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List of 1930s Jazz Standards
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Richard Rodgers (left) and Lorenz Hart were responsible for a large number of 1930s standards, including "Blue Moon" (1934), "My Romance" (1935) and "My Funny Valentine" (1937).
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 1930s 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 1940s, while others were popularized later. Where appropriate, the years when the most influential recordings of a song were made are indicated in the list.
George Gershwin's songs have gained lasting popularity among both jazz and pop audiences. Among standards composed by him are "The Man I Love" (1924), "Embraceable You" (1930), "I Got Rhythm" (1930) and "Summertime" (1935).
The chord progression from Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm". Sequenced stride piano version, with elaboration. The chord progression, known as "rhythm changes", has been used as the basis of numerous jazz compositions, including many standards.
"Body and Soul" is a song composed by Johnny Green with lyrics by Frank Eyton, Edward Heyman and Robert Sour. The song was used in the successful Broadway revue Three's a Crowd and became an instant hit, despite being banned from the radio for almost a year for its sexually suggestive lyrics. The first jazz recording was by Louis Armstrong in 1930. Coleman Hawkins's 1939 recording consisted of three minutes of improvisation over the song's chord progression with only passing references to the melody. Hawkins's rendition was the first purely jazz recording that became a commercial hit and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1973. The song is the most recorded jazz standard of all time.
"But Not for Me" was introduced by Ginger Rogers in the Broadway musical Girl Crazy. It was composed by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira Gershwin. The song failed to achieve significant pop success, charting only once in 1942. However, it became popular in the jazz world, especially for female vocalists.
"Confessin'" was composed by Ellis Reynolds and Doc Daugherty, with lyrics by Al J. Neiburg. Louis Armstrong recorded it in 1930, and Rudy Vallée and Guy Lombardo both made the charts with their versions the same year. Saxophonist Lester Young recorded it several times during his career. Country singer Frank Ifield had a number one hit with the song in the United Kingdom in 1963. The song is also known as "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)".
"Embraceable You" was originally composed by George Gershwin for an unfinished operettaEast to West in 1928. It became a big hit after Ginger Rogers introduced it in the Broadway musical Girl Crazy, and was first recorded by Fred Rich and His Orchestra. Lyrics were written by Ira Gershwin. Billie Holiday's 1944 recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2005.
"I Got Rhythm" was composed by George Gershwin for the Broadway musical Girl Crazy, with lyrics by Ira Gershwin. First-timer Ethel Merman's performance on Girl Crazy stole the limelight from leading lady Ginger Rogers. The song's chord progression has been used in countless jazz compositions, and is commonly known as "rhythm changes". George Gershwin's last concert composition, Variations on "I Got Rhythm" was based on this song.
"Love for Sale" is a song from Cole Porter's Broadway musical The New Yorkers. Its prostitution-themed lyrics were considered bad taste at the time, and the song was banned from the radio. The ban, however, only increased the song's popularity. Porter himself was actually pleased that it could not be sung over the air. In the original musical the song was first sung by Kathryn Crawford and later by Elizabeth Welch. It was first recorded by Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians. The song took time to catch on as a jazz standard, possibly because it was 72 measures long. When Sidney Bechet recorded it in 1947, the song was not yet a regular jazz number.
"Memories of You" first appeared in the musical revue Blackbirds of 1930. It was composed by Eubie Blake and lyrics were written by Andy Razaf. It was introduced by Minto Cato on Broadway and the first recording was made by Ethel Waters in 1930. Louis Armstrong's 1930 recording was Lionel Hampton's debut performance as a vibraphonist and rose to number 18 on the charts. Hampton later recorded the tune again with Benny Goodman's orchestra; this version has made the song a popular clarinet number.
"Mood Indigo" is a jazz song composed by Barney Bigard and Duke Ellington, with lyrics by Irving Mills. Bigard has admitted borrowing parts of the song from a composition called "Dreamy Blues" by his teacher Lorenzo Tio. The lyrics were written by Mitchell Parish, who then sold them to Mills's publishing company for a fixed price. When the song became a hit, Parish was therefore left without royalties. Ellington's 1930 recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1975.
