|Before continuing, we should say that jazz music, by its very nature, resists definitions and categorization. It is a given that some visitors to this site will take issue with the ranking system we have devised and we respect their points of view.
We hope the majority will understand that without an underlying structure there would be no way to move forward with our primary and long-term goal: To centralize and preserve information for the compositions jazz artists most frequently record.
When we are done, surely the majority of jazz standards on anyone’s list will be included.
The JazzStandards.com ranking system is based on conservative definitions and merely reflects the compositions jazz artists choose to include on their CD recordings. There is no editorial judgment. Simply put, a composition is ranked highest because it has been included most often on currently issued CDs by the greatest number of jazz artists(by “jazz artists” we mean artists whose main body of work is jazz music.) This premise is based on our definition,
A “jazz standard” is a composition that is held in continuing esteem and is commonly used as the basis of jazz arrangements or improvisations.
One area where we considered editing our results was the inclusion of jazz Christmas collections. After some lengthy deliberation, we decided to be true to our “hands-off” editing policy. If we start excluding theme collections should we exclude theme songs from non-theme collections? Should all holiday songs be excluded or just Christmas songs? So while “Jingle Bells” is not usually thought of as a jazz standard, it satisfies our definition and has been recorded by dozens of mainstream jazz artists. As a result, it is on our list.
CD performances have been chosen as the yardstick because the compact disc is currently the most popular medium for the demonstration of a musician’s repertoire, style, and performing ability. The compact disc is also an indispensable medium for the listener as few jazz fans are able to attend live performances on a regular basis.
We do not rank a composition higher for multiple performances by the same artist. It would not make sense to call a composition a “jazz standard” simply because one performer has included it on a dozen CDs.
No value is placed upon CD sales figures. The phrase “commonly used as the basis of jazz arrangements or improvisations” implies the jazz artist’s choice of composition is what is important, not popularity amongst consumers. Based on a sampling of hundreds of thousands tracks on currently available CDs by 700 jazz artists,
- The number one ranked song, “Body and Soul,” was found on CDs by well over 100 different jazz artists
- Compositions having a rank of 750 or higher were found on CDs by at least 10 different jazz artists
- The number 1000 ranked composition was found on CDs by 6 different artists
If CDs by all jazz artists were tallied, the numbers would be much higher, but the ranking would remain virtually the same.