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10 Truly Great Jazz Performances

When this list was submitted I looked back over the past two years worth of lists and realized that we didn’t have a single Jazz list! Therefore I am very please to introduce this one! I’d like to emphasize that this is NOT a top ten best list! Rather, it’s simply a list of some great jazz performances and is more of an overview of different jazz styles. Aside from trying to add a diverse selection of jazz styles, any song making the cut into the list had to have a Youtube video with film footage rather than a picture montage with song accompaniment.


Ain’t got no… (I got life)
Nina Simone


Nina Simone has dabbled in all the jazz genres, and this a little taste of her acid jazz stylings. It’s not lyrically or instrumentally challenging but it’s fun to listen to her sing “My boobies!” I recommend not singing that aloud randomly in public places unless you’re used to receiving odd looks from strangers…


‘Round Midnight
Thelonious Monk


‘Round Midnight is a staple for the late night jazz radio stations. This was originally composed by Thelonious Monk but has had such an influence on the jazz world that nearly every jazz musician has performed his or her own interpretation of the piece.


Sing Sing Sing
The Benny Goodman Orchestra


Does this song need an introduction? It is fairly well known because of swing music’s mainstream revival through bands like The Brian Setzer Orchestra and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. If you listen to this version and that of more recent takes on the song, you’ll notice that not much has changed; it’s hard to fix perfection!


Darn that Dream
The Ahmad Jamal Trio


Ahmad Jamal is one of the best jazz pianists to ever touch the keys. He has been a professional musician for over 50 years now working with the likes of Stan Gentz, Sarah Vaughn and Miles Davis. Let it be noted that the performance in the video clip is entirely improv.


A lovely way to spend an evening
June Christy and Stan Kenton


June Christy’s star power was eclipsed by the likes of Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald so she’s relatively unknown to the casual jazz listener. However, she’s an icon in the cool jazz genre and is often credited with being the original style influence for many modern day jazz singers. In the early part of her career, she sang for Stan Kenton’s orchestra but her style really took off when she went solo. This performance took place just prior to her retirement from the music industry.


Assorted song clips
The Quintette of the Hot Club of France


Thanks to Pixar, gypsy jazz seems to be reemerging in mainstream popularity. Guitarist Django Reinhardt and violinist Stephen Grapelli are the most famous gypsy jazz artists and they both happen to play for this quintet. Be careful with your volume; shortly after the 4 minute mark, the sound quality becomes very bad and very loud.


Dizzy Gillespie


Afro-Cuban jazz blends New Orleans jazz style with Latin rhythms. It’s usually much more structured than other jazz genres but has a light-hearted rhythm that’s great to dance to, whether it’s fast-paced like Dizzy Gillespie’s “Manteca” or slower like the bossa nova styled song “Sway”.


So What
Miles Davis & John Coltrane


This piece is one of the best songs in one of the best albums created in any jazz genre. The entire album is worth listening to. Without going too deeply into music theory, most improv styles prior were fixed within a chord set (i.e. specific musical notes) but Miles Davis tried a new technique (modal jazz) that vastly opened up the range and allowed for more musical liberties.


One for my Baby
Sammy Davis Jr.


This is a great way to cram in as many jazz musicians as possible into this list! Sammy Davis, Jr. did a remarkable job mimicking each singer’s style and mannerisms. The impressions done include Fred Astaire, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Billy Eckstine, Vaughn Monroe, Tony Bennett, Mel Tormé, Louis Armstrong, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis…and of course, a little bit of Sammy Davis, Jr.


What a Wonderful World
Louis Armstrong


This is one of the more commonly known jazz songs as numerous musicians have covered the song and it has also played in many television shows and movies. Like the bluesy “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday, this was meant as an anti-racism song but unlike “Strange Fruit”, it takes on a hopeful outlook for change in the future.

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  • joe mama

    Good lookin’ out with the list

  • We need to add a function that prevents a person from posting a comment until they have read and accepted the fact that we don’t allow “first!” type comments here. I have to spend time on every new list deleting them. It is incredibly annoying and wasteful.

  • Alejo

    O, how I love jazz.

  • Zack

    jfrater, cant you add some sort of program that disables comments for the first ten minutes after a list is posted? or better yet, a program that doesn’t allow a user to comment until 3-5 minutes after he/she opens a new list.

  • Zack

    i meant to put a question mark at the end of the comment…

  • Pix

    Cool list, the performances were amazing – I love what a wonderful world!

  • I4gotmyMANTRA

    I really want to listen to all of these. but its really late here in the states. I’ll have to do it in the morning. Looking forward to it though.

