Since music history rewards the innovations, we don't have to dig very deep to unearth some wonderful music that is often passed over. These are the pieces that musicians compose, play, and record that don't break new ground so they're rarely included in "greatest hits" collections. (When's the last time you've listened to Beethoven's "Cavatina," which was his own favorite composition?)
I must have been blissfully ignorant of "official" jazz history when I was a teen, since the first Duke Ellington album I ever bought was his New Orleans Suite. One of his later recordings, it came out in 1970 and was the last time his longtime alto sax player Johnny Hodges entered the recording studio.
The album's opening track, "Blues For New Orleans," is simply wonderful. Swinging, rocking, and energetic, it has the "spark" that characterizes the best music in any genre. Ellington, then in his 70s, plays like a young man, Johnny Hodges plays the blues with an maturity that we can all aspire to, and organist Wild Bill Davis is burning. (Rockers take note!)
Here it is, guaranteed to bring a smile! Blues For New Orleans
If you've been studying jazz piano and need help "putting it all together," check out my jazz piano video course. I'll give you the necessary practice you need at every step of the way to become truly fluent.