What constitutes a jazz standard? Purists may contend that only an original composition by a jazz musician qualifies—“Confirmation,” “Doxy,” “Sail Away,” “Seven Come Eleven,” as examples. Working musicians and fake books say otherwise; a jazz standard is a song, adaptable to improvisation, that has worked its way into the general repertoire. An entire website is devoted to that proposition.
JazzStandards.com was put together by jazz aficionados and musicians who saw the need for a centralized source of information about the tunes most often played in jazz. The site ranks jazz standards from 1 to 1000 in order of importance and frequency of performance. It has documentation and links for the first hundred songs. Number one, hardly a surprise, is “Body and Soul.” The information about it and the other top 100 runs from basic…
Because of its complex chord progressions, “Body and Soul” remains a favorite of jazz musicians. The unusual changes in key and tempo are also highly attractive and provide a large degree of improvisational freedom.
A very motivic melody, thus easily remembered. Noteworthy is the use of the penultimate “blue note” (flatted third) at the end of “A,” – easily missed by the untrained or novice performer. The harmonic progression seems to be controlled by the movement of the bass line, descending and ascending by step (Ebm –Bb7/D – Ebm7/Db – Ab/C – Db – Ab9/Eb – Db/F –E˚7 – Ebm – Ebm7/Db – Cm7(b5)) before returning to the tonic via the circle of fifths, using parallel minor substitutions.
Each song’s profile includes its history, recommended recordings, links to CD samples, links to books about the songs and their composers and, in some cases, musicians’ comments on the pieces.
In the forty years I’ve played “’Round Midnight,” I’ve done so to my satisfaction perhaps a dozen times at most. It’s one of the hardest for me in that, to play it really correctly, you can’t use those “fake book” changes; you have to use the Monk changes or it sounds silly (to me). —Jessica Williams
JazzStandards.com needs musicians’ comments on more of the listed songs, and it cries for something it probably can’t have—lyrics. It would be daunting and expensive to get clearances for publication of words to the majority of songs that are in copyright. Those, however, are minor deficiencies in a website whose complex facets are wrapped into a design that’s easy to navigate. JazzStandards.com is a resource for musicians and researchers, and rewarding for anyone interested in song. The site was founded by Jeremy Wilson and is edited by Sandra Burlingame, who also writes much of it.