  • Shagrat

    When I saw “10 Truly Great Jazz Performances” I thought – “Oh YEAH!!! I LOVE Transformers” . . . . .
    1. Jazz vs Megatron
    2. Jazz vs Starscream
    3. Jazz vs Bonecrusher
    4. Jazz vs Blackout
    5. Jazz vs Skorponok

    Then I realised it was ‘music’

    Seriously though, folks:
    While I love Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” (one of my all-time favourites) and I enjoy Both Sammy Davis Jnr and Nat King Cole (#6); I am sorry Alejo and gabi319 I just cannot bear Jazz – far too ‘improvised’ for my taste.
    However “each to their own / One man’s meat, another man’s poison” etc

    Good list though for Jazz lovers.

  • Alan Jimenez

    Funny, my version of Manteca doesn’t sound like that.
    And, as always, Coltrane rocked!

  • Alvin

    beautiful list

  • Hasuri

    Not really in to jazz, it makes me sleep. :p hehe

  • saldytuvas

    somehow i liked no.10 more than no.1 , i just thought to myself – what an annoying song. and i was really expecting to see frank vignola here.

  • stevenh

    You have made my day when I opened listverse and saw Nina Simone’s picture.

    Thank you for this Excellent list.

  • Baxter In Action

    Interesting… ‘Manteca’ has the same melody as ‘Tequila’ by the Champs.
    I have to say, I absolutely despise ‘Ain’t got no…’, purely becaue over here in the UK it’s been heavily overplayed in some really fucking annoying adverts. But I digress. Great list!

  • warrrreagl

    What a paradox! This list is truly a great idea, but it highlights the fact that very, very few of the best jazz performances were ever captured on video. Charlie Parker’s breathtaking out-take solo on “A Night in Tunisia,” or John Coltrane’s legendary 30-minute solo at the Sutherland in Chicago (Jimmy Cobb had to throw a drumstick at him to finally make him stop playing), or the night in Japan that Ray Brown dropped a handful of steel balls into the piano and forced Oscar Peterson to play ONE-HANDED while he picked the balls off the strings with the other hand.

  • oouchan

    Great list, gabi319! I am so happy that you picked “What a Wonderful World” for number one. I am also happy that you included “Sing, Sing, Sing” and “One for my Baby”. All 3 I have on my ipod, but will be adding a few more before the day is out. :D

  • Kennoth

    I fu*king hate jazz

  • warrrreagl

    Kennoth, your eloquence is breathtaking.

    /run “hatejazz_garbage.bat” -t “3”

  • moneypenny

    strange fruit billie holiday???

    There is a beautiful live version video on youtube, it would have been perfect here. The song is so haunting, its about the lynching of african americans. The rumour has it that when billie first sang it, no one applauded becuase they were so shocked about what they had heard.

    Maybe put it as a bonus?!! watch it!

  • Gauldar

    My fav is Louis Armstrong’s “A kiss to build a dream on”.

  • pauline

    don’t like modern jazz the old trad jazz isn’t too bad or dixiland either

  • bm3w

    How could you possibly leave out Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”?

  • Mom424

    Awesome. I always thought I didn’t like Jazz. I was wrong. Love Sammy Davis Jr. btw. Great addition.

  • Mullaccio

    It is about time we had some jazz!! The world needs another Miles Davis type musician to bring this genre back into popularity. It beats the hell out of the disgusting 50 cent rubbish spewing out of the radio infecting our ears. Luckily, I still have much of genre to explore. My favourite jazz musicians would be Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk.

    I adore the hard-bop and post-bop from the fifties and sixties. I cannot enjoy free-jazz. It just sounds like a complete mess to my ears. Maybe I will have an appreciation for it after another 20 years of listening to all that jazz!

    Refreshing list bud well done. Keep em comin!

  • warrrreagl

    Mullacio, it’s all about perspective. Louis Armstrong hated bebop jazz passionately, and Cab Calloway called it “Chinese music.” Many of the bebop guys despised Miles and Coltrane when they experimented with cool jazz and hard bop. And everybody hated Miles when he turned towards fusion jazz. All of these sounds are now mainstream to our ears.

    Wynton Marsalis is the loudest voice today for a return to more traditional jazz, but at the same time he’s discouraging new artists from pushing the envelope into new sounds (which is what jazz has always been about).

    The next 10 years are going to be exciting for jazz, that’s for sure.

  • kiwiboi

    All this talk about jazz reminds me about one of my favourite musician stories. Back in the day, the great Bix Biederbecke needed a union card to play in certain states of the US (the Mississippi region, I think) and – though I can’t remember the resaon why – the local union didn’t want him to have one.

    Now, one of the requirements for the ticket was that you could sight-read a piece of music that the union committee chose and put in front of you. Knowing Bix couldn’t read music they had a very difficult horn piece all ready and waiting for him. However, when Bix saw what they wanted him to play he insisted on taking his test on the piano, and the union had no choice but to put some piano music in from of him.

    Bix had perfect pitch and, though a horn player, could also play anything on the piano after hearing it once or twice; he knew what the tune was when he saw the title, and played it by ear whilst pretending to sight-read. They had no option but to give him his union ticket.

  • lostatsea

    Hallelujah ‘I got life’ WOW Nina rocks! Great list girl!

