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Louis Armstrong The Complete RCA Victor Recordings (RCA)
With Texans Budd Johnson, Teddy Wilson, Jack Teagarden, and Ernie Caceres. Four CDs spanning Armstrong’s recordings for RCA from 1930 to 1935 and 1946 to 1956. Johnson joins the incomparable Armstrong in the early years, Teagarden in the latter.
Count Basie The Complete Decca Recordings (GRP)
With Texans Joe Keyes, Carl “Tatti” Smith, Dan Minor, Herschel Evans, and Eddie Durham with arrangements by Buster Smith. An essential three-CD collection spanning the years 1937 to 1939, these are the earliest studio recordings from the full Basie band, in all its glory.
John Carter Dauwhe (Black Saint)
With fellow Texan Bobby Bradford. Fort Worth modernist composer-clarinetist Carter’s important work went largely unappreciated in his lifetime, though his music was never less than outstanding, particularly a series of compositions launched by this adventurous session from the eighties.
Charlie Christian The Genius of the Electric Guitar (Columbia)
With fellow Texan Jack Teagarden, along with Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, and Fletcher Henderson. This collection highlights the guitarist’s sublime brilliance in his short-lived career from 1939 to 1941.
Arnett Cobb Arnett Blows for 1300 (Delmark)
Previously hard to find post-Hampton 1947 Apollo recordings are all Cobb, all the time, blowing his blues at full bluster.
Ornette Coleman Beauty Is a Rare Thing: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (Rhino)
This set captures Coleman’s nine Atlantic albums (including a Japanese-only release) in one 6-CD set, with quartet sessions from 1959 to 1962 and other sessions from 1970 to 1975. Coleman’s first four Atlantic CDs, The Shape of Jazz to Come, Change of the Century, This Is Our Music, and Free Jazz (all available separately), are utterly indispensable.
Miles Davis Quintet Cookin’ With the Miles Davis Quintet (Prestige)
With Texan Red Garland, along with John Coltrane, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones. Garland always perked up in good company, more so than on his own dates, and he was never better than with the Quintet. Of all the Miles’s dates, 1956’s Cookin’ in particular finds Garland—and everyone else—in top form. Look for the remastered anniversary edition.
Kenny Dorham Whistle Stop (Blue Note)
With Hank Mobley, Kenny Drew, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones. Not only the finest of Dorham’s hard-bop Blue Note years but also hands down his best recording. A superb date from 1961, full of driving and expressive playing. Look for the Rudy Van Gelder remaster.
Booker Ervin The Freedom Book (OJC)
This recording surpasses everything in the portfolio of this forceful Denison tenor saxophonist, including his landmark work with Charles Mingus. A remarkable studio-only group, featuring Mingus alum Jaki Byard on piano, anchors the proceedings on this excellent date from 1963. The same group appears on 1964’s Space Book.
Jimmy Giuffre The Complete Capitol and Atlantic Recordings of Jimmy Giuffre (Mosaic)
From his unlikely big-band beginnings, Dallas clarinetist Giuffre would forge a revolutionary modern sound with a string of drummerless trios. These sessions from 1954 to 1958 with guitarist Jim Hall and a variety of players yield remarkable results.
Julius Hemphill Fat Man and the Hard Blues (Black Saint)
This rousing and exceptional 1991 saxophone sextet session, coming just two years before illness stopped the Fort Worth giant from performing, was a real surprise from composer-saxophonist Hemphill, a founder of the World Saxophone Quartet.
Illinois Jacquet The Complete Illinois Jacquet Sessions 1945-50(Mosaic)
With Texans Russell Jacquet, Henry Coker, and Maurice Simon. Jacquet cut these sessions while still in his early twenties, already a star. This four-CD set is full of the powerhouse blues riffing you’d expect and some things you might not.
Blind Lemon Jefferson Blind Lemon Jefferson (Milestone)
An exemplary collection from the “King of Country Blues”; these are sparse, stark, and riveting recordings from 1926 to 1929 that were taken from Paramount 78’s.
The Budd Johnson Quintet Let’s Swing! (OJC)
Johnson recorded this 1960 quintet date well into a career in which he gigged with . . . everyone. He shines here with an understated lyricism on tenor and a first-rate set of tunes.
Dewey Redman African Venus (Evidence)
A 1994 date that showcases the stylistic depth and passion of Fort Worth tenor Redman, a monster talent with an impressive résumé (Coleman, Keith Jarrett, Old and New Dreams).
Buster Smith The Legendary Buster Smith (Koch)
With Leroy “Hog” Cooper. Smith missed recording chances with both Moten’s and Basie’s bands, so many of his peak years go undocumented. His sole album as a leader was an obscure but engaging 1959 date originally released on Atlantic.
Horace Tapscott The Dark Tree 1 and 2 (hatOLOGY)
With Texan John Carter on clarinet. Trancelike explorations from this spectacular Houston pianist build excitement and tension to full effect throughout this modern classic from 1989.
Buddy Tate Texas Tenor Sax (EPM)
With fellow Texans Dan Minor and Illinois Jacquet. Excellent collection that spans 1939 to 1947 from the most neglected of the original Texas Tenors. The Sherman saxophonist is featured with the Basie Band and with his own group.
Jack Teagarden I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues (ASV Living Era)
Young rising star Teagarden already outshines the competition, from Glenn Miller to Benny Goodman, in this compilation covering the period from 1929 to 1934. The Fats Waller vocal duets are worth the price alone.
Teddy Wilson and His Orchestra 1937 (Classics)
With Harry James and Billie Holiday. A year in the life of a stunning talent, featuring the pianist in a variety of settings, most notably, his impeccable work with Holiday. Says music critic Gary Giddins, “Nobody ever had a sound on the keyboard like him, it’s like bells ringing.”
Also, look for interpretations of Scott Joplin’s rags (Joshua Rifkin’s are the most popular) or his sheet music. This list is just the tip of the iceberg; there are hundreds of other great Texas jazz recordings. Explore and enjoy.