An old classic, Bésame Mucho, arranged in a Brazilian bolero style. This is a relatively easy song for improvisers because the song remains in the same key center throughout. There is no crazy bridge that goes off into some distant key.
The song form is ABA with the A sections having 16 bars each. The bridge is 8 bars, giving a total of
16 + 8 + 16 = 40 bars.
Benny Golson is a living legend, one of the few musicians alive who has not only seen the entire modern jazz era, but actually played a major role in the development of the art form. Although he is relatively unknown outside the jazz aficionado world, his influence has been immense. As a composer, he is probably best known for "I Remember Clifford" and "Killer Joe". But he has composed many great songs, including "Along Came Betty".
When you see the name Benny Golson on a piece of music, you will know two things immediately:
The changes are not complex harmonies, but they are less predictable than in many standards. There are several places where the music shifts up 1/2 step and then back down. These are important moments you find in measures 1-4, 9-12, and 25-28 -- or about 1/3 of the chorus. To get started improvising on this piece, it would be effective to find a comfortable line for measure 1 and then play that same line up 1/2 step in measure 2 and so on, then depart from that simple pattern as you get more familiar with the changes.
There really are no great shortcuts on a song like this. Just keep practicing it until everything comes automatically.
It is worth mentioning that this song is usually done as a medium swing. This arrangement is a straight-8th smooth jazz treatment.
This is a straight-ahead 12-bar blues. The melody line is classic Monk: simple, but twisted.
This tune is a jam session favorite because most people know it, it has a simple song form, simple melody, and predictable chords. This song is full of ii-V patterns -- bars 2, 4, 7, 12, 13, 15, and so on. The nice thing about ii-V and ii - V - I patterns is that you can treat that entire sequence as if it was a single chord. The ii, V, and I are all based on the same scale.
This arrangement is a little different, with a reggae feel at a very laid-back tempo. Get yourself into "Island time" and don't try to play too many notes.
Yardbird Suite is an historically significant piece. Written by Charlie Parker in 1946, it came in the first few years of the new Bebop era. In contrast to "Donna Lee", a tune from the same period written by Miles Davis but mistakenly attributed to Parker, Yardbird Suite has a more accessible melody that isn't as technically demanding. This is a good tune for players who want to get a taste of Bebop.
This Rodger & Hammerstein classic is one of the most frequently called jam session tunes. And it is probably among the most badly botched. Technically the song is not all that difficult, but the song form is what makes it an adventure. People do this song many different ways, so it is worthwhile to agree on the song form before counting it off.
This arrangement follows the song form you will find in most fake books. There is a long intro -- 16 bars -- to get into the feel. From there, the song form might be called AAB - interlude - C
The two A sections are identical -- 16 + 16 bars centered around E minor.
The B section is 16 bars, mostly in major -- starting in E Major. But the melody is almost the same as the A section. This is possible because the melody works the 2nd and 9th heavily, and those notes are the same whether we've doing Emi9 or EMaj9.
It is important to note that many musicians add a 4- or 8-bar vamp to some or all of those A and B sections before proceeding to the next section. If musicians don't agree on that, it can be a train wreck.
After the B section, there is a short (8-bar) breakdown or interlude where the lyrics are "When the dog bites, When the bee stings ..."
Then we have a final 16 bars indicated here as the C section. That C section includes a short vamp that is almost universally observed. So the full song form in this case is 16+16+16+8+16 = 56 bars.
Here is a lovely Jobim bossa with a gentle ballad melody. The changes are rather straightforward, but this is a long song form, as is common in Jobim compositions.
This is AABA, but the A sections are 16 bars each. The bridge section is 8 bars. The first two A sections are identical. The final A section is identical, except for the last 4 bars.
There isn't much to say about this song. It is a simple 32-bar ABAB song at medium tempo in D minor concert. The changes are straightforward. It is an ideal tune for people just getting started with improvisation.
No, it isn't the official state song. But it is surely the most played song about Indiana, trouncing that little green apples mess. In fact, it is probably the most played jazz tune about a with the name of a state in the title. This is the month of May, but unfortunately nobody will be singing this song at the track this month. So it is up to us to represent.
Not much to say about a song everybody knows so well. It is often played in Ab, but most fake books have it in F, which is what we are doing here.
One really minor piece of trivia. Almost everybody plays the second note wrong. As originally written, the second note is the 6th or D, but almost everybody plays it as an F. Certainly this goes back as far as Louis Armstrong and maybe even before him. So if you want to play the second note as an F, you are in good company.
In this arrangement I've borrowed some of the changes from Frank Mantooth and David Baker, which I think are a little more interesting than the normal fake sheet changes.
This is probably the most popular bossa nova that was NOT written by Tom Jobim. Written by Marcos Valle, "Summer Samba" is a gentle song with a lovely melody.
The song form is not very complicated. It is a 32-bar song in ABAB form. The A sections are identical. The B sections are similar. On the out-chorus, we tag the last 4 bars several times while fading.
Trivia: "bossa nova" literally translates to "new trend." The style emerged in the mid-20th century, after the WWII swing era as a fusion of the samba and jazz. The samba is usually a faster 2-beat, and considerably more frantic. Most jazz music at the time was counted in 4. The bossa became the dominant jazz style when playing straight eighths, as an alternative to the the swing, shuffle and boogie songs that dominated during the WWII and early post-war years. The bossa is almost always counted in 4 beats and generally features a clave pattern that spans two measures -- either a 2-3 or a 3-2 pattern (i.e. 5 clave beats every two measures.)
This arrangement uses a very strong 2-3 clave. And you hear the guitar playing that same pattern much of the time.