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Jazz may not have an official yearbook, but it does have a vast and well-documented discography. ‘Year by Year’ is our attempt to bring you the most noteworthy albums of each year, complete with audio samples and fascinating backstories. We hope you join us as we travel through the music’s endlessly fascinating history, stopping every 12 months along the jazz timeline.Eric Dolphy, Out to Lunch! (Blue Note)Playing with John Coltrane and Charles Mingus, and listening to Ornette Coleman, had left a huge mark on Eric Dolphy and prompted him to develop his own style of music, which has been defined as "straight-ahead avant-garde," and reached a peak on Out to Lunch!, sadly released four months prior to his death of a diabetes shock at age 36. A surrealist and futuristic masterwork, Out to Lunch! is an early but classic example of free jazz, featuring five Dolphy originals (including tributes to Thelonious Monk and Severino Gazzelloni) defined by odd time signatures, atonality and wide-interval leaps. Switching between bass clarinet, alto sax and flute, Dolphy is supported by a stellar ensemble of like-minded musicians keen on exploring the possibilities of expression of their own instruments beyond the established conventions: Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Bobby Hutcherson on vibraphone, Richard Davis on bass and Tony Williams on drums - the latter just 18 years old when the recording was made.
Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto featuring Antonio Carlos Jobim, Getz/Gilberto (Verve)Nobody could have predicted the extent of the international success of Getz/Gilberto, which remains to this day one of the best-selling jazz recordings in history, particularly because of the underwhelming sales of similar LPs of the time, including Stan Getz's own Jazz Samba Encore! from the previous year, featuring the legendary Luiz Bonfá. Recorded for Verve - a label that ensured high-quality production value - Getz/Gilberto matched the saxophonist (and the only gringo of the session) with two of the greatest Brazilian bossa nova innovators: vocalist/guitarist Joao Gilberto and pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim. The LP almost single-handedly kickstarted a "bossa-boom" worldwide, driven by the success of its sophisticated smash hit, "The Girl from Ipanema," featuring Astrud Gilberto. Her presence not only helped turn a respected classic composition into one of the most covered songs of all time but also played a huge role in the triumphant promotional campaign of Getz/Gilberto.
Charles Mingus, Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (Impulse!)Charles Mingus recorded Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus almost simultaneously with his masterwork, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, and features more or less its same eleven-piece ensemble - including Booker Ervin, Charlie Mariano and Eric Dolphy, among others. He also recorded it between violent bouts of ill temper, a deteriorating mental state and general physical decline. Yet, one wouldn't know it listening to its invigorating music, a program mostly made of revitalized revisitation of some of his best-known and enduring works - such as "Haitian Fight Song" and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," each aptly retitled - with the exception of the new composition "Celia" and a version of Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo." Yet, this album (which was to be his last for Impulse!) is no greatest hit compilation. Each of the new versions is a partner-track to its earlier counterpart, showcasing the contrasting sides of Mingus' personality and character traits, which made him both a stellar on-the-moment improviser and a composer for the ages.
Herbie Hancock, Empyrean Isles (Blue Note)Pianist Herbie Hancock was still a member of Miles Davis' second great quintet when he recorded his fourth album as a leader, Empyrean Isles, part of a one-two punch, along with the later Maiden Voyage, that established the foundations of his legacy as one of jazz’s greatest interpreters. The album is a collection of four Hancock originals, including the hit "Cantaloupe Island," and each of the tracks covers a different style of jazz - hard bop, modal, soul and free jazz. His quartet of like-minded, adventurous musicians on Empyrean Isles included Freddie Hubbard, trading his usual trumpet for a cornet, and fellow Davis group members, drummer Tony Williams and bassist Ron Carter. With no low tones to counterweight Hubbard's free-flowing cornet, Hancock, Williams and Carter are left more exposed than usual, exploring the space created and pressing beyond their instruments' usual roles in exciting and inspiring new ways.
Lee Morgan, The Sidewinder (Blue Note)Debilitating heroin addiction had almost cut short the career of the prodigious and endlessly creative trumpeter Lee Morgan, especially when it forced him out of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in 1961, and back to his Philadelphia hometown. Three years later, he resurfaced a new man, releasing what would be his most successful and best-loved album: The Sidewinder. Driven by the success of its soul jazz title track, which became an unlikely huge crossover Billboard hit that prompted several copycat tunes from other artists and Morgan himself, The Sidewinder also established the popular “boogaloo” sound of the 1960s. It also affirmed Morgan's outstanding partnership with tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, whose solo on "Totem Pole" is a standout moment of this quintessential Blue Note session.
Honorable Mentions: John Coltrane Quartet, Crescent (Impulse!); Yusef Lateef, Eastern Sounds (Moodsville); Grachan Moncur III, Evolution (Blue Note); Jackie McLean, Destination... Out! (Blue Note); Andrew Hill, Black Fire (Blue Note).Like this article? Get more when you subscribe.