The Best Jazz Music for Your Instrumental Collection

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Here are the best jazz songs to have in your instrumental collection. This genre of music is perfect for any situation.

The Different Types of Jazz

When you think of jazz, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s the swingin’ sounds of the big band era, or the early days of bebop. Maybe it’s Miles Davis’ cool jazz of the 1950s, or the free jazz of the 1960s. Whatever your image of jazz may be, there’s a type of jazz music out there for everyone.


Swing is a style of jazz that was popularized in the 1920s and 1930s. It is characterized by a strong rhythm section, improvisation, and a focus on the collective performance of the band rather than individual solos. The most famous swing bandleader was Duke Ellington, who led his orchestra in performances that blended elements of blues, gospel, and ragtime into a new musical form.


Bebop was the first major style of jazz to develop after the Swing Era. It was characterized by fast tempos, advanced harmonic structures, and bebop Scale such as the “blues scale” and “ chromatic scale”. The style developed in the early 1940s and continued to be popular throughout the 1950s. Many of the most influential jazz musicians of all time were associated with bebop, including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Miles Davis.

Hard Bop

Hard bop is a subgenre of jazz that developed in the mid-1950s, inspired by Bebop, Swing, R&B, and Gospel music. Hard bop groups usually featured a trumpet, saxophone, trombone, and piano as the core instruments, with drums and bass playing a supportive role. The styleSwing became harder-edged with JOHN COLTRANE’s A Love Supreme (1965), featuring pulsating rhythms and modal harmony.

Modal jazz is a type of jazz that was developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s, which featuries modes or scales rather than chords as the basis of improvisation. Musicians such as Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans were among the first to explore modal jazz.

In modal jazz, a soloist will often improvise for several choruses using a single mode. The rest of the band will vamp on a single chord (called the drone chord) for the duration of the solo. This creates a very open sound, as there are no harmonic “progressions” to define specific tonal areas.

Modal jazz is considered to be more “linear” than other types of jazz harmony, since there is less focus on chord changes. This linearity makes it easier to improvise long solos, and also allows for a greater range of harmonic possibilities.

One of the most famous examples of modal jazz is Miles Davis’ composition “So What,” which is based on the Dorian mode.

Free Jazz

Free Jazz is an approach to Jazz that was first developed in the 1950s. As the name suggests, it is a form of Jazz that is free from the traditional constraints of chord progressions and melodic structures. This allows musicians to improvise freely, which gives Free Jazz a unique sound and feel.

One of the most important pioneers of Free Jazz was saxophonist Ornette Coleman, who released his groundbreaking album “The Shape of Jazz to Come” in 1959. Coleman’s approach to jazz was drastically different from the bebop style that had dominated the genre up until that point, and his album helped to pave the way for the Free Jazz movement.

Since its inception, Free Jazz has been a divisive force within the jazz community, with some musicians feeling that it takes too much freedom away from the player, and others feeling that it allows for too much chaos. Regardless of your opinion on the matter, there’s no denying that Free Jazz is an important and influential part of jazz history.

The Best Jazz Songs for Each Instrument

When it comes to jazz, there are a lot of different directions you can go in. If you’re looking to start an instrumental collection, you might be wondering what the best jazz songs are for each instrument. In this article, we’ll give you a starting point for your collection by discussing the best jazz songs for each instrument.


Pianists have always been some of the most important figures in jazz, from the early days of ragtime and stride through the bebop revolution and beyond. The following songs represent the best of what this amazing instrument has to offer in jazz.

“The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin
A true classic, “The Entertainer” was composed by Scott Joplin in 1902 and quickly become one of the most popular ragtime tunes of its day. It has since been revived on numerous occasions, most notably in 1973 when it was used as the soundtrack for the film The Sting. This version by pianist Marvin Hamlisch is particularly noteworthy for its intricate rhythms and spirited energy.

“Maple Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin
Another classic from Scott Joplin, “Maple Leaf Rag” was composed in 1899 and helped to establish Joplin as one of the preeminent composers of Ragtime music. This particular version is noteworthy for its beautiful simplicity, allowing the tune’s melody to shine through clearly. It’s a great choice for any fans of ragtime or early jazz piano.

“Blue Rondo a la Turk” by Dave Brubeck
Composed by Dave Brubeck in 1962, “Blue Rondo a la Turk” quickly became a jazz standard and remains one of his best-known compositions. It features a catchy 9/8 melody that will stay with you long after you’ve finished listening. This particular version is performed by Brubeck himself on piano, with Paul Desmond on alto saxophone.

“Take Five” by Paul Desmond
Another Dave Brubeck composition, “Take Five” was written by Paul Desmond and first released on the album Time Out in 1959. It features a distinctive 5/4 time signature which gives it an unusual but catchy rhythm. This version is performed by Desmond himself on alto saxophone, with Brubeck on piano.


The guitar is a versatile instrument that can be used in a wide variety of musical genres. Jazz is no exception, and there are a number of great jazz songs that feature the guitar prominently. If you’re looking to add some great guitar-driven jazz to your collection, here are some of the best songs to check out.

