If you are relatively new to improvising you may want to work on the tunes suggested for that session (see the home page). For those that want to explore other jazz tunes here are several lists of tunes commonly called at jams or otherwise considered essential. Many good tunes are not on these lists; the lists are only a starting point and increase the chance that you will know the tunes called at the jam, and the tune you call will be known by others. A downloadable, easier to read pdf version is HERE.
For more on “must-know” tunes, Peter Spitzer took 6 lists of essential tunes and winnowed it down to just the tunes that show up on all 6 lists. The result is a list of essential, essential tunes to know.
Essential Jazz Tunes List 2008 (by Chicago Trumpeter Nick Drozdoff)
I regularly attend about 5 different jam sessions in the Chicago area. The make of personnel/attendees varies from very young and inexperienced to seasoned professionals. It is from the seasoned pros (musicians at least 20 years my senior) that I have learned/gleaned the most. Jazz musicians these days study chords, scales, patterns theory. This is important, but this is actually the minimum required. This may sound daunting, as you should know EVERY scale and chord — ALL OF THEM! The next step is transcribing solos, of course. This is a big addition to the theory. However, what I have discovered from working with these experienced pros is that they go far deeper than that. They seem to have an incredibly intuitive understanding of melodic structure. This is no accident and it comes form their experience. They literally know thousands of tunes. I am not exaggerating here. The best folks I have gotten to know seem to be utterly un-stumpable. The finest jazz players can play anything they can hear and have heard and know thousands of tunes. This is what I have gleaned from this project so far.
So in the spirit of sharing, here is a list of 150 tunes/changes in alphabetical order that I have found seem to get called repeatedly at jam sessions and on dinner sets on high class jobbing dates. I have made it my job to know every one of these tunes from memory. I know hundreds more, but, again, these seem to be the essential mix, so far. As my list grows, I’ll edit here.
From Pete Thomas (UK sax player/educator):
Below is a list of some of the most famous jazz tunes that I have found useful. This is by no means a comprehensive list, it is based mostly on jazz of the 30s – 50s and useful repertoire can vary from region to region in the world. There is a very comprehensive repertoire list in The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine. More modern jazz has become so diverse stylistically that it becomes almost impossible to list modern standards.
Tunes marked * are very important – everyone ought to know.
Tunes marked ** are essential – everyone must know.
|Standards Ain’t Misbehavin’
All Of Me *
All The Things You Are *
Autumn In New York
Autumn Leaves *
Blue Moon *
Body And Soul
Bye Bye Blackbird
Days Of Wine And Roses
Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me
Fly Me To The Moon
Georgia On My Mind **
Girl From Ipanema *
Green Dolphin Street
Have You Met Miss Jones?
Here’s That Rainy Day
How High The Moon
I Got Rhythm **
I Can’t Get Started
I Cover The Waterfront
I Didn’t Know What Time It Was
I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good
I’m Beginning To See The Light
I Want To Talk About You
In A Sentimental Mood
I’m Beginning To See The Light
I’m Getting Sentimental Over You
Lady Be Good
Lady Is A Tramp *
Love For Sale
Lover Come Back to Me
Lullaby Of Birdland
Mack The Knife *
Mean To Me
Moonlight In Vermont
My Favourite Things
My Funny Valentine
Night And Day
On The Sunny Side Of The Street
On A Slow Boat To China
One Note Samba
Out Of Nowhere
Over The Rainbow
Pennies From Heaven
Satin Doll **
Shadow Of Your Smile
Softly as In A Morning Sunrise
Someone To Watch Over Me
Stella By Starlight
Stomping At The Savoy
Sweet Georgia Brown
Tea for Two
There Will Never Be Another You
These Foolish Things
Way You Look Tonight
What Is This Thing Called Love?
When The Saints Go Marching In **
When Sunny Gets Blue
Willow Weep For Me
You Are My Sunshine
|Jazz Standards Basin Street Blues
Giant Steps *
I Remember Clifford
In A Mellow Tone
It Don’t Mean A Thing *
Jeep Is Jumpin
Lester Leaps In **
Lullaby Of Birdland
Meet The Flintstones
Mercy, Mercy, Mercy *
My Little Suede Shoes *
Night In Tunisia
Prelude To A Kiss
Scrapple From The Apple
Song For My Father
St. Thomas *
Take Five *
Take The A Train **
Well You Needn’t
Work Song *
|Jazz Blues Billie’s Bounce
Blue Monk **
C Jam Blues **
Jumping With Symphony Sid *
Mr. P.C. *
Now’s The Time **
Some Other Blues
Sonnymoon For Two *
Straight No Chaser
Things Ain’t What They Used To Be *
Watermelon Man **
From the Manhattan School of Music:
Jazz Studies Repertoire List
University of Oregon
Songs on the Jazz Studies Repertoire List are required to be performed by memory including the melody and improvised choruses over the chord changes. You are strongly encouraged to learn these songs by listening to the original artists and recordings when possible. All songs may be found on Jamey Aebersold play-alongs for practice purposes.