  • Davern_g

    I think many jazz lovers, as infuential as louis was, would be disappointed with what a wonderful world topping the list. He would more appropriately top the list of the ten most influential jazz musicians.

  • Eugene

    Isn’t “Ain’t got no” From the musical “Hair” ?

  • Liz

    I’d never seen that Nina Simone performance before. She was taking some interesting liberties with the “Hair” lyrics, wasn’t she?

  • Jubyduk

    I was expecting specific jazz recordings. I can’t get enough of Take Five by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Timeless.

    For those looking for sound recording excellence, get your hands on “Jazz at the pawnshop”:

    Jazz at the Pawnshop is one of the most famous audiophile records in music. These sessions recorded at the jazz club Stampen (Pawnshop) in Stockholm in 1976 by Gert Palmcrantz has an extraordinary presence and a genuine live feeling.

    Jazz At The Pawnshop has been regarded as “The Best Jazz Recording of the Century”! Most audiophiles all over the world should have already be in possession of one. Its musical artistry and sonic excellence have few peers.

  • redcaboose

    Great list, Gabi. Some really fine music to wake up to this morning. I grew up listening to jazz, blues and big band in my house. I love Coltrane, Monk, Art Tatum, and Dizzy. And to say that Nina Simone “dabbled” in jazz is an understatement.

  • smurff

    Nice list gabi319 I have enjoyed Louis Armstrongs music in the past – but there is a MUST watch song on you tube for those that like animals with what a wonderful world being sung in the back round.

    Im no PC fundi but I went to his site and picked What a wonderful world and on the right hand side it gives you other songs by him.

    Click on the deer and kitten – with his music in the back round its awesome stuff – goose pimples.

    As Ive mentioned before Im no big buff on the PC but anybody who is an animal lover and loves jazz this is a must watch.

  • gabi319

    Thanks for putting this up Jamie! I was seriously wondering if it was worth the effort to submit this since there weren’t any jazz lists here prior (i.e. worrying if there was a specific reason why it WASN’T here before!)

    Some points to reiterate:
    – The opening paragraph says it pretty well. I tried to pick one piece in a jazz genre. It’s the first jazz list here so I wanted diversity to show there’s a lot that’s encompassed within the genre. That’s why I expected the “I like this one but not that”. As such this is not a top ten but rather a list of ten. If it were a top ten, I’d be right there along with y’all complaining about the order and why some of my favorites aren’t on here!

    – The other stipulation was that it had to be a filmed performance. That truly narrowed down my list of possible songs to put in the list since, like warrrreagl mentioned, a lot of jazz isn’t filmed. I tried hard to find something Dixieland worth putting in the list (since that’s essentially the origins of jass before it became jazz) but couldn’t find anything but music with photomontages. Sorry, Pauline!

    -Moneypenny: “Strange Fruit” was actually what gave me the idea to start this list. I eventually dropped it because having a list of Jazz and Blues was too broad for a list of just ten. If I can find some good stuff, I’ll definitely think up Blues 10! or you could do it! To the rest, I definitely recommend looking up “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday on Youtube. Definitely worth a look.

    Thanks everyone for the suggestions and the warm reception! If there’s hope for future Jazz lists, I will definitely begin to narrow down future list topics to give more attention to specific genres, specific artists, etc.

    Perhaps I may even make a Jazz Transformer list to make Shagrat happy ;-)

    BTW, for those who say Jazz sounds ‘messy’… that’s part of the reason I went with a broad spectrum of jazz. I wanted to show there’s a lot out there. Perhaps fusion doesn’t appeal to you and maybe acid is too repetitive… then there’s definitely gypsy or latin jazz which is far more structured and plays with around with improvisation usually only around solos (however, only is not always in jazz!). There’s plenty to like for those with an open mind! :-)

    26. kiwiboi
    Interesting that you mention that. Most jazz musicians prior I want to say the 1940’s or so couldn’t read music so it’s strange that the union committee would make that a requirement. In fact, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (who made the first recorded jazz song) boasted that fact. They didn’t rehearse and none of them could read music!

  • Val

    I knew Louis Armstrong had to be first! He’s amazing and one of my fav artists.

  • Steeveedee

    Nice list, but not sure what Pixar has to do with the popularity of Gypsy jazz. Maybe you’re referring to the animated film “The Triplets of Belleville” which features a Gypsy jazz heavy soundtrack, but was not a Pixar film…

  • lostatsea

    #8 Gene Krupa on drums..and Benny on clarinet..Smokin!!

  • TEX

    Great list gabi – and thanks for including “Sing Sing Sing” – I saw this clip from “Hollywood Hotel” for the first time about 8 months ago, and did what you probably would have – I watched with amazement then hit record on the DVR – I still watch it from time to time . Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Harry James (at his most awesome!), Lionell Hampton – does anybody know who the piano player was???
    I believe that the swing movement was one of the seeds of modern (current) rhythm.

