Drop by your local jazz club and on an average night there’s a fair chance the band will at some point play a rendition of “Autumn Leaves,” “My Favorite Things” or ” ‘Round Midnight” — or maybe all three. You might hear an inspired rendition of a time-honored classic, but more likely you’ll have to sit through a sub-standard jazz-by-numbers cover.

These tunes (and hundreds more) are jazz standards, or what is commonly referred to as “The Great American Songbook.” They’re the bedrock on which the modern jazz repertoire has been built, and most aspiring musicians have learned them. Due to the changeable nature of band lineups and with many musicians hustling for gigs, knowledge of the standards makes it easier to sit in on a session, meaning they perpetually feature in live sets.

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