Ethan Iverson has the rundown. Some highlights:
6) My Old Man (Joni Mitchell): “Blue”, a masterpiece, turned me upside-down when it came out in 1971. Her lyrics, way with harmony, her chord progressions and the uniqueness of her voice are unsurpassed. She is one of the great setters of text of all time. I had a hard time trying to figure out these chords as a high-schooler!
11) If I Were A Bell (Miles Davis): This is the record (“Live at the Blackhawk”) that made me want to play jazz as my life’s work. Wynton Kelly’s comping under Miles’ and Hank Mobley’s solos, his energy and time feel and the live-ness of the recording are still great to listen to today – so direct and swinging.
12) 1 X Love (Charles Mingus): This is the record that made me want to be a jazz composer. It sounds like Ellington on acid.
15) Old Devil Moon (Ahmad Jamal): This trio (with Israel Crosby and Vernel Fournier) is one of the two greatest of all time (the other being Bill Evans, Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian). Ahmad had the most beautiful sound and touch of any jazz pianist – and his sense of drama and arrangement is unsurpassed.
19) Serpentine (Earth, Wind and Fire): My favorite soul/R&B band had the most killing grooves – and many of their songs carried social messages as well. Played by real musicians, not machines.
27) Nancarrow: Study for Player Piano #1: He became frustrated that live musicians couldn’t play the complex rhythms he imagined, so he composed for the player piano. His off-kilter – yet tonal – style really appeals to me. I wish I could play like this!