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SOTM August 2021 - ""Rhythm Changes" (I Got Rhythm etc.)

rhysonsax

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@nigeld asked me to host the Song of the Month for August and I have chosen what is probably the most popular set of chord changes in jazz, usually known as "Rhythm Changes" and used as the basis of many, many jazz standards.

Rhythm Changes have a 32 bar form in AABA structure and originate from George & Ira Gershwin's song "I Got Rhythm". There are many variants of the chord changes - Jamey Aebersold's Vol. 47 Playalong book is devoted to "Rhythm Changes|" and lists 43 variants for the A section and 26 for the Bridge (B section) !

I have used the chords from iReal Pro for "Rhythm Changes" and provided six backing tracks in different styles (Swing, Gypsy Jazz, Bossa Nova, Ballad, Stride, Funk) and tempos as well as lead sheets for the original "I Got Rhythm" and "Meet the Flintstones" which is one of the tunes using these changes. All of the music and sheets can be found and downloaded from here.

I Got Rhythm was written in Concert Bb which is a good key for saxophones and also by far the most popular key for "Rhythm Changes", but please don't feel you have to restrict yourself to this key for your own recordings.

There are many resources available for other backing tracks, melodies on the changes and tips for improvising on them, so do feel free to use any of those or make your own backing tracks and recordings.

Jazz standards that use Rhythm Changes include:
  • Lester Leaps In (Lester Young)
  • Cottontail (Ellington)
  • Anthropology (Charlie Parker)
  • Five Guys Named Moe (Louis Jordan)
  • Oleo (Sonny Rollins)
And here for inspiration are some of my favourite recordings based on Rhythm Changes:

Don Byas (tenor sax) duetting with Slam Stewart (bass):
View: https://youtu.be/VvuvtAcTMss


Duke Ellington's orchestra featuring Ben Webster playing Cottontail:
View: https://youtu.be/zbOseBw-fnU


Thelonious Monk featuring Charlie Rouse playing Rhythm-a-ning:
View: https://youtu.be/ZtCFjAwoZLA


Please share you favourite "Rhythm Changes" tunes, recordings and particularly your own versions.

Rhys
 
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rhysonsax

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Thanks for kicking things off so well @randulo . Interesting to hear it without a head / melody - I wonder how many people will take that approach. I think the swing style backing track will probably be the most popular, but let's see.

Apparently when Ben Webster recorded his wonderful solo on "Cottontail" (see the first post above) Ellington wanted him to play while drunk (not an unusual state I believe) and out flowed Ben's fluent and creative improvisation. I don't think I would recommend that for us mere mortals of the saxophone, but maybe it helps release any inhibitions.

Here's another "Rhythm Changes" tune - "Meet the Flintstones" played superbly by trumpeter Clark Terry, who I'm sure would have been sober.

Rhys
 
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Interesting to hear it without a head / melody
That is the melody, written on the fly. I've never played rhythm changes on the sax, but the melody for the original "I Got Rhythm" has few notes and not that much rhythm, actually. There are 30 great versions, starting with several Bird songs and all the other brilliant players. I met the challenge my way. (Great idea for a song title!)

EDIT: I went back and added "the" melody. I may do a future version with a new melody, just to break up all this talking.
 
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jbtsax

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A few years ago my private jazz saxophone teacher who studied with Ray Smith introduced me this exercise. Basically it is an exercise Ray wrote to go with the rhythm changes (not including the bridge which is secondary dominants). The idea is to memorize this exercise in all keys. The purpose is to train your ear to hear the voice leading that is inherent in these changes so that when improvising, the lines and patterns you play can incorporate the "logical" voice leading.
 

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rhysonsax

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A few years ago my private jazz saxophone teacher who studied with Ray Smith introduced me this exercise. Basically it is an exercise Ray wrote to go with the rhythm changes (not including the bridge which is secondary dominants). The idea is to memorize this exercise in all keys. The purpose is to train your ear to hear the voice leading that is inherent in these changes so that when improvising, the lines and patterns you play can incorporate the "logical" voice leading.

Thanks @jbtsax (and your teacher and Ray Smith) - that looks a really good exercise and one I will definitely use.

The changes used in the exercise differ slightly from the ones I have used for my backing tracks and sheet music - the second chord in bars 1, 2, 6 are not the same and first chord in bar 5.

It would be interesting to write out a similar exercise with these other changes.

Rhys
 

rhysonsax

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@Pete Thomas has a useful page on the Taming The Saxophone pages devoted to I Got Rhythm Chord Changes. Have a look and pick up some useful pointers.

And this site has some useful links to lessons about Rhythm Changes as well as this comprehensive list of Rhythm Changes tunes:

