Jazz history is massive enough at this point to be a touch intimidating. With so many box sets and so many compilations to choose from, where to start? We've got you covered, era by era, with our Jazz 101 series, which you can follow here. Each daily playlist offers up five-star performances, and tips you off to albums with plenty more gold left to explore after the intro course is over. Enjoy.
Several decades before he was arranging and producing for Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones was a jazz bandleader who made charts for Count Basie (see "Belly Roll"), as well as for his own touring orchestra. The finger-popping goodness is already in evidence on early Quincy workouts like "The Hucklebuck" and "Stockholm Sweetnin'." But even as Jones edged ever closer to pop, he maintained a connection to the jazz canon, as you can witness on his band's performances of "Straight, No Chaser" and "Moanin'." And just because he had a taste for memorable melodies, don't make the mistake of thinking the instrumental quality supporting them is weak: You can even find avant-genius Rahsaan Roland Kirk taking an inspired sax turn with one of Jones' bands on a staple like "Moon River."
Jones found maintaining a big band too economically difficult toward the end of the '60s, which helped cement his turn in subsequent decades toward a more distinctly pop destination. But his mid-'60s efforts rank with the very best soul-oriented music in jazz. During this time, trumpeters Lee Morgan and Donald Byrd both had moderate hits with pop-inflected tunes (see the boogaloo of the "The Rumproller" and the gospel soul-jazz of "Cristo Redentor"). And blues-jazzer Oliver Nelson had a breakout with an album of sweet originals, Blues and the Abstract Truth. (That album also had a crack team of new-jazz heavyweights that included Eric Dolphy.) And this is also the time for us to celebrate the fleet, complex and tuneful work of Wes Montgomery's guitar (check his solo on "Twisted Blues"). Find all this peerless soul and jazz invention in the appended playlist.