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Best Songs List

Updated on January 5, 2021

Personal and subjective choices

I've just updated this hub with a terrific video of Bobby McFerrin - check it out below!

If you are a musician you could try learning the jazz standards listed. There is a miniature music lesson contained in each piece, so memorize as much as possible. For me, a track by Weather Report entitled "A Remark You Made" takes a lot of beating- see below.

If you're not really into jazz, you might need to listen to it a few times as it's complex music and a lot of the effect is from the changing textures in the music. It features a bass solo from Jaco Pastorius, one of the all-time greats.

Single best song - My Funny Valentine (Rodgers and Hart)

Other contenders:

The Nearness of You (Hoagy Carmichael)

Embracable You (Gershwin)

These three songs really stand out from the standards, due to their wonderful chord progressions, strong melodies, and inventive lyrics. They are tunes that are constantly reworked and re-recorded, and also give a strong enough harmony to support endless improvisations.

Best orchestral work, Adagio from Concierto De Aranjuez by Rodrigo It's got Spain written all over it, in a good way.The Jim Hall jazz version is terrific, and by some strange fluke of nature it costs $2.60 for the album! That's only about 3 cents per thousand notes! Please buy it, you can't go wrong. Jim Hall is an American national treasure, though I'm not sure he is recognised as such. You also have Paul Desmond of Take Five fame improvising on the track.

The Paco De Lucia version is great too, an amazing interpretation with a fantastic orchestra.

Other great music- The end (ballad) section of Layla, which I believe is called Peaches and Cream. Here Comes the Sun. The guitar break in Badge (Cream with George Harrison)

John Coltrane version of My Favourite Things

Although I don't like all of his compositions I must admit that Mike Stern is brilliant. Check out the Voices album, also Who Let The Dogs Out. These albums feature fantastic solos, with very strong melodies and harmony.

Over time your choices in music are bound to change, but the things you really like tend to stay constant.

Bobby McFerrin sings Bach

Paco De Lucia Aranjuez

Best compositions and songs

  • Duke Ellington: East St.Louis Toodle-oo, Take the A Train, In a Mellow Tone
  • Antonio Jobim: How Insensitive (Insensatez)
  • Thelonius Monk: Blue Monk, Round Midnight
  • JS Bach: Air on a G string, Brandenburg concertos, cello suites. Prelude in C.
  • The Beatles: Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields Forever, A Day in The Life, In My Life, For no-one, I Will, Yesterday,We Can Work it Out, Blackbird, Here there and everywhere.
  • Joni Mitchell: Refuge of the Roads, Edith and the Kingpin, A Case of You.
  • Erik Satie: Gnossiennes,Gymnopedies
  • The Beach Boys: God Only Knows
  • Rodrigo: Concierto De Aranjuez (Adagio)
  • Raglan Road (Trad.Irish)
  • Arthur McBride (Paul Brady version)
  • Night Passage (Forcione)
  • A Remark You Made (Weather Report)
  • Leonard Cohen- Famous Blue Raincoat (Jennifer Warnes version)

  • Up on the Roof - Carole King, James Taylor version
  • Randy Newman - Still the same girl, Feels Like Home, Jolly Coppers on Parade.

  • Django Reinhardt: Tears, Nuages, Manoir De Mes Reves (see my hub Django's legacy)

  • John Coltrane - My Favourite Things

  • Love's in need of love today (Stevie Wonder)

    Cole Porter - Ev'ry Time We say Goodbye

  • Standards:
  • All the Things You Are
  • My Funny Valentine
  • Embraceable You
  • The Nearness of You
  • Take Five
  • Autumn Leaves
  • Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
  • Over the Rainbow
  • Someone to Watch Over Me
  • Day in the Life of a Fool
  • How Insensitive
  • I'm Old Fashioned
  • With a Song in My Heart
  • The Way you look Tonight.

Greatest improvisers (random order)

  1. Art Pepper, especially the later years - terrific sax and clarinet soloist.
  2. Robben Ford, a brilliant blues and jazz guitarist
  3. Django Reinhardt,the original guitar superstar from the 1930s, still revered today
  4. Bireli Lagrene,the most recent the better - don't like his child prodigy stuff, but now he is great. Gypsy Jazz lives on!
  5. Art Tatum,amazing piano player from back in the day.
  6. Miles Davis, massively influential jazz trumpet.
  7. John Coltrane,one of the greatest sax players,but prone to playing weird stuff!
  8. Charlie Parker, - mostly on Youtube.
  9. Fred Hersch - Both Sides Now

Less well known greats

  1. Antonio Forcione (guitar)
  2. Danny Gatton (guitar)
  3. Mike Stern (guitar)
  4. Lyle Mays (piano)
  5. Richard Bona (bass)
  6. Jaco Pastorius (bass)
  7. Ted Greene (guitar)
  8. Jim Hall (guitar)
  9. John Scofield (guitar)
  10. Debashish Bhattacharya (Indian slide guitar!)

Great writers from yesteryear

  • Fats Waller
  • Louis Jordan
  • Harry Warren
  • Jerome Kern
  • Cole Porter
  • Hoagy Carmichael

Too many great songs to list here, but essential listening, with great lyrics. A good place to start is always the Ella Fitzgerald version from the Songbooks series. Try some web shopping for Ella CDs - many musicians agree they're the best source for accurate versions of the great standards from the American songbook.


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