If you've been collecting music for any considerable length of time, you know the answer to this question is: Plenty.
Because if you've been collecting music, you've been shopping for music. Shop for music long enough and experience will teach that you enjoy the work of some artists better than others. Explore the work of some of these artists more deeply and you may be rewarded to discover that you enjoy certain chronological periods of their work, or that you enjoy their work with certain producers or for certain record labels, more than you enjoy others.
Rather than explore the music of a particular artist or genre or instrument, Building a Jazz Library: Fantasy Jazz spotlights music released on labels under the umbrella of Fantasy Records. Based in Berkeley (CA), Fantasy has recovered, restored, and re-issued music that might otherwise have been lost, mainly from companies that for one reason or another seemed headed for certain obscurity, rejuvenating jazz in the process. Major jazz figures such as pianists Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans, saxophonists Cannonball Adderley and Sonny Rollins, Chet Baker, the Modern Jazz Quartet, and others, recorded some of their most enduring work for Fantasy labels.
This series of Fantasy label samplers opens a window into some of the best music, drawn from some of the best albums, that jazz has ever seen.
Bluesville Sampler (OJC) In the late 1950s, Prestige Records expanded into other labels such as Bluesville, which released 79 titles by Memphis Slim, Lightnin' Hopkins, and other major blues figures between 1959 - '62. Along with Bluesville tracks, this disc adds soulful sides from Muddy Waters, Albert King, John Lee Hooker and more that first appeared on Stax, Specialty, Takoma and other labels.
Compilation includes: Tracks from nearly every important traditional and modern bluesman and woman, including a stinging live version of Water's "Honey Bee," Hooker's snarling "Black Snake," classics from Alberta Hunter ("St. Louis Blues"), Odetta ("Hard, Oh Lord"), Ma Rainey ("Chain Gang Blues") and Blind Lemon Jefferson ("Lonesome House Blues"), plus Otis Spann's profound, prophetic "The Blues Never Die."
Recommended: Rev. Gary Davis: Harlem Street Singer (1960); Lightnin' Hopkins: The Swarthmore Concert (1964); Lonnie Johnson: Blues & Ballads (1960); Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry: At the 2nd Fret (1963); Memphis Slim: All Kinds of Blues (1963); Roosevelt Sykes>: Honeydripper (1961).
Jazzland Sampler (OJC) Operating from 1960 - '64, poised between traditional, bebop, and modern jazz, this Riverside subsidiary was founded to help the prolific Riverside label avoid the appearance that it was flooding the jazz market. Though its initial output was reissued River-sides, Jazzland's original material features sessions led by Dexter Gordon, Red Garland, and Lee Morgan, and Chuck Mangione's debut as a leader.
Compilation includes: George Shearing tandem dancing with the Montgomery Brothers through the Gershwins' "Love Walked In"; the title track ("Recuerdo") from Mangione's debut, deftly cast by the Wynton Kelly / Sam Jones / Louis Hayes rhythm section; Chet Baker's romp through Sonny Rollins' "Pent-Up House"; and tracks led by Lee Morgan (with Clifford Brown), Zoot Sims (with Al Cohn), and longtime Ellington tenor man Paul Gonsalves.
Recommended: Tadd Dameron: Classics of Modern Jazz Volume 4 (compilation); Red Garland: Red's Good Groove (1962); Paul Gonsalves: Getting' Together! (1960); Dexter Gordon: The Resurgence of Dexter Gordon (1960); Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis: Tough Tenor Favorites (1962); Chuck Mangione: Recuerdo (1962).
Milestone / Galaxy Sampler (OJC) Milestone was founded in 1966 by Orrin Keepnews (and his considerable cache as Riverside co-founder and producer), who operated it as an independent until he sold it to Fantasy in 1972. That same year, Sonny Rollins signed with Milestone; both have remained together in operation ever since. After a few false starts, Galaxy was an active Fantasy subsidiary from 1978 - '85, best known for its recordings of alto saxophonist Art Pepper.
Compilation includes: Duets between Lee Konitz (tenor) and Ray Nance (violin) (on "Duplexity"), Jim Hall (guitar) and Ron Carter (bass) (on Rollins' "St. Thomas"), and the twin pianos of Tommy Flanagan and Hank Jones ("Our Delight"); stellar mainstream trio interplay on "United Blues" (Carter with Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams), "Born to be Blue" (Wynton Kelly with Ron McClure and Jimmy Cobb), and Rollins' "Oleo" (Red Garland with Carter and Philly Joe Jones); and "Keep Hold of Yourself" from Rollins' first album after his self-imposed five-year retirement.
