Sunday, May 2, 2010


I was browsing the web and stumbled onto some guy's top ten list. It reminded me of the days when a buddy of mine and I would sit around making top _____ lists. It might be top five for this moment, top ten all time, current playlist, etc. It was fun taking inventory of our favorites. So, I'm making a list. This one's my top 10 most influential albums. (That's influential to me, of course.) These records made me who I am, musically. If you check out this list, you'll see how I came to make the music I make and love the music I love. If you go listen to any of these records, you're just way cool to me. If you can't find any of them, stop over. You can borrow mine.

10. Kenny Rankin Album - Kenny Rankin
My dad used to listen to music on Sunday mornings. Coltrane. Stevie Wonder. Oscar Peterson. And this. I was so young that I couldn't recognize much of what I was hearing. But Kenny Rankin's voice stayed with me. Years after my father passed, I went looking for that sound that was stuck in my head. This was it. But while I dug through all those dusty records, I rediscovered Coltrane, Miles, Oscar, and my love for the music that had been planted in my soul. So this record is heavy for me.

9. Ten Summoner's Tales - Sting
I was a non believer at first. Still pretty stuck in my jazz ways, I had a hard time seeing that a pop/rock guy could make good music. I was young and stupid. My friend played this album all the way through while we drove somewhere. When it was over I asked him to play it again. Then I went and bought everything Sting had ever done. It's that good. His lyrics. His musicianship. It's heavy, but its fun at the same time. This guy paved the way for guys like John Mayer. I could put the rest of his collection on the list too, but that would just be unfair.

8. Greatest Hits V.1 - Earth Wind & Fire
To be fair, this isn't an album. Its a best of. Thats like cheating, I know. But I couldn't ignore the old soul/r&b influence my mother put into my head after my father passed. The whispers. Luther. Marvin Gaye. The list goes on. And instead of leaving them all out, I had to pick the record I heard the most. That's this one. But they are all equally important to my development. I would need a separate list to do them all justice.

7. Songs in the Key of Life - Stevie Wonder
This is one of my really early influences along with the jazz my father listened to. I feel like this music is in my blood, I heard it so much. This is one of Stevie's best works. Its more like a movement than an album.

6. Thriller - Michael Jackson
This album really needs no speech. You know the record. Everyone does. This album did to me what it did to everyone else. Quincy Jones. Young MJ. Enough said.

5. Porgy and Bess - Miles Davis w/Gil Evans
My very first Miles exposure was this record. Crazy right? I know. But it was in my dad's old records and I gave it a shot. There is a solo on a song called Gone, that I played until the record broke. Then I went and bought the cassette. Porgy and Bess is beautiful music on its own. But Miles playing it with a jazz orchestra behind him, well you can imagine.

4. We Get Requests - Oscar Peterson Trio
I wish I could explain how important this record was to me. If I did, I'd probably be in tears at the end. My dad used to listen to this record. A lot. I was too young to know what it was or that I liked it really. He was gone by the time I was seven years old. So from age seven to age 14, I didnt hear this record once. But when I found it again, I still knew every line and lick on Days of Wine and Roses. Okay, maybe not every line. Oscar plays way to fast to say that. But it was carved into my brain. This record is just three guys playing standards and show tunes. But take a listen if you don't believe me. Its amazing.

3. On the Sunny Side of the Street - Ella & Basie
This was the beginning. This is where the love affair started. My freshman year in high school, my band director told me to go buy some Basie. I chose this one. I listened to it every day on my paper route. I learned every note, every word, every phrase. I learned what it meant to swing. Basie was so laid back in the pocket that they used to say he was playing yesterday's charts. I was introduced to Clark Terry through Basie. I was introduced to ELLA FITZGERALD through Basie. I learned you didnt need a lot of notes to play a nice solo from Basie. This is a record I bet you've never heard. Go fix that.

2. One Trick Pony - Paul Simon
This is a relatively unknown Paul Simon record that was actually a soundtrack to the movie with the same name. The movie starred the band on the record. The movie was good. The album changed me. It was honestly the end of my love affair with jazz, if there ever was one. I was, before that point, a jazz head. A die hard. My friend Dave hit me with this album, and for about a year, I literally couldn't listen to anything else. I tried. I really did. But I kept coming back to this album. It was pure, raw, emotion. It was the life of a musician poured onto wax. Not to mention Steve Gadd, Richard Tee, and the guys. I remember being in my apartment in Philly, laying in bed listening to Steve Gadd licks on repeat, with tears in my eyes. And Paul Simon's voice. His clarity. His soulful simplicity. It made me stop wanting to play jazz and start wanting to just make music. It led to so many things. Not good for all those people that loved hearing me play trumpet. But, wonderful and freeing for me.

1. Kind of Blue - Miles Davis
This is the big one. It killed me. It took over my world. I was about 15 when I heard it. I had just finished diggin' on Porgy and Bess. I needed a fix. I happened onto this. Little did I know it was recognized the world over as some of Mile's most groundbreaking work. Early Coltrane. Cannonball. So What. (If these phrases mean nothing to you, find a link to and just buy it. Trust me. ) Everyone digs So What, and I'm not going to disagree, but for me it was Freddie The Freeloader. I studied that solo like I was being tested. I learned where to breathe. I learned how to phrase a solo. I learned to play the trumpet from Freddie. But over all, this album is just perfect. It has emotion and introspection. It has meat and energy (see Cannonball Adderly). If I wasn't sure, before this record, that I loved music more than life itself, Miles closed the deal.

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