THE BEST Jazz

Jacob Collier: Tiny Desk Concert

Jacob Collier: Tiny Desk Concert

Among his many talents, musician Jacob Collier is known for his multitrack music videos. While quarantined at home, he and his three identical (virtual) twins performed this stellar NPR Tiny Desk Concert that showcases his diverse musical skills through three smooth and enveloping tunes.

In Bloom: Jazz-funk Cover

In Bloom: Jazz-funk Cover

(PG-13: Language) Metaphump presents a cover version of Nirvana’s In Bloom unlike any we’ve ever heard before. With an big band, jazz-fusion arrangement by Léonard Piacentino, and a freestyle rap vibe, it’s basically a completely different song.

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Squirrel Nut Zippers: La Grippe

Squirrel Nut Zippers: La Grippe

Minutes before COVID-19 shutdowns started, at The Magic Bag in Detroit, the Squirrel Nut Zippers made this video of “La Grippe,” a macabre ditty about the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. The infectious song originally appeared on the band’s debut album and will inevitably rock the setlist for the “Inevitable 25th Anniversary Tour.”

Take Five: Harmonica Cover

Take Five: Harmonica Cover

Cy Leo, Ivan Chong, Jerry Wong, and Ramiel Leung of the quartet Perfect Fourth turn in a perfectly executed cover version of the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s cool jazz classic Take Five, replacing the piano, drums, flute, and alto sax of the original with harmonicas. They also do a mean version of the William Tell Overture.

Snarky Puppy: Tiny Desk Concert

Snarky Puppy: Tiny Desk Concert

The members of the jazz collective Snarky Puppy turned in a downright funky mix of keyboards, horns, bass, guitar, violin, and percussion during their appearance at the NPR Music offices. They performed their instrumental tracks Tarova and Xavi, the latter’s complex rhythms with the assistance of the audience.

Without Me: Jazz Edition

Without Me: Jazz Edition

(PG-13: Language) Guess who’s back, back again? Musician Lucas Brar gives Eminem’s 2002 hit track Without Me a jazzy new acoustic arrangement that only slightly softens the blow of Slim Shady’s stinging and acerbic poetry.

A Jazz Guitarist at a Party

A Jazz Guitarist at a Party

“I meant like Wonderwall from Oasis you know.” Professional musician Lucas Brar pokes fun at how people ask him what his real job is, along with one of the more popular requests he hears from party guests. His interpretation of the track really brought a smile to our faces.

Still Alive: Swing Cover

Still Alive: Swing Cover

If you ask us, Jonathan Coulton’s Still Alive is one of the greatest video game songs of all time. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy this vibrant and jazzy version of the track, performed by The 8-Bit Big Band, with singer Benny Benack III doing his best Frank Sinatra.

The 10 Levels of Jazz Guitar

The 10 Levels of Jazz Guitar

Not to be outdone by bass player Davie504, guitarist Mattias Krantz presents a compilation of acoustic jazz styles performed masterfully as he advances level by level through an arrangement of George Gershwin’s 1935 classic Summertime.

Dancing Queen: Jazz Cover

Dancing Queen: Jazz Cover

See that girl, watch that scene, dig in the dancing queen. The multi-talented Gunhild Carling joins Scott Bradlee and Aaron McLendon of Postmodern Jukebox for a fun 1920s jazz-infused remake of ABBA’s 1979 disco hit Dancing Queen.

The Look of Jazz Albums

The Look of Jazz Albums

Vox video producer Estell Caswell digs into the design language of album art from Blue Note Records, and how one graphic designer, Reid Miles, working with the photography of Francis Wolff – was responsible for many of the most iconic jazz album covers of all time.

Tetris A: Jazz Cover

Tetris A: Jazz Cover

We’ve heard a number of covers of the familiar theme song from Tetris over the years, from bluegrass to dubstep, game fanatic insaneintherainmusic’s jazzy rendition is our favorite yet. Beyond the cool arrangement, the man has some serious sax skills.

Mr. Sandman Ragtime Cover

Mr. Sandman Ragtime Cover

Pianist and self-proclaimed redneck Leslie Blake makes his fingers fly across 88 keys like few other musicians. Here, he performs a sped-up ragtime arrangement of The Chordettes 1958 classic Mr. Sandman designed to wake you up more than to put you to sleep.

