Weekend Chops Builder: 150 MORE Standards Everyone Should Know

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[This article originally appeared in Keyboard in 1982.]

Last month I discussed the importance of learning the tunes in the standard jazz repertoire, and presented a list of 150 titles. This month I'd like to offer another 150 titles, as well as some more thoughts on jazz repertoire. The first generality is that the more songs you know, the better equipped you will be for whatever may come up. In a profession, which is basically freelance, in which even steady engagements are measured in months rather than years, it is obvious that an all-around player will tend to be hired more frequently than one who is limited. For a pianist particularly, who will be called on to give shape to the tunes at a casual gig in a much more concrete way than a drummer, for example, a limited repertoire might be as much of a drawback as a limited technique.

However, repertoire can be built comparatively easily, one tune at a time. Songs can be learned from the original sheet music in your aunt's piano bench. Stores in the bigger cities as well as collectors around the country buy and sell old sheet music. Current reprints are often on sale in music and record stores. Music magazines occasionally advertise collections of songs in lead sheet form, and other, unauthorized collections are circulated among musicians.

One of the most instructive ways of learning tunes is by transcribing them directly from records or from tapes of middle-of-the-road radio programs. This is excellent ear-training. Finally, you can learn them from other musicians. This is important, because the people you are playing with probably don't do standard tunes exactly the way they were written. Hardly anyone does, especially in a jazz context.

The development of jazz repertoire took a significantly different turn about twenty years ago. Although in the past there were important compositions by jazz people, on the whole jazz was a music that had come about from the improvisational playing of especially talented musicians who used as their basic material the popular songs of the day. In time, the artistry of these players brought forth a new idiom, which developed its own compositions. There are more of these specifically jazz compositions in use now than at any time before. They make up a contemporary jazz repertoire by such composer/musicians as John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, and others, with which younger players are justifiably involved.

The present list, like the one last month, is not concerned with these contemporary pieces, but rather with the pop tunes on which what is now known as mainstream jazz is largely based. (Some early instrumental jazz-composed pieces are also included.) These are the older songs, which have been around for a while and which older players tend to favor. There is also a case to be made that these songs offer significantly more harmonic possibilities than do those of the present. Of course, harmonic changes are explicitly not what present-day modal jazz is about, so it is probably not proving anything to try to weigh "Laura" against the Dorian mode. Let's just say that there are an awful lot of songs with great chord changes that are still in use, and a well-rounded player will want to know how they go.

Now we come to a second good reason for walking down memory lane with the oldies: Audiences recognize the melodies and appreciate more easily what a jazz performance brings to them. Of course, this brings up the matter of pleasing audiences, a goal I've heard denounced as subversive by some hard-core hot players.

The fact is that jazz has not been and probably never will be, for most of its practitioners, the only kind of music by which they make their living. Despite the romantic fables about musicians preferring to starve in their garrets rather than go commercial and play for the people, it doesn't work that way. Jazz continues to have a symbiotic relationship with pop music, from which it continually absorbs raw material to be fed back in turn to the mass market. And the jazz musician, who at some time in his career may play a jingle in New York, a show in Las Vegas, or simply the inevitable request for "Melancholy Baby" in one of the million cocktail lounges around the world, has an equally inevitable relationship with the world of pop music. For pianists in particular, knowing the basic repertoire is an entrée to an important career area, one with its own demands and rewards.

(Click here to see the previous list of 150 Standards Everyone Should Know.)

Autumn In New York
As Time Goes By
Baubles, Bangles, And Beads
Beautiful Love
Begin The Beguine
The Birth Of The Blues
Black And Blue
Black Orpheus (Theme From)
Blue Lou
The Blue Room
Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
The Boy Next Door
But Not For Me
Bye Bye Blues
Can't We Be Friends?
Can't We Talk It Over?
Cheek To Cheek
Dark Eyes
Days Of Wine And Roses
Dearly Beloved
Dear Old Southland
'Deed I Do
Deep Purple
Don't Be That Way
Don't Blame Me
Don't Get Around Much Anymore
Don't Worry 'Bout Me
Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?
East Of The Sun
Easy Living
Everything Happens To Me
Exactly Like You
Fools Rush In
For All We Know
From This Moment On
Georgia On My Mind
Get Happy
The Girl From Ipanema
God Bless The Child
Gone With The Wind
How About You?
How Insensitive
How Long Has This Been Going On?
I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me
I Didn't Know What Time It Was
If I Were A Bell
I Get A Kick Out Of You
I Hadn't Anyone Till You
I Know That You Know
I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart
I'll Be Around
I'll Never Be The Same
I'll Take Romance
I May Be Wrong
I'm Beginning To See The Light
I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter
I'm In The Mood For Love
I'm Old Fashioned
I Never Knew
In Love In Vain
I Should Care
Isn't It Romantic?
It Had To Be You
I Thought About You
It's Easy To Remember
It's So Peaceful In The Country
It's The Talk Of The Town
I've Got A Crush On You
I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
I Want To Be Happy
I Wished On The Moon
Japanese Sandman
Jeepers Creepers
Just Squeeze Me
Lady Be Good
Like Someone In Love
Little Girl Blue
Little White Lies
Long Ago And Far Away
Love Is Here To Stay
Love Is Just Around The Corner
Love Me Or Leave Me
Love Walked In
Lush Life
Mack The Knife
Makin' Whoopee
Moon River
The More I See Of You
More Than You Know
Mountain Greenery
My Heart Stood Still
My Ideal
My Melancholy Baby
My Old Flame
My One And Only Love
My Romance
My Shining Hour
My Ship
New Orleans
Night In Tunisia
Old Folks
Once In A While
Old Devil Moon
Old Fashioned Love
The Party's Over
Pennies From Heaven
Penthouse Serenade
People Will Say We're In Love
Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone