Steve’s Ultimate Real Book

Back in the 1980’s when I left high school for college I learned of a book called the Real Book that had hundreds of great jazz tunes in it. Up until that point in my life I had never heard of it.   The only tunes I knew were a bunch of Charlie Parker heads and some jazz standards from a couple of Aebersold albums I had.  Not many!  I remember being in Boston and being told that the book was illegal.    I had to buy it from some shady character in a dark alley somewhere and I was really nervous because I thought I could get busted………… (Ok, this is an exaggeration, I don’t remember where I bought it but I remember feeling this way and being nervous)   The story I heard was that a few guys in the 70’s decided to compile the most popular jazz tunes and standards, photocopy it and then sell it.  Of course, they ignored the copyright laws and just sold it illegally.

Since the 80’s, there have been plenty of legal Real Books produced.  The problem with all these books is that if you want to read a new tune on the gig you had to bring a bunch of books.  It is a pain!   I had the idea of making my own Real Book of my favorite tunes about 10 years ago.  I probably had 10 different Real Books on my shelf as well as 50 on my computer.   At that time I also borrowed a box of 12-15 other Real Books from a friend of mine that I didn’t have.   For the next couple of months,  I went through every Real Book and played each tune.   If I liked the tune I would copy it and put it in a pile.  By the end of the process I went to Staples and had them all bound into 2 books.  I called them “Steve’s Real Books”.  They came in very handy as all my favorite tunes were in two books.   Many of these tunes are not found in the original “Real Book”  so it made the gigs much more interesting and entertaining as we could try new tunes. (I remember a few gigs where we played only tunes we didn’t know,  that was fun)

This past August, I had to have brain surgery for a shunt revision (long story…….), I couldn’t play for awhile so I decided to remake “Steve’s Real Book”.  I took out a lot of tunes in my  first 2 books that I just didn’t play or like anymore and added a bunch more that weren’t around 10 years ago.   Hal Leonard has recently put out 4 Volumes of Real Books that are great.  There are some killer tunes in them that I could use and haven’t played before.   I went through all of the

new books and played each melody.  If I didn’t know the tune at all,  I would play it on the piano also as the chords will give you a better idea of the tune than just playing the melody.   This time my goal was to combine the tunes into one book.   I just finished the book the other day and have been playing out of it.   Here is a list of the tunes I came up with for the final book.  Many of the more popular tunes I already know but I included them in the book so I could use them with students.


