The Jazz 100 (Part 1 – The List)

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)

As many of you know (and many of you don’t), KPLU, in cooperation with, NPR, and recent created a list of the 100 quintessential jazz songs of all time. The list was created by anyone who chose to vote for their five favorite songs of all time.

We received nearly 3,000 votes for over 1,500 different recordings, and yours truly tabulated each and every vote.

Over the next several days, Groove Notes will be taking a detailed look at the final results. Today I will post the list for those who haven’t seen it, with my writeup that was posted at Other highlights over the next couple of days will include:

  • A more detailed audio discussion about the list that I had with KPLU’s Morning Edition host Kirsten Kendrick.
  • Thoughts about the list from KPLU’s Midday Jazz host Robin Lloyd and Evening Jazz host Abe Beeson.
  • Responses to listeners and readers thoughts on the list.
  • My final conclusions and thoughts on the list.

For now, here is the list. We would love your comments and thoughts, and you can hear the list currently playing at

The 100 Quintessential Jazz Songs

by Kevin Kniestedt

February 7, 2011The Jazz 100 is a crowdsourced list of the most quintessential jazz songs of all time, determined by the listeners of 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.

Song Artist
1. Take Five Dave Brubeck
2. So What Miles Davis
3. Take The A Train Duke Ellington
4. Round Midnight Thelonious Monk
5. My Favorite Things John Coltrane
6. A Love Supreme (Acknowledgment) John Coltrane
7. All Blues Miles Davis
8. Birdland Weather Report
9. The Girl From Ipanema Stan Getz & Astrud Gilberto
10. Sing, Sing, Sing Benny Goodman
11. Strange Fruit Billie Holiday
12. A Night in Tunisia Dizzy Gillespie
13. Giant Steps John Coltrane
14. Blue Rondo a la Turk Dave Brubeck
15. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat Charles Mingus
16. Stolen Moments Oliver Nelson
17. West End Blues Louis Armstrong
18. God Bless The Child Billie Holiday
19. Cantaloupe Island Herbie Hancock
20. My Funny Valentine Chet Baker
21. Body And Soul Coleman Hawkins
22. Song For My Father Horace Silver
23. Spain Chick Corea
24. Blue In Green Miles Davis
25. Naima John Coltrane
26. Flamenco Sketches Miles Davis
27. Waltz For Debby Bill Evans
28. Autumn Leaves Cannonball Adderley
29. St. Thomas Sonny Rollins
30. Mercy, Mercy, Mercy Cannonball Adderley
31. What A Wonderful World Louis Armstrong
32. Lush Life John Coltrane/Johnny Hartman
33. Blue Train John Coltrane
34. Poinciana Ahmad Jamal
35. In a Sentimental Mood Duke Ellington & John Coltrane
36. Freddie Freeloader Miles Davis
37. Summertime Ella Fitzgerald
38. Watermelon Man Herbie Hancock
39. Salt Peanuts Dizzy Gillespie
40. Moanin’ Art Blakey
41. Straight, No Chaser Thelonious Monk
42. Good Morning Heartache Billie Holiday
43. Mack the Knife Ella Fitzgerald
44. In the Mood Glenn Miller
45. Desafinado Stan Getz
46. Cast Your Fate To The Wind Vince Guaraldi
47. Rhapsody in Blue George Gershwin
48. Blue Monk Thelonious Monk
49. Caravan Duke Ellington
50. Sidewinder Lee Morgan
51. Django Modern Jazz Quartet
52. Compared To What Les McCann
53. Red Clay Freddie Hubbard
54. Ruby, My Dear Thelonious Monk
55. April in Paris Count Basie
56. Bitches Brew Miles Davis
57. Twisted Lambert, Hendricks & Ross
58. Maiden Voyage Herbie Hancock
59. Mood Indigo Duke Ellington
60. St. Louis Blues Louis Armstrong
61. Manteca Dizzy Gillespie
62. How High The Moon Ella Fitzgerald
63. At Last Etta James
64. Fever Peggy Lee
65. Satin Doll Duke Ellington
66. Someday My Prince Will Come Miles Davis
67. Autumn in New York Billie Holiday
68. Epistrophy Thelonious Monk
69. I Loves You Porgy Nina Simone
70. It Don’t Mean A Thing Duke Ellington
71. Koko Charlie Parker
72. Milestones Miles Davis
73. Misterioso Thelonious Monk
74. Nuages Django Reinhardt
75. Struttin’ with Some BBQ Louis Armstrong
76. The In Crowd Ramsey Lewis
77. Ain’t Misbehavin Fats Waller
78. Bye Bye Blackbird John Coltrane
79. On Green Dolphin Street Miles Davis
80. Linus and Lucy Vince Guaraldi
81. Georgia on My Mind Ray Charles
82. Joy Spring Clifford Brown & Max Roach
83. One O’Clock Jump Count Basie
84. Potato Head Blues Louis Armstrong
85. Bumpin’ (On Sunset) Wes Montgomery
86. Feeling Good Nina Simone
87. Misty Errol Garner
88. Moody’s Mood For Love James Moody
89. Stardust Louis Armstrong
90. Yardbird Suite Charlie Parker
91. Diminuendo & Crescendo in Blue Duke Ellington
92. Donna Lee Charlie Parker
93. Water Boy Don Shirley
94. Ornithology Charlie Parker
95. Begin the Beguine Artie Shaw
96. Ceora Lee Morgan
97. Sophisticated Lady Duke Ellington
98. Sugar Stanley Turrentine
99. Footprints Wayne Shorter
100. Four on Six Wes Montgomery

13 Replies to “The Jazz 100 (Part 1 – The List)”

  1. whaddya mean part 1? how can a quintessential list have a part 2. well i know voting is over. Hope part 2 includes Anita O’Day Tea for Two Live 58 Newport Jazz Festival!

  2. Of all the artists left off this list, Jell Roll Morton’s absence was the most disappointing. I really really expected Black Bottom Stomp, or another tune of his on the list.

  3. I was disappointed at the shallowness of the response with respect to the history of Jazz. For instance, /louis Armstrong’s “West End Blues” has an intro that was copied, altered and inseerted into solos for years, including a direct quote by Charlie Parker in one of his bebop masterpieces. It seems that the submitters reponded to what’s on KPLU playlists, rather than a knowlege of the history of jazz. Don’t get me wrong. I am most definitely not a “mouldy fig” in ANY sense. My tastes are centered around the 50’s and 60’s, when I was in my formative years – Miles, Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins, Monk, Shearing, the MJQ. So, I believe that, before voting, people should attend remedial lessons from Ken Wiley (and why haven’t we heard from him?). btw, I play jazz piano – it’s a passion of mine.

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