Impressions (modal) – Dmi
Maiden Voyage (modal) – D7sus
Mr. PC (minor blues) – Cmi
Billie’s Bounce (major blues) – F
Oleo (rhythm changes) – Bb
Autumn Leaves (standard) – Gmi
What’s New (ballad) – C
Lady Bird (jazz classic) – C
Blues Bossa (jazz classic) – Cmi
All Blues (modal 6/8 blues) – G
Witch Hunt (modal) – Cmi
Tenor Madness (major blues) – Bb
Birk’s Works (minor blues) – Fmi or Gmi
Scrapple From the Apple (jazz classic) – F
Out of Nowhere (standard) – G
Misty/I Want to Talk About You (ballad) – Eb
Alone Together (standard) – Dmi
Solar (jazz classic) – Cmi
Four (jazz classic) – Eb
Green Dolphin Street (standard) – C and Eb
What is This Thing Called Love (standard) – Cmi
Caravan (jazz classic) – Fmi
Invitation (standard) – Cmi
Body and Soul (standard) – Db
Stella By Starlight (standard) – Bb
It’s You or No One (standard) – F
Lazy Bird (jazz classic) – G
Moment’s Notice (jazz classic) – Eb
Once I Loved (standard) – F
All The Things You Are (standard) – Ab
Council for Higher Education in Music (a group of Maryland colleges)
(Freshman Year: Semester 1)
Standards: Satin Doll, Take the A Train. Autumn Leaves.
Be-Bop: Tune-up. Four.
Bossa Nova/Samba: Song for My Father. Blue Bossa.
Ballads: In a Sentimental Mood. Yesterdays.
Blues: Blue Monk. Now’s the Time. Equinox.
Modal: So What. Cantaloupe Island.
Three-Four: Footprints. All Blues.
Suggested Aebersold Volumes in Addition to Repertoire: Volumes 1, 2, 3, 21, 24, 54.
Suggested David Baker Volumes in Addition to Repertoire: How to Play Be-Bop, Volume 1.
(Freshman Year: Semester 2)
Standards: Just Friends. Invitation. It Don’t Mean a Thing.
Be-Bop: Oleo. Scrapple From the Apple. Solar.
Bossa Nova/Samba: 500 Miles High. Girl from Ipanema.
Ballads: Tenderly. Misty.
Blues: Billie’s Bounce. Mr. P.C., Blue Trane. Straight No Chaser.
Modal: Little Sunflower. Maiden Voyage. Milestones. Freedom Jazz Dance (emphasizes fourth intervals).
Three-Four: Alice in Wonderland. A Child is Born. My Favorite Things (also modal–cf Coltrane version).
Suggested Aebersold Volumes in Addition to Repertoire: Volumes 1,2,3,21,24,54.
Suggested David Baker Volumes in Addition to Repertoire: How to Play Be-Bop, Volume 2.
(Sophomore Year: Semester 1)
Standards: Green Dolphin Street. I’ll Remember April. All the Things You Are.
Be-Bop: Night in Tunisia. Confirmation. Lazy Bird. Cherokee. Joy Spring.
Bossa Nova/Samba: Spain. How Insensitive. Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars.
Ballads: Round Midnight. Prelude to a Kiss.
Modal: Impressions. Passion Dance.
Three-Four: Waltz for Debbie. Fly Me to The Moon in 3/4.
Complex Time Signatures: Paul Desmond, Take Five
Suggested David Baker Volumes in Addition to Repertoire: How to Play Be-Bop, Volume 3.
(Sophomore Year: Semester 2)
Standards: Stella by Starlight. There Will Never be Another You. How High the Moon
Be-Bop: Giant Steps (moderate tempo). Donna Lee. Moment’s Notice. Nica’s Dream.
Bossa Nova/Samba: One Note Samba. Wave. Ceora
Ballads: Namia. Lush Life.
Three-Four: La Fiesta. Up Jumped Spring.
Complex Time Signatures: All the Things You Are in 7/4. My Favorite Things in 11/4