Playlist: Jazz Takes on Classical Greats

By Keegan Morris |

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vivid abstract art showing music notes and shapesClassical music and jazz: two musical artforms that have a unique capacity to polarize, intimidate, and inspire.

Together, these two music genres may cover more ground than any other. Western classical musicspans from the 16th century to today, spanning movements, continents, and cultures. Jazz, though newer in date, embodies so many sounds, instruments, expressions, moods, and conventions.

And they have a growing overlap!

Many of today's leading music figures like Clarice Assad, Wynton Marsalis, and Tomeka Reid are at home (to put it mildly) in both spaces. And in the past artists from all backgrounds — titans from Duke Ellington to Dmitri Shostakovich — balanced inspirations and combined instrumentations to create their own unique sounds.

While inspirations can sometimes be farflung and hard to pin down, many music legends have sought to put jazz spins on beloved classical music pieces.

For instance, did you know that elegant jazz piano virtuoso Art Tatum was inspired by the expressive whimsy Antonín Dvořák's Humoresque? Have you heard groundbreaking Juilliard-trained pianist and singer Hazel Scott's breakneck rework of a Bach keyboard staple? What about Fazıl Say, acclaimed present-day Turkish pianist and composer, who adapted Mozart's "Rondo alla turca" into a free-spirited jazz ditty, one of his signature showpieces?

The special bond between these two soundworlds is growing closer by the day. So let's appreciate these incredible jazz takes on classical greats! You may be surprised at how much you love a refreshing rendition of a timeless favorite.

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