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Remnick's Jazz List: Let the Omission-Counterlisting Begin!

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Martin Schneider writes:

In theory, I oppose lists of cultural distinction; in practice, I devour them greedily.

In conjunction with his Profile of legendary WKCR DJ Phil Schaap, David Remnick (with the help of Richard Brody) has compiled a fine, judicious, respectful, I daresay typically Remnickian list of the 100 most essential jazz recordings for the newcomer to jazz.

I can’t even hear the words “Phil Schaap” without thinking of my father, let alone “Django” or “Teagarden.” I would reckon he owned about two-thirds of these albums—or owned the material in other configurations (hint: bargain-bin compilations). A few of them, I’m certain, he bought as 78s. He was a child of the Depression, and his tastes ran to Benny and Louis and on through Thelonious and Billie Holiday. (Our first cat was called Billie.)

The whole first half is simply a list of the musicians my father loved the most. But even after the advents of free jazz and fusion and confusing, dissonant Ornette Coleman and Charles Mingus, none of which pleased him too much, he continued to find enough energy in contemporary jazz to visit the Village Vanguard with great gusto and regularity, even into this century.

I can say with complete confidence my dad would have approved of this list; that it emanates from the editor of The New Yorker, another lifelong passion of his, would have cheered him doubly.


That’s a lovely reminiscence, Martin. Thank you for posting it.

Did you know my cat’s name is Cab? She’s a big-eared calico who (I swear) will stare at the TV when there’s a blues singer on it.

I’m listening to the full Schaap show now that’s just under the piece on the website. I have a strong memory from sometime in the ’90s of Schaap talking for a solid half hour about a broken shoelace. Whose? Maybe a Parker crackerjack can clue me in.

I also thought, oh-oh, here come the “what about”? but I’ve little to add or subtract to the list; but what did come to mind is the wonderful film “Jazz on a Summer’s Day,” by Bert Stern, of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, featuring Louis, Thelonius, but also Chuck Berry in a wonderfully ill-fitted performance, and you will fall in love with Anita O’Day’s smile. But it’s the unobtrusive, almost casual filming - the crowd, the faces, the boats sailing, the party, and Mahalia Jackson will cause your eyes to water - that makes this film such a pleasure. I wonder why the current New Yorker, given David Remnick’s obvious love for jazz, does not have a regular jazz feature, like Balliett’s. But recently Giddins on Ornette, and last year Crouch on Sonny Rollins - those were good to get.

Yikes! I’ve only acquired six or seven of the entries on the list. I’ve got Miles (and many others) to go …

Bill FisherMay 13, 2008

Remnick’s “Bird-Watcher” is one of the best things he’s ever written. I like the novelistic touch at the end where he simply inserts without comment a line from an unidentfied show tune - “Just coax the blues right out of my heart.” As for the list, it’s very good, although I have a few quibbles. Cassandra Wilson would be better represented on the list by “New Moon Daughter” (containing her gorgeous “Harvest Moon”) rather than by “Travelling Miles,” although it’s pretty damn good too. And I would’ve preferred to see one of Keith Jarrett’s swinging trio albums on the list - his recent “My Foolish Heart,” for instance - instead of “The Koln Concert, 1975.” I love Bill Charlap’s music and I as I got near the end of the list, I started wondering if he was going to make it, but - bingo! - there he was - #100 - “Live at the Village Vanguard” - a great choice and a perfect note on which to end!

driedcharMay 15, 2008

Martin, my father is also a jazz lover. For the last however-many years, he’s been putting together compilations of the best jazz from each year of his life. He started with 1928, and he’s up to 1981 now (he had to go back and restart when he switched from tapes to CDs)— it’s quite a treat to get them in the mail every now and then, along with his lengthy liner notes.

When I was young, we had a dog we’d taught to do a number of tricks. My sisters then taught him to do the same tricks with commands in Spanish, and then with commands that were the names of jazz musicians. All I remember was that “roll over” became “Miff Mole and His Little Molars.”

Were the Sidney Bechet/Mugsy Spanier sides ever reissued on CD? If so, they should certainly make the list.

Sherwin GeidermanMay 26, 2008

Where was the great Bechet/Spanier album? Lazy River is one of the best ever.

Sherwin GeidermanMay 26, 2008

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