25+ essential albums from Scottsdale Arts’ President & CEO
When we reached out to Gerd Wuestemann for his top 12 essential songs to create a playlist, we should have known that we would be opening the floodgates. Since Wuestemann’s first passion is music, he informed us that just picking 12 songs would be impossible. So, in no particular order, here are his 25+ essential albums.
Susana Baca—Eco De Sombras
My favorite singer from Central America. She recorded for David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label for a while and I loved this album so much, I named one of my own after it.
Erykah Badu—Mama’s Gun
Oh man, this record is crazy, cool, and funky. Total take-no-prisoner, Black woman power. Next to Badu, musicians like Kravitz are exposed as mere posers (don’t hate me people).
Béla Bartók—Complete String Quartets, Emerson Quartet (1990)
One of the great 20th century composers. This is the finest recording of Bartók’s quartets and the musicians represent perhaps the finest contemporary quartet composing. A complete masterpiece.
David Bowie—Black Star
You need to have Bowie in the rotation. Black Star was released on his 69th birthday and he passed away two days later. The band on the album is Donny McCaslin’s avant-garde jazz quartet, who I used go see at Smalls Jazz Club or The 55 Bar in New York City. I presented McCaslin shortly after he won four Grammys for Black Star, a crazy thing for an outside jazz player.
John Coltrane & Duke Ellington—eponymous
Ellington was 63 and Coltrane 36 when they made this record. Their performance of the Ellington standard “In a Sentimental Mood” will put you just there!
Vieux Farka Touré—Vieux Farka Touré
First time I heard Ali Farka Touré and discovered desert blues, it was in a club in Bamako. His son Vieux became a friend, and he takes the Mali sound into the 21st century.
T-Bone Walker—The Complete Imperial Recordings 1950–1954
I love everything about T-Bone, from his singing and his incredible guitar style, to how he straddles the blues/swing/soul divide. This is my favorite double album of his, from the golden era of one of America’s great labels.
It’s just an incredibly great rock ’n’ roll album.
Everything, almost doesn’t matter how well performed because it’s Bach (and I was born not far from him).
Manuel Barrueco—Albeniz & Granados (1979)
I was 16 when I first heard this recording, and as a young classical guitarist it changed everything for me. For decades I emulated Manuel’s tone and style of intelligent, restrained passion. I studied with him and played guitars made by the same luthier. This is one of the greatest guitar records and to this day his very best.
The Mavericks—In Time
I am Raul Malo’s biggest fan, he has the greatest rock ‘n’ roll voice ever. Great dance music too!
Beethoven—Violin Concerto, Anne-Sophie Mutter violin, Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan conductor (1979)
It doesn’t get much more German than this, an incredible performance of an incredible concerto by an iconic German orchestra, conducted by a legendary German maestro, featuring his very young violin protege. We presented Anne-Sophie Mutter in January and chatting with her was pretty awesome too. This record makes me homesick. Well, this and Angela Merkel.
The James Hunter Six—Minute by Minute
Incredible British blue-eyed soul, and super fun to rock out to. I first met James in a bar at South by Southwest and tried to keep up with him and a bottle of Jameson. Rough night, but worth it.
Led Zeppelin—Led Zeppelin
You have to have a summer of love album in rotation (especially when you’re married to a summer of love child), and this is it for sure. Plus, I got to drink tequila with Robert Plant once in Austin when he was playing with Patty Griffin. That made my life complete.
Mozart—Don Giovanni, English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir, John Elliot Gardiner
My all-time favorite opera, one of the great masterworks of music. Gardiner’s “historically informed” performance is intimate, lithe, quirky, and features both Prague and Vienna versions of the score.
U2—How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
Hard to pick a U2 album, but this one just happened to pop up first and also seems to be appropriate for the times.
I love all of Björk’s work, but Post steals it for me. It’s cookie, serious, fun, and intense. I think “Hyperballad” is one of my all-time favorite tunes.
St. Paul & the Broken Bones—Young Sick Camellia
I love these guys, and Paul is one of the sweetest performers I’ve met. We saw their show in Tucson last year and it was amazing.
Lake Street Dive—Bad Self Portraits
Another super cool band I presented with a badass show. Quirky, fun, and danceable. These guys met as students at the New England Conservatory.
Carlos Gardel—Su Vida y Su Obra (All Volumes)
I love serious tango and Gardel is a legend of a singer. This is some wonderful 1920s music that makes you melancholically weep into your red wine glass.
A triple album. Tons of tracks (all good), to be played very loudly while mopping floors. A time capsule if you grew up in the clubs in Europe in the ’80s.
The Wood Brothers—Loaded
One of my all-time favorite bands, and one of the great live shows I have presented. The Wood Brothers straddle all divides and genres with amazing song writing and music making.
Bob Dylan—Blood on the Tracks
Probably the greatest heart break album of all time, and that’s really saying something.
Keith Frank & the Soileau Zydeco Band—Loved. Feared. Respected.
You just can’t live in southwest Louisiana for more than a decade and not get bit by the Zydeco bug. Keith Frank is my favorite, incredibly fun to dance to and low and slow and furious at the same time. If this record doesn’t put a smile on your face and make you want to dance, it’s possible you aren’t human.
We would love to hear what your essential songs are. Share entire playlists or individual songs with firstname.lastname@example.org. Simply click on each album icon or listen to Gerd’s essential albums on Spotify or Apple Music below!