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The Midnight Hour: Tiny Desk Concert

The Midnight Hour: Tiny Desk Concert

A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad and composer Adrian Younge visited NPR Music as the jazz fusion band The Midnight Hour. They played Black Beacon, There Is No Greater Love, Bitches Do Voodoo and Mission, all from their debut album.

Creep: Bossa Nova Edition

Creep: Bossa Nova Edition

(PG-13: Lyrics) Myrtle Beach, SC group Oracle Blue presents a fresh take on Radiohead’s 1993 hit track Creep, giving it a polished and jazzy new sound, headlined by the buttery smooth vocals of Liz Kelley-Tavernier and a wonderful flute solo by J.P. Taylor.

Master of Puppets: Jazz Edition

Master of Puppets: Jazz Edition

Musician Andy Rehfeldt loves to turn metal songs into jazz tunes. His latest makeover? Transforming Metallica’s magnum opus Master of Puppets into something even dear old Mom and Dad would enjoy. Though at 5:00, we thought it was gonna segue into Get Lucky.

Pomplamoose: Tainted Love

Pomplamoose: Tainted Love

A cool take on the 1964 Gloria Jones track Tainted Love – later made famous by Soft Cell, with a smooth and jazzy vibe from vocalist Nataly Dawn, and the production chops of Jack Conte, who expanded the duo of Pomplamoose to a full band for this live performance.

Puddles: What a Wonderful World

Puddles: What a Wonderful World

The sad clown with the golden voice turns in another soulful performance, with his take on the 1967 classic, made famous by Louis Armstrong. Puddles imbues it with a decidedly bittersweet undertone given some of the awful things going on in the world these days.

LSD Does Take on Me

LSD Does Take on Me

We love the way that Lake Street Dive incorporates the trumpet and swinging rhythms into their cover version of the 1985 A-ha classic, which we’re so used to hearing played on synthesizers. We’re also impressed with vocalist Rachael Price’s ability to hit that high note.

Funk Against the Machine

Funk Against the Machine

Metaphump performs jazzy funk covers of rock and metal tunes. Here, they turn in an excellent rendition of Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name, with a groovy bassline and vibrant horn section. Their Metallica and Megadeth covers are worth a listen too.

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Lose Yourself: Jazz Cover

Lose Yourself: Jazz Cover

(PG-13: Language) Sit down and enjoy a delicious serving of mom’s spaghetti, courtesy of vocalist Robyn Adele Anderson, as she and six talented jazz musicians turn in a totally unconventional take on Eminem’s 2002 classic Lose Yourself.

Gimme Chocolate: Jazz Cover

Gimme Chocolate: Jazz Cover

Vocalist Tara Louise leads off one of our favorite Postmodern Jukebox covers yet, with a vibrant 1920’s jazz style version of Japanese Kawaii metal group Babymetal’s cult hit Gimme Chocolate. If you’re unfamiliar with the original, here ya go. You’re welcome.

Say It Ain’t So: Torch Song Cover

Say It Ain’t So: Torch Song Cover

Somebody’s Heine is crowding my icebox… Postmodern Jukebox features a Blue Note style cover of the 1994 Weezer ballad Say It Ain’t So, with the vivacious vocals and equally vibrant red hair of Dani Armstrong (aka “Jack Dani”) leading the charge.

Don’t Look Back in Anger: Jazz Cover

Don’t Look Back in Anger: Jazz Cover

Slip inside the eye of your mind and listen to Postmodern Jukebox and vocalist Maiya Sykes as they transform the ironically titled Oasis track Don’t Look Back in Anger into a sultry New Orleans jazz ballad.

No Surprises: Jazz Cover

No Surprises: Jazz Cover

No Surprises is one of the most oft-covered Radiohead tracks of all time, but we’re rather taken with Postmodern Jukebox’s ’30s-style jazz arrangement, with Chloe Feoranzo’s warm and smooth vocals standing in for Thom Yorke’s.

Sexual Healing: Brass Band Cover

Sexual Healing: Brass Band Cover

A vibrant cover version of Marvin Gaye’s classic which will have you marching down the street, spinning an umbrella along to the Dixieland jazz sounds of New Orleans’ Hot 8 Brass Band. Go figure that the video was shot in London.

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