This is the second post in the series on recommended jazz tunes you should learn. If you missed the first post you can check it out here Jazz Standards To Learn Part 1.
Lets discuss some more tunes that are essential for you to add into your repertoire. I’ll recommend some good recordings to learn from as well. As a reminder: It’s often times best to learn a tune from a great singer for the purpose of having excellent phrasing and swinging hard.
Misty – For many years Misty was the most requested jazz standard of all time. It’s still amazingly popular. There are some really nice II-V-I’s in there and a the bridge has a beautiful melody. Bottom line it needs to be in your repertoire. If you don’t know Misty don’t expect a call back on your next gig Here’s a link to a lesson I made on playing the song Misty Jazz Piano Lesson.
All Of Me – This is one of the most famous jazz standards of all time. It has been played for 80 years. It’s a must for your jazz repertoire. When I first learned the tune I learned it from a fakebook. This was a big mistake. Then I went back and relearned it with Frank Sinatra’s phrasing (from the recording below). When I play it now it swings so much harder. Frank really does some great stuff with swing rhythms. Copy his version even if you’re an instrumentalist!
So What – This one is the first track of the greatest selling jazz album of all time Kind of Blue. It’s a great tune to learn how to play modally over one minor chord. When I transcribed Miles solo on this one I went from pretending to play jazz to really starting to understand how to swing!
Here’s Miles playing the original version:
Did you love Miles solo? There is also a free lesson on the solo right her Miles Davis So What.
Bye Bye Blackbird – I’ve always loved this tune. Miles Davis really made this tune famous when he played it as a ballad. I’ve always liked to play it as a medium or up-tempo though. It’s extremely versatile in terms of tempo.
Here’s a very straight forward vocal version of Julie London singing it. Her phrasing is good and it would be a good source to learn the head of the tune.
There Will Never Be Another You – This tune has bits and pieces of most of the common chord progressions in jazz. It will definitely help you playing over hundreds of standards. Here’s one example of many: I specifically learned how to play over a minor ii-v-i by transcribing a few solos of Bud Powell and Red Garland on this one.
Here’s Bud Powell playing the tune. Check out the solo on there too. It’s great!
I Got Rhythm – George Gershwin’s classic, often times called just “Rhythm Changes” has provided a vehicle for jazz musicians for over half a decade. This is an absolute must as far as tune learning. It’s called at jam sessions around the world on a nightly basis.
Here’s a particularly swinging version of Hank Jones playing it. Such a great groove on the head! IMO there is better solos to transcribe then the ones he plays on this but the head is fantastic.
Stella By Starlight – This is another standard that is called in almost every jam session. If you’re trying to learn how to solo over short form II-V’s, long form II-V’s, and II-V’s in major and minor this is the tune for you. In addition, because of some of the “unusual” harmonic motion in the first 4 bars of the tune it makes people play some really beautiful and interesting lines (translation: less cliche licks).
I really dig Tony Bennett’s version of Stella. It starts regularly swinging at about 40 seconds in.
Don’t Get Around Much Anymore – This is one of the most fun jazz tunes to play out there. It’s a great way to learn how to solo on a long form I-VI -II -V-I chord progression. In addition, the bridge starts with a IV chord which is super common in many jazz standards. Learning how to navigate into and out of this bridge would prepare you for playing over tons of other tunes like Take The A Train, Misty, Satin Doll, and many others.
Here’s a really lively and fun version of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong together. This is off the first jazz CD I ever bought.
Tenor Madness – Being able to play over a blues is an absolute requirement for being your jazz repertoire and development. Many people feel that blues is the true essence and source material of jazz. This was probably true in earlier days and even debatable today as well. Blues and blues licks are such a big part of contemporary 20th and 21st century music. You can hear bit’s and pieces of it in jazz, blues, rock, funk, gospel, country, pop, and many other places. It’s a great launching pad for navigating into other styles of music.
In regards to jazz blues, you could really learn the head to any blues tune. I chose Tenor Madness because it’s a famous one but you could also learn Billie’s Bounce or any other blues head.
Here’s a cool version of Sonny Rollin’s and John Coltrane playing Tenor Madness. Sonny Rollins wrote the head.
Enjoy learning these tunes and get started right away!
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