love Supreme get dismissed by some critics because they're a bit over-exposed, but these albums are over-exposed because they're legitimately fucking awesome).

Honestly, I think MeFi could hash out an "Essential Classics" and a "Further Listening" list really quickly and effectively, but that might be beyond the scope of the question.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 10:41 AM on October 9, 2012


Allaboutjazz.com is another good internet resource.

There's also a wide world of Penguin (and other) guides, Down Beat best-of lists, etc.
posted by box at 10:46 AM on October 9, 2012


Also, looking back on the comment in the OP about having only half the Miles albums I can't help but mention that this might be a sign to start branching out, not going completest. Miles is awesome, but jazz is a huge sprawling genre, and your friend may benefit more from one great album each from five artists he's not so familiar with.

Everyone approaches their collections differently, but if I fell in love with jazz via Kind of Blue, I'd then get an album regarded as a classic from each of Miles' periods (bebop, cool, hard bop, electric, etc), then learn about his influences and the artists he influenced and pick one "essential" album from each of these artists, and keep branching out like this.

Of course, that's just me, and if he's enjoying the music there's really no wrong way to do it.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 10:52 AM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't help but mention that this might be a sign to start branching out, not going completest. Miles is awesome, but jazz is a huge sprawling genre, and your friend may benefit more from one great album each from five artists he's not so familiar with.

Agreed, and something that AllMusic's "Similar Artists" lists can be very helpful with.
posted by Egg Shen at 11:23 AM on October 9, 2012


Seconding allmusic.com and the Penguin Guide for jazz in general. They're largely what I used when I got into jazz a couple of years ago.

To be a little more specific, the Hard Bop Hundred is a great curated list of hard bop albums. Hard bop is what bebop evolved into and was the dominant form of jazz in the 1955-1965 period when jazz was at its heyday.
posted by dfan at 11:38 AM on October 9, 2012


The Penguin Guide to Jazz Core Collection List is the best eclectic great-records list I know (and the Penguin Guide itself is a fantastic way to learn about the field).
posted by languagehat at 12:37 PM on October 9, 2012


The Miles Davis example is almost more complicated than not providing any example. He really had so many periods and styles.

If one is looking for new artists and enjoys the Miles Davis music from Kind of Blue through his work with Herbie Hancock and others, maybe your friend could start with the Blue Note Records label. From the early fifties to late 60's they had lots of good stuff.

My Favorites

Grant Green
Hank Mobley
Dexter Gordon
Horace Silver

There are so many more on this one beautiful label. Most of the music is of the highest quality with little mediocre music.
posted by Che boludo! at 8:03 PM on October 9, 2012


Thanks for all these great suggestions!

Egg Shen, it turns out AllMusic.com is pretty much exactly what I was looking for. Being able to go to the Miles Davis page and click the Editors' Rating column to sort - plus the check-marked essential albums - is terrifically useful for focusing on the best of the bunch. Thank you so much!
posted by kristi at 9:48 AM on October 12, 2012


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