This weekend may be Memorial Day weekend, but today, May 29th, is also National Jazz Day. I put together a playlist of 15 of my favorites. It’s really just a hodge podge of selections from different jazz subgenres and different decades: Latin jazz, classical-jazz fusion, hard bop, boogie woogie, ragtime, gypsy jazz, Dixieland revival, swing revival, ’40s swing, electro swing and even some pop songs restyled (in almost a parody style) as retro jazz.
I do not consider myself a jazz expert, especially as there are some big names in jazz whose work I don’t know very well, but I do find myself attracted to a lot of music under the jazz umbrella. This list is definitely not all inclusive, is probably missing some very popular pieces but is still fairly diverse.
I discovered this in the soundtrack of the movie Hitch, starring Kevin James and Will Smith. I’m not sure I even paid much attention until the the second or third time I watched the movie. I thought, “I recognize that tune, but it’s a little different here.” I looked it up, and it is “Carmen Cubana” by the Klazz Brothers and Cuba Percussion, a kind of Latin jazz rendition of “Habanera” from Bizet’s Carmen.
Baroque and Blue
I first heard this piece “Baroque and Blue” by Claude Bollling on an album belonging to my sister-in-law while she was a music major in college and I was a junior higher. You don’t expect to hear a flute leading in a jazz piece, but you can definitely hear both jazz and classical influences in this one.
Charlie Brown Medley
Of course, I grew up hearing “Linus and Lucy” and other “Peanuts” pieces by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. This “Peanuts” medley by The Piano Guys is a lot of fun, and their nursing home audience definitely seem to be having fun with them.
Où est Ma Tête?
“Où est ma tête?” performed by Pink Martini is adorable, especially as, according to the storytelling in the video, it seems to be a love song for a man and his dog. You might be able to make out the French lyrics even if you’ve only had French I. I won’t fully translate it for you, but I’ll give you a few lines for the idea. “I lost my head in la rue St. Honore (St. Honore road.) I looked here and there. I didn’t find it. Tell me, where is my head? I lost my arms in La Place de l’Opera. I didn’t find therm. I looked here and there. Tell me, where are my arms? Since I lost you, I am in pieces on the avenue, and I can’t pick up the pieces by myself. Repair me, my dear, because I am not whole. I need you — only you — and in addition, I love you.”
Baby Elephant Walk
So, I recently posted an elephant poem and a cute baby elephant video. Here is more elephant cuteness with Henry Mancini’s “Baby Elephant Walk” which was written for the movie Hatari.
“Watermelon Man” by Herbie Hancock might be an oldie from the ’60s, but it was new to me a few years ago when I heard it as a community reporter covering a dance class. This piece stuck with me, and I asked the instructor for the title.
Here is another piece from the same era and similarly food-themed, “Cotton Candy” by Al Hirt. Where “Watermelon Man” is considered hard bop, “Cotton Candy” is Dixieland revival. It has a very cheerful sound. I love the slide bits.
Bad Romance (Restyled)
Postmodern Jukebox is a fun group that seem to specialize in restyling pop and rock songs into styles from past decades — often some form of jazz but not always. They’ve also restyled songs into tango, bluegrass, doo wop and other genres. This is ’20s style jazz rendition of a popular Lady Gaga song, with some rhythmic tap dancing.
Super Trouper (Restyled)
Max Raabe and his Palast Orkester perform jazz songs from the ’20s and ’30s but also a few comparatively more modern songs like ABBA’s “Super Trouper” in that style. (He also did Britney Spears’ “Oops, I did it Again.”) Max Raabe does seem to have the perfect look for it.
The Bare Necessities (Ragtime)
Jonny May plays a lot of ragtime and boogie woogie, include ragtime versions of Disney songs. “The Bare Necessities” was already a cool jazz song, but he plays a ragtime arrangement of it.
Here is some more retro fun, with the Avalon Jazz Band, performing a ’30s French gypsy jazz piece, as sung by Charles Trenet.
Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)
Swing music and dancing are a lot of fun to hear and watch. This group is dancing to Benny Goodman’s piece, “Sing Sing Sing (With a Swing.)” The scene is from the movie Swing Kids, which tells the story of underground swing clubs. Swing music was forbidden in Hitler’s Germany, as the innovators and performers of swing were often African-American or Jewish.
Gimme That Swing
This next one was just a YouTube recommendation that was somehow right: a beautiful ethereal vocalist, a nice swing, fun dancing and a feeling that is both modern and retro.
