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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The ii V I progression is something you will hear me and many improvisers talking about.
It’s a VERY COMMON chord progression in jazz and the better you can navigate it, the better solos you can play. If you’re a member of the site, make sure you check out the numerous lessons I have put together for Autumn Leaves, in addition to this episode of my Vlog.
Chasing the Trane is a new documentary film by critically-acclaimed documentary filmmaker John Scheinfeld.
The film is produced with the full participation of the Coltrane family and the support of the record labels that collectively own the Coltrane catalog. Scheinfeld brings his strong story-telling skills to the creation of a rich, textured and compelling narrative that takes the audience to unexpected places.
Set against the social, political and cultural landscape of the times, CHASING TRANE brings John Coltrane to life as a fully dimensional being, inviting the audience to engage with Coltrane the man, Coltrane the artist.
I realise that getting your practice in during the summer can be tough, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do some useful music related activities if you’re at the beach right now!
I’ve put together some playlists on Apple Music & Spotify to share with you over the holidays. One of them is a playlist of all the transcription projects that you can find on the Cambridge Saxophone website, the other is a mammoth Blue Note playlist with over 3 days worth of albums!
If you have other playlists then this app (Songshift) can help you transfer playlists between different streaming services!
Apple Music Playlists
(click on the link to open in iTunes, you can get 3 months free)