Top 10 Jazz Vinyl Records
One of the best musical genres to listen to on vinyl is jazz. The experience of visiting a record store online or in person, selecting an album, and playing a record on a turntable embraces the spirit and rich sound of a music age from decades past.
In the era of everything digital, vinyl record album sales continue to grow. With the help of modern record stores like Victrola, over 27 million vinyl LPs were sold in 2020, up 46 percent from the year previous. It goes to show that true classics always live on.
There are numerous prolific artists that stem from the jazz era. Their recordings range from cool jazz to big band, in addition to other sub-genres and sounds. We’ve selected a few of the top jazz vinyl records that fans of all ages will love.
#1 Miles Davis - Kind of Blue (1959)
Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue album is one of the most iconic jazz records of all time. Recorded in 1959, this album also features another great artist of the genre, John Coltrane. Davis was known specifically for being a leader in the hard bop sound. This music style is defined as a subgenre of jazz with musical influences stemming from gospel music and blues.
Since its original recording, Kind of Blue has been reissued multiple times through the years with additional pressings, always gaining new jazz fans along the way. This masterful trumpeter’s musical skill and passion have made Miles Davis one of the largest cornerstones of jazz music and one of the greatest artistic influences.
#2 Glenn Miller - Moonlight Serenade (1971)
Glenn Miller led the big band era of music as a trombonist and composer. Big band is an offshoot of jazz music defined appropriately by the various instruments used. Typical big band music involves trombones, trumpets, saxophones, and a rhythm section with at least 10 musicians all coming together for one sound.
Miller’s Moonlight Serenade covers familiar big band hits, including “In the Mood,” “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” and its title track, “Moonlight Serenade.” Layered sounds and upbeat tempos define the big band era with music that made it easy for people to dance to. This album deserves a spot in any vinyl record lineup. It will take you back to the sounds of the early ‘30s and ‘40s when people dressed to the nines for a night on the town at their local big band venues.
Louis Armstrong is popular among all generations for what’s possibly his most notable song, “What a Wonderful World.” Although he was a famed trumpet player, it’s the deep, rich tone of his voice that’s instantly recognizable even today. What a Wonderful World - The Great Satchmo Live is an in-depth exploration of America’s greatest jazz musicians’ music. It’s a four-disc jazz record totaling 24 of his most played songs.
Tunes like “Mack the Knife,” “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” give you a taste of Dixieland music generated in the South. He lived and performed in major metropolitans, including Chicago and New York City, expanding his reach as a national musical icon during his career.
#4 Billie Holiday - Golden Hits (2015)
No one can replicate the unique sound of jazz legend Billie Holiday. Her voice exuded pure emotion, which transfixed audiences during the heyday of this music genre. However, she transcends time with her singing. Her jazz vinyl records are some of the most sought after record store favorites even today.
The Golden Hits album covers many of her most well-known tunes, including “God Bless the Child,” “As Time Goes By,” and “Georgia on My Mind.” She continues to be a music mainstay, welcomed by all generations. Hearing the crackle of early recordings adds to the authenticity of radio sounds of the 1940s and allows you to appreciate the technology that preserves these sounds today.
#5 Charlie Parker - Volume 1 (2011)
Charlie Parker, famously known simply as “Bird” back in his prime, was an American jazz saxophonist and leader in music’s bebop style. This new jazz sound was identifiable for its fast tempos and advanced harmonies when compared to the slow melodies of earlier jazz albums. He collaborated with Dizzy Gillespie on multiple records and recorded “Bong Deep Diggin Diz” with him for this Volume 1 record.
Parker established his presence as a serious jazz artist while taking the sound in a different direction as it evolved. His sax playing can change the whole mood, all with a single track switch. He established a strong presence as one of the greats and paved the way for variations of jazz for decades to come.
#6: Thelonius Monk - Monk’s Dream (1963)
Today’s serious piano players will likely tell you part of their inspiration is rooted in jazz pianist Thelonius Monk’s sound. His music emerged in the 1960s and embraced a sound similar to classical music but with his own unique approach. Monk was revered for his improvisational style by music fans who admired his unorthodox spin on piano playing.
Monk’s Dream was the first full album he recorded for Columbia Records after producing records for Riverside Records in previous years. He was known as much for his performances as his music. Always donning a suit, sunglasses, and hat as part of his musician style, he is a true representative of the time in both the fashion and music world.
Another highly reputable jazz pianist is Charles Mingus. Mingus’ career spanned decades and included collaborations with Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie, to name a few. In addition to this renowned piano sound, Mingus was known for his composition and recordings as a double bass and cello player.
His 1962 Town Hall Concert live album focused on his work as a bassist and was originally released at The Town Hall venue in New York City. It was later re-released on the notorious Blue Note Records jazz label in 1994. This album embodies his stance in free jazz, an unconventional approach to the genre that surpasses earlier improvisations made from the hard bop and bebop eras. It’s a jazz vinyl album focused on jazz’s creativity for the sake of art without meeting the standard expectations of its origins.
Jimmy Witherspoon’s voice was notable among the jazz and blues music community for its strong, clear timbre. His amplified sound is best known for his version of “Ain’t Nobody’s Business,” the penultimate track on his Feelin’ the Spirit at the Monterey Jazz Festival album. It was at this event where he reignited his popularity among a broadening audience.
In addition to his bluesy tunes, he was also well-known for his reach in spiritual jazz music. This influenced songs on his festival album including “Steal Away to Jesus” and “Go Down Moses.” With an impressive discography, Witherspoon managed to repeatedly reinvent himself, adapting with the times and sounds spanning multiple decades.
#9 John Coltrane - My Favorite Things (1961)
It’d be remiss to have a top jazz vinyl records list without naming John Coltrane. He, too, was on the forefront of the free jazz movement, recording under the Blue Note music label. His instrument of choice was the saxophone, alternating between tenor, soprano, and alto. My Favorite Things was the first album to feature his playing on the soprano saxophone and helped cement his name in music and jazz history.
He also ventured down the path of free jazz and hard bop as he made his own compositions and interpretations of what jazz is and should be. Coltrane is one of the most admired and listened to jazz artists throughout history, earning the respect of his fellow musicians, many of whom he collaborated with over the decades.
Harry Connick, Jr. is one of the most beloved contemporary jazz artists. He echoes the sounds of the original jazz artists while mixing in big band and traditional pop. As a singer and piano player, his versions of Cole Porter’s greatest hits update classic songs to the modern era. Some of the songs off of True Love: A Celebration of Cole Porter include “All of You,” “I Love Paris,” and “In the Still of the Night.”
Connick is the quintessential crooner and saw musical success for his jazz albums, solo piano collections, and movie soundtracks throughout the early ‘90s and 2000s. Those who prefer easy listening and a harmonious blend of old and new jazz deem him one of the best artists to achieve this.
Build Your Vinyl Jazz Record Collection
Now that you’ve discovered the top jazz records, it’s time to start building your jazz vinyl collection! When you’re looking for records, be sure that you're listening on a high-quality record player. Victrola offers timeless and versatile record players to match your style. Grab a jazz record, be inspired, and pass down the music for future generations to appreciate.