    • ShoresLady

      For the record: Louis Prima, composer,

  • kiwiboi

    Interesting that you mention that. Most jazz musicians prior I want to say the 1940’s or so couldn’t read music so it’s strange that the union committee would make that a requirement.

    gabi – I think part of the issue in the story I mentioned was that “jazzmen” were increasingly taking the paying gigs that the more “classical” outfits would normally get (the latter almost certainly being readers). So, perhaps this is why there was some measure of resentment towards Bix and his contemporaries…and why the requirement to read in order to get union recognition prevailed.

    In the case of Bix we would, of course, be talking the 1920’s)…

  • TEX

    Another interesting bit of trivia, in the clip “Sing Sing Sing”, next to Krupa on drums are four trumpets, first was Harry James of course, the trumpet player on the far right was Johnnie “Scat” Davis. He was also an orchestra singer – whenever you hear Tinsel Town’s anthem “Hooray For Hollywood” – that’s Johnnie “Scat” Davis singing.

  • Turd Ferguson

    How DARE you not include Glenn Miller in this list?

  • Alejo

    Miles>all other jazz artists


  • kgreer6350

    jfrater, i am shocked and appalled that Howlin’ Wolf’s Smokestack Lightning is not on this list…the live version he did in Britain is one of the most soulful performances i’ve ever seen and i watch it daily for inspiration. Although it is a blues medley, the sound and impact is undeniable. Please look for yourself:

  • MT

    Great list gabi319!
    I’m a big jazz fan and know there are many other perfomances that people will say should be on this list. I think you covered some great ones that everyone should appreciate.

  • Maggot

    43 kgreer6350: i am shocked and appalled that Howlin’ Wolf’s Smokestack Lightning is not on this list

    Though I admittedly know next to nothing about jazz, I think it is safe to say that it is not “blues” (though there’s surely some links in the pedigree). I wouldn’t even consider this blues classic to be “jazz blues”. Am I missing something, kgreer? I can’t view your clip right now, is this rendition a “jazzed up” version?

  • shay09mm

    I have to admit that I absolutely despise jazz

  • jovak101

    I have to admit that I absolutely adore jazz

  • Hey, Jazzy Gabi’s on the mic! Some very good and some very original Jazz greats listed today. Some say jazz is an aquired taste; but there are many forms of jazz. I can listen to everything except freeform cleo lane – but acid jazz I find really good. Am I ‘into’ jazz? Well not at the moment, I’m at the tail end of a fascination with Kate Bush…. of which my latest mixtape CD I have called ‘Set my bush on fire!’. Anyway….

  • VikingBerserker

    This is one of the first lists I have ever read here that the only comment I can make is: “A-Fricken-Men!!!”

    Nicely done!!

  • Mabel

    This is cool. I don’t know very much about jazz at all, but it’s nice to have a sampler for someone who is new to the genre.

  • big_bro_shane

    the videos will not load on my computer! I’m missing out on great jazz! somebody help me please! help me get the videos to load–i’ve had this problem with other lists on this site (and i love this site). In all seriousness, help would be appreciated.

  • DK

    Excellent list Gabi319! I know very little about jazz, and had no idea of the range & variety there was in different styles. This was definitely a great intro to learning more about jazz.

    What a Wonderful World gets me teary eyes every single time (how’s about the mix of that song with Somewhere Over the Rainbow done by “Iz”?! That wins for my all time favorite song ever), so I was glad to see it on here of course!

    Also I just adored the Sammy Davis Jr clip, it was awesome!

  • genaroian_13

    Louis Armstrong is Awesome!

  • Just wanted to say geat list gabi319.
    IMHO Sammy Davis Jr. was the greatest entertainer of our time. (Or at least my time) :-)

  • themanwithnoname

    i am listening nina simone till yesterday. it is greatest woman voice i have ever heard. tanks.

  • gabi319

    36. Steeveedee – “not sure what Pixar has to do with the popularity of Gypsy jazz.”
    They never said that they’d ‘bring back’ Gypsy jazz, but they do use it for a lot of their end credits (especially for the shorts) and DVD menus. Since Ratatouille was set in France, quite a bit of the soundtrack had a lot of gypsy jazz influence. In fact, the main rat’s father was named as a tribute to Django Reinhardt. Perhaps ‘popularity’ is the wrong word and ‘exposure to a new generation in a very public medium’ may be better?

    39. kiwiboi – “jazzmen” were increasingly taking the paying gigs that the more “classical” outfits would normally get
    Never made the connection in my head when reading your comment earlier, but it makes sense! I learn something new everyday! :-) thanks!

    41. Turd Ferguson – How DARE you not include Glenn Miller in this list?
    Easy, Turd. See above list? No Glenn Miller? Consider dare completed.