"On the Sunny Side of the Street" was written by composer Jimmy McHugh and lyricist Dorothy Fields for the Broadway musical Lew Leslie's International Revue. Harry Richman sang it in the original revue. Although the musical was a flop, "On the Sunny Side of the Street" became instantly popular. Richman and Ted Lewis charted with it in 1930, and Louis Armstrong recorded his version in 1934. The song is readily associated with Armstrong today.Tommy Dorsey and Jo Stafford both brought the song to the charts in 1945.Jeremy Wilson argues that the song may actually have been composed by Fats Waller, who then sold the rights for it.
"Just Friends" is a ballad composed by John Klenner with lyrics by Sam M. Lewis. It was introduced by Red McKenzie and His Orchestra. The song rose to the charts twice in 1932; Russ Columbo's recording with Leonard Joy's Orchestra peaked at number fourteen, as did a rendition by Ben Selvin and His Orchestra later the same year. Popularized in modern jazz by Charlie Parker's 1950 recording, the song became popular among West Coast cool jazz artists in the mid-1950s. Chet Baker's 1955 version is considered the definitive vocal performance.
"Out of Nowhere" was introduced by Bing Crosby and became his first number one hit as a solo artist. The lyrics for the Johnny Green composition were written by Edward Heyman. Coleman Hawkins's 1937 recording with Benny Carter and Django Reinhardt was long the definitive version. The song's harmony has been reused in many jazz compositions, such as Tadd Dameron's "Casbah" and Fats Navarro's "Nostalgia".
Virtuoso pianist Art Tatum mostly played Broadway and popular standards. He usually radically reworked the songs and had the ability to make standards sound like new compositions. Tatum's influential piano solos include "Tiger Rag", "Willow Weep for Me" and "Over the Rainbow".
"April in Paris" is a Broadway show tune from Walk a Little Faster, composed by Vernon Duke with lyrics by Yip Harburg. It was sung by Evelyn Hoey in the musical, but did not became popular until after the Broadway production ended and blues singer Marian Chase started including it in her repertoire. The first recording was by Freddy Martin and His Orchestra in December 1933. Thelonious Monk's 1947 piano trio rendition helped popularize the song as a jazz vehicle. Count Basie's 1955 recording became his biggest hit and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1985.
"How Deep Is the Ocean? (How High Is the Sky?)", a song written by Irving Berlin, was first made a hit by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra with vocalist Jack Fulton. The song's jazz popularity was established by Benny Goodman's 1941 recording with singer Peggy Lee. Coleman Hawkins made a popular jazz version in 1943, and Charlie Parker recorded it as a ballad in 1947.
"Night and Day" was written by Cole Porter for the musical Gay Divorce. It was introduced on stage by Fred Astaire, who also sang it in the 1934 film The Gay Divorcee, based on the musical. The song remained popular throughout the swing era and charted five times in the 1930s and 1940s. It became Frank Sinatra's first hit under his own name in 1942.
"Willow Weep for Me" is a song with music and lyrics by Ann Ronell. It was first recorded by Ted Fio Rito and His Orchestra and, two weeks later, by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra.Art Tatum recorded the piece six times; his 1949 performance on Piano Starts Here is often considered the definitive instrumental version of the song. Count Basie's "Taxi War Dance" was based on the song's harmony. Ronell dedicated the song to George Gershwin.
"Don't Blame Me" was introduced in the musical revue Clowns in Clover and included in the 1933 film Dinner at Eight. The film is often mistakenly given as the song's origin. The first hit recordings were by Guy Lombardo and Ethel Waters in 1933. Nat King Cole recorded it several times as an instrumental, and had a hit with a 1944 vocal version. Charlie Parker made an influential ballad rendition in 1947. The song was composed by Jimmy McHugh with lyrics by Dorothy Fields.
