Jazz standards are musical compositions that are widely known, performed and recorded by jazz artists as part of the genre's musical repertoire. This list includes compositions written in the 1920s that are considered standards by at least one major fake book publication or reference work. Some of the tunes listed were already well-known standards by the 1930s, while others were popularized later. The time of the most influential recordings of a song, where appropriate, is indicated on the list.
A period known as the "Jazz Age" started in the United States in the 1920s. Jazz had become popular music in the country, although older generations considered the music immoral and threatening to old cultural values. Dances such as the Charleston and the Black Bottom were very popular during the period, and jazz bands typically consisted of seven to twelve musicians. Important orchestras in New York were led by Fletcher Henderson, Paul Whiteman and Duke Ellington. Many New Orleans jazzmen had moved to Chicago during the late 1910s in search of employment; among others, the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band and Jelly Roll Morton recorded in the city. However, Chicago's importance as a center of jazz music started to diminish toward the end of the 1920s in favor of New York.
In the early years of jazz, record companies were often eager to decide what songs were to be recorded by their artists. Popular numbers in the 1920s were pop hits such as "Sweet Georgia Brown", "Dinah" and "Bye Bye Blackbird". The first jazz artist to be given some liberty in choosing his material was Louis Armstrong, whose band helped popularize many of the early standards in the 1920s and 1930s.
1922 – "Farewell Blues" is a jazz composition by Paul Mares, Leon Roppolo and Elmer Schoebel of the Friar's Society Orchestra. It was used as the band's theme music, and their performances at the Friar's Inn influenced several younger white jazzmen, such as Bud Freeman and Jimmy McPartland.Isham Jones and His Orchestra had a hit with the tune in 1923.
1923 – "Tin Roof Blues" is a jazz composition by George Brunies, Paul Mares, Ben Pollack, Leon Roppolo and Mel Stitzel of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. The band first recorded the tune in 1923, and it became a major influence for later white jazz groups. It is one of the early New Orleans jazz pieces most often played. Credited to Rhythm Kings band members on the original record, the tune may have been based on Joe "King" Oliver's rendition of "Jazzin' Babies Blues" by New Orleans pianist Richard M. Jones.Jo Stafford's 1953 hit "Make Love to Me" used the tune's music with added lyrics.
Jazz pianist Fats Waller wrote many of the early jazz standards, including "Squeeze Me" (1925), "Ain't Misbehavin'" (1929) and "Honeysuckle Rose" (1929).
1924 – "King Porter Stomp" is a ragtime composition by Jelly Roll Morton, originally recorded as a piano solo. Lyrics were later added by Sonny Burke and Sid Robin. Morton claimed to have originally written the tune in 1902. It was named after pianist Porter King, and there is a rumor that Morton consulted ragtime pianist Scott Joplin about the composition. It became a hit when Benny Goodman and his orchestra recorded Fletcher Henderson's arrangement of it in 1935. The chord progression from the first strain has been used in numerous other jazz compositions and is commonly known as the Stomp progression.
Cole Porter was one of the few Tin Pan Alley songwriters to write both lyrics and music for his songs. His standards include "What Is This Thing Called Love?" (1929), "Love for Sale" (1930) and "Night and Day" (1932).
1926 – "'Deed I Do" is a song composed by Fred Rose with lyrics by Walter Hirsch. It was introduced by vaudeville performer S. L. Stambaugh and popularized by Ben Bernie's recording. It was influential clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman's debut recording, made with Ben Pollack and His Californians in 1926.Ruth Etting's rendition of the song became a top ten hit in 1927.
1926 – "I've Found a New Baby" is a song by Jack Palmer and Spencer Williams. Also known as "I Found a New Baby", it was introduced by Clarence Williams' Blue Five. The Benny Goodman Orchestra's 1940 version includes an influential guitar solo by Charlie Christian.Charlie Parker recorded the tune several times, first in 1940 as part of the Jay McShann Orchestra. Parker's interpretation was influenced by Lester Young, and the saxophonist even included quotations from Young in his later recordings. The tune is particularly popular among Dixieland bands.
1926 – "Muskrat Ramble" is a jazz composition by Kid Ory. Lyrics were added in 1950 by Ray Gilbert. First recorded by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five in 1926, it became the group's most frequently recorded piece. Composer credit was given to Ory, although bandleader Armstrong has claimed to have written the song himself. Others, like New Orleans clarinetist Sidney Bechet, have argued that it was originally a Buddy Bolden tune titled "The Old Cow Died and the Old Man Cried". The tune was a prominent part of the Dixieland revival repertoire in the 1930s and 1940s.
1926 – "Someone to Watch Over Me" is a show tune from the Broadway musical Oh, Kay!, composed by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira Gershwin. Gertrude Lawrence introduced the song on stage, singing it to a rag doll. Lawrence also made the first hit recording of the song in 1927. Lyricist Howard Dietz claims to have come up with the song's name and helped with the lyrics, but received no official credit. The song's jazz popularity was established in the mid-1940s by the recordings of Billy Butterfield, Eddie Condon, Coleman Hawkins and Ike Quebec.
