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