You’re the Top
One of my Pandora stations began to introduce me to Ella Fitzgerald. This is one of my favorites sung by her, as I enjoy both her voice and the clever lyrics by Cole Porter.
Some swing revival bands like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy came out in the ’90s. Here is a fun song performed by them, “Why Me?”
Lately, I’ve been again reflecting on how difficult it is to define my diverse musical interests, so I decided to blog a long playlist with a sample from all of my musical YouTube subscriptions.
This post is more about discovering YouTube talent than mainstream artists from the radio. A few of these artists are musicians with YouTube channels but are not primarily YouTubers. Although some on this list are gaining more and more fame and a few of them have competed in or won TV talent shows, there is a good chance most of these will be unfamiliar to you. You may recognize many of the songs they cover, but be prepared for completely different interpretations or creative remakes from the originals. Also, there are a few worthy originals from lesser known artists.
I have a lot of YouTube subscriptions, so this is a pretty long list, 57 of them, to be exact. You can read things over and click on what interests you most from the description or video preview. There will also be a link to the full YouTube playlist at the end of this post.
Seb Skelly plays multiple brass instruments and creates multi-tracking videos where he plays all the parts and harmonizes with himself. He also does some of his own compositions and arrangements. Here, he collaborates with a lot of other artists to form a full band with vocalists.
This might not be the best example from these pretty young identical twins. Everyone expects classical pieces from the harp, but not everyone expects rock, pop and even heavy metal arranged for and played on harp. These girls play a lot of different pieces and produce beautiful videos where they film in outdoor settings and dress in identical outfits or costumes. They also play a lot of theme music from movies, TV and video games. I chose this one, because it was a newer one I haven’t overplayed. It’s great, sets a mysterious mood, and even features some of their vocals.
3. Google Translate Sings: “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran
Malinda Kathleen Reese (Translator Fails) uses Google Translate to translate the lyrics of popular songs into one foreign language after another and back into English to get Mad Lib like results. This Ed Sheeran song transforms into a song about someone who really likes geometry and biology. The original is a little suggestive, but the Google Translate version is somewhat more innocent, although a few strange words have slipped in, accidentally, of course. Watch out for the “Gradually Watermelon” part.
The original Billie Eilish song is very popular right now. Simply Three covers this one using a combination of acoustic and electric instruments, and I think they did a fantastic job creating interesting effects with acoustic instruments that match the original.
The MonaLisa Twins are 20-something identical twins from Austria, who, interestingly, do a lot of covers of Beatles and other American music from the ’60s. They both play guitar and sing in harmony. They also have a number of originals that are very enjoyable, and this is one of them. “I know I don’t know birds that well, but they always seem to sing about love … “
6. Material Girl — Walk Off the Earth
So, I always had a little trouble with this song because of the lyrics, because I really hope I’m not materialistic. The way Sarah sings it makes me believe she means it only satirically, which helps me appreciate it more. Several members of the band are multi-instrumentalists, so many different instruments show up in this song. There definitely wasn’t a theramin or banjo in the original! There’s also a clever percussive use of piggy banks.
You may remember Avi Kaplan as the bass from the acapella group Pentatonix. He left the group and began his own folk band, Avriel & the Sequoias. I really enjoy creative restyling of songs, so here is a folk rendition of a soul/funk song.
9. Cheap Thrills – Sia (Oud Cover) by Ahmed Alshaiba
I don’t remember how I discovered Ahmed Alshaiba, but I’m glad I did. He plays an instrument which may seem a little strange to western ears, an Arabic stringed instrument called an oud. I began to write that there is a “wavery” sound though it was not the most musically precise term and then was reminded that the term I was wanting was tremolo. I’ve kept both terms, in case some readers might appreciate a less technical term. He plays a western pop song with the oud, guitar, bass, keyboard and percussion and ends up with a worldbeat song that sounds a little eastern and western at the same time.
10. Tetris Opera — Video Games Live (VGL) — Jillian Aversa
Tetris has a really great theme song, and here is an operatic version of it performed by Jillian Aversa at a past Comic Con. Aversa is a composer and vocalist who describes her style as “ethereal vocals/emotional music.” She has recorded music for several game franchises and has three solo albums.
Here is a rumba/Latin jazz version of a movement from a Beethoven symphony. The original piece feels a little melancholy to me, but not this version. I am impressed with the musical skill required to make such a successful arrangement. He also transforms the piano into a rhythm instrument. Joaquim has an impressive resume as a composer, creating scores for the Disney show, “Big City Greens” and the National Geographic show, “Great Migrations,” just to name a few.
