Happy jazz music for cocktail hour
August 3, 2012 4:05 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend your favorite upbeat, happy jazz songs.

I'm trying to come up with a playlist for the jazz band we hired to play during our wedding cocktail hour, but I'm coming up a little short on songs (seems I mostly like the sad stuff).

I really like Pennies from Heaven by Billie Holiday, and I'm looking for similar-sounding songs.

Your help is appreciated!
posted by blithecatpie to Society & Culture (36 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

and from 2010 here on the green
posted by Ideefixe at 4:11 PM on August 3, 2012

Pretty much anything from Louis Prima, with or without the glorious Keely Smith.
posted by elizardbits at 4:19 PM on August 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

(the Louis Prima version of Pennies From Heaven is fucking delightful)
posted by elizardbits at 4:20 PM on August 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Bill Evans' I Loves You Porgy from his Village Vanguard live set is maybe a little less snappy, but it is a happy song, as are the takes of Gloria's Step and Waltz for Debby.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:21 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

On The Sunny Side of The Street
Don't Get Around Much Anymore
Take The A Train
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 4:22 PM on August 3, 2012

I'll come up with more later, but you NEED Fats Waller, specifically "Do Me a Favor."
posted by .kobayashi. at 4:23 PM on August 3, 2012

For instrumentals:
Better git hit in yo soul, by Charles Mingus
Now's the time and Koko by Charlie Parker
Giant steps by John Coltrane
Sabye by Mulatu Astatqe
Work song, Cannonball Adderley
Potato Head Blues by Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five (and pretty much everything you can get your hands on from that era in Pop's career)

For vocals:
Cheek to cheek, by Eva Cassidy
It don't mean a thing, the version by Rosemary Clooney is great
For added fun, Verve did a series of remix records in the last few years that mashedup people like Billie Holiday and Nina Simone with modern electronic outfits. Worth a listen.

Hope some of this helps.
posted by runningdogofcapitalism at 4:24 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's one rendition of Waltz for Debby (albeit post-Scott LaFaro). Don't let the slower start fool you, it gets snappy about a minute in.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:24 PM on August 3, 2012

I'm giving +s to all mentions of Louis Prima. Can't go wrong with that cat.
posted by runningdogofcapitalism at 4:26 PM on August 3, 2012

Cold Duck Time. Bonus points for making up lyrics.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:30 PM on August 3, 2012

Beyond the Sea
Bei Mir Bistu Shein
Basin Street Blues
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 4:31 PM on August 3, 2012

Cole Porter's "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)"
posted by Sys Rq at 4:31 PM on August 3, 2012

Honeysuckle Rose, Get Happy, I Got Rhythm, The Peanut Vendor, Walking my Baby Back Home, Hello Dolly (in fact many Louis Armstrong standards), These Foolish Things, Cheek to Cheek, Straighten up and Fly Right, Walking my Baby Back Home, On the Street Where You Live, Let There by Love, I could have Danced all Night, I Get a Kick out of You, They Say Its Spring, Boum!, Take the A Train, Its Only a Paper Moon, Aquas de Mars, Fly Me To the Moon, Watermelon Man, They Can't Take That Away from Me, I can't Give you anything but Love, 24 Hours a Day (try Billie Holiday's version), Nice Work if You can Get it, My Favourite Things, Frim Fram Sauce, Hit That Jive Jack, I Don't Know Enough about You, Big Spender, Java Jive, Birdland, Zing went the Strings of my Heart, I Won't Dance, Midnight at the Oasis, Feeling Good (as per Nina Simone), Accentuate the Positive.
posted by rongorongo at 4:37 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Definitely Let's Do It!
My Baby Just Cares For Me
Love Is Here to Stay
's Wonderful
I've Got Rhythm (and many other Gershwin tunes)
Hooray for Love
... I'm looking through the Ella Fitzgerald on my iPod, and she sings many happy songs.
posted by snorkmaiden at 4:40 PM on August 3, 2012

