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


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!

Author: Musicophile

I'm not a professional musician, I don't work in the music industry, I'm just what the name says, somebody who loves music. I've been in love with music for all of my life, took piano lessons for nearly 10 years, and played in several amateur Jazz groups. I go to concerts, both classical and Jazz, quite regularly. And I collect music previously on vinyl and CDs, now on my computer, and am slightly OCD on my music collection. You can reach me at Musicophile1(AT)

22 thoughts on “My Top10 Jazz Covers Of Pop Songs”

  1. 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 –

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 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!


    1. 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

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 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.


  3. 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’.


  4. Hi,
    I am really late on my comment… But very glad of “discovering” few days ago!
    Since then I am exploring your unbelievable rich content for hours and hours in a row….
    Myself an audiophile who loves good music… And to my satisfaction your musical taste is pretty much in line with mine.. Eg. Jazz with melodies…and I quickly realized you also value high quality recordings.
    So, thanks a lot for the great work, please keep it alive and growing… certainly your reviews, comments and suggestions are enriching our lives…once Music is a vital part of our lives…
    Well, I finally would like to indicate Friend’s and Fellow ( like Música Nuda… Female voice and bass) for their great covers… well recorded as well.
    All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Yuri for your kind words. This is exactly why I now keep going with this blog for nearly 5 years now, to share my passion with others!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

classical life

A classical music blog by music critic Tim Mangan

This Week's Music

Making Classical Accessible

From my Macbook to the Net

Evaporation of my thoughts and observations


Author: Artienne

My Life in Music

Playing, Singing and Listening


A brand new journal reviewing books, cinema, music

LawrenceEz's Blog

Creative and Performing Arts: Writing, Classical Music, Photography

Laetitia Strauch-Bonart

Contemporary Politics & Culture

sibling revelry

reveling in all things classical

It's A Raggy Waltz

I collect jazz on vinyl, I dig the Dave Brubeck Quartet, & I write about it

La Musica

By two cousins


Dishing it out from the heart of England

only jazz

random thoughts about music that matters to me

Le Corso del Destino

a journey in classical music

The Culture Project

Exploring the world of literature, wine, art, music and more.

René Spencer Saller

The music causes me to dream of fabulous empires, filled with fabulous sins.

The High Arts Review

Βιβλία, ταινίες, μουσική

Breaking Baroque

Blog of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir

Tasting Nirvana

Eating your Dosha

The Immortal Jukebox

A Blog about Music and Popular Culture

April Greene

Writer + Editor

a pianist's musings

A history of your favorite classical music.

Classical music for all

Boris Giltburg's blog

%d bloggers like this: