I'm reminded by the list of essential jazz which I linked to the other day that I ought to move along with my own recommendations. The Modern Jazz Quartet weren't everybody's cup of tea. To some they seemed a bit bloodless - chamber music jazz, as it were. But any collection put together by me has to include them. In part that's just a matter of when I first came across the group, back when I took my first steps on the great continent of this music, with its many different regions, rivers, tributaries. The MJQ were in there for me at the start, with Armstrong, Ellington, Goodman, Bix, Miles, Monk. But I also retain a liking for the specificity of the combination they represent, in which you might think some 20th century J.S. Bach had met up with the blues. John Lewis and Milt Jackson both had the spirit of the blues, as comes through on the quiet counterpoint of all their records. I'm recommending Pyramid (1959-60 - 37 minutes). The album is made by the title track, written by Ray Brown. John Lewis: 'The title came from an experimental arrangement of the piece in which the idea was to make a kind of tempo pyramid: from slow to fast back to slow.' Also excellent is 'Django'. There's a short review here.
[Links to the rest of the series.]