    51. big bro shane:
    My first thought was there might be an issue with your firewall or security settings. I’m not that great with computers so hopefully this link may help better than I can:

    50. Mabel, 52. DK:
    Thanks for understanding what I was trying to do with this list! I wanted to make it so there’s a few jazz standards to interest the jazz enthusiasts and get them to talk about some of their favorite and/or influential recordings but also some very widely-recognizable pieces to not overwhelm those who aren’t familiar with jazz. Overall, just a nice, broad spectrum to appeal to as many people as possible!

  • Steve T.

    OK, now you’ve got me mad. The great problem with most jazz writing is that it’s done by amateurs who love the music but don’t KNOW anything about technical matters. Like harmony.

    Take “So What” by Miles, #3. You’re saying the music is not “fixed within a chord set,” but that’s exactly what it is. Miles and Coltrane are carefully staying within the chord progression, if that’s what you mean by “chord set.” They expand beautifully the limits of melodic throw-arounds you can use within a progression, but that’s different. What they don’t do is establish a melody as a basis, and work from that. THAT is what they are dispensing with.

    Sorry if I argue from authority, but I have a music MFA from UCLA and was Jazz Curator at the Louisiana State Museum for ten years.

    Harrumph. Now you damn kids get off my lawn. Steve Teeter.

    • ShoresLady

      I want to come over and listen to your jazz collection. My MA in Pop Culture means I can analyze the album cover art and liner notes while we listen.

  • aietes

    Her name is Sarah Vaughan not Vaughn (though her name is spoken like this)!

  • bucslim

    Kind of Blue was one of the first CD’s I ever bought. That was around 1990. I never actually sat down and listened to it once in about 12 years. I was too busy buying replacements for my album collection to give it any consideration. After my divorce, I unpacked all my stuff and needed something to play while I was sorting everything out in my new shithole apartment.

    So in goes Kind of Blue.

    There’s something to be said when you listen to something that causes you to stop what you’re doing and take a seat and pay attention. Which is exactly what I did the moment So What started to get cooking. I was thunderstruck. It took me 40 years to figure out that Miles Davis and John Coltrane were geniuses. And this is coming from a hard core rock music fan.

    It was one of the times I actually was thankful I had functioning ears. I’ve also had the privilege of seeing Dizzy Gilespie twice. Once when I was in college and couldn’t figure out or appreciate what I was experiencing and again years later right before his death when he could only blow for 40 minutes.

    Life changing shit. Not sure I can say that about a lot of stuff I listen to.

  • Maggot

    Excellent list gabi. I admit to being somewhat narrow-minded in my choices of music and I haven’t ever paid much attention to the genre of jazz. Not out of disrespect, just not all that interested. But last night I finally got a chance to check out the videos you provided, and I must say, coupled with buc’s cool post #59 above, I’m inspired to go purchase a few CDs!

  • Ken in Baltimore

    My first comment on this site, I hope it’s OK to mention that.

    This is a great list, and as some others have said, “Take Five” would have made an excellent addition.

    Other possibles for such a list might include “Powerhouse” by Raymond Scott, of which there is a video on YouTube and also “Cantaloop(Flip Fantasia)” by US 3, also on YouTube.

  • Red C

    My heart sank when I saw Nina Simone here, but when I saw that you had chosen this particular Ahmad Jamal performance I knew you did have something valuable to say after all. Thank you, so.

  • big_bro_shane

    56. gabi — thanks for the information. It was more help than I’d gotten from anywhere else. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t work–YouTube, Fancast, etc. (as well as all the other animated adds and so forth work), but embedded videos on listverse and a few other favorite sites don’t seem to load much less work. Maybe it’s me… But I do appreciate your help!

  • Looser

    Would one of you jazz aficionados please tell me what albums i should get if i want to get into REALLY GOOD JAZZ?!?! like maybe list like 9-10 albums you think i should be listening to? or artists? please? i love jazz but dont know what to get into cuz im new to the scene.

    • ShoresLady

      Definitely include pianist, composer, bandleading pioneer Horace Silver in your Intro sessions. "Song for my Father" should easily win your heart and ears. It can be fun to choose the instrument that "speaks" to you and follow it to see how Chet Baker's cool California jazz trumpet compares to what Miles was doing at the same time. Listen to Cannonball Adderly, Sam Butera, Coleman Hawkins, and Gerry Mulligan on saxophone…you'll be swingin'.

  • Moonbeam

    I love lists like this that enlighten me about music and musicians I hadn’t known about, along with those I’m more familiar with. I never heard of Nina Simone, or Gypsy Jazz for example.

    #64 Looser, I’m not a jazz expert, but you may enjoy Ken Burns PBS series about Jazz. I learned a lot watching it. For example I remember seeing Louis Armstrong as a kid on TV variety shows when he was an old man, but I never realized how great of a musician he actually was. I just thought he was a singer with a really rough scratchy voice, who happen to also play the trumpet!

  • bucslim

    Looser – well since I already spoke about Kind of Blue, uh, well Kind of Blue – Miles Davis.

