Various Artists

Essential Jazz [Time Life]

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Time Life's 1999 collection Essential Jazz lives up to its title. Notice it doesn't claim to be definitive or complete, just essential -- and when you start running down the track list, every song you hit seems perfect. Just throw out six random songs and see how amazing your results are. Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder," the Jazztet's "Killer Joe," Basie's "April in Paris," Erroll Garner's "Misty," Nat King Cole's "Route 66," and John Coltrane's "Lush Life." That's pretty hot stuff. Apart from missing Louis Armstrong (which is wrong no matter how you look at it), you would be hard-pressed to find a better three-disc jazz collection that delivers as thunderous a knockout punch.

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