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The 100 Quintessential Jazz Songs

Seattle stations KPLU and Jazz24.org asked their listeners to determine the top 100 quintessential jazz songs of all time. The results are in, and you can listen to them right here.

By NPR Music


American jazz trumpeter and composer Miles Davis (1926 - 1991), sits with his instrument during a studio recording session, October 1959. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Hear The Mix

The Jazz 100 is a crowdsourced list of the most quintessential jazz songs of all time, determined by the listeners of Jazz24.org and NPR Music.

If there was one theme we noticed while sorting through the 1,500 nominations, it was that time does not take its toll on great music. "Take Five," which was the first jazz single to sell 1 million copies, was the undisputed top choice, while Miles Davis' "So What" (which was coincidentally recorded in the same year, 1959) was the clear No. 2.

With a few exceptions, it appeared that when listeners looked to jazz vocalists, they preferred female artists that tugged at the heartstrings, while in most cases those who preferred instrumentalists enjoyed swinging, memorable mid- to up-tempo hits.

In large part, voters also seemed to focus on songs from the one or two most popular albums of a particular artist. That is, with the exception of John Coltrane. Coltrane fans still seem very divided on what qualifies as his best work, and the diversity of his catalog is evident in this list.

The Top Ten

  1. Dave Brubeck, "Take Five"
  2. Miles Davis, "So What"
  3. Duke Ellington, "Take The A Train"
  4. Thelonious Monk, "Round Midnight"
  5. John Coltrane, "My Favorite Things"
  6. John Coltrane, "A Love Supreme (Acknowledgment)"
  7. Miles Davis, "All Blues"
  8. Weather Report, "Birdland"
  9. Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto, "The Girl From Ipanema"
  10. Benny Goodman, "Sing, Sing, Sing"

?See the rest of the list, argue about the best and take part in the discussion at Jazz24.org.


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