The Chronicle Playlist: Classic Jazz Hits


Justin Prather

(Photo by Justin Prather | The Daily Utah Chronicle).

By Abigail Bowé, Arts Writer


With July coming to an end — television ads, supermarket ads and others begin to remind us it’s almost time to head back to class again. It’s late summer now, sadly. Still, these precious weeks are a great opportunity to get well-rested both physically and mentally before the impending semester consumes your time and thoughts. Whether you spend them out hiking, throwing a dinner with friends and family or heading out around town to live it up while you can, consider adding our playlist of classic jazz hits to your plans.

Shown to be one of the most stimulating and relaxing genres of music, jazz can help you to feel both soothed and excited all at once — one of the many reasons why it’s so enduring to generations of listeners around the globe. Hinging on the improvisation and conversation of musicians, jazz is a powerful reminder to live openly and in the moment. Clear your mind and enjoy the rest of your break with the help of its greatest ever feel-good songs.

Miles Davis

“Milestones” showcases Davis’ talent through his deft handling of switching between playing fast-paced trumpet and upbeat piano solos multiple times throughout this joyful sounding song. It’s certain to boost the mood.

“I Won’t Dance”
Frank Sinatra

Sinatra’s recordings dabble across genres from pop to swing. Here, he takes a humorous jazz standard and gives it his own swooning touch with a definite flourish of mischievousness.

“How High the Moon”
Ella Fitzgerald

This scat tune is an absolute rollercoaster of sound — it will leave you wondering how any human being can ever sing so quickly as Fitzgerald does in this brilliant, high adrenaline piece.

“Four on Six”
Wes Montgomery

Combining a relaxed drum set with bouncy acoustic riffs, this bright song’s varied instrumentals are bound to get stuck in your head.

“Take the A Train”
Duke Ellington

Evocative of casual swing, this song carries through several strong solos led by Ellington’s lead on piano. This is a good one to listen to while walking around and it’ll add a skip to your step.

“What a Wonderful World”
Louis Armstrong

Today, “What a Wonderful World” is considered one of the best recordings in jazz history, but it didn’t initially release to mass acclaim in 1967. It was, however, inducted to the Grammy Hall of Fame 32 years later, an honor to Armstrong’s revered musical legacy.

“My Favorite Things”
John Coltrane

Considered one of Coltrane’s best, “My Favorite Things” bursts with thoughtful musical complexity of smooth saxophone over a lively tune.

“Ain’t Misbehavin’”
Fats Waller

Featured in the musical of the same name about the Harlem Renaissance, this bouncy nightclub song contains an unmissable playing and singing performance from Waller.

Nina Simone

Nina Simone, who’s luscious contralto voice is most recognizable from her classic “Feeling Good,” covers a traditional spiritual song about a sinner trying to escape judgment through a surprisingly catchy, sparkling jazz beat.

“Blue Rondo à la Turk”
Dave Brubeck

Inspired by Turkish time signatures, Dave Brubeck’s “Blue Rondo à la Turk” is a distinctive number which seems mellow initially, but upon a close listen, you’ll find that the pacing of this song is oddly quirky.

“Sing Sing Sing”
Benny Goodman

“Sing Sing Sing” will have you jumping up and down and feeling silly through Goodman’s encouraging vocals and the rising and falling of bold brass flair.

“Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at ‘The Club’”
Cannonball Adderley

Adderley initially recorded “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy!” at an open bar to promote his own newly owned Club DeLisa in Chicago. The song went on to reach #11 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Them There Eyes”
Billie Holiday

While Billie Holiday is generally known for somber hits such as “Lover Man,” a moody expression of romantic longing, or “Strange Fruit,” a beautiful protest against racism, “Them There Eyes” is one of her most high-spirited songs. Holiday’s flirtatious voice will have you dancing in no time.

“Ko Ko”
Charlie Parker

Parker is best known for his improvisational pieces and be-bop style rhythms. “Ko-Ko” is one of his early greats, where he plays a combative and playful duet on saxophone with trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.

“(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66”
Nat King Cole

Have you ever taken a road trip across the whole country in just three minutes before? This fun blend of jazz and R&B inspires adventure as its lyrics, sung vibrantly by Nat King Cole, name varied cities and towns that Route 66 heads past.

Given that jazz is such a heavily varied genre so rich in history, sub-genres and styles our list can only cover a slim portion of its breadth. If there are other classic pieces you’d like to see on our jazz playlist, let us know in the comments section, and be sure to see more of The Daily Utah Chronicle‘s compiled playlists by following us on Spotify.


[email protected]