Jazz standards for kids to sing
August 22, 2009 12:26 PM   Subscribe

What jazz standards could kids sing and enjoy?

I'll start teaching music at an elementary school soon. Very few collections of music for kids to sing include anything from the jazz tradition. But I want kids to swing!

Here's what 4th and 5th graders can't handle:

-- Anything profoundly tricky, with lots of key shifts. So there goes "Lush Life."
-- Looooove. The kids are absolutely allergic to love songs, especially anything tender and heartfelt with kissing in it. So there goes "My One and Only Love," along with 90% of the jazz repertoire. Something indirect like "All of Me" might do.
-- Innuendo. I would, for instance, love "Flat-Foot Floogie With the Floy-Floy" if it didn't mean "the flat-footed slut with V.D."

So far I have "Java Jive," "Paper Moon" and "Summertime." Anything else?
posted by argybarg to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
"Dream a Little Dream of Me."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:29 PM on August 22, 2009

'On the Sunny Side of the Street'
posted by box at 12:30 PM on August 22, 2009

Autumn Leaves
posted by ludwig_van at 12:32 PM on August 22, 2009

Straighten Up and Fly Right?
posted by Savannah at 12:33 PM on August 22, 2009

I think there are some Cole Porter songs are great and really fun for kids. "You're The Top", "Don't Fence Me In", "Begin the Beguine", "Well Did You Evah". More showtuney, but still very jazzy. Paper Moon and Summertime are great ideas. I LOVED singing "Paper Moon" with my dad when I was about seven or eight.

Also fun:

"They Can't Take That Away"
"Stormy Weather"
"Fly Me To The Moon" (maybe it's too schmoopy).

For some reason, I really want to hear a group of 4th graders sing "When I Was Seventeen" -- but that's just me.
posted by pazazygeek at 12:43 PM on August 22, 2009

"Satin Doll"
"It Don't Mean a Thing (if it Ain't got that swing)"
"St. James Infirmary" ??? kind of creepy, but a great song
On that note, it would be awesome to see 4th and 5th graders sing Louis Armstrong's "Heebie Jeebies"
posted by baxter_ilion at 12:43 PM on August 22, 2009

Oh, how could I have forgotten "Swingin' on a Star"?
posted by pazazygeek at 12:45 PM on August 22, 2009

How about Birdland? Try the Manhattan Transfer version of the song. No complex key shifts, but there's a fair amount of syncopation.

(Yes, I know the original version was by Weather Report and it was instrumental. But the MT version really does swing.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:10 PM on August 22, 2009

When Sunny Gets Blue?
posted by litterateur at 1:11 PM on August 22, 2009

A different possibility: "Georgia on my mind"
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:12 PM on August 22, 2009

Ella Fitzgerald's A-Tisket, A-Tasket might suit.
posted by mostlymartha at 1:32 PM on August 22, 2009

All God's Children Got Rhythm
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:50 PM on August 22, 2009

"Lullabye of Broadway". I once taught it to a small classroom of Czech students of English, and they picked it up right away. It's a fun little song! Any innuendo would be extremely mild, fleeting, and too subtle for little ones - mainly it's about the various sounds on Broadway. lyrics.

The tune is very simple, especially on the verse - basically the same eight-note phrase repeated four times, with one of those four times in a higher register. The chorus is repetitive also.
posted by amtho at 2:18 PM on August 22, 2009

Somewhere Over the Rainbow
posted by timeistight at 2:34 PM on August 22, 2009

"I Got Rhythm"
"It Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing"
"On the Sunny Side of the Street"
"Pennies from Heaven"
"Alexander's Ragtime Band"
posted by CrunchyFrog at 3:03 PM on August 22, 2009

This is a little out of the line, but we learned "Mairzy Doats" in elementary school, and it stuck with me.

