My wife and I have been together now for 9 years, and I was amazed when the other day she finally asked, "Hey - can you teach me how to understand jazz?"
I was really excited to hear this, as jazz is a very important part of my life, but for most listeners it is a foreign language. We decided the best way to tackle this was for me to create playlists on Spotify for her to listen to in the car, and then we could chat when we were home together.
We came to the understanding that she "gets" the big band era of the 30s, and would probably be ok with skipping over early jazz of the 20s too, so I've decided to start with small group jazz of the 40s and make my way from Bird and Diz, all the way to albums released in the 2010s. In my opinion, starting there would give her (or anyone tuning in) a good understanding of how small group jazz has developed into what it is today.
This was quite the task, and I'm still making small edits. What I decided to do was break it up into 9 playlists, tracking new developments in jazz, with only 4 tracks per play list. In general, I avoided offshoots of mainstream jazz, including free jazz developments, as well as Latin jazz, and most fusion, except for the early developments. Also, sorry I kind of skipped the 80s... And last disclaimer, the task kind of became impossible when I had to only pick 8 tracks from 1980-now, so I picked stuff that I thought was representative of different manifestations of jazz today - also some bias to albums I love.
There are definitely things missing, but I hope this tells the right story. Let me know what you think!
Jazz 1 - Bebop 40s and 50s
Bud Powell: Wail, from The Amazing Bud Powell Vol. 1
Charlie Parker: Confirmation, from The Essential Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker: Koko (not sure of original release - the classic one with Diz)
Dizzy Gillespie/Sonny Stitt/Sonny Rollins: Eternal Triangle, from Sonny Side Up
Jazz 2 - 50s Miles Davis/Cool Jazz
Miles Davis Quintet: If I Were a Bell, from Relaxin'
Miles Davis: Love for Sale, from '58 Sessions
Miles Davis: Milestones, from Milestones
Miles Davis: So What, from Kind of Blue
Jazz 3 - Hard Bop 50s and early 60s
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: Moanin', from Moanin'
Horace Silver: The Preacher, from Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers (Lee Morgan/Wayne Shorter band): Sincerely Diana, from A Night in Tunisia
Wes Montgomery and Wyn Kelly: Unit 7, from Smokin' at the Half Note
Jazz 4 - Coltrane Development 50s and 60s
John Coltrane: Moment's Notice, from Blue Train
John Coltrane: Giant Steps, from Giant Steps
John Coltrane: My Favorite Things, from My Favorite Things
John Coltrane: Out of This World, from Coltrane
Jazz 5 - Post bop 60s
McCoy Tyner: Passion Dance, from The Real McCoy
Larry Young: Zoltan, from Unity
Wayne Shorter: Witch Hunt, from Speak No Evil
Miles Davis Quintet: Orbits, from Miles Smiles
Jazz 6 - 60s and 70s Piano Trios
Bill Evans: Gloria's Step, from Sunday at the Village Vanguard
Chick Corea: Matrix, from Now He Sings, Now He Sobs
Bill Evans: Funkallero, from The Bill Evans Album
Herbie Hancock: Speak Like a Child, from Herbie Hancock Trio '77
Jazz 7 - 70s (funk, fusion, and "modern" jazz)
Keith Jarrett American Quartet: De Drums, from Fort Yawuh
Chick Corea/Return to Forever: Spain, from Light as a Feather
Herbie Hancock: Hang Up Your Hang Ups, from Man-Child
Miles Davis: Shhh/Peaceful, from In a Silent Way
Jazz 8 - 80s and 90s Mainline Jazz
Chick Corea: Part Two - Album Version - (dedicated to John Coltrane), from Three Quartets
Branford Marsalis: Spartacus, from Crazy People Music
Michael Brecker: Madame Toulouse, from Two Blocks from the Edge
Herbie Hancock: New York Minute, from The New Standard
Jazz 9 - Newer Albums
Joshua Redman Elastic Band: Sweet Nasty, from Momentum
Brad Mehldau Trio: Anything Goes, from Anything Goes
Dave Holland Quintet: Claressence, from Archive Series Volume 1
Dave Douglas: Seventeen, from Strange Liberation