Which composer or performer would you recommend as an introduction to jazz? Explain your reasons for your choice.

Which composer or performer would you recommend as an introduction to jazz? Explain your reasons for your choice.
I'd start with
84% (108 votes)
Haven't a clue
16% (20 votes)
Total votes: 128

Continuing with the theme started with last week's question: Which single composer or performer would you recommend to introduce someone to jazz music? And why?

Chris S.'s picture

Miles Davis' Kind of Blue—you start with the best, of course!

Juan Hitters's picture

Tord Gustavsen

Phil-Cincinnati's picture

Cannonball Aderly. He is one of the most overlooked performers. Many people point to Mile Davis and John Coltrane, but the beauty of Cannonball is that he could accentuate any performance with his horn or commandingly lead the performance. Try the album Something Else.

jeff's picture

Bill Evans. In the groove and easy to listen to.

Scott Atkinson's picture

Miles. People who love jazz may be burned out on him after the torrent of boxed sets of the last few years, but he's still the musician most likely to make jazz understandable, make it important, and make you feel something—even if you don't know/care anything about it.

Jeffus's picture

Is your friend into classical music? Give him John Coltrane with McCoy Tyner—passionate, elegant, timeless music, every note essential. A devout rocker? Preset the volume at 11, then light up Miles Davis’ Jack Johnson soundtrack. On "Right Off," John McLaughlin flays an enormous lightning-powered guitar/beast, and it rawks! Your friend will dance, scream, head-butt the couch and bless you. A country music fan? Throw him some Dixie Dregs. Not sure their music is “jazz,” but it’s nothing else either. Great tunes, awesome musicianship, and a lot of fun.

df's picture

Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. Though personally for me, it was folks like Grover Washington Jr. and even the fusion of Jean Luc Ponty that had me making my first forays into the land of jazz when I was rock-loving teen. My first purchase/listen to Kind of Blue was an embarrassing 20 years later, but the moment was an epiphany. For the hard-rock loving I might suggest The Jack Johnson Sessions, or even Bitches Brew. For the more light-rock folks, perhaps some of the early quintet releases. But Kind of Blue is such a superlative album—a true musical milestone. It's hard to imagine anyone not liking it.

Serpieri's picture

Louis Armstrong. The heart of it all.

daryl from winnipeg's picture

I love Sonny Rollins. He is my favorite but I think that Miles Davis' Columbia recording '58 Miles is amazing. Birth of the Cool is also a great start. These albums feature great artists that the listener can then pick from next such as John Coltrane and Paul Chambers.

Mark's picture

Miles Davis. This one's an easy one compared to the classical question. He played in, if not acted as a pioneer, of several modern jazz schools. His discography is jazz.

R Heisey's picture

Miles Davis' Someday My Prince Will Come. The title track, and the second track, "Old Folks," are beautifully melodic, accessible, and full of all the spit, noise, and soul you can squeeze through a Harmon mute. Second, Keith Jarrett at his best—possibly the 4th track from the Koln Concert (sometimes called "Memories of Tomorrow, vastly over-played and somewhat cloying, but then again, we're talking about something for newbs here, right?), or one of the standards like "Little Girl Blue" or "Blame it on my youth" where he plays his heart out and doesn't quack like a duck. Finally, Fred Hersch playing "This Nearly Was Mine" or "The Nearness Of You" (the latter from Let Yourself Go). What a beautiful player.

Bob D's picture

Miles Davis—the period between (and including) Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain. It's just plain beautiful music.

Jason M's picture

I started with the likes of Earl Klugh, Joe Sample, and David Sanborn before smooth Jazz became a metaphor for elevator music. This was approachable stuff for a kid weaned on Top 40. As far as jazz exploration, I graduated to Keith Jarrett's Koln Concert which helped me to appreciate the beauty and power of improvisation on a solo instrument. This probably prepared me for Kind of Blue, which opened up a whole new world and helped me frame many other styles of jazz. I also recommend learning about the players and the context of classic jazz recordings. It has served as a roadmap of exploration for me as I dig into what else the players did outside of a particular session.

Jeff, GA's picture

Billie Holiday. Her voice has such feeling and passion, showing what the music is all about.

Toussaint's picture

Theloneous Monk. He's good but also fairly accessible. Art Blakey is also a good starting point.

Ken Thomas's picture

Dave Brubeck

Carter's picture

To introduce someone to jazz I think you want a performer with both huge talent and universal appeal, and I can think of no one more qualified on these counts than Miles Davis. Even someone who has never ventured beyond pop melodies could easily enjoy Kind of Blue. That album is the gateway drug which has sucked in many non-jazz fans leading to their addiction to harder jazz such as bebop.

jd's picture

Thelonius Monk. Everything that jazz is is embodied in his music.

Chris V's picture

Miles Davis is my choice. He bridges several periods and either adapted well to or, quite often, defined them. His own playing abilities varied, but he was effective even at his worst, and brilliant at his best. He composed memorable tunes, and played many compositions of the greatest 20th century composers. He had incredible taste in both material and musicians. John Coltrane's very best work was done with Miles. Further, much of Miles most important recorded work is of near audiophile quality. I'm constantly amazed at the SACD version of Kind of Blue. I'm guessing that at least 30% of the responses you get will be Miles, as well.

Roland L's picture

Diane Reeves. And her Better Days just keeps leaving me in tears, for this piece is almost a tribute to my late grand mother.

Raymond Legault's picture

Oscar Peterson's Canadiana Suite. It got me going at age 10.

Rick's picture

Miles Davis. He is simply the best, and he always seemed to play with the best.

Steve B.'s picture


steve's picture

Miles Davis. Pick any recording from the mid '50s to early '70s as a starting point to work way back to roots or forward to fusion. I progressed my listening to jazz when I was introduced to fusion, ie, Weather Report, RTF, John McLaughlin, etc. in the mid '70s as a teen. I'm still expanding my listening. A subscription to Downbeat wouldn't hurt either.

PackRat's picture

Sonny Rollins. One of the best!

glenn's picture


A.  Veeh's picture

Kind of a nieve question don't you think ? Do you start with swing ? Be Bop ? Blues ? progressive ? Fusion ? Old style, modern etc. jazz is too broad a term just like Rock is too broad It just covers too many styles

IEnSrfPuhmEDipv's picture
Bubba in SF's picture

Miles Davis

mike eschman's picture

solo monk