jazz standard is a musical composition that is particularly important in jazz . The musical themes , often at the base of arrangements or improvisations are very often played, resumed, rearranged, diverted, especially during jam sessions . Jazz standards can represent both historical heritage, artistic appropriation , and a lingua franca of jazz.

Not all jazz standards have been written by jazz composers. Many are popular songs of Tin Pan Alley , the tunes Broadway or musicals Hollywood, part of the Great American Songbook 1 . The jazz standard repertoire can have common points with those of the blues or traditional pop music  (in) American.

Until the 1930s, the most recorded jazz standard was St. Louis Blues , composed in 1914 by WC Handy , later overtaken by Stardust (1927) by Hoagy Carmichael for over twenty years 2 , and today dethroned by Body and Soul(1930) by Johnny Green .

The Real Book is a collection that gathers the harmonic grids of many standards, but there is no label or official list of jazz standards.

Before 1920

At the beginning of xx th century, jazz is still considered a dance music. The first Dixieland bands remain influenced by this image: King Oliver and his Creole Jazz Band , the New Orleans Rhythm Kings and many other bands include Tin Pan Alley in their repertoires, and record companies sometimes dictate the list of titles that must be registered by their artists. Some imposed songs have become standards, such as Darktown Strutters’ Ball  (in) or Back Home Again in Indiana  (en) recorded by theOriginal Dixieland Jass Band 3 at Columbia Records in 1917.

Among the standards of that time are also the songs After You’ve Gone  (en) (Turner Layton, 1918) and Some of These Days  (en) (Sophie Tucker, 1910).

The 1920s

The Jazz Age begins in the United States in the 1920s Jazz are getting popular even if the older generation considers this music as immoral and endangering its cultural values 4 .

The first artist who can choose freely its shares is Louis Armstrong , who will make many popular standards in the years 1920 to 1930 1 . The popular tunes of the 1920s were songs like Sweet Georgia Brown  (in) , Dinah or Bye Bye Blackbird .

Some compositions of this period written by jazz musicians have become standard as Honeysuckle Rose (1928) and Is not Misbehavin ‘  (in) (1929) of Fats Waller . The song Stardust of Hoagy Carmichael and Mitchell Parish is the jazz standard 1920s most recorded 5 . Others are written by Broadway composers like The Man I Love by George and Ira Gershwin (1924), Blue Skies  (in) of Irving Berlin (1927), or What Is This Thing Called Love?of Cole Porter (1927).

However, it will be necessary to wait until the 1930s so that the jazz musicians feel comfortable with the complex melodies and the sophisticated harmonic grids of Broadway tunes, and that they use them regularly in their repertoires 6 .


Broadway contributes to standards among the most popular of the 1930s, including the famous Summertime extract comedy Porgy and Bess by George and Ira Gershwin (1935), My Funny Valentine by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (1937), All the Things You Are by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II (1939), and Body and Soul by Johnny Green (1930). These standards are among the most recorded 5 .

The 1930s saw the swing prevail in American music. Duke Ellington and his musicians compose many themes that will become jazz standards: It’s Not Mean a Thing (1932), Sophisticated Lady (1933), Caravan (1936) among more famous.

The swing era  (in) (the swing era, 1935-1946) is one of the greatest big bands , like those of Benny Goodman and Count Basie , who also participated in the jazz standard repertoire.


New themes are becoming popular as Cotton Tail  (in) of Duke Ellington (1940) or Take the “A” Train of Billy Strayhorn (1941). The Second World War is a difficult time for big bands, and small formations are developing.

The arrival of the bebop brings to light a new audience sensitive to sophisticated harmonies, fast tempos, and the virtuosity of the musicians. Their repertoire largely uses the standards of the 1930s 7 , but their compositions will also enter the list of standards: Salt Peanuts (1941) and A Night in Tunisia (1942) by Dizzy Gillespie , Anthropology (1946), Yardbird Suite  (en) (1946), Charlie Parker’s Scrapple from the Apple  ( 1947) , or Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round Midnight’ (1944) .

The 1950s and beyond

Some records modal jazz became popular in the late 1950s, like Albums Kind of Blue by Miles Davis in 1959 with compositions All Blues and So What , Impressions  (in) of John Coltrane in 1963, or Maiden Voyage of Herbie Hancock in 1965.

In the mid 1960s, the second great Miles Davis quintet with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock recorded a series of albums that contain standards like Footprints  (in) (Wayne Shorter, 1966) and Freedom Jazz Dance ( Eddie Harris , 1966) .

In the late 1950s appears to Brazil ‘s bossa nova , a mixture of samba and jazz, made popular by João Gilberto , Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá . Gilberto and Stan Getz launch this vogue in the United States in 1964 with the famous album Getz / Gilberto . Among the standards of the genre are compositions Bonfá ( Manhã de Carnaval  (in) , 1959), of Marcos Valle ( Summer Samba  (in) 1966), and many songs of Jobim as Desafinado (1959), The Girl from Ipanema(1962), Corcovado (1962).

In the mid-1970s came jazz fusion , which mixes jazz, funk and rock . Joe Zawinul with Weather Report , Chick Corea with Return to Forever , Herbie Hancock with The Headhunters , or Mahavishnu Orchestra of John McLaughlincan drastically broaden the audience of jazz, and some of their success have become standard: Spain  (en) of Chick Corea (1971), Chameleon  (of) of Hancock (1973), or Birdland from Joe Zawinul (1977).

Great Jazz Standards

Among the great jazz standards are:


  1. ↑ a and b ( en ) ” What Types of Compositions Become Jazz Standards?  ”  [ Archive ] , jazzstandards.com (accessed 11 October 2012 )
  2. ↑ ( in ) ” Stardust ”  [ archive ] , jazzstandards.com (accessed October 11, 2012 )
  3. ↑ ( in ) Chris Tyle, ” Jazz History ”  [ archive ] , jazzstandards.com (accessed 11 October 2012 )
  4. ↑ ( in ) Anne Faulkner Show , ” Does Jazz Put the Sin in Syncopation?  » , Ladies Home Journal ,p.  16-34 ( read online  [ archive ] )
  5. ↑ a and b ( in ) ” Songs – Top 50 ”  [ archive ] , jazzstandards.com (accessed October 11, 2012 )
  6. ↑ ( in ) Chris Tyle, ” Jazz History in Standard Time ”  [ archive ] , jazzstandards.com (accessed 12 October 2012 )
  7. ↑ ( in ) Chris Tyle, ” Jazz History in Standard Time (1940s) ”  [ archive ] , jazzstandards.com (accessed 12 October 2012 )
  • In ) This article is partially or entirely from the Wikipedia article in English entitled ” Standard Jazz ” ( see the list of authors ) .