Downshift on the Downbeat: A Jazz Road Trip

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You've just embarked on a long-anticipated summer road trip. You're filled with joy and excitement — until you fill your gas tank and are overcome with horror and grief. Here's hoping you brought this road-ready jazz mix to get back into the right frame of mind.

Read and hear more entries in the Road Trip: Songs to Drive By series.

This list is also in the Take Five: A Weekly Jazz Sampler series.

Downshift on the Downbeat: A Jazz Road Trip

Cover for Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus

Charles Mingus

  • Album: Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus
  • Song: II B.S.

"II B.S." is the perfect song to kick off a road trip. It builds anticipation before breaking out into a fast-paced jam that'll have drivers involuntarily putting the pedal to the metal. Volkswagen used Charles Mingus' song in a 1999 commercial that depicts a hip grandpa sneaking out of his nursing home to speed away with his grandson on a dusty highway to Las Vegas.

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Song
II B.S.
Album
Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus
Artist
Charles Mingus
Label
GRP

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Cover for Very Best of Nat King Cole [Capitol]

Nat King Cole

  • Album: Very Best of Nat King Cole [Capitol]
  • Song: (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66

Not many songs say "road trip" quite as well as this musical map outlining destinations on historic Route 66. Songwriter Bobby Troup composed this song as he and his wife followed Route 66 to California to seek fame and fortune. The song was presented to Nat King Cole, who made it famous.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66
Album
Very Best of Nat King Cole
Artist
Nat King Cole
Label
Capitol
Released
2006

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Wes Montgomery

Wes Montgomery

  • Album: Impressions: The Verve Jazz Sides
  • Song: O.G.D. (aka Road Song)

Legendary jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery spent a lot of time on the road traveling from gig to gig. He must have needed a song to keep him and his traveling companions in a happy mood through hours of travel. The infectious groove in this tune is enough to sustain just about any driver's energy on a long trip.

Terri Thornton

Teri Thornton

  • Album: Open Highway
  • Song: Open Highway

"Open Highway" is the theme from the 1960s TV show Route 66. Teri Thornton's rich, powerful voice soars through this anthem to the open road. It's enough to inspire hope for an extended detour, just to have an excuse to hit repeat.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Open Highway
Album
Open Highway
Artist
Teri Thornton
Label
Koch International
Released
1963

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Arnett Cobb

Arnett Cobb

  • Album: Movin' Right Along
  • Song: Fast Ride

If you have a long stretch of flat road ahead of you (maybe the state of South Dakota), this song will keep you going above the speed limit. The first few hits of the drumbeat and Arnett Cobb's blowing tenor sax set the pace for a rousing tune. Watch out for speeding tickets. See Cobb's music on Concord Music Group.

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