Recommended: Johnny Griffin: Bush Dance (Galaxy, 1978); Philly Joe Jones: Drum Songs (Galaxy, 1978); Art Pepper: Straight Life (Galaxy, 1979); Bill Evans: Time Remembered (Milestone, 1963); Joe Henderson: In Japan (Milestone, 1971); Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane (Milestone, 1957); Sonny Rollins: Next Album (Milestone, 1972); McCoy Tyner: Enlightenment (Milestone, 1973).
New Jazz Sampler (OJC) Prestige Records directed the New Jazz series from 1959 - '64, releasing more than 100 titles dedicated to creative jazz musicians who were then relatively unknown as leaders (Tommy Flanagan, Roy Haynes), were known in music circles different from jazz (R&B saxophone kingpin King Curtis, composer/arranger Oliver Nelson), or were pursuing music mysterious to its time (Eric Dolphy, Yusef Lateef) - uniquely advancing "new jazz."
Compilation includes: Tracks from Curtis' first jazz album ("Da Duh Dah") and Ron Carter's debut as a leader ("Rally," which features Carter on cello and Dolphy on bass clarinet); Art Farmer's neatly titled "With Prestige"; Tommy Flanagan's "Minor Mishap," also featuring John Coltrane and Kenny Burrell; Herbie Mann's exotic visit to "Trinidad"; and a rare early example of jazz oboe from Lateef on the haunting "Cry!-Tender."
Recommended: Eric Dolphy: Out There (1960); Curtis Fuller: Curtis Fuller with Red Garland (1957); Yusef Lateef: Cry!-Tender (1959); Oliver Nelson: Screamin' the Blues (1960); Oliver Nelson: Straight Ahead (1961); Phil Woods: Sugan (1957).
Specialty / Hifi Jazz / Nocturne Sampler (OJC) Three small independents which recorded the different instrumental strains of 1950s Southern California: Nocturne typified its airy, melodic West Coast jazz sound; Hifi Jazz sessions were slightly more blues n' bop oriented and were often overseen by pianist/producer David Axelrod, who also recorded jazz for Art Rupe's Specialty label, home of the classic Little Richard catalog.
Compilation includes: A lovely stroll through "Day By Day" led by Lee Morgan and Wynton Kelly; Woody Herman's blistering clarinet, stealing the show from Roy Eldridge, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, even the principal, in "Big Fine Girl" by Jimmy Witherspoon; King Pleasure's vocalese rendition of Charlie Parker's blues, "Parker's Mood"; and international flavors ("C'Est Si Bon" by Buddy Collette, "Casa de Luz" by Bud Shank, and "Danca do Brasil" by Bob Enevoldsen).
Recommended: Gerald Wiggins: Wiggin' Out (Hi Fi, 1960); Jimmy Witherspoon: At the Monterey Jazz Festival (Hi Fi, 1959); Herbie Harper: Herbie Harper Quintet (Nocturne, 1954); Shorty Rogers: Shorty Rogers Compositions (Nocturne, 1954); Lee Morgan: Dizzy Atmosphere (Specialty, 1957); John Lee Hooker: Goin' Down Highway 51 (Specialty, compilation); Little Richard: The Georgia Peach (Specialty, compilation).
Swingville Sampler (OJC) Like Bluesville, Swingville was part of Prestige's late 1950s expansion. As bebop and hard bop grew increasingly prominent in the jazz mainstream, Prestige founder Bob Weinstock launched Swingville so that the Swing/Big Band style was not completely overlooked. The 13 Swingville titles released between 1959 - '62 included "traditional jazz" sessions led by Coleman Hawkins, Budd Johnson, Buck Clayton, and Rex Stewart.
Compilation includes: Something from every Swingville release, including classic swing from Pee Wee Russell, the Coleman Hawkins All-Stars, guitarist Tiny Grimes, Ben Webster with Benny Carter, and Henry "Red" Allen - plus swing tracks from other Fantasy family labels (including live recordings of Buddy DeFranco with Herb Ellis, Terry Gibbs and others from a Benny Goodman tribute concert, and of Django Reinhardt with the Hot Club of France).
Recommended: Henry "Red" Allen: Mr. Allen (1962); Buck Clayton with Buddy Tate: Buck and Buddy (1960); Coleman Hawkins: Blues Groove (1958); Joe Newman: Good N'Groovy (1961); Pee Wee Russell: Swingin' with Pee Wee (compilation); Buddy Tate: Groovin' with Tate (1961).
Read Building a Jazz Library: Fantasy Jazz, Volume 1