50 Best Jazz Songs of All Time

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,

50 Best Jazz Songs of All Time: A list of essential tracks, chosen by Guardian music critics


Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States. It emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and developed from roots in blues and ragtime. Jazz is seen by many as “America’s classical music”. Since the 1920s Jazz Age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It then emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African-American and European-American musical parentage with a performance orientation. Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation. trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, flugelhorn, trombone, piano, double bass) are accompanied by percussion instruments such as drums. And “license” or “swing”. The word’s etymology is uncertain. The term was first used to refer to music in Chicago around 1915. A blend of previous styles developed into what is considered “classic jazz”. Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker are considered pivotal innovators in the history of jazz saxophone.

Best Jazz Songs of All Time

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was created out of a mix of African and European music traditions. Jazz has been described as “the sound of surprise”. The best jazz songs are those that have caught the public’s attention and have become classics over the years. Here are fifty of the best jazz songs of all time.

“So What” by Miles Davis

Miles Davis’ “So What” is one of the most famous and influential jazz songs of all time. The tune was first recorded by Davis on the record “Kind of Blue” in 1959, and has since been recorded by hundreds of artists. “So What” is known for its simple, yet powerful melody and chord progression, which has become one of the most popular harmonic progressions in jazz history.

“Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis

Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” is not only one of the best jazz songs of all time, but also one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time. Recorded in 1959, the album features some of jazz’s most iconic musicians, including John Coltrane, Bill Evans, and Paul Chambers. The album’s quintessential song, “So What,” has been covered by countless artists and remains one of the most popular jazz standards today.

“Take Five” by Dave Brubeck

“Take Five” is a jazz piece composed by Paul Desmond and originally performed by the Dave Brubeck Quartet on their 1959 album Time Out. Released as a single in 1961, it was the biggest-selling jazz single of all time and remains one of the most popular jazz standards.

The song is written in 5/4 time, with a distinctive bassline that outlines a chord progression of D→A→B♭→D. The main melody is written in quarter notes, played by the saxophone in a cool blues style. The melody is punctuated by staccato chords from the piano and guitar, and occasional Eighth note triplets from the drums.

Take Five has been used in numerous films and television shows, and has been covered by many artists. It remains one of the most recognizable and popular tunes in jazz, and continues to be performed regularly by jazz ensembles around the world.

“A Love Supreme” by John Coltrane

“A Love Supreme” is a legendary jazz recording by saxophonist John Coltrane and his classic quartet featuring pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Elvin Jones. Arguably the most important work in Coltrane’s discography, “A Love Supreme” was recorded in one four-hour session on December 9, 1964, and released by Impulse! Records the following year. The album is a suite divided into four parts: “Acknowledgement,” “Resolution,” “Pursuance,” and “Psalm.” Although it is a spiritual album informed by Coltrane’s newfound devotion to Islam, the music is accessible and radiant, with each of the four parts seamlessly flowing into the next. “A Love Supreme” is not only one of the greatest jazz albums of all time, but also one of the most significant recordings in all of 20th century music.

“Maiden Voyage” by Herbie Hancock

“Maiden Voyage” is a jazz composition by Herbie Hancock originally appearing as the title track of his 1965 album Maiden Voyage. Hancock wrote the song when he was 22 years old.

Hancock later recalled:

The song was inspired by my love of the sea. I was always fascinated by the ocean, and the idea of maiden voyages. I remember reading about the first sailboats and thinking about the first people who went out on them. It must have been a very scary and exciting time for them. So that’s what I was thinking about when I wrote the tune.”

“Maiden Voyage” is considered one of Hancock’s most influential compositions, with many subsequent jazz musicians citing it as an inspiration. In 2007, the tune was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.


These are just a few of the best jazz songs of all time. It would be impossible to list them all, but we hope this gives you a good starting point. There are literally hundreds of great jazz songs out there, so get exploring!

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