    John Coltrane – A Love Supreme, Giant Steps, Ascension

    Miles Davis -Bitches Brew, Round Midnight

    Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Uhm, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady

    I’ve heard a lot of Brubeck, but I can’t really think of an album off the top of my head Time Out probably.

    I love Pat Metheny – Bright Sized Life, First Circle and Off Ramp – little more modern flavor

    You could also check out Heavy Weather by Weather Report for something a little more modern. Good shit on that album.

    Some of these I own and have listened to, some of them I’ve heard only parts of, but I am by no means a jazz aficionado. There’s too much here to mention – I don’t think you’d go wrong with any of the artists mentioned in the list. Winton Marsalis also comes to mind.

  • bucslim

    Thelonius Monk too

  • I love Jazz. For 15-18 years, I attended every night of the Hollywood Bowl’s Playboy Jazz Festival, and went to individual Jazz or Blues concerts at both the Hollywood Bowl or the Greek. I saw Ella Fitzgerald’s last public performance, though no one knew at the time it was the last.
    Blues and Jazz just speak to me in a way that other kinds of music doesn’t, even though almost all kinds of music speaks to me in a special way.
    I can’t argue with a single item on the list, although there are 3 dozen other tunes I’d have put in before the one’s on the list. It’s all subjective.
    Jazz and Blues led me to an appreciation of African tribal music. Now my collection of that is wide and deep as well.
    I’ve found that all my life. One kind of music will open my eyes, my senses, to another kind of music, then often another.
    Not just music, either, but ways of life, history in a way.
    This is a wonderful list. I own copies of every piece on this list by the artist featured as well as by at least two other artists (except the Nina Simone one).
    My iPod is always a bit schzoid, full of equal parts classical (any era), classic rock’n’roll, blues/jazz, african tribal music, and celtic songs. It keeps my mind busy while I’m doing other things.

    • ShoresLady

      Would love a virtual tour of your collection. Hope you'll do a list of your faves to share with all. I so enjoy it when a song opens the door as you mention above. "That's All Right, Mama" did that for me in 1977 when trying to answer the question "Why Elvis?" After hearing Presley on Sun Records I sought out his influence Arthur "Big Boy" Cruddup, which jumped back to Lightnin' Hopkins' "Mean Ol' Frisco". And so it delightfully goes as the lines twist and twine.

  • oouchan

    68. segue: Your ipod and my ipod need to get together! :D
    I have that same list along with disco, country (5 songs total), japanese, french, musicals and soundtracks. Most of my songs are from the 80’s, though.

  • gabi319

    57. Steven T.
    It’s so hard for me to hold my words in check and not stoop to bickering with you. No, I won’t discuss my specific musical credentials but I will say that no, I haven’t played jazz. However, it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying on my part. I was pigeon-holed into classical performance because that was what I was good at and never even allowed to consider anything else. I respect that based on what you’ve bragged about yourself, you probably know quite a bit about jazz and I do hope you take the initiative to submit future jazz lists rather than wait to complain about how someone’s ignorance made you angry. Had you simply offered that dissection of So What without that superior air, I most likely would have thanked you for it since I did struggle with how to word it. I would like to point out that it’s pretentious attitudes similar to what I interpreted from your comment (i.e. the fact that problems are rooted in an amateur love of anything) that made it easy for me to make the decision abandon performing despite the time, money, and childhood I sacrificed for it. I’m just hoping I’m finding insult in your comment where none was intended. If that is the case, then I’m sorry for being quick to find the offense.

    In regard to So What, I wasn’t thinking in terms of melodies and harmonies but strictly the melody…of changes from Db major to C major scale in the melodic introduction. Of the unique sound because of the Dorian mode (at least unique to me who rarely got to leave the classical world pre1900s). Of the interactions between the solos. So you’re telling me you’re upset that I didn’t squeeze what could probably fill a term paper into a paragraph that I wanted to keep easy to understand for every viewer with varying degrees of like (or dislike) of jazz… well, for that I apologize.

    59. bucslim:
    That was a wonderful story, buc. Thanks for sharing!

    60. Maggot – “I’m inspired to go purchase a few CDs!”
    Does this mean I’ve made another non-jazz listener receptive to the genre?! YES!!! Another one bites the dust! :-)

    64. Looser:
    I also recommend “Kind of Blue”. Actually, you can’t go wrong with anything Miles Davis, IMO. Djangology 49 by Django Reinhardt. What first got me interested in jazz was Ella Fitzergerald’s Cole Porter Songbook. Chrisette Michele isn’t strictly jazz but she draws a lot of inspiration from jazz singers. She just released a second album and I’ve liked what I’ve heard so far.