"I Cover the Waterfront", composed by Johnny Green with lyrics by Edward Heyman, was inspired by the 1932 novel of the same name by Max Miller. The song was included in the score of the 1933 film I Cover the Waterfront, and was first recorded by Abe Lyman and His Orchestra. Louis Armstrong, Joe Haymes, Eddy Duchin and composer Green all made recordings of the song in 1933, and Haymes's and Duchin's versions made the pop charts. Billie Holiday recorded the song many times during her career. Art Tatum recorded it as a solo piano piece in 1949 and returned to it several times.
"It's Only a Paper Moon" is a song from the short-lived Broadway show The Great Magoo, composed by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Yip Harburg and Billy Rose. Originally titled "If You Believed in Me", the current title was introduced in the 1933 film Take a Chance. The song first charted in 1933 with Paul Whiteman's and Cliff Edwards's recordings. Nat King Cole recorded a trio performance of it in 1943, and both Ella Fitzgerald and Benny Goodman charted with the song in 1945.
"Sophisticated Lady" is a jazz composition by Duke Ellington. Lyrics were later added by Irving Mills and Mitchell Parish. Ellington's recording rose to number three on the charts. Glen Gray and Don Redman also charted with the song in 1933. Lawrence Brown and Toby Hardwick have claimed to have composed parts of the music; according to Stuart Nicholson's Ellington biography, the original composer credits included Ellington, Brown, Hardwick and Mills, but only Ellington was credited when the song was published.
"Yesterdays" was composed by Jerome Kern for the Broadway musical Roberta, with lyrics by Otto Harbach. It was introduced by Irene Dunne. Not as popular in the pop world as "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" from the same musical, it has enjoyed much more success in jazz circles. The song is often associated with Billie Holiday, who recorded it in 1944.
"Autumn in New York" was written for the Broadway musical Thumbs Up! by Vernon Duke, who contributed both music and lyrics for the song. Introduced on stage by J. Harold Murray and first recorded by Richard Himber and His Ritz-Carlton Hotel Orchestra, it was not until 1947 that the song became a hit with Jo Stafford's and Frank Sinatra's recordings. It became a popular jazz number in the 1950s after Charlie Parker recorded it for his album Charlie Parker with Strings.
"Solitude" is a Duke Ellington composition with lyrics by Eddie DeLange. Irving Mills received co-credit for the lyrics as Ellington's agent. Ellington claimed to have composed the song in 20 minutes. Two recordings made the charts in 1935, one by Ellington and one by the Mills Blue Rhythm Band. Ellington's first vocal recording was made in 1940 with singer Ivie Anderson. The song is also known as "In My Solitude".
"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" is a song from Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach's Broadway musical Roberta. Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra's recording reached number one on the pop charts in 1934. A million-selling, Billboard Hot 100 number one version was recorded by doo-wop group The Platters in 1958. Kern originally composed the song as a fast tap-dance number for his 1927 musical Show Boat, and converted it into a ballad for Roberta. The song is particularly favored by piano players; Teddy Wilson made an early influential piano version in 1941.
"Stars Fell on Alabama" was written by composer Frank Perkins and lyricist Mitchell Parish. It was introduced by Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, and the first jazz recording was made by Benny Goodman in 1934. Jack Teagarden recorded it many times; his first recording was made with Goodman's orchestra in 1934 and he performed it in a 1947 Boston Symphony Hall concert with Louis Armstrong's All Stars.
"In a Sentimental Mood" is a jazz song with music by Duke Ellington and lyrics by Manny Kurtz and Irving Mills. Ellington's biographer James Lincoln Collier argues that the melody was originally composed by Toby Hardwick. The song is among Ellington's most popular compositions. Both Benny Goodman and the Mills Blue Rhythm Band charted with the song in 1936. At one point, it was used as the theme song of nine different radio shows.
"Just One of Those Things" was introduced by June Knight and Charles Walters in Broadway musical Jubilee. The song was written by Cole Porter. Richard Himber and His Orchestra was the first to chart with the song in late 1935. Red Garland recorded it in London in 1936. Teddy Wilson made a 1944 recording with Coleman Hawkins and recorded it the following year with the Benny Goodman Sextet. The song is also known as "It Was Just One of Those Things".
