Essential Jazzy Jams

Jazz is an underrated and neglected genre in our modern day society. Most people assume jazz is just elevator music and reaches no depth past that. Jazz, a staple to any music fanatics repertoire, has influenced and continues to influence all other musical genres throughout time. Alternative music with a jazz take is maybe one my favorite variations of alternative music. Alternative and jazz combined can be approached vocally, lyrically, instrumentally or through all three. This playlist highlights some of my personal favorites when it comes to alternative and jazz music’s love child, along with some staple jazz pieces we all need to remember.


  1. In Your Eyes – BadBadNotGood, Charlotte Day Wilson


Maybe one of the most overlooked musical genres for the college age generation, jazz presents the underlying themes for many of our modern musical loves. BadBadNotGood, a modern-day jazz quartet offers a generational take on jazz that can satisfy any jazz fanatic, new or old.

  1.  Breathing Underwater – Hiatus Kaiyote


A personal favorite (AKA obsession) when it comes to alternative music with jazz influence is Hiatus Kaiyote. Vocally, Hiatus Kaiyote offers such a complex listen. “Breathing Underwater” is a very unique song, much like the rest of Hiatus Kaiyote’s setlist. The chorus of “Breathing Underwater” is the only predictable or repetitive portion of the song. After visiting the theme of the song, the tune moves on to almost vocal solos to showcase the talent, creativity and diversity of not only the vocal abilities of the main singer, but of the band as a whole.

  1.  Some Unholy War, Down Tempo – Amy Winehouse


A sore spot in my heart belongs to Amy Winehouse, a leading woman in modern day jazz, soul and R&B. Winehouse upheld one of the most impressive, raw, vocal talent of the 21st century in my opinion. Not only does Winehouse have the talent of a true musician and artist, but she also contained the sole and passion that the jazz genre demands. Listening to any of Winehouse’s songs, a listener can feel the emotion in her voice. “Some Unholy War, Down Tempo” is a rendition of Winehouse’s famous original song “Some Unholy War”, just slower. This slow tempo highlights Winehouse’s raw talent and vocal strength in such an intimate way only jazz can uncover.

  1.  Lush Life – Lady Gaga


Lady Gaga, a performer not thought of as an alternative performer, turned jazz with her collaboration with Tony Bennett in her album “Cheek to Cheek”. Although her collaborative album does not have an alternative theme at all, Gaga showcases a similar talent to that of Amy Winehouse. Pure talent and vocal control is easily just some of Lady Gaga’s many strengths. Lady Gaga brings in quite a different opinion base. Some listeners love her, others are the complete opposite. Whether or not a listener likes Lady Gaga or her musical style, it cannot be denied that her vocal talent and emotional showcasing is uncomparable.    



  1.  A Sunday Kind of Love – Etta James

On the up curve from Lady Gaga’s “Lush Life”, Etta James, one of the leading ladies of jazz, is obviously one of the most influential vocal performers that makes up jazz. Although not alternative, Etta James’ “A Sunday Kind of Love” reminds listeners what jazz is and where jazz themes come from to influence music today.


  1.  Distance – Emily King

Returning to the twenty first century, to our modern day jazz infused alternative music, Emily King offers soul and R&B often seen in jazz. Compared to Etta James, Emily King offers the same emotional take on maybe more normal lyrics.

  1.  Midnight Mischief – Jordan Rakei, Tom Misch


Another take on modern day jazz, “Midnight Mischief” holds jazz themes with an alternative, electronic spin. “Midnight Mischief” is a good example of jazz of our time. Although it is not what is considered to be traditional in any sense, the musical creativity, chaos and fearlessness upholds to the standards set by the jazz music genre.

  1. Take Five – The Dave Brubeck Quartet


To finish off a jazz filled playlist, take a listen to one of the best jazz quartets, The Dave Brubeck Quartet, perform “Take Five’. Dave Brubeck’s album “Time Out”, including the single “Take Five” is a staple to any jazz fanatics collection, or any music lover’s assorted music collection.

About Maggie Knoll

If Maggie isn't writing about music or talking about music, she's probably dead. Just kidding. In her spare time, Maggie collects albums, lint rolls dog hair off of all of her belongings or recreates the one SNL sketch where Kristen Wiig has tiny plastic doll hands. Don't worry, she can make it weirder!

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