Big Band Albums

Suggested Big Band Listening For Students

This list of big band albums is a practical starting point for introducing young musicians to the rich nuances of big band style. After all, it’s tough to expect them to nail the feel, articulations, and balance of big band music without immersing themselves in some classic recordings. Keep in mind that this list isn’t meant to be an exhaustive collection of must-listen albums; it’s more of a friendly nudge in the right direction.

There’s a whole universe of big band music waiting to be explored beyond these recommendations, and I encourage everyone to venture further into this vibrant musical landscape. So, whether you’re a high school band director looking to guide your students or a university freshman eager to dive into the world of big band, these albums are here to help you get started on your musical journey.

Count Basie and His Orchestra:

  • “April In Paris” (1955,’56) [Spotify]
  • “Sinatra at the Sands.” Quincy Jones Arrangements. (1966) [YouTube], [Spotify]
  • “Basie Straight Ahead.” Nestico arrangements. (1968) [YouTube], [Spotify]

Bill Holman:

Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra:

Mel Lewis/Bob Brookmeyer:

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra:
  • “Likety Split: Music of Jim McNeely” (1997) [Spotify]

Rob McConnell & the Boss Brass:

Bob Mintzer:

Maria Schneider:
  • “Evanescence” (1994)

It is hard to know where to quit. Other important big bands, leaders and arrangers include:

Fletcher Henderson, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Billy Eckstine, Gerald Wilson, John Clayton/Jeff Hamilton, Charles Toliver, John Fedchock, Mario Bauza, Machito, Chico ‘O Farrill, Toshiko Akyoshi, Jimmie Lunceford, Bob Curnow, Bob Florence, Louis Bellson, Quincy Jones, Mike Barone, Terry Gibbs, Maynard Ferguson, Gil Evans, the Mingus Big Band, Slide Hampton, Michael Abene, Jimmy Heath, Gerry Mulligan, Carla Bley, Sun Ra, Oliver Nelson, Julius Hemphill, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Kenny Wheeler….

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