"These Foolish Things" is a song from the British musical comedy Spread it Abroad, written by Harry Link, Holt Marvell and Jack Strachey. It was introduced by French actor Jean Sablon, who also recorded it in French as "Ces petites choses". Billie Holiday recorded it in 1936 with Teddy Wilson and His Orchestra. Benny Goodman had a #1 hit with the song in 1936. Lester Young made a 1952 recording with Oscar Peterson's trio, replacing the original melody almost completely. The song is also known as "These Foolish Things Remind Me of You".
"Caravan" is a jazz song with Middle Eastern influences, composed by Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol with lyrics by Irving Mills. It is mostly associated with Ellington, who recorded it many times in different arrangements. It was a permanent part of Ellington's concert repertoire and was always played as the second number. Barney Bigard made the first recording in 1936 with a band composed of members of Ellington's orchestra. The first vocal version to become a hit was made by Billy Eckstine in 1946.
"I Can't Get Started" was introduced by Bob Hope in the Broadway musical Ziegfeld Follies of 1936. It was composed by Vernon Duke with lyrics by Ira Gershwin. Bunny Berigan's 1937 version became his most popular recording and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1975. Due to the success of Berigan's version, the piece is especially popular among trumpeters. Billie Holiday recorded the song in 1938 with Lester Young, and Young made a recording with his own trio in 1942. The song is also known as "I Can't Get Started with You".
"Sing, Sing, Sing" is often associated with swing jazz bands, especially Benny Goodman's. The piece was performed in Goodman's 1938 Carnegie Hall concert and was often used as the closing number in his live performances. Written by Louis Prima and originally titled "Sing, Bing, Sing" as a reference to Bing Crosby, the song is also known as "Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)".
"A Foggy Day" was written by George and Ira Gershwin for the musical film A Damsel in Distress. It was introduced in the film by Fred Astaire, whose recording rose to number three on the charts. Bob Crosby's orchestra charted with the song in 1938. The song is associated with London and begins with the chimes of the Big Ben. It is also called "A Foggy Day in London Town".
"My Funny Valentine" is Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's show tune from the Broadway musical Babes in Arms. It was introduced on stage by Mitzi Green. Hal McIntyre and His Orchestra was the first to chart with the song in 1945. Frank Sinatra recorded a hit version in 1955, and later the song became readily associated with his live performances. Other influential versions were recorded by Chet Baker (on My Funny Valentine, 1954) and Miles Davis (on Cookin', 1956).
"Nice Work If You Can Get It was written by George and Ira Gershwin for the musical film A Damsel in Distress. It was introduced in the film by Fred Astaire and has been recorded many times by jazz singers and pianists.
"They Can't Take That Away from Me" is a song from the musical film Shall We Dance, composed by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira Gershwin. It was introduced by Fred Astaire, whose recording with the Johnny Green Orchestra stayed at number one for ten weeks. A famous version was recorded by Charlie Parker in 1950 and released on Charlie Parker with Strings.
"Cherokee" is a jazz song originally written by Ray Noble as a part of a larger Indian Suite. It became a hit for Charlie Barnet in 1939 as an instrumental. Barnet adopted an extended version of it into his theme song, credited to himself and titled "Redskin Rhumba". Don Byas recorded the piece in 1945, and the same year Charlie Parker used its harmonic progression in his composition "Ko-Ko". Buddy DeFranco's "Swinging the Indian" is also based on the same chord progression. The song is also known as "Indian Love Song".
"Love Is Here to Stay" was George Gershwin's last composition, written for the musical film The Goldwyn Follies. Lyrics were provided by Ira Gershwin. The song gained little attention from The Goldwyn Follies and is better known for the 1952 film An American in Paris. The song was originally titled "Our Love Is Here to Stay"; Ira Gershwin later said that he would have wanted to change the title back to the original one if the song had not already become popular under its new name.
"The Nearness of You" was composed by Hoagy Carmichael with lyrics by Ned Washington. It was meant to be included in the film Romance in the Rough, which was never produced. The first hit version was made by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra in 1940. Sarah Vaughan recorded the song in 1949 and several times afterwards. Charlie Parker recorded it live with Woody Herman's Orchestra in 1951.