How about "Your Feet's Too Big?"
posted by Countess Elena at 3:07 PM on August 22, 2009

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:15 PM on August 22, 2009

"Hit that jive, Jack"
"I'm an errand boy for rhythm" (if you let the girls revise the refrain there...)
posted by No-sword at 3:21 PM on August 22, 2009

Goody, Goody
How High the Moon
Put On a Happy Face
It Aint' Necessarily So
Sweet Georgia Brown
posted by mynameisluka at 3:41 PM on August 22, 2009

Little Jazz Bird
Lullaby of Birdland
posted by matildaben at 3:48 PM on August 22, 2009

Also, maybe veering out of jazz standards, but:
Istanbul (not Constantinople)
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:11 PM on August 22, 2009

someday my prince will come
posted by freddymetz at 5:27 PM on August 22, 2009

"Mack the Knife" ought to go over well with 4th and 5th graders, they're plenty bloodthirsty.
Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher" might be too much, with lyics like "Hoochie-Kootcher" and someone being "cokey".
Some Louis Jordan would be acceptable, maybe "Five Guys Named Moe" or "Choo Choo Ch'boogie"?
posted by fings at 6:12 PM on August 22, 2009

Harold Arlen standards:
"Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive"
"I've Got The World On A String"
"Get Happy"

Jerome Kern:
"She Didn't Say Yes"

"Stiff Upper Lip"
"Clap Yo' Hands"
"Slap That Bass"
"Fascinating Rhythm"

Duke Ellington:
"Clementine" (esp. the version by Ella Fitzgerald, where she scat sings. Kids love to scat.)
"Squatty Roo"
"Never No Lament" (Don't Get Around Much Anymore)
"In a Mellow Tone"

Albert Hague/Arnold B. Horwitt:
"Young and Foolish"

Don George/Duke Ellington/Harry James/Johnny Hodges:
"I'm Beginning to See the Light"

Richard Adler/Jerry Ross:
"You've Gotta Have Heart" (from the musical "Damn Yankees")

Mayme Watts/Sidney Wyche:
"Alright, OK, You Win!"
posted by paulsc at 6:13 PM on August 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I can't mark any best answers because these are all terrific. Thanks, everyone. (And baxter_ilion, I'll send you at least the audio of "Heebie Jeebies" if my students can get it together. Great pick.)
posted by argybarg at 7:01 PM on August 22, 2009

I'd like to hear a recording of kids singing 'Gloomy Sunday', but since that's not likely.. First, one of my favorite songs to sing when I was a kid:

Swingin' On A Star
Chattanooga Choo Choo
Come On-A My House
Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom) by Perry Como (would this be considered racy?!)
I Got Rhythm
If I'd Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked A Cake
Jeepers Creepers
Shortnin' Bread
That's Amore

(I have to thank my family for exposing me to jazz standards and Hollywood musicals when I was young. You're doing a great thing teaching these songs to kids because otherwise they'll just end up relics of the past. When I fondly remember my childhood, it's because of many of the songs mentioned in this thread.)
posted by Mael Oui at 8:01 PM on August 22, 2009

Take the A Train - kids love trains (at least the little boys in my neighborhood seem to dig 'em), and it's great, groovy song.
posted by elmer benson at 8:09 PM on August 22, 2009

Seconding the Jazz for Kids CD mentioned by kenliu. If you don't buy it, at least check out the song list.

Dave Brubeck's The Real Ambassador is a fun song to listen to. It would be hard to actually sing.
posted by Loudmax at 10:48 PM on August 22, 2009

Inspired by Savannah's "Straighten Up and Fly Right", what about some of the songs included on the "Good Night and Good Luck" soundtrack? It has "Fly Right," "TV Is The Thing This Year," and "Pick Yourself Up." I'm particularly partial to "Gotta Be This Or That."

Also, Nat Cole's "Orange Colored Sky."
posted by kristi at 7:35 PM on August 24, 2009

never swat a fly
blue skies
april showers
I hear Music
baby face
At sundown
Back in Your Own backyard
Doctor Jazz
Route 66
posted by snowymorninblues at 11:01 AM on August 25, 2009

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