Jazz standard

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The term jazz standard , actually just called standard , includes compositions from the past decades that have been played continuously by jazz musicians and have outlasted the development of style. The transition to other styles of music ( pop song , chanson and hit song) has also been successful for some standards .

Many of the melodies that have become standards originally come from various genres of popular music such as: Broadway shows, musicals , Hollywood films, and even operettas. The high phase of these so-called standards was the era of swing . Some jazz standards also come from "traditions of the 19th century, from ragtime , classical blues , early jazz , from Chicago jazz of the 1920s, swing of the 1930s and 1940s, gospel , bebop and hardbop , bossa nova , modal and even free jazz . "

The interpretation of standards is constantly changing and expanding. Some "reworkings" of songs from the Great American Songbook are more popular today than the originals as the starting point for a jazz interpretation.


Standards form the basis of the repertoire of jazz musicians . They serve as the basis for improvisations. At spontaneous jazz musicians' meetings, the jam sessions , standards play a central and indispensable role because they form the musical intersection between foreign musicians. In fact, the jam session may have been the reason why a solid body of pieces developed. The form of presentation of these pieces (tunes) is not specified. Style, melody, harmony and rhythm can be changed by the performers, depending on their qualifications.

to form

32 bar forms

Most standards have a 32-bar song form (4 × 8 bars), except for the verse in general.

  • AABA - The first two A parts usually have two different endings, one that leads to the beginning and the second that leads to the bridge (B part). The third and last A section almost always ends on the tonic. Typical for this is the composition Take the A-Train .
  • ABAC - How High the Moon has a completely different 32-bar form. Actually there is no B / C section here, but two 16-bar A-sections, which often only differ in the harmony of the last four bars. In the first part tension is built up, with the repetition everything usually dissolves into a tonic .
  • Sometimes there is a coda , which is a short extension of the piece.

12 bar form

This group relates to the blues scheme . Jazz standards that adhere closely to the blues scheme are, for example, Straight No Chaser and Blue Monk by Thelonious Monk . Many standards expand the harmony scheme and belong to the genre of jazz blues . There are many different harmonizations of a blues, but the 12-bar form always remains. The harmonization of Charlie Parker themes such as Blues for Alice and Au Privave are also typical : only the harmony levels of bars 1, 5 and 9 are identical to the original blues . The intermediate bars are filled with quintet sequences that can be inserted almost limitlessly according to the II-VI scheme, as for example with the title Bluesette by Toots Thielemanns .

Newer forms

Since the 1950s, the standard forms have increased greatly, primarily through the inclusion of other rhythms, especially Latin American and African, and themes, as well as through the expansion of harmony and melody. In the 1960s and early 1970s, the experimentation led the jazz musicians in free jazz on the replacement or dissolution of all formal conventions that were dictated by standards. Since the 1970s, there has been a partial return to traditional improvisation on standard topics and forms. However, the experience gained in the meantime with the free play of many combos was integrated. Standard forms today are just as variable and diverse as jazz music as a whole.


Jazz musicians use different collections of standards. The so-called Real Book , which exists in several editions, is particularly popular .

  • The original Real Book is a hectographed illegal copy of almost 500 copies. These are only notated as a melody with chord symbols and usually comprise one, rarely several A4 pages ( lead sheet ) . They name the composer of the melody and give sporadic references to the character (such as ballad ), the rhythm (such as swing ) and particularly important performers (such as Charlie Parker) of the standard. The older editions of it still contained many errors that were only gradually corrected.
  • Only with the publication of the New Real Book did a checked and authorized print version of old and modern standards come into circulation. In contrast to the often very rudimentary and even incorrect information given in the forerunner, this work usually not only notes melody and chords, but also provides precise and differentiated information on arrangement , polyphony, introductions and exits, rhythms, tempo , performers and recordings (sound carriers ) for this piece. This usually means that a certain arrangement of the standard that is familiar to jazz musicians and jazz listeners is favored. Therefore this work is considered to be particularly true to the source. However, its content has focused on the styles of jazz since the 1970s, so it lacks many of the older and popular standards of the swing and bebop era.

They are also popular among jazz musicians

  • 557 standards , which in addition to the DIN A4 format are also available as a practical DIN A 5 hardcover ring binder. This edition combines the advantages of the old with those of the new Real Book: It contains only the most necessary information with the greatest possible freedom of interpretation, but precise notation of the themes and chord progressions, i.e. faithful to the source. Like the older Realbooks, they are available in several keys (C, Eb, Bb) and even in the bass clef. There is an app for iOS and Android (iReal Pro).
  • There are also so-called fake books , in which both pop songs and jazz standards are listed and provided with arrangements of different quality. A popular collection of "classic" pop songs is the Great American Songbook .

See also

  • The article List of Jazz Standards and Compositions provides an alphabetical list of the most popular standards and jazz compositions. It does not claim to be complete, but can be updated on an ongoing basis. The respective composer and - if applicable - lyricist are also given there (in brackets) .
  • The article Bebop head describes the "reworking" of standards, as they were often practiced, especially by the musicians of modern jazz.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Schaal: Jazz standards. 2001, p. 8.
  2. cf. Jazz Waltz
  3. Mongo Santamaría's Afro Blue marks the beginning of the conscious engagement with African rhythms and polyrhythms . In the previous jazz there were no explicit references to polyrhythms.
  4. ( iReal Pro | )