A jazz standard is a musical composition that has become widely known and frequently performed within the jazz genre. These songs have typically endured the test of time and continue to be played by jazz musicians across generations.
Jazz standards are characterized by their unique melodies, harmonic structures, and rhythms. They often incorporate elements of improvisation, which is a hallmark of jazz music. The compositions themselves are typically written by well-known jazz composers such as Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, and George Gershwin.
One of the defining features of a jazz standard is the way that it is performed. Although the basic melody and chord progression remain the same from one performance to the next, each musician is free to interpret the song in their own way. This allows for a great deal of variation from one performance to the next, and is one of the reasons why jazz is considered to be such a vibrant and dynamic genre of music.
Some of the most famous jazz standards include "Take the A Train" by Duke Ellington, "All the Things You Are" by Jerome Kern, and "Round Midnight" by Thelonious Monk. These songs have been recorded and performed by countless jazz musicians over the years, and have become an essential part of the jazz repertoire.
In addition to being performed by jazz musicians, many jazz standards have also become popular in other genres of music. For example, "Summertime" from George Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess has been recorded by artists in a wide variety of genres, including rock, pop, and R&B.
Jazz standards continue to be an important part of the jazz tradition, and are often used as a starting point for improvisation and experimentation by contemporary jazz musicians. As one music critic noted, "jazz standards have become like the classic repertoire in the theater, a body of work that can be returned to again and again, reinterpreted and reimagined, and always revealing something new."
- The New York Times, "Jazz Standards Are Timeless for a Reason," by Nate Chinen (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/29/arts/music/jazz-standards.html)
- NPR, "Jazz Standards Still Speak To Our Souls," by Tom Moon (https://www.npr.org/2013/04/30/179875820/jazz-standards-still-speak-to-our-souls)