  • gabi319

    68. segue
    I’m envious! Live jazz is a rare treat for me, especially where I am now because while there are a few places, but they require a bit of a drive a good bit of cash to get in the clubs. In Wisconsin, they had a weekly “Jazz in the Park” near my hotel. Every other…I think it was Thursday evening… they’d have two or three jazz bands come and perform as everyone enjoys the sunset and some wine (alcohol outdoors! A new concept to me! Where I lived growing up was truly puritanical. My visiting Jersey cousin got a $50 fine for public swearing. He almost got another fine for swearing at the police officer who gave him the ticket for swearing!). Some couples would dance to the slow songs. It was a wonderful atmosphere and I bet the Jazz Festival was ten times grander!

    69. oouchan – “country (5 songs total)”
    Don’t tempt me to make a ten list! Well I probably wouldn’t do that well. I do listen to country (…and jazz, classical, hip hop, R&B, alternative, rock, electronic…on occasion pop…I won’t discount anything) but have no real ties to it. Not enough to make a whole list…yet, haha.

    Today at work, I had a healthy mix of Eagles CDs and some Best of the 70’s collection set blasting through the sound system. Good thing I was alone at the shop for an hour or so because I was singing along rather loudly…and pretty off key! One of my 17 year old coworkers stopped by after school. She paused and said “What is this?” with a partial stink face. I described the playlist and asked what was wrong. She replied “Nothing. I’m just not used to hearing this play in the studio. I usually pop in stuff I can sing along to.” *siiiigghhhh* NO WORRIES! Soon enough, I will open her mind to a world outside of High School Musical, haha!

  • PermDude

    Some very good picks, but Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” was not a “jazz performance.” This was (and is) a pop song by a tremendous jazz and pop stylist–possibly one of the best. There are quite a few jazz performances by Louis Armstrong (thousand on vinyl). You should have chosen an actual jazz performance for the list. (This is like selecting Elvis Presley’s “Amazing Grace” in a list of “Truly Great Rock and Roll Performances.”

    Other than that, no real qualms.

  • 38. TEX: I think that piano player was Teddy Wilson…but in my heart, every great jazz piano riff is done by, or inspired by, Art Tatum!

  • bucslim: Coltrane is one of the names to which I was referring, but did not name. So was Tatum. So was all of your list, as was all of my list.
    gabi did a fantastic job within the parameters she set herself.
    gabi, btw, my youngest devoted her entire childhood and young adulthood to music performance; both classical & jazz (this is the daughter who is now the manic athlete), she gave music her all during those years, except for her intellect, of course.
    My years at the Hollywood Bowl and the Greek were wonderful, and yes, I saw most of the legends still alive during all of those years; I realize the magnitude of that gift. I sought it out. I went even during the years of my devotion to rock, because it was a different kind of devotion.
    oouchan, I do believe our iPods would get along nicely. Perhaps we should arrange a play-date.
    (ok, that’s a bad pun on sooo many levels)

  • oouchan

    71. gabi319: I dare you to make a top 10 list! hehe
    I am not that much into country but the few I have are ones I want to listen to over and over. “Beer for my horses” has to be my favorite so far. The only genre I don’t have is rap. Fancy talking doesn’t get me going.

    74. segue: That’s cute…our ipods could fall in love. hehe
    (ok…that was wrong too, but I had to put that out there) :D

  • Maggot

    70 gabi: Does this mean I’ve made another non-jazz listener receptive to the genre?! YES!!! Another one bites the dust!

    Whoa whoa whoa whoa…I never said anything about biting any dust. Ok, “receptive” – yes, I am dipping my toe into the water. I will make a few exploratory forays into Coltrane and Mingus territory, before sprinting back to the comforts of the warm, safe, womb-like embrace that is high-decibel Slayer, Godsmack, and Korn.

  • gabi319

    72. Permdude:
    Thanks for the contribution! Do you have any recommendations? There seem to be a few here interested in hearing more jazz and I’m always open to finding things I haven’t heard before.

    74. segue – “btw, my youngest devoted her entire childhood and young adulthood to music performance; both classical & jazz (this is the daughter who is now the manic athlete”
    segue, dearest…are you sure *I* am not your daughter? Musician first and now a workout-aholic. Ahh, but I wasn’t a jazz performer. Almost! But not quite. My first high school band director LOVES jazz. He walked the halls like he was a member of the Rat Pack (Not a drunkard but he sure sounded like Dean Martin!). When passing by his office, you’d always hear Thelonius Monk or Coltrane quietly in the corner. We had a string of great flutists and he’d always choose one to cultivate into a jazz flutist for some of the jazz ensemble’s performances. Of my class, it was me but opportunities arose and he took a job closer to home. New director comes and he basically told me there was no place for a flutist there. He dealt with that jazz class as something to put up with before getting back to ‘real music’ so the entire class basically floundered. His decisions to keep me strictly in classical were probably rooted to the fact that he could pimp out my services to friends who were amazed by how much he’s “taught” me. To be honest, aside from one disgusting lecture on spit consistency and its effect on flute playing, he taught me nothing. Last I heard, he quit working at my high school, went elsewhere and failed there as well. As for me, being told ‘no’ was a great incentive to learn more about jazz! It was probably one of the reasons I became as good a musician as I was since it was also suggested that I not to play music. I was born with sensorineural unilateral hearing loss (meaning I can’t hear out of my right ear) so the doctors worried that immersing myself in the loud environment of a symphony or orchestra would damage my one decent hearing ear. Of course, me being me, that made it more tempting to play an instrument! So time not spent in rehearsals or performances was spent with the ENT. There’s a greater appreciation for listening to music when one knows there’s the possibility (or even a certainty according to some those doctors) that your hearing could diminish to the point that you’d need a hearing aid by the time you hit thirty. I guess that’s part of the reason I went with the angle I did with this list (the video performances). Seeing them perform, seeing their showmanship, their stage presence and knowing that unique aspects of that performance might be a one time occurrance (part and parcel of performing live)… it adds another dimension to the music.