1927 – "Blue Skies" is a show tune by Irving Berlin from the musical Betsy. Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart had originally written a solo number for Belle Baker, titled "This Funny World", but the star was unsatisfied with the song and asked Berlin to write a show-stopper for the musical. Berlin responded with "Blue Skies", and on the opening night the audience demanded 24 encores of Baker's song. A 1927 rendition by Ben Selvin and His Orchestra, recorded under the name "The Knickerbockers", became a number one hit. Al Jolson performed the song in 1927 in the first ever feature-length sound film, The Jazz Singer. Jazz renditions include Benny Goodman's 1938 concert in Carnegie Hall and Tommy Dorsey's 1941 recording with young Frank Sinatra on vocals.
"Basin Street Blues" is a blues song written by Spencer Williams and introduced by Louis Armstrong. Trombonist and singer Jack Teagarden recorded the song several times, first in 1929 with the Louisiana Rhythm Kings. Teagarden's 1931 recording with The Charleston Chasers, led by Benny Goodman, popularized the song. An additional verse was later added by Teagarden and Glenn Miller, who also claimed to have written the lyrics for the chorus.
"Crazy Rhythm" is a show tune composed by Roger Wolfe Kahn and Joseph Meyer with lyrics by Irving Caesar. It was introduced in the Broadway musical Here's Howe by Ben Bernie, who also made a successful vocal recording. Roger Wolfe Kahn and His Orchestra recorded it the same year with vocalist Franklyn Baur. The song has inspired the names of several albums, jazz groups, organizations and nightclubs.
"Mack the Knife" is a song from The Threepenny Opera, composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht. Originally called "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer" in German, the song was translated into English by Marc Blitzstein in 1954. The first jazz recording was made by Sidney Bechet in 1954 under the title "La Complainte de Mackie". Louis Armstrong's 1955 version established the song's popularity in the jazz world. It is also known as "The Ballad of Mack the Knife".
"Nagasaki" is a jazz song composed by Harry Warren with lyrics by Mort Dixon. The Ipana Troubadors made a hit recording in 1928, and in 1935 it was recorded by the Friar's Society Orchestra. The most famous jazz versions were made by Benny Goodman in 1936 and 1947. Fletcher Henderson played it in 1934 in the Harlem Opera House as the "national anthem of Harlem".
"Sweet Lorraine" is a song composed by Cliff Burwell with lyrics by Mitchell Parish. Teddy Wilson's version was the first to make the pop charts in 1935. The song is closely associated with Nat King Cole, who recorded it in 1940 and several times afterwards. According to a common story, Cole's singing career started in 1938 when a drunk customer insisted on the pianist singing "Sweet Lorraine" during a show.
"Ain't Misbehavin'" is a song from the musical revue Hot Chocolates, composed by Fats Waller and Harry Brooks with lyrics by Andy Razaf. Leo Reisman and His Orchestra was the first to take the song to the pop charts in 1929, followed by several artists including Bill Robinson, Gene Austin and Louis Armstrong. At the intermission of Hot Chocolates at the Hudson Theatre, Armstrong made his Broadway debut playing a trumpet solo on the song. Waller's original instrumental recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1984.
"Black and Blue" is a song from the musical Hot Chocolates, composed by Fats Waller with lyrics by Harry Brooks and Andy Razaf. It was introduced by Louis Armstrong. Ethel Waters's 1930 version became a hit. The song is also known as "What Did I Do to Be So Black and Blue".
"Honeysuckle Rose" is a song from the musical revue Load of Coal, composed by Fats Waller with lyrics by Andy Razaf. It was popularized by Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra in 1933. Waller's 1934 recording of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. Benny Goodman's Orchestra played a 16-minute jam session on the tune in their 1938 Carnegie Hall concert, featuring members from the bands of Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Charlie Parker used a part of the song's harmony in "Scrapple from the Apple" (1947).
"Liza (All the Clouds'll Roll Away)" is a show tune from the Broadway musical Show Girl, composed by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira Gershwin and Gus Kahn. It was introduced on stage by Ruby Keeler and Dixie Dugan, accompanied by the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Keeler's husband and popular singer Al Jolson appeared at the opening performance and sang a chorus of the song from the third row, creating a sensation and popularizing the song.
"Mean to Me" is a song composed by Fred E. Ahlert with lyrics by Roy Turk. It was first recorded by Ruth Etting. The song was a regular number in Billie Holiday's repertoire, and Holiday's 1937 recording with saxophonist Lester Young is considered the definitive vocal version. Young later made an instrumental recording with Nat King Cole and Buddy Rich.
"Rockin' Chair" is a song by Hoagy Carmichael. It was first recorded by Louis Armstrong in a duet with the composer. Carmichael has said that he wrote the song as a kind of sequel to his 1926 "Washboard Blues", which had lyrics by Fred Callahan. The song was made famous by Mildred Bailey, who used it as her theme song. Bailey's first hit recording was made in 1937.
"Stardust" is a song composed by Hoagy Carmichael with lyrics by Mitchell Parish. Originally recorded by Carmichael as a mid-tempo jazz instrumental, the 1930 romantic ballad rendition by Isham Jones and His Orchestra became a top-selling hit. Louis Armstrong recorded an influential ballad rendition in 1931. The song is arguably the most recorded popular song, and one of the top jazz standards. Billboard magazine conducted a poll of leading disk jockeys in 1955 on the "popular song record of all time"; four different renditions of "Stardust" made it to the list, including Glenn Miller's (1941) at third place and Artie Shaw's (1940) at number one. The title was spelled "Star Dust" in the 1929 publication, and both spellings are used.