Jazz was the heart of mainstream culture for over 60 years, and continues to be popular amongst young and old. Think of all those jazz-fuelled birthday celebrations. So many renditions of Happy Birthday must have been played by the greats at swinging birthday parties. Moments lost to memories. Today, we take a look at 10 of the best jazz birthday songs from the origins of jazz to the present day.
1. Wynton Marsalis Septet - Happy Birthday
The first jazz birthday song on our list is by the Wynton Marsalis Septet. This joyous rendition of Happy Birthday was performed on August 7th 2008 at Marciac. Happy Birthday for Marcus Roberts has a heavy trad jazz feel. There’s chattering clarinet and soulful trombone.. with Wynton Marsalis’ signature brilliance shining away on top. It sounds straight outta New Orleans.
2. Happy Birthday My Love (Jazz Version)
The 2nd of our jazz birthday songs is Happy Birthday My love (Jazz Version), performed by Sing Me Happy Birthday artist Nuala Honan. Originally hailing from Australia, Nuala is a rising star of the British rock scene. Her latest album Doubt & Reckoning (2020) has been played extensively on BBC 6 Music and Radio 2 and she recently completed a UK tour supporting This Is The Kit. Nuala has a deep love for jazz, and has been singing standards for years. Sometimes you can even catch her singing with Jools Scott, the Sing Me Happy Birthday creator. This beautiful jazz rendition of Happy Birthday comes complete with over 800+ names. Trumpet and sax courtesy of Jazz Defenders regulars Nick Malcolm and Nicholas Dover, with Mark Whitlam and Greg Cordez on drums and bass.
3. Duke Ellington - Paris Birthday Celebration 1969
Number 3 finds us in Paris at Duke Ellington’s 70th birthday party. This classic jazz birthday song performance is played by Duke Ellington’s Orchestra at the end of his Paris birthday concert. It’s accompanied by a float that is lowered from the ceiling, and plenty of confetti. Much to Duke’s surprise by the looks of things!
4. Happy Birthday! - Jazzy Piano Arrangement by Jonny May
5. Happy Birthday my darling (Latin Jazz Version)
Next in line is Sing Me Happy Birthday artist Dubi Dolczek, aka Graeme Smith, crooning Happy Birthday My Darling (Latin Jazz Version). This performance is inspired by Cuban greats Buena Vista Social Club. Nick Malcolm puts the icing on the cake with his incredible trumpet solo. I know you’re thinking “I’d love Graeme to sing a Latin Jazz Happy Birthday song with my name”… well head over to the names page and give it a whirl.
6. Amy Winehouse singing Happy Birthday for a friend
Amy Winehouse was one of the icons of the Noughties. A star gone too soon. She was a natural. Her jazz tone is evident even in this clip of her aged 14. This jazz birthday song is short but sweet; Amy serenading a friend at their birthday party. A natural performer, her album Back To Black remains a classic to this day.. it doesn’t get old. This clip comes from the documentary AMY.
7. Duke Ellington & His Orchetra - April 29th Birthday Sessions
Number 7 of our 10 best jazz birthday songs is another from Duke Ellington. This one is from his record Happy Birthday, Duke! vol. 2, along with a bunch of other favourite tunes (Lullaby of Birdland, Time on my Hands and Take the A Train).
8. Wynton Marsalis - Masterclass on Happy Birthday
Not only are we blessed to have had the Wynton Marsalis Septet, we have an entire masterclass from Wynton as well. And it’s based on Happy Birthday. During the class he explains and demonstrates how two instruments interweave. The melody and the counter-line improvisation. The audience don’t seem too fussed, but we think it’s incredible!
9. Marilyn Monroe Singing Happy Birthday to JFK
Our next birthday song is not jazz in the strictest of terms. It is, however, jazz at heart. And undoubtedly one of the most famous renditions of Happy Birthday ever. This footage of Marilyn Monroe is from President John F Kennedy’s gala birthday bash on May 19th 1962. The running joke for the evening, as planned, was that Marilyn was late! It was all part of the show.
“I can now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.”
10. Happy Birthday Marcus (Trad Jazz Version)
Our final jazz birthday song is Sing Me Happy Birthday artist Leonie Evans performing Happy Birthday Marcus (Trad Jazz Version). This is a British take on that classic Old Orleans sound. Complete with Leonie’s incredible mouth trumpet in the second verse. Leonie is a star of the UK folk scene. Her two recent albums, Compilations Vol. 1 & 2, showcase the amazing artists she has met on her travels around the world. You can often hear her singing beautiful songs in the bars of the old town, New Orleans. This trad jazz version of Happy Birthday is sung with over 800 names… why not give one a spin!