I usually prefer more melancholy stuff, but Esbjorn Svensson Trio's Tuesday Wonderland is pretty chipper.
posted by byanyothername at 4:42 PM on August 3, 2012

A lot of Mingus would work but I'm partial to Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting.
posted by saul wright at 4:45 PM on August 3, 2012

Best answer: Here are some more of my favorites:
I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby (Louis Armstrong)
What A Little Moonlight Can Do (Billie Holiday)
Ain't Misbehaving (Fats Waller)
Everything I've Got (Blossom Dearie)
Old Devil Moon (Anita O'Day)
He Loves and She Loves (Ella Fitzgerald)
Oooh, What 'Cha Doin' To Me (Sarah Vaughan)
Do It the Hard Way (Kenny Drew Trio)
Just You, Just Me (Lester Young Quintet)

Or pretty much any song Woody Allen uses in Everyone Says I Love You, especially the title track (Marx Brothers)
posted by .kobayashi. at 4:51 PM on August 3, 2012

Ooh, Bob Dorough's Just About Everything would be just about perfect, if you like it:
I've got just about everything I need
To make this life I lead an enjoyable thing
I've got bluebirds and poses and robins and roses
All kinds of flowers that bloom
All kinds of birds that sing
I've got just about everything I want
To make this earth I walk a miraculous place
I've got fresh air and sunshine and mountains and may wine
And what is really a boon: I like the human race
When I say just about, just about, just about everything
I mean I must admit, one thing I need is missing
I'm not complaining — with or without it, I've still got what I've got
But you could better my lot with some of your hugging and kissing
That's what is missing
Just say those words that I long to hear you say
And then my life will be complete and full to the top
And I'll share all my treasures, riches and pleasures
Making the two of us one
That's all that need be done
Just say you'll be my own, my one and only one
Then I can say "I've got everything I need!"
I've got just about everything it takes
To set this scene and make it a marvelous bit
I've got barrels of laughter and hope ever after
And though I don't like to boast, shucks, baby, I've got it!
I've got just about everything there is
To make this "hers and his" a terrific affair
I've got dewdrops and oceans and all kinds of notions
And since I dig you the most, I've got the urge to share
Though I have just about, just about, just about everything
I know for sure by now, I really want what's lacking
No doubt about it, living without it I might turn out a slob
At best remain just a blob
So baby, won't you supply it? Come on, let's try it
I could go on just as I am year after year
Yet with that one thing more, I know I'll reach the divine
That's to have you and hold you
Now that I've told you, please make a positive sign
Saying that you'll be mine
We'll have everything
Oh, how my heart will sing
Then I can say, "I've got everything I need!"
Yes, I have just about, just about, just about everything
And from that look you gave, I'm gonna get what's lacking
Hot diggy diggy, I feel so wiggy I could fly to the moon
Compose a beautiful tune to tell you how much I adore you
And I implore you
Just say those words that I long to hear you say
And then my life will be complete and full to the top (I'll just pop!)
And I'll share all my treasures, riches and pleasures
Making the two of us one
That's all that need to be done!
Just say you'll be my own, my one and only one
And I can say "I've got everything I need!"
Oh, and how awesome is Bob Dorough? I came across this while searching unsuccessfully for the lyrics: "I'm doing this song at a wedding. I've been having a hell of a time figuring the changes from the recording. The singer I'm working with emailed Bob Dorough and he sent her the changes. What a guy!"
posted by Lexica at 6:18 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

see all things Fats Waller.
posted by timsteil at 6:41 PM on August 3, 2012

Many things Django Reinhardt
posted by BWA at 7:16 PM on August 3, 2012

Jelly Roll Morton, Doctor Jazz.
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:50 PM on August 3, 2012

Oh man, get thee to some Joe Williams, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughn!
posted by smirkette at 7:56 PM on August 3, 2012

Duke Ellington, Jump for Joy.

posted by wps98 at 8:09 PM on August 3, 2012


Theme de Yo Yo
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:29 PM on August 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

A couple of my go-to songs, off the top of my head:

They Can't Take That Away From Me
Paper Moon
Rose-coloured Glasses
Swinging on a Star
Side by Side
Baby it's Cold Outside
They all Laughed

I won't list artists because it's jazz. Ella, Frankie and Kay Starr do most of these for a start, who knows who else does them too. Try looking up lots of versions of the same song; you might find one artist is closer to the mood you're looking for.