Afro Blue
After You’ve Gone
Afternoon in Paris
Ain’t Misbehavin
Alfie’s Theme
Alice in Wonderland
All Blues
All My Tomorrows
All of Me
All of You
All or Nothing At All
All the Things You Are
All the Way
Alone Together
Angel Eyes
As Long As He Needs Me
As Time Goes By
Au Privave
Autumn in New York
Autumn Leaves
Ba-Lu Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are
Bag’s Groove
Basin Street Blues
Beautiful Love
Begin The Beguine
Bernie’s Tune
Besame Mucho
Bessie’s Blues
Big P
Billie’s Bounce
Birth of the Blues
Black Narcissus
Black Nile
Black Orpheus
Blame It On My Youth
Blue Bird
Blue Bossa
Blue Friday
Blue In Green
Blue Monk
Blue Room, The
Blue Seven
Blue Skies
Blue Soul
Blues by Five
Blues for Alice
Blues for Wood
Blues in the Closet
Body and Soul
Bossa Antigua
Bouncing With Bud
Break Out the Blues
But Beautiful
But Not For Me
Bye Bye Blackbird
Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man
Cantelope Island
Chasin’ The Trane
Cheek to Cheek
Chicken, The
Child is Born, A
Chitlans Con Carne
Christmas Waltz, The
Come Rain or Come Shine
Cry Me a River
Darn That Dream
Days of Wine and Roses
Dear Old Stockholm
Dearly Beloved
Dedicated to You
Deep Purple
Detour Ahead
Dolphin Dance
Don’t Be That Way
Don’t Explain
Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
Don’t Know Why
Donna Lee
Early Autumn
Easy Living
Easy to Love
Eternal Triangle
Every Time We Say Goodbye
Everything Happens To Me
Filthy McNasty
Five Brothers
Fly Me To The Moon
Flying Home
Foggy Day, A
For All We Know
For Minors Only
For Sentimental Reasons
Four Brothers
Four on Six
Freddie Freeloader
Freedom Jazz Dance
Freight Trane
Fried Bananas
Gentle Rain
Georgia on My Mind
Giant Steps
Girl From Ipanema
Glory of Love, The
God Bless the Child
Good Bait
Good Morning Heartache
Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
Gregory is Here
Groovin’ High
Have You Met Miss Jones
Here’s That Rainy Day
Honeysuckle Rose
How Deep Is The Ocean
How High The Moon
How Insensitive
How My Heart Sings
I Can’t Get Started
I Can’t Give You Anything But Love
I Could Write a Book
I Didn’t Know What Time It Was
I Got Rhythm
I Hear A Rhapsody
I Left My Heart In San Francisco
I Love You
I Mean You
I Remember Clifford
I Remember You
I Should Care
I Thought About You
I Want To Talk About You
I’ll Be Seeing You
I’ll Remember April
I’ll Take Romance
I’m Old Fashioned
I’ve Got the World on a String
I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face
I’ve Never Been In Love Before
I’ve Told Every Little Star
If I Should Lose You
If I Were A Bell
In a Mellow Tone
In a Sentimental Mood
In Love In Vain
In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning
In Walked Bud
In Your Own Sweet Way
Infant Eyes
Isn’t It Romantic
It Could Happen To You
It Don’t Mean a Thing
It Had To Be You
It Might As Well Be Spring
It Never Entered My Mind
It Was A Very Good Year
It’s All Right With Me
It’s Easy To Remember
It’s Only a Paper Moon
It’s You or No One
Jive Samba, The
Joy Spring
Just Friends
Just In Time
Just One of Those Things
Killer Joe
Lady Bird
Lazy bird
Lester Leaps In
Let’s Fall In Love
Like Someone In Love
Limehouse Blues
Line For Lyons
Little Sunflower
Long Ago and Far Away
Lonnie’s Lament
Love for Sale
Love Letters
Love Walked In
Lovely Way to Spend an Evening, A
Lush Life
Mack the Knife
Maiden Voyage
Man With the Horn, The
Mercy. Mercy, Mercy
Midnight Voyage
Mister Magic
Moment’s Notice
Moonlight in Vermont
Moose the Mooche
Mr. PC
My Favorite Things
My Foolish Heart
My Funny Valentine
My Ideal
My Little Suede Shoes
My Old Flame
My One and Only Love
My Romance
My Shining Hour
My Ship
Nature Boy
Nearness of You, The
Nica’s Dream
Night and Day
Night Has a Thousand Eyes, The
Night in Tunisia, A
No More Blues (Chega De Saudade)
Nothing Personal
Now’s the Time
On a Slow Boat to China
On Green Dolphin Street
On the Brink
On the Sunny Side of the Street
Once I Loved
One By One
One Note Samba
Our Love Is Here To Stay
Out of Nowhere
Paul’s Pal
Pennies From Heaven
Pent-Up House
Peri’s Scope
Polkadots and Moonbeams
Pure Imagination
Relaxin’ at the Camarillo
Road Song
Round Midnight
Samba De Orfeu
Satin Doll
Say It Over and Over
Scrapple From the Apple
Secret Love
Sentimental Journey
September Song
Serenade to a Cuckoo
Sister Sadie
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
Softly as a Morning Sunrise
Softly as a Morning Sunrise
Someday My Prince Will Come
Someone to Watch Over Me
Sometime Ago
Song for My Father
Soul Eyes
Speak Low
St. Thomas
Star Eyes
Stella By Starlight
Stolen Moments
Stormy Weather
Straight No Chaser
Strode Rode
Summer Knows, The
Summer Samba
Surrey With the Fringe on Top, The
Sweet and Lovely
Sweet Georgia Brown
Take 5
Take the A Train
Take the Coltrane
Tenor Madness
Theme For Ernie
There is No Greater Love
There Will Never Be Another You
These Foolish Things
These Foolish Things
They Didn’t Believe Me
Things to Come
This I Dig of You
This Masquerade
Three Views of a Secret
Till There Was You
Time After Time
Too Young
Too Young to Go Steady
Touch of Your Lips, The
Tune Up
Tuxedo Junction
Twenty-Six Two
Unit 7
Up Jumped Spring
Very Early
Very Thought of You, The
Watch What Happens
Watermelon Man
Way You Look Tonight, The
Weaver of Dreams, A
Well You Needn’t
West Coast Blues
What a Difference a Day Makes
What a Wonderful World
What Is This Thing Called Love
What’s New
When I Fall In Love
When Sunny Gets Blue
Willow Weep For Me
Without a Song
Work Song
Yardbird Suite
Yes and No
You Are Too Beautiful
You Don’t Know What Love Is
You’d Be Nice to Come Home
You’re Nobody ‘Till Somebody Loves You
You’ve Changed
Young and Foolish
Young at Heart

