In this article we’re featuring our top 10 picks for jazz-rock tunes. This list will feature 5 older classics as well as 5 newer (and perhaps more obscure) tunes played and written by some of the brightest and youngest stars in jazz-rock today. Now before anyone gets upset, we’re using the term “jazz-rock” a bit widely here. This means some of the tunes on this list might also fit into various categories like funk, pop, smooth, or fusion (but we thought “Top 10 List of Jazz-Rock-Funk-Pop-Smooth-Fusion Tunes” was a bit of a clunky title). So please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below.
We’ll start with the old…
Jazz-Rock Tunes #10: Feel So Good, Chuck Mangione
“Feels So Good” is a classic often found in the smooth-jazz category. It’s a great tune that goes back and forth between two sections featuring a pop-ballad section and a funky, rhythmic section, featuring the flugelhorn playing the melody.
Jazz-Rock Tunes #9: Morning Dance, Spyro Gyra
“Morning Dance” earns its place on this list for being the coolest tune that uses steel drums. It’s sort of a happy, pop-based tune that features marimba, sax, and electric piano solos. Some fun chord changes as well.
Jazz-Rock Tunes #8: The Chicken, Jaco Pastorius
“The Chicken” is a jazz-funk tune that has became something of a staple in jazz circles. The version linked here is from Jaco’s album The Birthday Concert which featured some of the heaviest players in jazz (Brecker, Erskine, Mintzer, etc).
Jazz-Rock Tunes #7: Oops, Steps Ahead
“Oops” is just a great tune by a great band. Michael Brecker, Mike Stern, Steve Smith, Daryl Jones, Mike Manieri all in the same band so it has to be great!
Jazz-Rock Tunes #6: Chameleon, Herbie Hancock
“Chameleon.” Herbie Hancock. ‘Nuff said.
And now, the new…
Jazz-Rock Tunes #5: Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing, Jacob Collier
“Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing.” This is Jacob Collier’s take on a classic Stevie Wonder tune. It’s not an original tune, but Jacob is poised to be a big thing on the jazz scene for his exciting, deeply textured arrangements and musicality.
Jazz-Rock Tunes #4: Mood, Robert Glasper
“Mood” by Robert Glasper, a huge force on the jazz/soul/R&B scene, is from one of his first records by the same name. It’s a beautiful haunting piece in 5/4 time.
Jazz-Rock Tunes #3: Rolling In the Deep, Dirty Loops
“Rolling In the Deep” - yes, the Adele smash-hit - gets the Dirty Loops treatment. If you don’t know Dirty Loops they’re a trio from Sweden that re-imagines pop/rock hits with incredible jazz harmonies and pyrotechnics, getting their start as Youtube sensations.
Jazz-Rock Tunes #2: Less Free Will, Taylor Eigsti
“Less Free Will (Part 1: Fallback Plan Suite)” is a tune by one of the best jazz pianists on the scene. Taylor Eigsti has been around for some time already despite his youth. Everybody wants this guy in their band these days.
Jazz-Rock Tunes #1: Thing of Gold, Snarky Puppy
This band has been together for about 12 years, but launched to much-deserved success and visibility only a couple years ago after winning their first Grammy award. They’re as good as it gets - great tunes, great writing, great playing, great solos. If they had a single, “Thing of Gold” would be it!