1. “So What” – Miles Davis
2. “All Blues” – Miles Davis
3. “Kind of Blue” – Miles Davis
4. “Take the ‘A’ Train” – Duke Ellington
5. “Mood Indigo” – Duke Ellington
6. “In a Sentimental Mood” – Duke Ellington
7. “Afro Blue” – Mongo Santamaria
8. “Bésame Mucho” – Carlos Santana
9. “Oye Como Va” – Carlos Santana
10. “No Woman, No Cry” – Bob Marley


Bass is the foundation of any good jazz song, so it’s important to have a few great options in your collection. Here are some of our favorites:

“So What” by Miles Davis
“Walk on the Wild Side” by Louis Armstrong
“My Funny Valentine” by Ella Fitzgerald
” take the ‘A’ Train “by Duke Ellington
” All Blues “by Miles Davis


There are many great jazz songs that feature drums, but some are definitely better than others. If you’re looking for the best of the best, here are ten great jazz songs for drums.

1. “Caravan” by Duke Ellington
2. ” take the ‘A’ Train” by Count Basie
3. “In a Sentimental Mood” by Duke Ellington
4. “Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)” by Benny Goodman
5. “The Sidewinder” by Lee Morgan
6. “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” by Cannonball Adderley
7. “Groovin’ High” by Dizzy Gillespie
8. “A Night in Tunisia” by Dizzy Gillespie
9. “So What” by Miles Davis
10. “Salt Peanuts” by Dizzy Gillespie


There are countless great jazz songs that feature the trumpet, but here are 10 that every fan of the genre should have in their collection.

1. “Blue Train” by John Coltrane
2. “558-4” by Dizzy Gillespie
3. “A Night in Tunisia” by Dizzy Gillespie
4. “Manteca” by Dizzy Gillespie
5. “So What” by Miles Davis
6. “All Blues” by Miles Davis
7. “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis
8. “Take the “A” Train” by Duke Ellington
9. “Caravan” by Duke Ellington
10. “On the Sunny Side of the Street” by Louis Armstrong


The saxophone is known for its smooth, mellow sound, making it a popular choice for jazz musicians. Here are some of the best saxophone-based jazz songs to add to your collection.

“Summertime” by George Gershwin. This classic tune is perfect for lazy summer days. The saxophone solo provides a feeling of nostalgia and longing.

“My Funny Valentine” by Richard Rodgers. This well-known ballad is given new life with a saxophone solo that takes center stage. The mellow sound of the saxophone adds a sense of romance to this already classic song.

“Take the ‘A’ Train” by Duke Ellington. This fast-paced tune is perfect for those who want to show off their chops. The saxophone solo is complex and requires skill to execute properly.

The Best Jazz Albums of All Time

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is characterized by syncopated rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, and improvisation. Over the years, jazz has been one of the most popular genres of music and has influenced other genres as well. If you’re looking for the best jazz albums of all time, look no further. This list contains some of the greatest jazz albums ever made.

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue

Released in 1959, this best-selling jazz album by trumpeter Miles Davis features modal jazz recordings of “So What”, “All Blues”, and “Flamenco Sketches”. The personnel on the album include Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans. The modal jazz style on the album is different from the bebop and hard bop recordings that were common at the time, and is considered by many to be one of the greatest jazz albums of all time.

John Coltrane – A Love Supreme

Recorded over four days in December 1964, A Love Supreme was a critical and commercial success, and is today considered one of the greatest jazz albums of all time. It was Coltrane’s first LP to feature his classic quartet lineup of tenor saxophonist McCoy Tyner, alto saxophonist / flutist Eric Dolphy (who only appears on the first day of recording), bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Elvin Jones. The album is a suite in four parts: “Acknowledgement”, “Resolution”, “Pursuance”, and “Psalm”.

A Love Supreme is a spiritual and deeply personal work, with Coltrane’s liner notes describing it as his “humble offering” to God. The album’s opening track, “Acknowledgement”, begins with a percussive/*vocalization* by Coltrane before the rest of the band joins in. This section leads into the main body of the composition, a modal hard bop ostinato over which Coltrane solos. The second part, “Resolution”, is more tranquil, with a wordless vocal melody from Coltrane supported by Garrison’s arco bass. “Pursuance” is the most energetic section, with a fast-paced theme played by the entire band. The final part, “Psalm”, is a lyrical solo by Coltrane on soprano saxophone accompanied by Garrison’s bowed bass.

A Love Supreme was well received by critics upon its release and continues to be praised today for its impact on both jazz and popular music. In 2000, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and in 2003, Rolling Stone ranked it #46 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Charles Mingus – The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady

Mingus’s magnum opus is an ambitious, suites-like sequence that reflects the often-turbulent emotions of its creator. The most overtly autobiographical work in Mingus’s catalogue, it depicts a day in the life of the composer as he deals with “the sinner lady” (presumably his wife, Celia), “the saint” (Mingus himself?), and a host of other characters. Mingus draws on his wide range of influences—bebop, gospel, blues, Latin music—to create a work that is by turns beautiful, anguished, restrained, and explosive.

Ornette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come

Few debut albums are as influential and iconic as Ornette Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz to Come. Released in 1959, the record was a shot across the bow of traditional jazz, with Coleman and his young band mates – trumpeter Don Cherry, bassist Charlie Haden, and drummer Billy Higgins – playing with an freedom and abandon that was unheard of at the time. While Coleman’s approach would later be described as “free jazz,” on The Shape of Jazz to Come he and his band were simply following their own muse, fashioning a new sound that was at once earthy and cerebral, passionate and playful. The album is essential listening for any fan of jazz, and its influence can still be felt today.

Miles Davis – Bitches Brew

Miles Davis’ 1970 album Bitches Brew is a landmark recording in jazz and rock music. It is a double album featuring extended improvisations by Davis and his band that incorporated elements of rock, funk, and African music. The album is highly influential and is considered one of the best jazz albums of all time.

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