Frankie does lots of upbeat stuff, any compilation album should be satisfying.

Don't just get Ella alone- check out Ella with Louie Armstrong; they did a lot of duets and they're fantastic together.

Tom Waits does some jazzy stuff but it's a little more low key and leaning towards melancholy. Drunk on The Moon (I hope that's the title) is a pretty laid back ambient song. Might not be what you're looking for though.
posted by windykites at 8:51 PM on August 3, 2012

Hang up your hangups - Herbie Hancock
posted by mattoxic at 9:15 PM on August 3, 2012

Best answer: Exactly Like You
Sweet Sue
I'm Crazy 'Bout My Baby
Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen
Honeysuckle Rose
I Can't Give You Anything But Love
My Blue Heaven
A Porter's Love Song to a Chambermaid
Spring Cleaning
When I Take My Sugar to Tea
Ain't Misbehavin'
All That Meat and No Potatoes
The Darktown Strutter's Ball
There's Honey on the Moon Tonight
Keepin' Out of Mischief Now
You Meet the Nicest People in Your Dreams
You're the Cutest One
Your Mother's Son-in-Law
8, 9 and 10

Like windykites, I didn't bother listing artists (and for similar reasons). I suggest looking into different versions and seeing what you like. Feel free to MeMail me for specific suggestions.
posted by cardioid at 10:58 PM on August 3, 2012

One of my favorite jazz songs for years has been Charlie Parker's 52nd street theme . So damn evocative of 1950's New York City and yet so happy at the same time.

I've wanted to make a montage out of this music for decades.
posted by Sphinx at 12:52 AM on August 4, 2012

It's a lot more modern but the person who introduced me to Koop described their music as "happy jazz".
posted by neilb449 at 1:31 AM on August 4, 2012

I can't get much happier than listening to Lambert Hendricks and Ross.
Check out these lyrics if you can keep up!
Or this one (where you can watch them singing. Check out Annie Ross doing the solo.)
Or this one.

John Hendrick's thing was to take classic recordings and transcribe them in super-high-fidelity, and then put lyrics on them that fit so well on the all of the details that it sounds like Coltrane or the Ellington band must have been reading what he wrote. Plus the lyrics are funny! and the musicianship of the singers is awesome.
posted by spbmp at 2:12 AM on August 4, 2012

I'm so sorry, so I excitedly dove into the answers, looking for great happy jazz to try, that I didn't carefully read the question. Lambert Hendricks & Ross won't help you pick tunes for your band.

Maybe A-Tisket, A-Tasket

Polka dots and moonbeams is a nice one.

You could also flip through the catalog of the Hot Club of Cowtown. A lot of their stuff is really happy and upbeat. Maybe I Can't Tame Wild Women.

(Here's the Hot Club guitarist doing a beautiful Polka Dots.)
posted by spbmp at 2:41 AM on August 4, 2012

In Walked Bud
Monks composition based on Blue Skies
makes me smile.
posted by hortense at 10:44 PM on August 4, 2012

Ask the jazz band too! They have selections for different moods ready anyway. To go all meta google swing+band+set+list

Having said that, I see Me Myself and I and Tea for Two have not been called in this thread yet (;
posted by yoHighness at 2:50 PM on August 5, 2012

Personally I really like Dream A Little Dream of Me by The Mamas and the Papas, and Michael Buble's version is really good too. :)
posted by chongnosall at 10:23 PM on August 5, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone, SO MUCH for all of your amazing recommendations! I am sloooowly going through everyone's; I've so many already that I love. Thank you!
posted by blithecatpie at 7:23 PM on August 8, 2012

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