The Great American Song Book has formed the backbone of the jazz repertoire for the past one hundred years.
Whilst many of the songs are approaching the 100th anniversary of their composition, that is no reason not to play close attention to them. Jazz standards have played an important role in the development of jazz during the 20th and into the 21st century. I regularly get asked by students which jazz standards they should know, and whilst this list is not exhaustive, these are the top 100 that you should know, and in the Vlog episode below I explain how you should go about learning them, (tip start with the playlists below…)
I’ve always loved finding out what makes great musicians ‘tick’. I often find some of the best interviews can be hosted by fellow musicians as they often have insights into the right questions.
This article that I found years ago on the JazzWise website contains an interview that Joshua Redman did with the legendary Sonny Rollins back in 2005. It was based around Sonny’s release of his Without A Song the 9/11 concert – recorded just days after the tragic events of the 11th September 2001 in New York and Washington. Sonny lived just a few blocks from the World Trade Centre site and has suffered in recent years from lung issues, thought to be from the toxic fumes released in NYC during and after the attacks.
You can read the full interview here, and of course please do watch my #DansVlog episode. I’ve also put together an exclusive Sonny Rollins playlist which compliments the interview.
Some of my favourite quotes from the interview..
When I was a little kid I tried to sing in front of one of these places on 133rd Street, which years ago used to be a real haven for clubs when people used to come uptown. And Buddy Johnson said he really dug my playing-I was about 12 years old; that was a great feeling. As I grew older, all the great people were living uptown: Coleman Hawkins, Don Redman, Erskine Hawkins, Duke Ellington.
JR: One thing that’s completely astounding to me is I’ve heard recordings that you did when you weren’t even 20, and some of your first recordings you did in your early 20s, and you had been playing the saxophone for less than 10 years. You were an absolute prodigy, you were playing on the highest level imaginable. It’s kind of intimidating and almost depressing for a musician like me to hear that. Did it feel like it came naturally?
SR: You’re very, very kind. I just practiced a lot; I practiced a lot because I loved playing. I’d be practicing all day long. My mother used to have to call me to come and eat dinner because I was in there practicing all the time. I guess some of that came through. I was also lucky to be around some of these great people. I was able to record with a genius like Bud Powell when I was very young, and so I always try to get myself up as close as I can to that level.
You can’t spend too much time thinking about what you’re going to play, it comes out so fast.
But right now, Joshua, I still have hopes of improving and sounding better and making a better record. Hope burns eternal. I’m going to put off going into the vaults and trying to find something I’ve done before. This [new CD] was a special occasion and we’ll see what happens in the future.
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Sonny Rollins is a living legend of the saxophone & in this Vlog I explore how he developed his trademark melodic improvisation.
Last year when I was having lunch with my mentor Branford Marsalis, we were discussing simple melodic ideas and how Sonny Rollins is such a brilliant exponent of melodic improvisation. Branford told me why, from conversations he’s had with Sonny over the years.