Leia Zhu is a 12-year-old violin prodigy who was already traveling the world and playing with orchestras as a soloist at the age of six. She also vlogs about her travels and adventures, and her vlogs remind you that, though her talents are advanced, she is still a young girl.
Jacob Koller, who calls himself the Mad Arranger, plays an extremely difficult jazz arrangement of “William Tell Overture,” aka “Lone Ranger Theme,” in a cowboy hat and in the middle of what appears to be a ghost town.
Dave Wave has a variety of interesting videos, some that explain musical concepts, some unlikely mashups of songs as well as electro swing, stride piano, ragtime and jazz performances, some of which are arrangements of songs of other genres.
16. Dance of the Line Riders — DoodleChaos
DoodleChaos has a lot of highly creative videos that are synchronized to music, such as Rube Goldberg Piano or Ping Pong Trick Shots Play the Xylophone. In this Line Riders animation, the three sledders help you visualize the harmonies and rhythms in “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.”
17. Up Music Box with Illustrations (“Married Life”)
This YouTuber punches holes for a music box and creates adorable appropriate illustrations on the scrolling paper.
18. Super Mario Bros – A capella Medley — Julien Neel & Nick McKaig
This particular video by Julien Neel is fun and whimsical but doesn’t demonstrate his, uh, ordinary singing ability as in his other offerings. Here, he and his collaborator, Nick McKaig, scat sing and impersonate horns, kazoos and other musical sounds. The video is also entertaining as they impersonate Mario and Luigi.
Julien does a lot of multi-tracking acapella videos in several styles: traditional barbershop, Beatles covers, love songs, popular songs from various decades, hymns, national anthems, foreign language songs, themes from movies, TV and video games and even some commercial jingles. He is a French citizen who speaks English like an American.
I fell in love with Janet Devlin’s voice after hearing her compete on The Voice with Elton John’s “Your Song.” This Irish girl has a sweet and unique voice and makes songs her own with her emotional musical interpretations. She has also recorded a few albums of original songs. She does a fantastic job with “Jolene.”
So, I admit that I have never even seen an episode of “Game of Thrones,” but that doesn’t prevent me from appreciating the haunting and beautiful harmonies of this multi-tracking cover. Malukah is a Mexican singer who does a lot of fantasy and game related music.
I have become quite a fan of fingerstyle guitar, and “Pink Panther” theme is one of my favorite movie theme pieces. Marcos Kaiser has video performances in a variety of styles: classical, flamenco and various Spanish guitar styles, jazz, blues, funk, movie, TV and game themes, rock and popular music and his own compositions.
I discovered Bailey Pelkman’s channel when she collaborated with Peter Hollens. I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve heard from her. Her channel features gentle acoustic covers of hits from today and past decades.
Postmodern Jukebox is a fun and unique group that takes modern hits and restyles them into styles from past decades from the ’20s to the ’80s, mostly some form of jazz but also rock and some other styles like tango, bluegrass or klezmer. Here, they team up with American Idol veteran, Haley Reinhart, as lead vocalist. They don’t specify a decade here, but it is a jazz cover. Her vocals are so fantastic and so full of emotion that I think even fans of the very different original can appreciate it.
Anne Reburn is another multi-tracking YouTuber who harmonizes with herself as well as plays several instruments. In this cover, she plays keyboard, bass and guitar and sings several parts. She has an idiosyncratic voice. On her channel, she covers songs from different genres, from today and past decades, as well as performs originals.
27. What If Katy Perry made a Nickelback Song? — Ali Spagnola
By now, you probably know that I appreciate creative remakes of songs, which is why YouTube recommended Ali Spagnola to me. Honestly, I’m not much of a Katy Perry fan, and I think she is sometimes a little risque with her whipped cream cans and whatnot, but I just found this fascinating how Ali analyzes the music and figures out how to restyle the song. Ali actually describes her entire process before she performs. That might sound a little boring, but her personality and enthusiasm for music keeps it from being dull.
Vinheitero is a talented Brazilian pianist who does a lot of interesting videos. The linked video is one of few where he actually looks at sheet music in some form, on a tablet. He is usually gazing into the camera as he plays, like in the photo above, or as one commenter put it, gazing into your soul. He plays several songs or snippets of several songs in most videos. In one, he gives a brief tour of the history of music. In several others, he does sad versions of happy songs, which shows his talent for arranging. He also does top 10 videos in different categories and much more.
