HomeBlog28 Jazz Blues Heads You Need to Know

28 Jazz Blues Heads You Need to Know [UPDATED]

The blues has always played a central role in jazz music from the very beginning and is without a doubt one of the most important forms in jazz.

It’s important for every jazz musician to know a good handful of blues heads, and even variations on the typical 12 bar form.

The blues has so much to teach us about jazz harmony. In fact, I often suggest to jazz beginners to learn a blues first.

Spend a lot of time on the blues and you are guaranteed to have an unfair advantage with all the rest of jazz improv!

The other great thing about the blues in a jazz context, is there are many variations of the chord progressions.

There is, of course, a basic I-IV-V blues, but jazz musicians add a variety of different substitutions and additions to the progression. You’ll find that different blues heads sometimes have different changes.

Here’s a video I did on 3 main blues forms you see come up often in jazz.

There are many different blues heads that have become popular among jazz musicians over the years, but this is a great list to help you get started!

I would consider each one of these to be essential to have in your repertoire.

Of course, these are great tunes, but if you really want to start mastering a jazz blues it’s going to require so much more.

Be sure to sign up for my free masterclass “Boost Your Jazz Blues” and I’ll help you take your improv abilities over these tunes to the next level.

28 Jazz Blues Tunes You Need to Know:

  1. All Blues– blues in 3/4 by Miles Davis
  2. Au Privave– bebop blues head by Charlie Parker
  3. Bag’s Groove– easy blues head in concert F
  4. Billie’s Bounce– bebop blues head by Charlie Parker
  5. Birk’s Works– easy minor blues head
  6. Blue Monk– classic Thelonious Monk blues
  7. Blues for Alice– a “bird blues” using alternate changes
  8. Blues In The Closet– easy blues head
  9. C-Jam Blues– easiest blues head of all time. Literally only two notes!
  10. Cheryl– awesome blues head by Charlie Parker in concert C
  11. Chi Chi– another great “bird blues” head
  12. Cool Blues– Simple blues head by Charlie Parker
  13. Equinox– John Coltrane minor blues head
  14. Footprints– a variation of a minor blues
  15. Freddie Freeloader– classic blues head with a variation on the last chord
  16. Freight Trane– awesome “bird blues” from the Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane album
  17. Mr. P.C– entry level John Coltrane minor blues
  18. Now’s The Time– Charlie Parker blues head with an iconic solo
  19. Relaxin’ At Camarillo– classic Charlie Parker blues head
  20. Route 66– singer blues tune
  21. Sandu– Clifford Brown blues head in concert Eb
  22. Sonnymoon For Two– classic Sonny Rollins blues head
  23. Straight No Chaser– simple Thelonious Monk blues head
  24. Take The Coltrane– blues by Duke Ellington for John Coltrane
  25. Tenor Madness– Sonny Rollins blues head and his only recording with Coltrane
  26. Things Ain’t What They Used To Be– entry level blues head
  27. Watermelon Man– Herbie Hancock variation on a blues
  28. West Coast Blues– Wes Montgomery blues head in 3/4

All of these blues heads are excellent to learn. I would suggest picking 3 you don’t know and learning them.

In my free jazz blues masterclass I talk about using blues heads as a tool for learning jazz blues language.

Something simple you can do to start taking great jazz blues solos right away is to take themes from blues heads and apply them over different parts of the form.

I talk about this in more detail in this video.

Of course, sign up for my free masterclass, because learning blues heads and applying them to your improv is only a small piece of the puzzle.

Jazz blues is a great way to get emersed into the language of jazz and start developing your jazz skills.

Use this this list as a starting point and start applying the lessons you can learn from them.

Have any more jazz blues heads you’d like to add? Feel free to leave a comment below!

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstrahttp://www.brentvaartstra.com
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for learnjazzstandards.com which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."

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