The Best Jazz Songs for Your Playlist
Our cherished pop hits make us want to get up and dance. Our favourite rock anthems make us feel alive, pumping fists in the air. But if you’re looking for a genre that has both, look no further than jazz. Many artists we know and love have done just that. From David Bowie and Michael Jackson to the Foo Fighters and every hip hop artist you know have been influenced by the fascinating rhythms, melodies and harmonies the best jazz songs have to offer.
Whether your jazz knowledge starts and finishes with the movie Whiplash, or you can effortlessly make the difference between hard bop and cool jazz, you’ll be equally happy to add our jazz playlist to your music rotation.
Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World
If you’re thinking jazz songs and music charts are not meant to intersect, think again. This world-famous jazz song reached number 1 in Britain in April 1968 and has never stopped inspiring generations with its uplifting message ever since. The timeless charm of ‘What a Wonderful World’ is all in Louis Armstrong’s raspy voice, but you can also enjoy the fresh ‘flavour’ in its more modern renditions by Celine Dion or Rod Stewart and Stevie Wonder.
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong – Summertime
Louis Armstrong is one of the most beloved jazz musicians in the whole world, so how could we pick only one of his jazz masterpieces? ‘Summertime’ holds the Guinness World Record for the most covered song in the world, with over 67,000 versions, more than even the Beatles’ hit song ‘Yesterday’. But one of its best renditions is Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald’s version, well worthy of a place in any Spotify jazz playlist.
Frank Sinatra – Fly Me to the Moon
‘Fly Me to the Moon’ is not only one of the best jazz songs ever written, but it’s also one of the first songs to be played in outer space during Apollo 10’s lunar mission. Since then it has been used as the soundtrack of hundreds of movies and TV shows and inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The song is so familiar, it’s easy to forget how beautifully written, produced and performed it actually is. Frank Sinatra offers a masterclass in vocal delivery and producer Quincy Jones works his best magic arranging the music. So how can the track be anything less than one of the top jazz moments of all time?
Miles Davis – So What
No jazz playlist is complete without Miles Davis’ famous composition ‘So What’. Simple, but catchy, the song was first recorded in 1959 for his album ‘Kind of Blue’, which went on to sell more copies than any other jazz album in the world. Listen to Miles Davis on the trumpet, John Coltrane on tenor sax, Bill Evans on piano – crank up the volume and let the ebbs and flows of this jazz masterpiece take over.
Duke Ellington – Take the A Train
A quintessential jazz track, ‘Take the A Train’ was written by accomplished songwriter Billy Strayhorn and became Duke Ellington’s orchestra opening song for many years and one of New York’s theme songs. Fun fact: the A line of New York’s subway system connected Harlem to the heart of the city and legend has it that when Duke first hired Billy he instructed him to take the A train to get to his house in Harlem. The words stuck in his head and eventually turned into a song that brought Duke Ellington fame and success. Imagine taking a ride on the New York subway as you enjoy the energetic horns arrangements in this beloved jazz song.
Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto – The Girl From Ipanema
If you’re wondering who is the girl and where is Ipanema, you’re not alone. When the song was first launched in 1963 in Brazil, everyone grew so obsessed with the identity of the girl in the song, that one of the songwriters, Vinicius de Moraes, had to organise a press conference to dispel the myths that were already circulating. It turns out the girl was Heloísa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto, who used to pass by the Ipanema beach while running errands for her family. The song made not only her famous, but the once unassuming Ipanema stretch of beach in Rio de Janeiro also turned into a fashionable neighbourhood thanks to the popularity of the song. We can’t help but add it to our jazz playlist while thinking of the sunny skies and sandy beaches of Rio de Janeiro.
Ray Charles – Georgia on My Mind
Ray Charles wears his heart on his sleeve in this rendition of ‘Georgia on My Mind’ which quickly became the standard version of this 1930 song. The song grew so famous with his powerful performance, that in 1979 became the official state song of Georgia and it was sang by Willie Nelson at Ray Charles funeral. If you want to add a laid-back song with a wonderful melody to your Spotify jazz playlist, ‘Georgia on My Mind’ deserves to be top of the list.
There you have it! Some of the best jazz songs ever created in one playlist.
A fascinating history that goes back 100 years, innovative musicians creating amazing improvisations that lift your spirit on the spot and Louis Armstrong as its beloved ambassador the world over – put it all together and you’ve got a music genre like no other, the mighty jazz. It’s no wonder why it’s kept us intrigued and wanting to hear more for generations.
If you want to find out more about how new generations are taking this genre and make it their own, here is jazz drummer Moses Boyd’s fascinating music journey.