If you want the best audiophile jazz albums you have come to the right place. We recently put together our 7 best jazz albums for beginners list and had a lot of fun doing so. Today, I am having a look at jazz albums that I think are just perfect in the way that they sound. I am going to have a mixture of vinyl and CD so that no matter what your setup is, you are going to be able to find a great sounding album to listen to. Also, putting this article together gives me an excuse to spend a few days listening to some of my collection and calling it “work”. In all seriousness, jazz music truly does touch your soul and these are the albums that I personally feel sound the best.
Having The Right Setup
I hand on heart think that all of the albums we are looking at today would hit you right in the soul no matter what you were playing them on. However, a turntable like one featured on our 8 Best Turntables Under $100 article is not going to give you the same kind of sound like one from our, Best Turntables Under $500 article. The way you have your audio equipment setup can make a difference. To let you know where I am coming from, the CDs I am talking about today I played with my Sony Compact Stereo Sound System that I recently got to play around with. For the records, they were played on my Sony PS-LX310BT Belt Drive Turntable which I just recently had repaired.
Our 6 Best Audiophile Jazz Albums
I decided to go for three CDs and three records as I thought having an even mix was the right way to go. I am a huge music lover and these are actual albums that I have in my collection and love. So, you are not just getting a bunch of picks that I “think” you should check out. These are albums that I hold in very high regard myself and have no trouble recommending to you guys.
1. Midnight In Paris (Duke Ellington)
Look, I will never apologize for always stating that Duke Ellington is my favorite when it comes to jazz. This Midnight In Paris record was actually a gift from my sister last Christmas. I love this album, it truly is a beautiful album and the kind of album that I always put on if I am in the mood to relax. The quality here is truly excellent and this from what I understand is a pretty rare (well was in terms of the original) recording so to have it here on a modern record that sounds fantastic and can be used for years and years to come is great. Best of all, from the research I did, you can easily find this in the 20 to 30 buck’s range. My personal favorite track on this album is Under Paris Skies it just makes me think of a dark and rainy night in Paris, walking down a cobbled kind of street with the smell of bread coming from a family-owned bakers!
This is an album that you have to listen to from start to end and I really do not think I will ever get bored of listening to this. This vinyl pressing that I am talking about today is just great and I hand on heart have zero problems with it.
2. Genius + Soul = Jazz (Ray Charles)
This Genius + Soul = Jazz by Ray Charles is awesome stuff. I know he is a legend, but he is an artist that I really do not have enough albums of if I am being honest. What is cool about this is that it features Ray Charles on the organ and on vinyl it sounds great. This is very, very clean with no audio issues at all and I know there will be plenty of purists who stay away from his re-release, but in terms of pure audio quality, this record right here truly is magical stuff indeed. I love this album; it is one that does not have a single bad track on it. As of me writing this Amazon has it for only 25 bucks which is a steal, when I purchased it, it was $34.99 so that really is a great price.
Stompin’ Room Only is my favorite track on here, but this is a truly fantastic album.
I love the way the organ sounds. I am sure it may sound “cleaner” if you were to listen to this on CD or digitally, but there is just something so epic about the way that it sounds when listening to it on vinyl that I really do not think I could listen to this any other way.
3. The Best Of (Etta James)
Next up we have The Best Of Etta James which may be a bit of a controversial item on our best audiophile jazz albums list as she is a talented lady who could be put in many genres, but I really wanted to give this album some love. To start with, you can find this record for around the 15 to 20 bucks mark which is just insane to me. There are 16 great songs on here and while I am saying right now that All I Could Do Is Cry is my favorite song. Truth be told, we could talk about this album tomorrow after I had listened to it again and I would probably have a different answer for you. I just love the way this excellent selection of some of her greatest songs can take you through every inch of the emotional spectrum.
In terms of the audio quality, for a cheaper vinyl, this sounds great. She has such a timeless voice and I personally feel that the record is just so, so well done. It is impossible to listen to just one song from this album. It sounds so crisp and real that you will feel like you are sitting there behind the glass watching her record this album.
4. Ray: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Ray Charles)
Want to know something crazy? This Ray: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was actually the first Ray Charles album I had in my collection!!! I know, I know, you are probably asking yourself, why the heck should we listen to this guy? However, please hear me out. This is the first CD we are looking at today and depending on where you shop, you can find this for next to nothing. Hell, I just had a quick look on eBay and you can get this for as little as 3 bucks with shipping! I love this album and it works as a kind of greatest hits of Ray Charles and as it is made to go alongside the movie, I feel that the songs are produced as best they could be on compact disc.
There are many great songs and what I love about the album is that it goes hand in hand with the movie which is also great. So, when I listen to the soundtrack, I can just picture the excellent Ray Biopic from 2004 in my mind. The best thing about this album is that as well as a selection of his greatest hits you also have some fantastic live recordings on here such as Let The Good Times Roll and You Don’t Know Me.
It is worth noting that they did release a follow up to this album which also featured music inspired by the movie, but I do not have that one in my collection yet so I cannot give it my personal stamp of approval.
5. Timeless Classic Albums (John Coltrane)
Man what an awesome set this Timeless Classic Albums set really is. I love this era of Coltrane and in this set, you are getting five CDs for less than the price of one John Coltrane vinyl. Look, vinyl to me is always going to be king, but as of writing you can get this five CD set for 15 bucks! Are you serious? You couldn’t even get a meal at Pizza Hut for that money and here you are getting five truly amazing albums. The set contains, Soultrane, Giant Steps, My Favorite Things, Ole, and Africa/Brass, Africa/Brass is probably my favorite of the bunch a real contender actually for my favorite John Coltrane album in general.
You may think that as this is a 5-disc collection and it costs so little that they have skimped on the quality, but that is not the case at all. Each album sounds fantastic and I could easily make my own epic playlist taking a song or two from each album, but my favorite song on here is Song of the Underground Railroad which is from the Africa/Brass album and is a song that one of my old music teachers at school made us listen to. I did not appreciate it back then, but I 100 percent do now.
6. Gold (Ella Fitzgerald)
There is no shortage of collections of Ella Fitzgerald’s work, but this Gold compilation is one that I really do think is great. This is a 3 CD set and it contains 60 of her all time classic songs. If you just want to have one Ella Fitzgerald set in your collection, I would have a very hard time suggesting anything other than this one, to be honest with you guys. It has so many great songs with Blue Moon being the one that gets me every time. I know there may be some people out there who say that so and so song is missing, but for me, this truly is like a complete collection of her best work.
I will say that you can get this on vinyl and when I looked on Amazon, it was not that much more expensive, but it is the CD version of this I have in my collection and I am not 100 percent sure of this, but I do not think the vinyl has all of the songs that the CD has so that could be something you double check before you pull the trigger.
I hope you guys have had as much fun as I have looking for the best audiophile jazz albums. Truth be told, I am just a massive music fan like you are. I think I have a good ear for sound and these are all albums from my own personal collection that I have listened to many, many times and have always been very impressed with just how great they all sound. If you are looking to add any jazz albums to your collection, no matter if it is on vinyl or on CD, you hand on heart cannot go wrong with any of these.