29. Shut Up and Dance Mashup — Evynne Hollens and Nick Pitera
I keep mentioning Peter Hollens’ name, and he has yet to appear in this list. Evynne is Peter’s wife, and she has her own channel where she sings Broadway, Disney and pop songs. Whereas Peter does acapella videos, Evynne usually sings with instrumentals. She also does duets with her husband. Her videos are well produced and visually fun to watch. Here, she collaborates with YouTuber, Nick Pitera, in a mashup of “Shut Up and Dance” with “Video Killed the Radio Star.”
Hetty and the Jazzato Band is another vintage jazz band, although I think “Tintarella di Luna” is more of an oldies rock and roll song, originally recorded by Italian singer Mina in 1959. If you are an American and the title, which translates to “Moon Tan,” seems unfamiliar to you, you may have heard it before. The original was recently used in a commercial for The Venetian.
31. Lindsey Stirling — Prism
Lindsey Stirling is a violinist who plays electronic music and dances at the same time. She’s also a composer and does some singing. She was first discovered on America’s Got Talent. I chose the video below, partly for the visuals. Here, Lindsey has a lot of costume changes and sports a variety of wigs while playing and dancing with clones of herself.
32. Tarts — Performed by Erutan
The artist known as Erutan (Nature spelled backwards) is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who plays several folk instruments such as Celtic harp, lute, violin and kantele. Her musical style is Celtic/medieval. Those who know me well know I am a fan of Alice in Wonderland. This song is inspired by a Lewis Carroll poem in the book. The video is beautifully produced with costumes and visual storytelling.
Lenka is an Australian singer/songwriter who made her debut in 2008 but I’ve only discovered somewhat recently. This is a fun song with a lot of comparative phrases and a video with interesting black and white visuals.
2Cellos, Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, play both acoustic and electric cellos. Their albums have covers of rock and heavy metal as well as movie scores. In this video, they cover Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.”
35. Wintergatan — Marble Machine (music instrument using 2000 marbles)
Wintergatan is a Swedish folktronica group. Wintergatan means “Milky Way” in Swedish. Band member Martin Molin created this complex marble machine that plays a vibraphone, bass guitar, cymbal and drums when marbles strike them.
36. Now We Are Free (Gladiator Main Theme) — Tina Guo
Tina Guo is a cellist who plays both acoustic and electric cello. I love some of her costumes and staging for her movie theme music. Here is one of my favorite movie theme pieces, though I’ve yet to see The Gladiator. Her repertoire is pretty diverse, from classical to heavy metal.
On his channel, Caleb Hyles describes he sings Broadway, Disney, anime, Top 40, Steven Universe, and then adds, “I think that covers it?” I selected this Lion King cover, because it suits his voice so well and he’s incredibly dramatic with it, even the spoken parts.
38. Jerry Lee Lewis — Great Balls of Fire — Christopher Bill
Christopher Bill, a trombonist, collaborates with three others, Ryan Keberle, Javier Nero and Jennifer Wharton, playing “Great Balls of Fire,” while standing in a ball pit at the Color Factory in New York City. Christopher plays popular hits, theme music, does his own arrangements, creates looping or multitracking videos for harmonies, collaborates with other brass players and creates educational videos for musicians.
Alex Boye was discovered on America’s Got Talent. He is known for his “Africanized” covers of popular music, sometimes called “hipster Africanized” covers. He was born in Nigeria, was raised in the U.K. and is now living in America. I like his style and personality that comes through with his performances. “Lemonade” is one of his originals. It is fun and uplifting, and the video is even a little comedic.
Christy-Lyn is a South African harpist and singer who creates videos where she sings and accompanies herself on harp, a few acapella multi-tracking videos and some educational videos for harpists. She also does livestreaming concerts on YouTube. Strangely, I remember learning “Scarborough Fair” in elementary school music class and finding it a strange song. I guess I’ve learned to appreciate it since then.
41. Honoka & Azita — Bodysurfing
These two Hawaiian girls play wonderful surf music on ukuleles. Their fingers are so fast. It’s hard for me to believe they can create this kind of sound with ukuleles.
The Gothard Sisters describe their music as contemporary Celtic music, “a blend of Celtic, folk, classical and northwest musical influences.” The three girls play a variety of folk instruments including violin, acoustic guitar, mandolin, bodhran, djembe, octave violin and whistle. They also sing in harmony.
Sam Robson is a really impressive acapella multi-tracker who has a ridiculous vocal range and does some astonishing music arranging and video editing. He does a number of hymns as well as gospel, Disney, Broadway, traditional folk, rock/pop and original music. “Be Thou My Vision” is one of my favorite hymns.
