Andrew "Doc" Siegal
Interesting question; "my top five albums". I would have to differentiate between my personal favorites, and those which are utter perfection in everyway. For total perfection there are only two albums which come to mind, Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" which is the album that I always recommend to new listeners who want to "get into jazz." That is view based upon Plato's theory of aesthetics, in which he feels that to experience the "world of pure forms", while mortals cannot experience that world directly, the closest that we can come to a true aesthetic experience is the closest approximation possible to the world of pure forms but one which is produced by a mortal. I think there is near unanimous agreement among jazz players that the album to elcit that kind of experience is Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, featuring Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, Paul Chambers, Wynton Kelly/or Bill Evans and Jimmy Cobb. I do not require perfection per se and would in reality take another five albums off to the proverbial island, just because I love them the most, and at lest two of those albums would be by Miles.
1) Miles Davis "Friday & Saturday Nights At The Blackhawk"
- The first would have to be Miles' , "Friday and Saturday Nights at the Blackhawk", which is actually a two volume set, which features the band of the late fifties, early sixties, with the same personnel as the Blackhawk sessions, but with Wynton Kelly on piano on all tracks, and Hank Mobley in the tenor chair. That album just cooks in the particular groove in which I am most comfortable playing and listening to, and is that in which I feel most at home, personally. This is "straight ahead" jazz at its very finest.
2) Miles Davis "The Complete 1964 Concert: My Funny Valentine and Four and More"
- The next album would also be by Miles, and is from the next great quintet featuring Ron Carter, Tony Williams, and Herbie Hancock, but with George Coleman now on tenor, and of course Miles, who was still dressing in suits at the time. That album, and is again a two record set which is both total perfection, and is probably my very favorite album of all time. The music is fabulously complex, but cooks every single second on all tempi, from ballads played out of time signature to ultra up tempo tunes, all of which build tension to excruciating levels and then resolve it. Something novel happens literally every second and does so at multiple layers. There is always something new to hear in these performances and again I have been listening to these 1964 session since my late teens.
3) Wes Montgomery "Full House"
- The next album is by Wes Montgomery, also being backed by the Kelly, Cobb, and Chambers rythm section which was working with Miles in the early sixties, in 1962 to be exact. The tenor player is Johnny Griffin, who is "a cooker" from the word go and the band is "on fire." Every tune has been recognized as an absolute classic of jazz guitar, and I feel that these performances are the ultimate in jazz guitar performance. Again, everything is "straight ahead" and impeccable in every way. There is no occasion on which I perform on guitar that I do not play Blue and Boogie a la Wes, and play the tune "thumb style" having been so deeply moved by these performances.
4) Charlie Parker "Savoy Sessions"
- The man who freed jazz up to achieve the levels of musicianship, creativity, and fire that we hear on all of the aforemented albums, was of course, the great Charlie "Yardbird" Parker, who died in 1955. My own personal favorite of his recordings are some of the Savoy Sessions (Savoy MG 12009). This was one of the very first albums that I ever owned as a teen-ager and from which I learned to play the blues, most notably from the tune, Parker's Mood, which I again play without fail everytime I play anywhere, anytime, and I quote Bird extensively when doing so before going off to where ever. Sidemen include many of the great BeBop pioneers including Bud Powell, the late Dr. John Lewis, Max Roach, Miles, and Dizzy Gillespie. Recording quality is acceptable for material recorded between 1944-48. Notably absent is the late, great Al Haig with whom I had the pleasure and honor of accompanying on bass in 1974 for several months in NY at Broadway Charlie's Saloon and one has to go to other Parker albums in order to hear Haig's brilliance, and incidentally, the late Walter Bishop, Jr. requires mention when discussing pianists in the evolution of Bird's music. Bishop laid down the foundation of what we now call "funk".
5) Bach's Sixth Cello Suite performed by Ralph Kirschbaum
- The last of my five albums meeting either the total perfection and/or personal favorites to take to the desert island would have to be Bach's Sixth Suite for Solo Cello, and my favorite performance is by Ralph Kirschbaum, a British cellist whom I heard live, and oddly enough he became my favorite because he evoked memories of Paul Chambers' raw arco quality. Kirschbaum is alway in tune, which is the one fault that one could ever find with Chambers who was known for simplicity and for sheer drive, but tastefully so. The CD version that I own is by Virgin Classics, London, 1994 #7243 5 45086 Two volume set.
If I can throw in one more album, just because of its relevance to jazz in the capital district, Nick Brignola's album that is my personal favorite would be On A Different Level and that should be in the collection of any jazz fan in the capital district and is world class music and totally straight ahead, from the heart and cooks as well as any other superstar, something we all knew just from having grown up here with our ears open, and Nick was our pipeline to the best in jazz always...Hope you're listening Nick....
Thank you for bringing us the finest that jazz has to offer for so many years beginning at Albany's now defunct Gayety which should have been made an historical landmark rather than being razed. That club brought such jazz notables as JR Montrose, Rene Thomas, Bobby Jasper, Wilbur Ware, Elvin Jones and many others to Albany and your efforts to maintain that tradition helps to keep that tradition alive....
- Andrew "Doc" Siegal