Today, we bring you a different type of blog. When I asked our Jazzology host, Willard Jenkins, "What are three classic jazz albums you love, and what are three more recent jazz albums you like listening to?" He proceeded to give me a whole list of incredible albums to check out. There were enough to create a whole playlist, which comes as no surprise since Willard Jenkins has been working in the music industry in some capacity since his college days, beginning his writing in the black student newspaper at Kent State University.
Some of his other career highlights include a collaboration he did with NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston on his as-told-to autobiography from Duke University Press, African Rhythms, as well as work as an editor of the forthcoming compilation of interviews, Ain't But a Few of Us. Through his work as an artistic director/curator, he has produced concerts and festivals. He is currently working on the DC Jazz Festival and the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, formerly known as the Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland. In 2010, he started publishing a series of interviews through his blog "The Independent Ear," dialoguing with Black jazz writers who wrote about jazz, an endeavor that led him to the writing of Ain't But a Few of Us. You can learn more about the book here.
Ain't But a Few of Us cover
We have the pleasure of working with Willard Jenkins on multiple Savage Content projects including our jazz trivia show Jazzology and our upcoming multi-part audio documentary series "No Regrets" of which he is the writer for.
All of this is to say that Willard Jenkins knows and loves jazz. So, we put together his recommendation list for you to peruse and enjoy. Filled with artists from the past and present, we hope his recommendation list turns you on to something new.
The talented Willard Jenkins
Willard’s response when I asked for 3 past and present albums that he loves... “After all these years of listening and collecting records, that’s like asking LeBron James to name his all-time favorite jump shots!” Check out his recommendations below! On the classic side you have individual albums like the following:
Miles Davis, Kind of Blue
Weather Report, Heavy Weather
Betty Carter, The Audience With Betty Carter
Art Ensemble of Chicago, Dreaming of the Master
Return to Forever, Light as a Feather
Randy Weston, Uhuru Afrika
Eddie Palmieri, The Sun of Latin Music and Coco
"However, for a more thorough “classic” immersion, I’d have to recommend the following box sets for a more complete immersion.”
Duke Ellington, The Complete RCA Victor Recordings, RCA
Thelonious Monk, The Complete Prestige Recordings, Prestige
Miles Davis Quintet, 1965-1968 - Columbia
Charles Mingus, Passions of a Man - Rhino/Atlantic
Weather Report, The Columbia Albums - Columbia
John Coltrane, The Heavyweight Champion: The Complete Atlantic Recordings - Rhino/Atlantic
The Jazz Singers - Smithsonian
Louis Armstrong, The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings - Columbia
Billie Holiday, Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia 1933-1944 - Columbia
As for the contemporary side, there is so much music out here to explore that I have to lean on my weekly jazz radio show Ancient/Future Radio (Wednesdays 10-midnight on WPFW 89.3FM.”
You can find his playlists at www.wpfwfm.org; you’ll find them if you click on “Playlists” and look for the Wednesday, Late Night Jazz show Ancient/Future. For his recent recommendations, I decided to take some albums from his playlists and list them below for ease of access. If you’d like to see the full playlists for each show, visit the website above!
Rachel Therrien, Mi Hogar
Moor Mother, Jazz Codes
Ben Wolfe, Unjust
Rodney Whitaker, Common Ground: The Music of Gregg Hill
Lakecia Benjamin, Phoenix
Joel Frahm, The Bright Side
Jason Marshall, New Beginnings
Naima Shambourger, Naima
That’s just a little taste of what Willard recommends. We hope you enjoyed it.
Be sure to check out our jazz trivia show Jazzology which is hosted by Willard Jenkins. For those unfamiliar with our show, Jazzology is a fun jazz-themed quiz game show that we live stream every other Friday at 2:30 EST. The questions range in difficulty and theme, covering all sorts of topics including personnel of iconic groups, historic jazz landmarks and events, and much more! The winner of each episode receives a $100 prize and the chance to return to the next episode to take on a new challenger. You can check out all previous Jazzology episodes on our YouTube channel via playlist. Jazzology Subscribe to the channel to receive notifications for when we go live next!
Compiled by Kristen Petronio
Written Answers by Willard Jenkins