30 of the Most Essential Jazz Albums from the 1950s

30 of the Most Essential Jazz Albums from the 1950s

Jazz is an ever-evolving art form that has branched out in many directions. Following the bebop revolution of the 1940s, the music experienced multiple transformations in the next decade. The innovative jazz albums from the 1950s introduced new sub-genres like cool jazz, modal jazz, hard bop, and the start of free jazz (otherwise known as avant garde jazz).

Frankly, there are hundreds of amazing jazz albums from the 1950s, if not more. It’s an extremely hard list to narrow down, so please excuse us for omitting so many deserving recordings. We tried to select a variety that represents the diversity of the music from the decade and that includes many of the ’50s jazz albums that are considered groundbreaking or highly influential.

If you’re newly getting acquainted with this genre of music, these jazz albums from the 1950s are a great place to start exploring the classic output of the decade. Not to mention some of the genre’s incredibly talented and important musicians and composers.

And just as a note, the years cited are the release dates for the albums.

Some of the Best ’50s Jazz Albums

1. Stan Kenton Presents – Stan Kenton; 1950

2. The Genius of Bud Powell – Bud Powell; 1951

3. Gerry Mulligan Quartet – Gerry Mulligan; 1952

4. Cool and Crazy – Shorty Rogers; 1953

5. Chet Baker Sextet – Chet Baker; 1954

6. Clifford Brown & Max Roach – Clifford Brown, Max Roach; 1954

7. The Genius of Art Tatum Vol. 1 – Art Tatum; 1954

8. Sarah Vaughan – Sarah Vaughan; 1954

9. Study in Brown – Clifford Brown, Max Roach; 1955

10. Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book – Ella Fitzgerald; 1956

11. Ellington at Newport – Duke Ellington; 1956

12. A New Sound, A New Star – Jimmy Smith; 1956

13. Pithecanthropus Erectus – Charles Mingus; 1956

14. Saxophone Colossus – Sonny Rollins; 1956

15. Songs for Swingin’ Lovers – Frank Sinatra; 1956

16. Tristano – Lennie Tristano; 1956

17. Birth of the Cool – Miles Davis (compilation); 1957

18. Brilliant Corners – Thelonious Monk; 1957

19. The Jazz Workshop – George Russell; 1957

20. At the Pershing: But Not for Me – Ahmad Jamal; 1958

21. The Atomic Mr. Basie – Count Basie Orchestra; 1958

22. Blue Train – John Coltrane; 1958

23. Somethin’ Else – Julian “Cannonball” Adderly; 1958

24. Finger Poppin’ – Horace Silver Quintet; 1959

25. Kind of Blue – Miles Davis; 1959

26. Looking Ahead – Cecil Taylor Quartet; 1959

27. Mingus Ah Um – Charles Mingus; 1959

28. Moanin’ – Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers; 1959

29. The Shape of Jazz to Come – Ornette Coleman; 1959

30. Time Out – Dave Brubeck Quartet; 1959

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Leonard Riforgiato is a successful furniture manufacturing entrepreneur, a Miami resident, and co-owner of legacy furniture company Heywood-Wakefield.

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