May I just say, first of all, that this is an impossible task. So I'm going to go ahead and do it anyway. There are plenty of places on ye olde internette to find top 100 jazz recordings of all times. Go here for a page that lists a few of the lists. This list of CDs is exhaustive and well chosen. I've just looked through a few of these attempts to codify the "essential" or "must have" CDs. I'm going to have a whack at it here, with a couple of caveats: I'm not going to set a number limit to begin with. I'm going to choose artists of historical importance (mainly old guys and dead guys who influenced the many musicians who came on the scene later). I'm going to choose stuff I personally love unless it is something I don't care for but is too influential to omit.
Louis Armstrong: Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings, Ella and Louis (with Ella Fitzgerald and the Oscar Peterson trio)
Duke Ellington: Blanton/Webster Band, Great Paris Concert
Count Basie: Sinatra at the Sands, April in Paris
Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus and Max Roach: Jazz At Massey Hall
Stan Getz: Getz/Gilberto
Oscar Peterson: Night Train
Cannonball Adderley: Somethin' Else, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy
Miles Davis: Kind of Blue, Cookin', Steamin', Workin', Relaxin', Sketches of Spain, Porgy and Bess, E.S.P., Nefertiti...
John Coltrane: Giant Steps, A Love Supreme
Bill Evans: Sunday at the Village Vanguard, Intermodulation (w/Jim Hall), Portrait in Jazz, Waltz for Debbie
Charles Mingus: Presents the Charles Mingus Quartet, Great Concert of...
Sonny Rollins: Saxophone Colossus, Tenor Madness, The Bridge
Thelonious Monk: Monk's Music, Brilliant Corners, Carnegie Hall Concert (w/ Coltrane)
Wayne Shorter: Speak No Evil, Alegria
Herbie Hancock: Maiden Voyage, Empyrean Isles, Speak Like a Child
Dexter Gordon: Our Man in Paris, Go
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: Moanin', Free for All
Horace Silver: Song For My Father,
Joe Henderson: Inner Urge
Lee Morgan: The Sidewinder
Wes Montgomery: The Incredible Jazz Guitar of ..., Smokin' at the Half Note
Charlie Parker: Complete Dial and Savoy recordings
Dave Brubeck: Time Out
Ornette Coleman: The Shape of Jazz to Come, This Is Our Music, Free Jazz
Clifford Brown and Max Roach: Study in Brown
Chick Corea: Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, Light As A Feather
McCoy Tyner: The Real McCoy
Lester Young: with the Oscar Peterson Trio, Billie Holiday and Lester Young
Jaco Pastorius: Jaco Pastorius
Weather Report: Heavy Weather
Dave Holland: Conference of the Birds, Prime Directive, Not for Nothin', Triplicate
Cecil Taylor: Unit Structures
Pat Metheny: Bright Size Life
Coleman Hawkins: Body and Soul
Art Tatum: Solo Masterpieces
Bud Powell: The Genius of ...
Eric Dolphy: Out To Lunch
Lee Konitz: w/Wayne Marsh and Lennie Tristano
OK, that's all for now. I have left out some excellent contemporary artists and CDs due to lack of time, but I will come back to this soon. Whew!