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The Best Jazz Ever Released Digitally


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A Charlie Brown Christmas
Vince Guaraldi Trio
1965 [Fantasy]


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As the soundtrack for a CBS children's special, some misguided critics wrote this off as lightweight fluff. The album was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007 and in 2012 made the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry list of "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important" American sound recordings. Cool as it gets.





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Maiden Voyage
Herbie Hancock
1965 [Blue Note]


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Miles Davis disciple Hancock shows he learned his lessons well on this outstanding set of original tracks. With Davis' band in support it is no surprise that the album's modal hard bop is played with faultless precision and efficiency. The added bonus of Freddie Hubbard on trumpet allows the record to hum with a true spirit of adventure.





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Astigmatic
Krzysztof Komeda
1965 [Muzi]


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Polish composer and pianist better known for his film scores for Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water and Rosemary's Baby. Featuring the debut of gifted trumpeter Tomasz Stan'ko, Astigmatic is one of the great forgotten gems of jazz. Komeda became a cult figure after his premature death in 1969 from complications arising from head injuries.





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The Cape Verdean Blues
The Horace Silver Quintet
1965 [Blue Note]


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The title here comes from the birthplace of Horace Silver's father, an African island nation. The album marks a development in Silver's sound into slightly more modern territory. Tenor Joe Henderson and trumpeter Woody Shaw issue the challenge, in the process ensuring it all fits. Trombone legend J.J. Johnson plays on half the tracks.





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Ptah, the El Daoud
Alice Coltrane
1970 [Impulse!]


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While nowhere near as riveting as the following year's Journey in Satchidananda, this is still an all-too-often overlooked gem from pianist Alice Coltrane. Her first album to feature horns prominently, tenors Joe Henderson and a somewhat reserved Pharoah Sanders both rise to the occasion. Spiritually Eastern, yet musically very cosmopolitan.





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Return to Forever
Chick Corea
1972 [ECM]


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Despite being credited to Corea, this breezy blend of new-age fusion is well and truly a group effort. Recorded first but released in the United States after the group's Light as a Feather, the record has eclipsed its more famous follow-up in the eyes of many. Corea's faultless keyboards and Stanley Clarke's electric bass are a perfect match.





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The Köln Concert
Keith Jarrett
1975 [ECM]


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Jarrett's lengthy improvised piano solos - the longest clocking in at over 40 minutes - never seemed to suit the LP format. On CD this lively set comes across as the classic it is. It is still divided into four parts, but the spontaneity of what was in fact a single extended performance shines through. Effortlessly withstanding the test of time.





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The Survivors' Suite
Keith Jarrett
1976 [ECM]


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Pianist Keith Jarrett's 'American Quartet' of the mid-70s - including Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, and Paul Motian - is fast emerging as his superior group from that period. This record consists of two extended tracks that frequently stray into free-jazz territory, while elsewhere display a remarkably soothing sense of melody.


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