Top 10 Jazz Tunes for Pianists to Know (Part 2)

Here is the rest of our article, Top 10 Jazz Tunes for Pianists To Know Part 2. Just a couple quick reminders: first, this is a list of tunes that all musicians should know because they are considered jazz “standards” and are frequently heard on jam sessions and recordings. Secondly, don’t forget to check out the recordings of the pros. These tunes have been recorded by some of the greatest players in jazz, and these recordings serve as excellent lessons in themselves. For the purposes of this article, we have suggested recordings that feature pianists.

Top 10 Jazz Tunes #5: My Romance

“My Romance” is a tune that is usually played in the key of Bb major as either a ballad or medium tempo swing tune (and sometimes both). Bill Evans recorded a brilliant version of this tune on his album “Waltz for Debby,” recorded live at the Village Vanguard.

Top 10 Jazz Tunes #4: All The Things You Are

One of the most classic jazz tunes of all-time, “All the Things You Are” is a standard that has been recorded by… well, everybody. This song has a bit of a long form (36 measures in total) with a lot of changes and “ii-V” progressions, so it’s a bit of a workout for soloists. Here’s a live version by Keith Jarrett, one of the best pianists in the business.

Top 10 Jazz Tunes #3: Autumn Leaves

“Autumn Leaves” is a jazz standard that has found some cross-over appeal, meaning that soft-rock/pop/singer-songwriters artists have also made it their own. The “Real Book” (a collection of hand-written lead sheets of hundreds of jazz tunes) has the tune written in the key of E minor. However, this song is just as frequently played in the key of G minor, so be sure to practice in both of these keys. We’ve featured a lot of Bill Evans recordings in this list (what does that tell you?)

Top 10 Jazz Tunes #2: Rhythm Changes

Ahh, now this requires some explanation. “Rhythm Changes” refers to a 32-bar set of chord changes in AABA form, so we’re not actually talking about one specific tune here. Instead, we’re referring to any number of jazz tunes that were written using this same set of chord changes as George Gershwin’s classic tune “I Got Rhythm.” There have been many tunes that use “rhythm” changes, including “Oleo,” “Moose the Mooche,” “Anthropology,” “Cotton Tail,” “Flintstones.” Perhaps most commonly played in Bb major, you will find “rhythm changes” tunes in various keys.

Top 10 Jazz Tunes #1: Blues Heads

Again, the number one spot does not refer to any specific tune, but rather one of the most important and pervasive forms in all of jazz - the 12-bar blues form. There are countless tunes that fit into this category, but they all have something in common - the same basic 12-measure chord progression. The term “head” (as in “blues heads”) refers to the melody of a song. So here are some blues “heads” that are jazz standards and appear on many recordings: “Straight, No Chaser,” “Blue Monk,” “ Billie's Bounce,” “Now’s the Time,” “Route 66,” “Au Privave,”... too many to name them all. So, we’ll leave you with this version of “C Jam Blues” by Oscar Peterson.

Happy practicing!

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