My Top10 Jazz Covers Of Pop Songs

Pop/Rock music in Jazz

The usage of pop music in Jazz is actually nothing new, to be fair, many of what are considered today’s Jazz standards were initially “pop” songs of their times.

In my list below, I’ve taken some kind of liberty with the definition of “Pop/Rock” song (in a nutshell it is just another list of music I love).

The entire list started with me listening to Christian McBride’s recent live album I just reviewed and particularly his “Car Wash” song, his version of this 1970s disco classic.

Don’t pay any attention to the numbering, this is just completely random, no ranking implied.

I’m pretty sure I’ve missed many others, please add your favorites in the comments!

1. Christian McBride – Car Wash

As mentioned before, from the great Album Live At The Village Vanguard 

The Christian McBride Trio Live At The Village Vanguard 2015 MackAvenue

2.  Brad Mehldau – Exit Music For a Film

I’ve already listed Brad Mehldau in my 25 Essential Jazz Albums, and he actually has two pop covers on there, I could have chosen both Nick Drake’s Riverman and this cover from Radiohead.

Brad Mehldau Art of the Trio vol 3 Songs Warner Jazz 1998

3. Sophie Hunger – I Put A Spell On You

I’ve already reviewed this great Nina Simone tribute album, and this version of the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic is my favorite song on there. Love it!

Autour de Nina Verve Compilation Sophie Hunger Melody Gardot

4.  The Bad Plus – Smells Like Teen Spirit

I haven’t mentioned this American trio on my blog yet, interestingly enough. They do a lot of cover versions which are usually a lot of fun, like this Nirvana classic from their 2003 album These Are The Vistas.

The Bad Plus These Are The Vistas 2003

5.  Gretchen Parlato – Holding Back the Years

The American singer Gretchen Parlato has really found her very own style, you’ll recognize her immediately. She deserves even more attention than she currently gets!

And as much as I hate Simply Red in general, I really like this cover a lot.

Gretchen Parlato The Lost And Found

6. Marcin Wasilewski Trio – Diamonds and Pearls

Marcin Wasilewski is a great Polish pianist, his trio recordings on ECM are very beautiful, and he’s played quite a bit on other great recordings as well. Here he’s covering Prince.

Marcin Wasilewski January

 

7. Holly Cole – Tennessee Waltz

Is Holly Cole actually a Jazz singer? Well, probably borderline. Who cares, this album is amazingly beautiful. One of my favorite songs on here is the 1940s classic Tennessee Waltz.

Holly Cole Don't Smoke In Bed

8. Musica Nuda – Roxane 

Musica Nuda, the Italian duo of Petra Magoni (vocals) and Ferruccio Spinet (double bass) is not very well-known outside of Italy, which is a pity, as it is really astounding to hear what you can do with this rather improbable “nude” combination of voice and bass, without any piano or drums. The do cover quite a lot of pop songs, The Police’s Roxane is just one beautiful example.

Musica Nuda Live At Fip

9. Youn Sun Nah – Enter Sandman

Youn Sun Nah also has a great track on Autour de Nina (mentioned above), but her own albums are equally impressive, e.g. this album Same Girl on ACT, which gives us this beautiful Metallica cover.

Youn Sun Nah Same Girl

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10. Sarah McKenzie – Moon River

I’ve recently praised Sarah McKenzie’s new release We Could Be Lovers, and still have it in constant rotation. Moon River is just out of this world!

Sarah McKenzie We Could Be Lovers Impulse 2015

So, what do you think? I’m considering a second edition of this blog post. Any recommendations would be appreciated!

14 thoughts on “My Top10 Jazz Covers Of Pop Songs

  1. elbajo

    Young Sun Nah’s cover of “Enter Sandman” is pretty impressive – great extended technique. If I were a metal singer I’d be wanting to borrow a lot of her techniques. I don’t hear her version as having any jazz element to me. This doesn’t make it bad – just curious how it fits on the list.

    “Enter Sandman” is NOT a Police tune – it’s by Metallica – which makes it an adventurous choice for this duo.

    Here’s the original – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CD-E-LDc384

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  2. Musicophile Post author

    elbajo. You have two very valid points:

    That particular version of Enter Sandman is indeed borderline Jazz, but if you check out the rest of the album, you will see she is a traditional (and excellent) Jazz artist. That’s how she’s made it to this particular list.

    And, yes, obviously Enter Sandman is by Metallica (I even have several of their albums, including this one, used to listen to Metal when I was younger for a short phase).

    Brain on autopilot here…. Corrected. (by the way funnily enough I didn’t write Police, that’s Musica Nuda one entry above, but mistakenly claimed Enter Sandman to be from Nirvana, as if Kirk Hammett would anything have to do with Grunge).

    In any case, thanks for flagging, really appreciate it!

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    1. jpas1954

      It’s funny but when you mentioned pop covers it didn’t at all make me think of stuff like this. Car Wash? That’s great. The first thing that occurred to me was something we discussed on my blog which is covers of songs from musicals, songs like “My Favorite Things” or “Someday My Prince Will Come.” I think the jazzers liked them because they were so melodic. Anyway, thanks for this information. Still working my way through your top ten jazz albums. That will take a while. :-0

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      1. Musicophile Post author

        In a way, both songs you mentioned could have been listed in this post. They are pop songs, just a little bit older.

        But then again, so is Tennessee Waltz.

        I think good Jazz players will take their inspiration from anywhere.

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  5. BarryDallman88

    I realise I’m late to the party on this, but I also love Charles Lloyd’s version of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ from ‘Lift Every Voice’, and Keith Jarrett covering Roberta Flack’s ‘Ballad of the Sad Young Men’ on ‘Tribute’.

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