This time I bound the book myself with a “Arc” binding system I found at Staples.  (I don’t know yet how this binding system will hold up over the long haul)  If I want to add a tune or take a tune out it’s very easy to do.   I love having everything in one book.  Plus, it keeps me focused on the tunes I want to learn and memorize.   Before anyone asks, …………the book is not for sale! (that would be illegal!)    If you want to do this yourself be prepared to spend many many hours working on it.   I’m just providing this list as it might give you some ideas for your own book.   If you know of a great tune that isn’t on my list feel free to let me know and I’ll check it out.      Thanks,    Steve

Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 30 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site


  1. Avatar David Smith says

    As I was reading this list of great songs,Iwas getting excited,but was
    saddened to see that it is not for sale.
    However,I will now have to try and find some of these songs on line.
    Thanks Steve

    • Thanks Dave, Sorry for that. I would have felt the same way. 80% of them are in the Hal Leonard Real Books. The others are in other books. Some you can find online if you search around. Seventh String has a fake book index that I have found useful to find out what book a song is in. Here’s the link

  2. Hi Steve,
    I really do wish you well after your surgery. I wish you a speedy recovery and hope you will be back blowing strong in no time. Thanks for your great site. It is so helpful and informative and it has probably saved me £ooo’s in mouthpieces!! All the best. Jim

    • Thanks Jim. I appreciate the good thoughts and message. I’m glad the site as been helpful to you. I’m doing well and plan to have new lessons and mouthpiece reviews this month…………..

  3. Steve, I did the same thing years ago. With a list of 200+ tunes in my book it would be difficult to come up with something that we all couldn’t agree upon. Then I printed up the same tunes in a Piano and Bass book for when I built a band for a gig. Recently I scanned all the pages and put “Fred’s RealBook” in my IPAD. The really cool part is that I also added the IGiGbook app and then included the complete books for “just in case.”

  4. Avatar Marco Meerwijk says

    This week I listened to Dexter Gordon’s “Silver plated” (on ‘Dexter blows hot and cool’) and liked it very much. Missed it on your list, maybe you also like it. Another one is “Sweet honey bee” of Duke Pearson on “Lee Morgan’s” ‘Charisma’ album. I’m enjoying exploring your website, NICE!!
    kind greetings
    Marco (Surinam-South America)

  5. Hi, Steve,
    So this text about Steve’s realbook is just a teaser… :-).
    What a pity…
    I’m desperately looking for following transcriptions…
    Too young to go steady, by coltrane.
    It bever entered my mind, by miles davis, both alto transcriptions..
    If it’s in your book, can you please give me any direction where I can find those?

    I would be very thankful!
    All the best, regards, T

  6. Avatar Shane Turvey says

    Hi Steve,
    A tune you may like which is not currently on your ‘Ultimate List’ is a beautiful song called ‘Spring can really hang you up the most’. Stan Gets plays this so melodically. It’s a stunning tune.


  1. […] been going through the book and marking my favorite tunes to add to my Steve’s Ultimate Real Book that I talked about creating on another blog post.  Usually what I do, is bring the tunes I like […]

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