What Standards Should I Learn?

Q: I’m working on extending my jazz standard repertoire. What songs do you recommend I add?

Your repertoire should reflect your own personal artistic self, while remaining primarily in the jazz standard repertory. That list, of course, contains hundreds and hundreds of excellent songs, so choosing a few that connect well shouldn’t be a problem.

So how do you narrow your choices? This decision should come from listening: familiarity with the repertoire is the best way to know what connects to you. (Remember: jazz singing is an oral tradition!)

Here’s a list of ten great singers with albums of standards. Virtually anything on any of these albums would meet “standard” criteria; immerse yourself in this music and the right repertoire will reveal itself.

Chet Baker, Chet Baker Sings
Ella Fitzgerald, Eight Nights In Hollywood
Billie Holiday, Jazz At The Philharmonic
Carmen McRae, The Great American Songbook
Mark Murhy, Rah
Frank Sinatra, Songs For Swinging Lovers
Mel Tormé, Live at Marty’s, New York City
Sarah Vaughan, Live In Japan
Joe Williams, Every Day: The Best of the Verve Years
Nancy Wilson, Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderly

This is, of course, a capricious list. Can’t find the album above? Fine – these artists all have vast recorded output. Find something by them and GO!