"Prelude to a Kiss" is a jazz ballad composed by Duke Ellington with lyrics by Irving Mills and Mack Gordon. It was first recorded as an instrumental by the Duke Ellington Orchestra featuring Johnny Hodges, who later recorded it with his own orchestra and vocalist Mary McHugh. The composition was based on a melody by Ellington's saxophonist Otto Hardwick.
"September Song" was introduced by Walter Huston in the Broadway musical Knickerbocker Holiday. It was composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Maxwell Anderson. Later hit recordings were made by Frank Sinatra in 1946 and Sarah Vaughan in 1954. Artie Shaw recorded it in 1945 with a big band featuring saxophonist Chuck Gentry. Don Byas made a 1946 recording with his quartet. Guitarist Django Reinhardt recorded the song four times, starting in 1947.
Clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman popularized many of the 1930s standards, including "Darn That Dream", "How Deep Is the Ocean", and "Stompin' at the Savoy".
"All the Things You Are" is a song from Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's Broadway musical Very Warm for May. Kern first felt the song, with its constantly shifting tonal centers, was too complex for mass appeal. However, it has enjoyed lasting popularity since then and is now one of the most recorded standards. The song's chord progression has been used for such tunes as "Bird of Paradise" by Charlie Parker and "Prince Albert" by Kenny Dorham.
"Darn That Dream" was composed by Jimmy Van Heusen for the Broadway musical Swingin' the Dream. Lyrics were written by Eddie DeLange. Although the musical was a disappointment, Benny Goodman's version of the song featuring vocalist Mildred Bailey was a number one hit.
"Frenesi" is a Latin jazz composition by Alberto Dominguez. Originally composed for the marimba, jazz arrangements were later made by Leonard Whitcup and others. A 1940 hit version recorded by Artie Shaw with an arrangement by William Grant Still was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000.
"I Thought About You" was composed by Jimmy Van Heusen with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Mildred Bailey recorded the first hit version with the Benny Goodman Orchestra. Guitarist Johnny Smith recorded it in the 1950s for the Roost label. Miles Davis included the song on his 1961 album Someday My Prince Will Come.
"In the Mood" is a jazz composition by Joe Garland based on Wingy Manone's "Tar Paper Stomp". Andy Razaf wrote the lyrics for the song. Garland recorded "In the Mood" with Edgar Hayes and offered it to Artie Shaw, who never recorded the piece. It was popularized by the Glenn Miller Orchestra in 1939. The final arrangement was the result of work by Garland, Miller, Eddie Durham, and pianist Chummy MacGregor, although only Miller profited from its financial success. The song remains popular and is almost always performed as an instrumental.
"Over the Rainbow" is a ballad introduced by Judy Garland in the film The Wizard of Oz, composed by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Yip Harburg. It was an immediate hit: four different versions, including Garland's, rose to top ten within a month after the film's release. An influential piano solo recording was made by Art Tatum in 1955, and a live solo piano recording was released by singer-songwriter Tori Amos in 1996. The song is also known as "Somewhere over the Rainbow".
"Something to Live For" is a jazz ballad written by Billy Strayhorn. Based on a poem the composer had written as a teenager, the song was introduced by Duke Ellington's orchestra with composer Strayhorn on the piano. Ellington was co-credited with the composition. The song has been recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, who has called it her favorite song.
"What's New?" started out as an instrumental titled "I'm Free", composed by Bob Haggart when he was playing in Bob Crosby's Orchestra, and was later retitled when Johnny Burke wrote lyrics for it. The song was introduced by Crosby, and other hit versions from 1939 include Bing Crosby's and Benny Goodman's renditions. Australian singer Catherine O'Hara recorded the song in 1966 with her own lyrics, also titled "I'm Free".
"Woodchopper's Ball" is a jazz composition by Joe Bishop and Woody Herman. Introduced by the Woody Herman Orchestra, it was the band's first and biggest hit selling over a million records. The original recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002. The composition is also known as "At the Woodchopper's Ball".