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Best Jazz Songs Of All Time | Melodic Remedies For Your Soul | 2024 Reveals


Thorin Tran 22 April, 2024 9 min read

Jazz is a musical genre with a history as colorful as its sound. From the smoky bars of New Orleans to the elegant clubs of New York, jazz has evolved to be the voice of change, innovation, and pure musical artistry. 

Today, we set out on a quest to find the world’s best jazz songs. In this journey, we’ll encounter legends like Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, and Duke Ellington. We’ll relive their talents through the soulful harmony of jazz. 

If you’re ready, grab your favorite headphones, and let’s immerse in the world of jazz.

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Best Jazz Songs by Era

The quest to find the “best” jazz songs is a subjective endeavor. The genre encompasses a vast range of styles, each complex in its own way. Why not explore our choices through different eras of jazz, identifying some of the most revered and influential songs that have defined this ever-evolving genre?

1910s-1920s: New Orleans Jazz

Characterized by collective improvisation and a blend of blues, ragtime, and brass band music. 

  • “Dippermouth Blues” by King Oliver
  • “West End Blues” by Louis Armstrong
  • “Tiger Rag” by Original Dixieland Jass Band
  • “Cake Walking Babies from Home” by Sidney Bechet
  • “St. Louis Blues” by Bessie Smith

1930s-1940s: Swing Era

Dominated by big bands, this era emphasized danceable rhythms and arrangements.

  • “Take the ‘A’ Train” – Duke Ellington
  • “In the Mood” – Glenn Miller
  • “Sing, Sing, Sing” – Benny Goodman
  • “God Bless the Child” – Billie Holiday
  • “Body and Soul” – Coleman Hawkins
best jazz songs saxophone
The trumpet is one of the typical instruments in the age of Jazz.

1940s-1950s: Bebop Jazz

Marked a shift to smaller groups, focusing on fast tempos and complex harmonies.

  • “Ko-Ko” – Charlie Parker
  • “A Night in Tunisia” – Dizzy Gillespie
  • “Round Midnight” – Thelonious Monk
  • “Salt Peanuts” – Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker
  • “Manteca” – Dizzy Gillespie

1950s-1960s: Cool & Modal Jazz

Cool and modal jazz is the next stage in the evolution of jazz. Cool jazz countered the Bebop style with a more relaxed, subdued sound. Meanwhile, Modal jazz emphasized improvisation based on scales rather than chord progressions.

  • “So What” – Miles Davis
  • “Take Five” – Dave Brubeck
  • “Blue in Green” – Miles Davis
  • “My Favorite Things” – John Coltrane
  • “Moanin'” – Art Blakey

Mid-Late 1960s: Free Jazz

This era is characterized by its avant-garde approach and departure from traditional jazz structures.

  • “Free Jazz” – Ornette Coleman
  • “The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady” – Charles Mingus
  • “Out to Lunch” – Eric Dolphy
  • “Ascension” – John Coltrane
  • “Spiritual Unity” – Albert Ayler

1970s: Jazz Fusion

The era of experimentation. Artists blended jazz with other styles like rock, funk, and R&B.

  • “Chameleon” – Herbie Hancock
  • “Birdland” – Weather Report
  • “Red Clay” – Freddie Hubbard
  • “Bitches Brew” – Miles Davis
  • “500 Miles High” – Chick Corea
jazz instruments
Jazz is versatile, everchanging, but always loved.

Modern Era

Contemporary jazz is a mix of a variety of modern styles, including Latin jazz, smooth jazz, and neo-bop.

  • “The Epic” – Kamasi Washington
  • “Black Radio” – Robert Glasper
  • “Speaking of Now” – Pat Metheny
  • “The Imagined Savior is Far Easier to Paint” – Ambrose Akinmusire
  • “When the Heart Emerges Glistening” – Ambrose Akinmusire

The Ultimate Jazz Top 10

Music is an art form, and art is subjective. What we see or interpret from an art piece isn’t necessarily what others see or interpret. That’s why choosing the top 10 best jazz songs of all time is so challenging. Everyone has their own list and no list can satisfy everyone. 

jazz music records
Jazz is still thriving in the digital age.

However, we feel obliged to make a list. It’s essential to help new enthusiasts get familiar with the genre. And of course, our list is open for discussion. With that said, here are our picks for the 10 greatest jazz tracks of all time. 

#1 “Summertime” by Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong

Considered the best jazz song by many, this is a classic rendition of a song from Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess.” The track features Fitzgerald’s smooth vocals and Armstrong’s distinct trumpet, embodying the essence of jazz.

#2 “Fly Me to the Moon” by Frank Sinatra

A quintessential Sinatra song that showcases his smooth, crooning voice. It’s a romantic jazz standard that has become synonymous with Sinatra’s timeless style.

#3 “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” by Duke Ellington

A pivotal song in jazz history that popularized the phrase “swing.” Ellington’s band brings a lively energy to this iconic track.

#4 “My Baby Just Cares For Me” by Nina Simone

Originally from her debut album, this song gained popularity in the 1980s. Simone’s expressive voice and piano skills shine in this jazzy tune.

#5 “What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong

A globally beloved song known for Armstrong’s gravelly voice and uplifting lyrics. It’s a timeless piece that has been covered by numerous artists.

Louis Armstrong – Top jazz songs of all time

#6 “Straight, No Chaser” by Miles Davis

An example of Davis’s innovative approach to jazz. This track is known for its bebop style and intricate improvisations.

#7 “The Nearness Of You” by Norah Jones

The song is a romantic ballad from Jones’s debut album. Her rendition is soft and soulful, showcasing her distinct voice. 

#8 “Take The “A” Train” by Duke Ellington

An iconic jazz composition and one of Ellington’s most famous pieces. It’s a lively track that captures the spirit of the swing era.

#9 “Cry Me A River” by Julie London

Known for its melancholic mood and London’s sultry voice. This song is a classic example of torch singing in jazz.

#10 “Georgia on My Mind” by Ray Charles 

A soulful and emotive rendition of a classic. Charles’s version is deeply personal and has become a definitive interpretation of the song.

Have a Jazzy Time!

We’ve reached the end of the rich musical landscape of jazz. We hope you have a wonderful time exploring each track, not just their melody but also their story. From the soul-stirring vocals of Ella Fitzgerald to the innovative rhythms of Miles Davis, these best jazz songs transcend time, offering a window into the talent and creativity of the artists. 

Speaking of showcasing talent and creativity, AhaSlides offers all the tools you need to create a one-of-a-kind experience. Whether it’s presenting your ideas or hosting musical events, AhaSlides’ got you covered! We enable real-time engagement activities such as quizzes, games, and live feedback, making the event more interactive and memorable. Our team has put in a lot of effort to ensure the platform is accessible and easy to use, even for less tech-savvy audiences.

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What is the jazziest song?

“Take Five” by The Dave Brubeck Quartet can be considered the jazziest song ever. It’s known for its distinctive 5/4 time signature and classic jazz sound. The song encapsulates key elements of jazz: complex rhythms, improvisation, and a distinctive, memorable melody. 

What is a famous jazz piece?

“Fly Me to the Moon” by Frank Sinatra and “What A Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong are two of the most popular jazz pieces. They remain a staple of the genre, even until today.

What is the best-selling jazz song?

The best-selling jazz song is “Take Five” by The Dave Brubeck Quartet. Composed by Paul Desmond and released in 1959, it’s a part of the album “Time Out,” which achieved significant commercial success and remains a landmark in the jazz genre. The track’s popularity gains it a place in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

What is the most famous jazz standard?

According to the Standard Repertoire, the most famous jazz standard is Billie’s Bounce.