    75. oouchan:
    You like quirky humor, so you might like Brad Paisley’s “Fishing Time (I’m gonna miss her)” or “Celebrity”. Cheesy songs, but funny. My old boss always had a big smile on his face when my ipod played this. That and Britney Spear’s “Toxic”. He is my widely-varied, eclectic music collection soulmate, haha.

  • gabi319

    76. Maggot
    Korn?! I listened to them during my absurdly wide-leg jean phase! haha, I still listen to some of their songs, especially when cycling. Excellent angry workout music, sir. :-)

  • oouchan

    77. gabi319: I will look those songs up. Thanks for the recommendations. …. Britney? I will admit that I don’t have her on my ipod and never will. Can’t stand anything from her. Sorry.
    I love electro-industrial type music like Combechrist. Very weird stuff that.

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  • rfgs

    Alan at #9, and Baxter at #14: the Dizzy clip sounds more like “Tequila” than it does like “Manteca” because the clip ends right before the first statement of the actual melody; what’s on the clip is Dizzy’s intro. If you know “Manteca”, you can recognize it, even here, from the “I’ll never go back to Georgia!” bass ostinato; though it’s way down in the mix here, you can actually see the bass player playing it.

  • Shazbut

    Shouldn’t number 6 be “How High The Moon” not “A Lovely Way To Spend an Evening”?

  • Joseph de Culver City

    “Sing Sing Sing”, of which this clip is but an excerpt, was written by one of the original genre-benders, Mr. Louis Prima. Check out his show (with the awesome deadpan diva Keely Smith)on youtube. Jazz or whatever, this list has some fine performances.

  • Joseph de Culver City

    Oh yeah. The piano player in the Benny Goodman clip is Jess Stacy.

  • phebs

    Billie holiday’s strange friut.

  • lrigD

    Cool list! Jazz is not exactly my favourite, but ever since I saw a live performance in New Orleans (in the Preservation Hall, which was really cool), I’ve been into it a bit more…

    Nice list though :)

  • Mandie

    I may be right and I may be wrong,
    but I thought “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” by the impeccable Vera Lynn was a lovely jazz song.
    And the entire scene from A Day at the Races of Harpo on the flute, the crowd singing “Nobody Knows” and, of course Ivie Anderson giving a wonderful performance of “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm”

  • me

    I’m writing from Surfdog Records. Thanks for posting about Brian on your list, we really appreciate it! We’re gearing up to release a brand new Brian Setzer album this Fall and I’d love to add you on to our e-mail list so we can keep you in the loop. I did not see an e-mail address on your blog. Please send me an e-mail at [email protected] if you would like to be added to our list!

  • bluemoon

    I’m disappointed that only one of the 10 is a woman when there are so many great female jazz artists. Just about anything by Billie Holiday would be apropos. I know some people think she’s more blues than jazz, but she and Louis Armstrong are the ones credited for using their voices like jazz instruments, horns mainly, bending the notes and such. Hearing Billie singing “My Man” coming out of a window on a hot summer night–heaven on earth!

  • lava41

    the first number- there is a better studio version of this song…this was done for live performances…
    but the studio version is so much better….
    see track # 6 of disc # 2 of the 2 cd set called the anthology-2003 re-release…AINT GOT NO…I GO LIFE.

  • CastingCrowns

    Wonderful World is a pop song. I would have chosen Potato Head Blues from 1927 as Louis Armstrong’s contribution to this list.

  • ElMorris

    I think this one is really impressive: It is Cab Calloway Band featuring the Nicholas Brothers. Give it a try!


  • bart

    i think you should limit this kind of a list to one sub-genre
    how come no fusion? or freejazz? or no coltrane from newport?

  • herb.1 week ago

    enjoyed theclips very much. some of them were kind of blippy.

  • Jermaine

    I’m glad to see you put Ahmad Jamal in here.

  • Bill “Doc” Webster

    Perhaps it was excluded because it happened when live recording was still new, but
    TO ME, the single GREATEST JAZZ PERFORMANCE was Charlie Parker’s solo on OH LADY BE GOOD, performed with Jazz at the Philharmonic. I THINK the year was 1946.

  • go there

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