Jazz 100
Classic Compilations
The Best Jazz Ever Released Digitally


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Ken Burns Jazz
Various Artists
1917-94 [Columbia/Legacy] Sampler or 5CDs


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Based on documentary filmmaker Ken Burns ten-part series from 2000, the 5CD set is a breathtaking chronological overview of the history of jazz. Because it follows the series each CD tends to hang together exceptionally well. The single-CD sampler is a poor substitute, but may be preferable if budgetary constraints are a problem.





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Fabulous Swing Collections
Various Artists
1933-44 [RCA Victor]


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An outstanding collection of popular swing standards recorded between 1933-44 that is sure to get the joint jumpin'. Let's face it - how can you lose when Glenn Miller is 'In the Mood', Duke Ellington manages to 'Take the A-Train' and Tommy Dorsey does the 'Boogie Woogie'? Count Basie features on the follow-up 'More Fabulous Swing'.





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Bebop Spoken Here
Various Artists
1943-49 [Proper] 4CDs


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Although it occasionally misses the bebop mark, this is a topnotch set from British budget label Proper. All the great beboppers are here - Parker, Gillespie, Powell, Monk, Navarro, etc. Also featured are some great vocal performances, a few big-name swingers dabbling and some talented lesser lights. A couple of scratchy transfers can be forgiven.





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The Essential Collection: Cool Jazz
Various Artists
1950s [Avid] 2CDs


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With 37 tracks and the likes of cool-cats Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, Dave Brubeck and Shelly Manne featured, this budget set is a steal. The focus is of course the easygoing West Coast sound that the Pacific Jazz and Contemporary labels specialised in. Like most such compilations, it is best to waste no time snapping it up before it becomes history.





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The Best of Blue Note
Various Artists
1956-65 [Blue Note]


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Alfred Lion's Blue Note label dominated the jazz scene from the mid-50s to his retirement in 1967. This CD and its follow-up contain an outstanding sampling of the Blue Note sound - including a healthy dose of the hard bop most associate with the label. There are other sets that go by the same title, so be sure to seek out the cover shown here.





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Talkin' Verve: Roots of Acid Jazz
Various Artists
1951-72 [Verve] 2CDs


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During the 1960s, the Verve label under the stewardship of Creed Taylor offered up a veritable smorgasbord of tantalising Latin, funk and soul jazz that had no equal. On this set Dizzy Gillespie plays godfather to a host of new blood - including Grant Green, Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Smith and Cal Tjader. Best to grab it while you can.





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The House That Trane Built
Various Artists
1961-76 [Impulse!] Sampler or 4CDs


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For a decade and a half after the rock and roll onslaught Impulse records kept the creative flag flying, led artistically of course by the legendary John Coltrane. Here consumers are faced with a choice between a 9-track budget sampler or the magnificent four-disc Story of Impulse Records box set. If you've got the cash go for the box.





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Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology
Various Artists
2011 [Smithsonian Folkways]


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At 111-tracks, 6-CDs, and a bonza 200-page book… this set is simply astonishing. As with most chronologically arranged compilations, style inevitably gives way to substance. Designed as an educational tool by the non-profit record label of the United States national museum, newbies to the jazz scene will find this set absolutely indispensable.


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