Big Band Albums

What big band albums do you suggest we play for our high school students?

This list will by no means be complete. I apologize in advance if I skipped someone’s favorite band leader or album. (Due to space constrictions, some of my favorites don’t appear either.)

Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Big Band:
  •  “Consummation”
  • “Dedication”
  • “Village Vanguard Live Sessions”

Mel Lewis / Bob Brookmeyer

  • “Live at the Village Vanguard”

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra

  • “Likety Split” (Music of Jim McNeely)

Bill Holman

  • “Big Band in a Jazz Orbit”


Rob McConnell & the Boss Brass

  • “Two Originals”

Count Basie and His Orchestra:

  • “Basie Straight Ahead” (Nestico arrangements)
  • “Ease It” (Frank Foster arrangements)
  • “Sinatra at the Sands” (Quincy Jones Arrangements)
  • “April In Paris”

Duke Ellington:

  • “the Webster-Blanton Band”
  • “Three Suites”
  • “Such Sweet Thunder”

Woody Herman:

  • “1963 The Swingin’est Big Band Ever”
  • “Big New Herd at the Monterey Jazz Festival”

Buddy Rich:

  • Big Swing Face
  • Swingin’ New Big Band

Stan Kenton:

  • “Contemporary Concepts”
  • “New Concepts of Artistry In Rhythm”

Maria Schneider

  • “Evanescence”


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

Gerald Wilson, Clayton / Hamilton, Charles Toliver, John Fedchock, Bob Mintzer, Mario Bauza, Machito, Toshiko Akyoshi, Jimmie Lunceford, Fletcher Henderson, Bob Curnow, Bob Florence, Louis Bellson, Mike Barone, Terry Gibbs, Maynard Ferguson, Gil Evans, the Mingus Big Band, Slide Hampton, Michael Abene, Jimmy Heath, Gerry Mulligan, Kenny Wheeler….

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