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Jae Sinnett: My Favorite Jazz Albums

Considering April is Jazz Appreciation Month and April 30th is International Jazz Day, I was asked to pick out three of my favorite jazz recordings and say a few words about each. I picked out four. Ha! Picking out three or four out of hundreds is of course difficult. I decided to select a few recordings that were certainly influential in some way to my development as a jazz musician and jazz appreciator but generally, you probably wouldn't see most of these outstanding recordings listed in top jazz pick categories.

I listen to recordings for different reasons. For educational purposes as a jazz artist or for entertainment. At this juncture in my life listening is more for enjoyment rather than study but these four records have had a tremendous educational impact on my musical development and appreciation for this great music.

Chick Corea - The Leprechaun.

Two things here...the writing and Steve Gadd's exceptional, ground breaking drumming, are about as visionary as you can get artistically. As a composer, Chick was the best friend of a creative minded drummer. The intricate deeply layered forms. The shifting meters. The complex rhythmic structures. The solo space. Many things that well studied, virtuosic drum set players such as Gadd, could sink their creative technical teeth in to. A masterpiece. Steve Gadd raised the drumming bar with his playing during this mid to late '70s period.

George Adams - Sound Suggestions.

The record as a whole, isn't indicative of ECM Records usual ethereal productions. There's blues for starters. How much blues do you hear on ECM records? Little or none usually. On paper here the musician lineup is a bit puzzling to me. I would never have guessed that the blues drenched hard hittin' saxophonist would or could align his energy with the melodic and gentle lyricism of Kenny Wheeler or the distant II V harmonic mastery of pianist Richie Beirach. Beirach lives in an entirely different chordal world than George Adams but guess what? It all works here beautifully. I'm thrilled too Kenny Wheeler composed some tracks. They bring the music closer to the ECM concept. Then there is the astonishing drumming of Jack DeJohnette. His playing is the weave that holds it all together. Simply brilliant!

Thelonious Monk- In Italy.

Monk is the most consistent jazz musician I've ever heard play. Some could say it's his use of repetitive stylings. I prefer to say consistent ideas. As well known as Monk's compositions are he only wrote 80-something tunes in his long career. Unlike Ellington's couple of thousand. Many were recorded by Monk multiple times but played as only Monk could play them. His quirkiness. His touch. His metro-nomic time. His swing beat. His note choices and unique phrasing. All original to him. The record also features my personal favorite drummer to play with Monk...Frankie Dunlop. Somehow Dunlop's phrasing parallels Monk's perfectly. His swing beat too. It's the happiest swing bounce I've heard. Dunlop was a virtuoso technician too but he swung and understood the art of concepts which wasn't easy to achieve playing with Thelonious Monk.

The Max Roach Quartet - Speak, Brother, Speak.

Drummer, composer Max Roach was the ultimate "freedom fighter" in music. In his personal life too. He was a brilliant composer of music and writer of the plight and sociological struggles of black people. The latter became more interwoven into the spirit of his musical performances. This record is one of the first extended-play jazz records. There are only two compositions. One per side. Max was the first orchestral-minded drummer I heard. He thought compositionally when he played drums. He wrote solo drumset compositions that reflected melodic continuity, forms and innovative demonstrations of four way independence. Speak, Brother, Speak is a powerful, emotionally intense, multi-layered work that digs deeply into the soul.

Jae Sinnett hosts Sinnett in Session, The R&B Chronicles, and Students in Session on WHRV FM.  He also shares his love of the culinary arts on Cooking with Jae on Facebook every Sunday at 6 p.m. Plus, catch up with past episodes