Billy Strayhorn's song, Lush Life, is almost the very definition of a Jazz standard. It has been interpreted by musicians like John Coltrane, Nat King Cole, and Jack Jones.
The songs that define the genre and outlive any single musician's version ... that stand as a proving ground for any serious artist ... that are the common language of Jazz ... and that are never exhausted, but have new tones, rhythms, melodies and improvisational possibilities endlessly teased out of them by the greatest artists.
The standards are both the raw materials and the polished gems of Jazz. Dependable songs that never fail to satisfy their listeners and the pillars upon which an entire art form is supported - or some might say, tethered.
Ted Gioia is a pianist and Jazz historian who has written eight books on music. The latest is called The Jazz Standards. It's sort of a field guide to the genre, an encyclopedia of 250 of the most important songs in the Jazz canon. He spoke with Michael from Dallas, Texas.