Bruce Forman’s 10 Essential Jazz Standards or “Mother Tunes”

Summertime
Honeysuckle Rose
Take the A Train
Autumn Leaves
All the Things You Are
There Will Never Be Another You\
Just Friends
On Green Dolphin Street
Ain’t Misbehavin’ -or- It Could Happen to You
Stella By Starlight

I once had a student ask me which jazz standards he should be working on. I directed him to choose a few from a list of songs that had been put together by the chair of our jazz program at Ohio University. (You can see that list here: A Selected List of Standard Jazz Tunes for Memorization – Ohio University Jazz 2016)

When he saw the list of nearly 100 songs he was visibly overwhelmed. I remember him saying that it was too long a list of songs to really be helpful. Which ones were really important to his development? Which ones might be called at a jam session? While that list is an excellent resource and included many of the most important tunes standards you’d expect, I understood his feelings completely.

Soon after, I found that guitarist Bruce Forman had created a list of 10 essential jazz standards for his students to start with that comprise many of of the most common sounds, cadences, and forms that jazz musicians will encounter as soloists and accompanists. I’ve since started using these pieces with many of my students as entry points into the jazz repertoire. Bruce discusses why he chose these specific tunes in more detail on Episode 99 V of the GuitarWank Podcast.

I’d also add the super-obvious recommendation that students should have a blues song and a rhythm changes tune in their repertoire.

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