Celtic Thunder is a Celtic music show featuring all-male singers who sing a lot of traditional Irish songs and mix in a few other styles such as folk, pop and oldies rock and roll. Although the singers are all men, there are sometimes female instrumentalists. They are backed by a band including traditional folk instruments and sometimes a full orchestra. The group’s membership changes from time to time. I first discovered them in a PBS concert.
Kurt Hugo Schneider is a music producer who creates a number of interesting videos and helps to produce music videos for a number of YouTube musicians. Here is a song featuring Mike Tompkins and Tyler Ward. It’s an uplifting love song and is visually interesting with a lot of video effects, settings and dancing.
46. Classical Music Mashup III — grantwoolard
Grant Woolard has some great talents for music arrangement and creative video editing. In this mashup, he created counterpoint arrangements with snippets from several popular classical pieces, and you can follow along the sheet music with composer heads on the staff to represent the snippets from the particular composers. He has a few other similar videos, some for classical music as well as Disney and game music.
The harpejii is an electric stringed instrument that is kind of a cross between piano, guitar and bass guitar. If you’re not sure what that is, you should check out Mathieu Terrade’s channel. He plays all different musical styles from classical to jazz, pop and rock.
48. Video Puzzle – F.U.N. — We Are Young — Joe Penna
Joe Penna, aka Mystery Guitar Man, is ridiculously creative and talented. He plays guitar, as his YouTube name would suggest, as well as multiple instruments and is also very skilled with video techniques. Some examples of his creative work are “Bohemian Rhapsody” featuring slide whistles and other instruments, Beethoven’s 5th Symphony on vuvuzelas, an orchestra arrangement where he plays all the instruments and another where he plays “Miserlou” using 90 different instruments in one video. Maybe, he should change his name to Mystery Every Instrument That Exists Man? Some of his videos are non-musical and more about playing with video techniques. This example features both his guitar and video editing skills.
49. Lucky Chops — Full Heart Fancy — (Official Video)
Lucky Chops is a brass band I’ve discovered somewhat recently. In this video, there are dancers in strange, abstract, paper costumes. Strange as that is, it does help keep things interesting, light and happy.
50. My Hair Song — Rhett & Link
Buddies Rhett & Link are fairly well-known on YouTube for their Good Mythical Morning show. I’ve only recently begun to listen to some of their comedy music. Here is one where they make jokes about their hairstyles. It’s not one of their more recent songs, and some commenters have pointed out that Link has since changed his hairstyle. My favorite lines, “A mama bird laid some eggs up there. I didn’t mind that much. She raised them in my coif ’til them birdies flew off, and we still keep in touch.”
Identical twins, Derek and Brandon Fiechter, compose fantasy and world music. Many of their pieces are good for quiet moods when you want to play something soft, soothing and non-distracting. This one has a lot of ethereal sounds.
Here, finally, is acapella artist Peter Hollens singing a traditional Celtic song. Peter sings Disney, Broadway, traditional folk, pop songs, a little bit of everything. He has collaborated with artists such as Lindsey Stirling and The Piano Guys and many others.
53. An Awkward Duet feat. Jon Cozart — Dodie
Dodie Clark is a singer/songwriter. Here, she plays and sings this entertaining and humorous duet with YouTuber Jon Cozart on the awkwardness of feeling shy while singing with your duet partner.
54. Jackson 5 and Bach were funky way before Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” “I Want You Bach” — The Piano Guys
The Piano Guys are really one piano guy, Jon Schmidt, and one cello guy, Steve Nelson. They have a lot of creative arrangements and visually interesting videos, and often put a little humor into their acts. This is one of my favorite performances by The Piano Guys for comedic reasons, a mashup of 1770s and 1970s music.
55. Cissie Redgwick — Gimme That Swing
I do like some retro jazz sounds. This one is a little modern and retro at once in this electro swing song. I absolutely love Cissie’s sweet vocals. The rhythm is catchy, and it’s fun to watch the swing dancers in this performance.
Playing for Change Foundation helps provide art and music education to children around the world. Playing for Change has also created interesting music videos featuring musicians from all over the globe.
Tal Zilber is an Israeli pianist who does some impressive playing in different styles. In this video, he works with pianist, Eyran Katsenelenbogen, to deliver “When the Saints Go Marching In” in 10 styles: boogie woogie, Mozart, stride piano, Chopin, Latin jazz, Liszt, gospel, Debussy, bebop and Bach.