Best Jazz Albums
Small Group Swing


“Charlie Christian With The Benny Goodman Sextet And Orchestra”  featured some of the outstanding recordings under the leadership of Benny Goodman after the heyday of his classic big band from 1935 to 1939. In fact, the Benny Goodman Sextet from 1939-42 with sidemen Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Jo Jones, Cootie Williams and others, represent some of the greatest small group jazz of any era. The arrangements and improvisations are tight and sparkle with originality and each side are perfect representations of blues, swing and the beginnings of bebop. Without a doubt, the most comprehensive Charlie Christian boxed set is the Sony Legacy, Grammy winning, CD set “The Genius Of The Electric Guitar” where you hear practically everything by this amazing guitarist who is recognized as one of the true fathers of the electric guitar.

Featured Track: Breakfast Feud

“Breakfast Feud” shows the expertise of the Christian guitar and Goodman group in one of their best efforts…although all of them were exemplary.


Once the King Cole Trio hit it big on Capitol Records in 1943, there immediately followed a few King Cole Trio 78 albums and later Trio LP re-issues that showcased this all-around pianist and singer, along with guitarist Oscar Moore and bassist Johnny Miller as the epitome of taste and creativity. They practically set the template for piano-guitar-bass combination to bring their concept of swing, pop and be-bop to an incredibly high level of musicianship that attracted listeners of every day pop records and those who loved jazz.

Featured Track: Sweet Georgia Brown

Nat Cole will always be known for “The Christmas Song”, “Unforgettable” and “Too Young” among many other wonderful vocal records he made for Capitol. But here he is showing why countless pianists revered his dexterity and taste long before he was truly known for his vocal stylings, which in itself were unique. “Sweet Georgia Brown” from 1945 is a prime example of his remarkable pianistic talent.


Coleman Hawkins long tradition in jazz has been often cited. He is the grandfather of the jazz tenor sax. But he continued to embrace new jazz sounds up to his death in 1969. A prime example of his genius and acceptance of the new style (bebop) yet still having his foot firmly in the swing tradition are his Capitol recordings during the year 1945 as exhibited in this LP re-issue.

Featured Track: It’s The Talk Of The Town

A “desert island” 78 side is this heart melting ballad of “It’s The Talk Of The Town” that rivals his classic recording of this piece with Fletcher Henderson in 1933. Hawk’s recording is a melody upon a melody that was a trademark of his.


The very first record label dedicated solely to jazz was the French label Swing (1936-1948) and not only did it have a wonderful surface for reproduction during the 78 era but the music was of high quality. A highlight of their recordings were of the legendary and unbelievable chops of guitarist Django Reinhardt. Eighteen of the finest recordings for the Swing label (1936-48) by one of the most exciting and innovative jazz guitarists with the Quintet of The Hot Club of France, solo and in various all-star ensembles.

Featured Track: Minor Swing

“Minor Swing” is just one of many brilliant recordings by Django Reinhardt along with the Quintet of the Hot Club of France. “Jaw dropping” is probably as best one can get to describing this genius and his work along with the equality remarkable Stephane Grappelli.


This 10” LP issued in 1952 for RCA Victor is a compilation of which has been subsequently re-issued on other RCA LPs and CDs. These outstanding sides are of those famous Bluebird 78s known as “An Ellington Unit” – basically a small group from the Ellington big band of this period. With Hodges as the leader and solo subject these smaller Ellington sides are a true testament that Duke’s (and Billy Strayhorn’s) compositions and arrangements were not just patterned for a big band setting

Featured Track: Squatty Roo

Although Hodges was renown for being a superior ballad alto-ist (Bird called him “Lily Pons” because of his lyrical quality that mirrored the famous operatic soprano) “Squatty Roo” (1941) has Hodges in a real up groove, showcasing how adept he was in any setting.