(Jazz) Tunes That Players *Must* Know

In the opening paragraph of the preface to David Baker’s book “How To Learn Tunes” (Jamey Aebersold Jazz), he quotes Barry Harris (from Jazz Changes, www.jazzcontinuum.com):

“I can go to any part of the country, meet good musicians and we could play as if we had played together all of our lives, and the only reason is we know the same songs. You got to know How High the Moon, Out of Nowhere, Just You, Just Me. I can name songs that everybody should know, might be fifty.”

He asserts in his book that part of a musicians fundamental responsibility is to learn tunes — not having to read from lead sheets, scores or real/fake books. It’s not that he discounts the value of sight reading or the use of well done lead sheets. In fact, he does recognize that there are circumstances where this is appropriate — but not as a crutch. As Mr. Baker states in his preface:

“… the proper place to use a fake book is in the practice room, not at the performance venue” (emphasis from original text)

I believe that Mr. Baker is making an important point, one that has been a hole in my playing for years — lack of repetoire! It’s not as if you’re going to go somewhere and just play Free Jazz. It also avoids this famous dialogue:

Player 1: “Well, what do you want to play?”

Player 2: “Hmmmm. I don’t know. I was hoping that you had something you wanted to play.”

Player 1: “No, not really.”

Player 2: “Oh. OK.”

[a minute of silence passes…]

Player 1: “Well, how about Blues in Bb?”

Player 2: “OK.”

While the dialogue may vary a bit from occasion to occasion, this happens all too often. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with playing the Blues in any key. What’s wrong is when that’s the only thing you can fall back on. Been there, done that, got my t-shirt. After the first 15 minutes, what then???

The question of the hour is, assuming for the moment that the genre is Jazz, what are the fifty tunes that you absolutely must know to play in order to expect to play with others???

Please reply to this thread with your suggestions.

If you just know a title, that’s OK. If you know more info (artist, composer, when written, discography,  etc.), feel free to put that in as well.

This is one of those topics/threads that I think can turn into a little mini-project all unto itself. I’ll compile the list and publish it for reference and then hopefully at some point do some sort of “vote off” to come up with the Top 20, 50 or whatever number songs. Your suggestions are the starting place!

August 23, 2009 · kengon · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Music

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