This Monk tune is typical of his genius/insanity. The melody couldn't be more simple. There is a 4-bar melody that is played twice in C concert. Then it is played up a 4th in F, and back down to C. Then the whole 16 bar pattern is repeated -- except that this time, it is truncated to 14 bars followed by a simple 2-chord vamp.
That melody can be learned in a few minutes. The hard part is the chord changes. The melody points to simple, predictable chord changes, but not with Monk. He aggressively re-harmonized these chords. That's no problem when playing the head, but it creates a real challenge for improvising because you need to solo to the changes Monk wrote, not the changes anybody else would have written for this melody. Take the time to really absorb these changes.
Here is a quintessential Coltrane tune. The melody reminds one of "Giant Steps", but without all the giant steps. That is to say, the melody is mostly based around the major 7ths and 9ths, which gives it that cool jazz sound, but the changes aren't as angular and unfamiliar as "Giant Steps". This is a good tune as an entry point to the mind of Coltrane.
It is a simple 32-bar AABA song form, so that part goes very naturally. The bridge has a very ordinary set of changes. The A section is less ordinary, but not off-the-wall. Spend a little time at the keyboard assimilating the chords in the A section. That will be time well spent.
There is a long tradition of songs from the movies becoming jazz standards. This is probably because once the songs become familiar to the public, jazz artists find the public more receptive to hearing those songs with a jazz treatment.
There is similar phenomenon where children's songs have become standards. For example, "A Tisket, A Tasket", and "It's Not Easy Being Green". In the present case, we have a song from a children's movie, "An American Tail". "Somewhere Out There" has been performed by artists from Mickey Dolenz of "The Monkees" to Linda Ronstadt, Kenny Loggins, numerous jazz big bands and many small combos.
Here is an arrangement with a smooth jazz feel. The song is AABA form with few complications. Near the end of the B section, you find a single 2/4 measure. Other than that, it is a rather normal flow with a small extension on the last A section.
In this arrangement, after the choruses, we have includes a little 4-bar vamp for some extra fun.
Jam to "Blue Bossa"
Blue Bossa is one of the more popular jam session tunes. It is a very simple song form, so it is relatively easy to learn. It is 32 bars, ABAB. Usually when we say "ABAB" we mean that the A sections are similar or identical, and the B sections are "close enough." But in this case, they are identical -- identical melody and identical chords. So if you learn the first 16 bars, just play them twice and you know the whole song.
Harmonically, Blue Bossa is not terribly complicated. Much of it is in C minor concert, so practice that C dorian scale.
Virtual Jam Session -- "Feliz Navidad"
Here a holiday favorite with a medium Cuban salsa feel. Song form is AABB, 32 bars. The chords are straightforward. Have fun.
Virtual Jam Session -- "Let It Snow"
OK, it is that time of year again. I know 2020 has been a beast, but let's celebrate the fact that the year is almost over. Here's a seasonal favorite for your jammin' pleasure.
Here's a laid-back blues by Wes Montgomery. Nothing exceptionally tricky here except for measures 9 and 10 of each chorus. I a regular blues in Eb, those chords would be V and IV, i.e. Bb7 and Ab7. Instead, Montgomery shifts the chords up. Measure 9 is F#m7, B7, or 1/2 step above the usual Bb7 chord. There are a bunch of tonalities in measure 10, but they converge around the IV chord (Ab13) eventually. So just make sure you play measure 9 a half-step higher than you might have planned in a regular blues.
This tribute to the great trumpeter Clifford Brown went on to become one of the best loved ballads among the jazz standards, and one of Benny Golson's most recorded tunes.
At the time of Brown's tragic death in a car accident at age 25, he had already accomplished more than most musicians three times that age. Brown provided a bridge from Louis Armstrong to the modern jazz trumpeters like Miles, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard and countless others influenced by Brown. The music world felt a profound loss from such a young death of such a promising talent.
Like all of Golson's compositions, this song is brilliantly crafted, such that is may sound easy to play. Indeed, when playing from sheet music, it might not be difficult for many players. But this song presents its own challenges. One of the challenges is the song form itself. This is a long-form song. With such a long chorus at ballad tempo, it behooves the soloist to plan the emotional peaks and valleys.
In very rough terms, this is an AABA song form, but with complications. First, it normally begins with a 6-bar intro played by the soloist (or singer). And a nearly identical 8-bar coda is normally added to finish the song. The choruses themselves are not regular. The first A section is a conventional 8 bars. But the second A section is extended to 12 bars. That leads to a short 4-bar bridge, which serves as the climax of the chorus. The lyrics in that bridge are "Every day I hear his lovely tone. In every trumpet sound that has a beauty all its own." From there, we settle to the final 8-bar A section. After all that, it ends up being a 32-bar chorus, but we don't get there the usual way.
Another challenge is that the nature of this tune is thoughtful, like a requiem. This is probably not the place to play a blizzard of your favorite bebop lines. This song calls for a more gentle, thoughtful, emotional touch. Think of playing fewer notes, with each note having more to say.
Virtual Jam Session - Jeannine
Duke Pearson had an interesting career. Most people aren't aware of him, but he was truly one of the founding fathers of modern jazz. He played with many of the legends, notably Cannonball Adderley, Art Farmer, Benny Golson, Donald Byrd. He led several bands, including a big band he headed with Donald Byrd. He influenced many younger jazz musicians in his role as A&R man for Blue Note in its heyday.
He is credited with numerous compositions, but none is more popular than Jeannine. It is a catchy tune that sounds moderately difficult, but not impossible. Two things make this song more difficult than it sounds: 1) The tempo -- Pearson typically took it very fast, perhaps 225, and 2) the key -- it is in Ab minor (concert), which is 7 flats !!! You have to do a lot of practice to be fluent in 7 flats at 225.
This arrangement is a little slower (190 BPM) but it is true to the original key. Some people play this in more familiar keys, such as C minor.
Here is a very cool song that Horace Silver wrote on the occasion of the birth of his son.
The song form is not very complicated. It is AABA form with the A sections being identical, and 16 bars each. The bridge (B section) is only 8 bars, yielding a chorus of 56 bars.
The harmonies may sound a bit angular at first. This is mainly because of the first chord in each of the A sections is a strange one: B13(#11). And the progression in the first 8 bars of the A sections doesn't really progress, per se. It is B13(#11) Cm11 B13(#11) Cm11. That makes for a really mysterious and tense sound at the beginning of each A section. Once you get to bar 9 of the A section, you find a series of ii-V pairs giving that stretch a comfortable feel. Think of it as 8 bars of tension, 8 bars of release, 8 bars of tension, 8 bars of release, then on to the bridge.
And the bridge is even more melodic and welcoming. So the challenge of this song really lies in the first 8 bars of each A section, and specifically that darned B13(#11) which begins the song. That is a very dense chord that doesn't really match the scales we normally practice. As a starting point, you might try a C# Major scale. That actually works pretty well with that chord. From there you can branch out as you get more comfortable with that sound.