Although the list of top jazz songs is too long to analyze in a single article, and it will always depend on personal taste and preferences, here’s a list of some of those top jazz melodies if you want to include a sample on your repertoire of top songs on a saxophone.
1. Mack the Knife
The beautiful and rhythmic sound of Mack the Knife transports us to a different time and place, where romance and danger intertwined. Written in 1928, it has been performed by legends such as Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. The saxophone cover is an all time classic among jazz sax players.
2. My favorite things
Originally written in 1959 as part of the musical’s “The Sound of Music” soundtrack, old jazz song “My favorite things” open structure and melody have made this song a staple among musicians and a fan favorite.
3. How high the moon
How high the moon, made famous by the great Ella Fitzgerald in 1954, is a swinging Broadway show tune and a jazz standard composed by Nancy Hamilton and Morgan Lewis
4. St. Thomas
Another top jazz song on a sax is “St. Thomas”, a more joyful and upbeat piece with Latin influence. Sax legend Sonny Rollins is credited as the composer, and it was released in 1956.
5. Ain’t Misbehavin
if you are looking for a more mellow sound, “Ain’t Misbehavin” by Fats Waller is a great example. Many know Louis Armstrong’s version, but the original showcases a beautiful slower melody.
6. So What
In 1959 Miles Davis composed what’s considered to be the most important jazz album which included the song “So What” using just two chords. The horns were originally played by Miles, Cannonball Adderley and Jhon Coltrane.
7. Night and Day
If you want to be transported to the elegance and glamor of the roaring 20s and 30’s, Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” combines complex harmony and structure with an unmistakable rhythm. This song has the particularity of repeating a single note 35 times and it’s considered a true jazz classic.
8. All the things you are
Although it was part of a 1939 Broadway show that didn’t not work out, “All the things you are” did make an impact in the audiences and was picked up by many artists. There’re many versions of this song but Bill Evan’s 1963 interpretation stands out among them. The tune sounds amazing with the saxophone as a lead so here you can listen to the Chad LB quartet performing it.
9. Straight, no chaser
We had to include in this list a blues song, and “Straight, no chaser” by Miles Davis is a great example. With a playful chromatism, it was composed by Thelonius Monk and Miles Davis’ version was released in 1958, featuring saxophone solos by Cannonball Adderley and Jhon Coltrane.
10. It don’t mean a thing (if it ain’t got that swing)
Composed by one of the greatest jazz composers of all time, Duke Ellington, “It don’t mean a thing (if it ain’t got that swing)” shows the complexity and impressive technicality of jazz music. This has been an all time favorite by jazz lovers and swing dancers and there are versions for many artists, including Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt and Tony Bennett.
I hope you’ll enjoy this selection of amazing pieces of jazz music we put together. If you search online for famous Jazz saxophone songs, you will find many more and listening to them would be a wonderful ride through jazz history and a great way to further diversify your playing repertoire.