April is Jazz Appreciation Month: Here are my Jazz Favorites

Written by on April 15, 2024

A Brief Look on Jazz History

Jazz, a uniquely American genre, emerged in the early 19th and 20th centuries in New Orleans, Louisiana. The 1920s marked its peak, introducing big band jazz, smooth vocalists, and experimental musical aspects. This distinct blend of elements makes Jazz a musicality like no other. To pay tribute to its legacy, I’ve compiled a list of my top six jazz songs, spanning from old-school to modern vocalists.

Bessie Smith: Nobody Knows When You’re Down and Out

Bessie Smith is one of my favorite vocalists of all time. With her vigorous rasp and lovely blues music, she ruled the Harlem Renaissance and became a significant figure in African-American jazz music. The song describes an American going through emotional turmoil during Prohibition and the Great Depression. Although the song is a cover, Smith depicts the hardships of the 1930s with her blues-inspired vocals. This song was my introduction to Jazz and blues; therefore, I highly recommend a listen.

Billie Holiday: All of Me

Billie Holiday is one of the most well-known jazz singers of all time. Her ability to bend her vocals and pitch range is unlike any other. In this perfect embodiment of classical Jazz, she displays romance and vulnerability to a tee.

“All of me
Why not take all of me
Can’t you see
I’m no good without you
Take my lips
I want to lose them
Take my arms
I’ll never use them”

All of Me by Billie Holiday

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong: They Can’t Take That Away From Me

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong established themselves as vocal powerhouses in the Jazz industry. The song was derived from composer George Gershwin and became a well-known jazz standard, but this version remains unmatched. With Fitzgerald’s perfect pitch and Armstrong’s rasp and vitreous trumpet skills, this duet mixes romance and musicality. The 1956 album Ella and Louis brings their talents to light with a wide range of duets, but this song is iconic and a personal favorite.

Kitty Kallen and Harry James: It’s Been A Long, Long Time

Kitty Kallen’s lovely vocals and the Harry James Big Band orchestra provided this iconic track from the 1950s. This track displays romance and the popularity of the big band orchestra at the time. Although the song lyrics are short, the instrumentals create a lovely theme of requited love along with Kallen’s smooth 1950’s vocals.

“Kiss me once, then kiss me twice, then kiss me once again
It’s been a long, long time

Haven’t felt like this, my dear since I can’t remember when
It’s been a long, long time”

It’s been a long, long time by Kitty Kallen and Harry James

Tony Williams: The Boodang

This track by Williams combines rock and fusion jazz. Background vocals provide soul to the track, and the intense drumming and bass make this song, unlike the big band jazz of the 1950s. Since this album was released in the 1970s, it took inspiration from famous rock groups and implemented it into this track. The track provides a nice mixture of electric guitar and bass, providing an interesting listening experience.

Amy Winehouse: Love is a Losing Game

While some consider Amy Winehouse a pop singer, her inspiration and background relate to Jazz. Her guitar relies on common Jazz chords that make her music differ from other pop artists, along with her vocal education in her singing voice. This track, in particular, is simple and relies on her jazz vocals and acoustic guitar; it’s a perfect ballad about heartbreak and a highly underrated Amy Winehouse song.

“For you, I was a flame
Love is a losing game
Five story fire as you came
Love is a losing game”

Love is a Losing Game by Amy Winehouse

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