“Top 5 Desert Island Albums”

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Shout-out to Mark B. (one of our great students on the site) for asking this question and inspiring this blog post.  A truly tormenting question to ask a musician, but a fun one nonetheless.  “If you could only take 5 albums with you on a deserted island, what would they be?”

Ask me this question next month (or maybe next week) and my answer will probably be different.  I’m actually getting nervous just trying to think of all the candidates.  I’m pretty eclectic so there would need to be a mix of jazz, rock, pop…  But without further ado, here is my attempt at listing my “Top Five Desert Island Albums” (with apologies to whatever amazing music I’m forgetting).

(In no particular order):

1. Oscar Peterson, “Oscar Peterson Trio Plus One – Clark Terry”
This is one of my all-time favorite jazz recordings.  I couldn’t imagine never being able to listen to it again.  When my college buddy turned me on to this I was blown away. That initial listening was my introduction to (and the start of a healthy obsession with) Oscar Peterson.

2. Alana Davis, “Blame It On Me”
An amazing, emotional record. I was in high school developing my own tastes in music when this came out, and the vibe of this record really struck me.  It was voted a “10 Best of 1997” album by TIME magazine, but the artist never really took off.  Back in high school, I spent hours listening to this record and playing along.  I put it on just a few nights ago and it still holds up all these years later.

3. Avishai Cohen, “Colors”
Some REALLY exquisite writing with unique instrumentation/orchestration which creates some striking musical… well… “colors.”  It’s weird because none of the solos strike me as awe-inspiring things that I’d love to transcribe, but the writing is hauntingly beautiful and the band so well-selected that the solos become extensions of the song as opposed to individual spotlights.

4. Snarky Puppy, “GroundUp”
These are just some cool, sick, freakishly good, young, hip, trendy, awesome musicians making sick, freakishly good, young, hip, trendy, awesome jazz/dance/funk/dance/rock/pop/dance/dance/dance music.  Yeah, I said “dance” a lot because they play “music for the brain and for the booty” (their words, not mine) – which is an incredibly accurate description.  Imagine you put jazz, rock, funk, gospel, bugaloo, latin, world, pop, and fusion music in a blender, and then had the result performed by players with some of the very best jazz chops.  That’s pretty much what a Snarky Puppy record is like.  And the solo abilities of these guys are phenomenal, especially Cory Henry. Watch their LIVE “Thing of Gold” video – if you’re not blown away it’s likely because you don’t have a pulse.

5. Stevie Wonder, “Songs in the Key of Life”
I mean, how can you be a musician anywhere in the vicinity of jazz/rock/pop/funk and not pay homage to Stevie Wonder? The man has created an incredible amount of hit music over the years.  The songs on this album are some of his very best, and I have grown up listening to and playing them regularly.  Simply because I’m a huge Stevie Wonder fan, one of his albums had to make this list.

6. “Hey, wait a minute! What’s all this “#6″ talk? I thought you said ‘Top Five Desert Island Albums?!'”  Okay, well, I’m the author of this bloody post so I get to make the rules, and I say it’s now going to be called “Top Five SIX Desert Island Albums.”  And there’s one “royal” reason why:  I can’t leave the ‘King of Pop’ unrepresented here.  Say what you will about his weirdo sleepovers and affinity for removing his nose – the man could write a pop tune. So, my 6th album would be a mix-tape of my favorite Michael Jackson jams.

That’s my list (for the moment). Discuss.

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  1. I let out a physical sigh of relief when I saw “Songs in the Key of Life”. One of my favorite records of all time.

  2. @Jonah. I completely agree. It really should be essential listening for anyone who wants to be a musician. But tell me, what are your Top 5 albums? What did I miss?

  3. I would also bring som latin. Getz, Gilberto, Jobim, can’t Think of jazz without some latin inspiration.

  4. Hey Paul no Keith Jarrett?
    Keith Jarrett “Live At the Blue Note” box set
    Tim Burne “The Shell Game”
    Definitely some Esbjorn Svensson Trio and Brad Mehldau

  5. Hey Willie –
    Pretty sure bringing a box set would be breaking the rules – nice try though (haha)! I will spot you the fact that my list is devoid of any Keith Jarrett, which is very bothersome to me. My Keith Jarrett selections would be between The “Blue Note” discs you mentioned and my first introduction to Jarrett which was “The Koln Concert” – what an amazing record that is! Not familiar with Tim Burne so will have to check that out. Can’t argue at all with Brad Mehldau either – especially his recording of the Beatles’ “Blackbird.”

  6. LOL, if you think my box set was breaking the rules, check my bag…I got an iPod in there 😉

    In all seriousness. I also have been listening to some Kevin Hays and his work with Chris Potter on the album “Lyft” check it out