Allen's Alley (AKA Wee) by Denzil Best
Almost by David Baker
Anthropology (AKA Thrivin' From a Riff) by Charlie Parker/Dizzy Gillespie
Apple Honey by Woody Herman
Bop Kick by Nat Cole
Boppin' a Riff by Sonny Stitt
Brown Gold by Art Pepper
Bud's Bubble by Bud Powell
Call the Police by Nat Cole
Calling Dr. Jazz by Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis
Celerity by Charlie Parker
Chant of the Groove by Coleman Hawkins
Chasin' the Bird by Charlie Parker
Cheers by Charlie Parker
Constellation by Charlie Parker
Coolie Rini by Howard McGhee
Coppin' the Bop by J.J. Johnson
Cottontail by Duke Ellington
Delerium by Tadd Dameron
Dexter's Deck by Dexter Gordon
Dexterity by Charlie Parker
Don't Be That Way by Edgar Sampson
Dorothy by Howard McGhee
The Duel by Dexter Gordon
Eb Pob by Fats Navarro/Leo Parker
Fat Girl by Fats Navarro
Father Steps In by Dixon/Randall/Hines/Fox
Fifty Second Street Theme by Thelonius Monk
The Flintstones by Hoyt Curtain
Fox Hunt by J.J. Johnson
Goin' To Minton's by Fats Navarro
Good Queen Bess by Duke Ellington
The Goof and I by Al Cohn
Hamp's Paws by Hampton Hawes
Harlem Swing by Nat Cole
Hollerin' and Screamin' by Eddie Davis
I'm an Errand Boy for Rhythm by Nat Cole
In Walked Horace by J.J. Johnson
Jay Jay by J.J. Johnson
Jaybird by J.J. Johnson
The Jeep is Jumpin' by Duke Ellington
Jug Handle by Gene Ammons
Juggernaut by Gene Ammons
Juggin' Around by Frank Foster
Jumpin' at the Woodside by Count Basie
Lemon Drop by George Wallington
Lester Leaps In by Lester Young
Lila Mae by Nat Cole
The Little Man on the White Keys by Nat Cole
Miss Thing by Count Basie
Moody Speaks (original version) by James Moody /Dave Burns
Moody's Got Rhythm by James Moody
Moose the Mooche by Charlie Parker
Mop, Mop by Gaillard/Stewert/Tatum
Newk's Fadeway by Sonny Rollins
No Moe by Sonny Rollins
Northwest Passage by Herman/Jackson/Burns
O Go Mo by Sonny Rollins
Oleo by Sonny Rollins
On the Scene by Gillespie/Fuller/Roberts
One Bass Hit by Dizzy Gillespie
Opp-Bop-Sha-Bam by Dizzy Gillespie
An Oscar for Treadwell by Dizzy Gillespie
Ow by Charlie Greenlea
Passport by Charlie Parker
Raid the Joint by Erskine Hawkins
Red Cross by Charlie Parker
Rhythm in a Riff by Billy Eckstine
Rhythm Sam by Nat Cole
Rhythm-a-ning by Thelonius Monk
Salt Peanuts by Dizzy Gillespie
Seven Come Eleven by Charlie Christian
Shag by Sidney Bechet
Shaw Nuff by Dizzy Gillespie
Shoo Shoo Baby by Phil Moore
Solid Potato Salad by DePaul/Prince/Raye
Sonnyside by Sonny Stitt
Squatty Roo by Johnny Hodges
Stay On It by Tadd Dameron
Steeplechase by Charlie Parker
Straighten Up and Fly Right by Nat Cole
The Street Beat by C. Thompson / Robert Mellin
Strictly Confidential by Bud Powell
Swedish Schnapps by Charlie Shavers
Swing Spring by J.J. Johnson
Swingin' With Diane by Art Pepper
Syntax by J.J. Johnson
Ta-de-ah by Nat Cole
The Theme by Miles Davis
Tiptoe by Thad Jones
Turnpike by J.J. Johnson
Wail by Bud Powell
Webb City by Bud Powell
Wee (AKA Allen's Alley) by Dizzy Gillespie
Who's Who by Art Farmer
Wire Brush Stomp by Gene Krupa
XYZ by Budd Johnson
Yeah Man by J. Russel Robinson

Use any of these tunes or write your own !

Rhys
 

7201

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Not the easiest sequence to solo over, though there are different approaches - one in particular that really unlocks the A section.

The amount of knowledge available from this sequence is substantial, mainly because of the functionality of the progression. Plenty of ii - v's and a B section that goes around the circle of 5ths. Many (most?) tunes written over this sequence tend to go at quite a lick so an approach to the A section that can really unlock this tune for many is to play bluesy lines in the home key rather than trying to "cut the changes". It's not just a "cheat" either as if you ever play multiple chorus's then it provides a different sound, a different place to go with your improvisation.

The B section more easily lends itself to chord substitution and super-imposing than the A section because of its cycle of dominants. Also, each is designated two bars, rather than the two beats for each chord change in section A.

In the A section the diminished chords were more of their time in the 1930's, with the advent of Bebop most would change these to a dominant chord based upon the same tritone being present (and bossing the function of the chord):

ie A7b9 often substituted for C#dim7 - they both contain the same TWO tritone intervals (C# to G and E to Bb).

But this is going pretty deep quite quickly and doesn't make anything easier if "cutting the changes" over the A section. If you don't have a decent amount of familiarity with playing over different chords and hearing when they change then this tune is either a great source of attaining the next level or a major full stop. Playing bluesy stuff over the A section will help massively. It also sounds great too.

Rhythm Changes provides months if not years of study. Aebersold Vol 47 - I Got Rhythm Changes has some really good practice exercises for each section, including slow tracks, and chords-more-spaced tracks. Even each chord as a held pause. Those with Apps like iReal Pro, or software like Band in a Box can easily create their own.

The list above by Rhys is a way that a lot of players remember standards. As you can see, many tunes are written over Rhythm Changes, or similar to. When you add the Blues you will have an even greater list. Seeing as the vast majority of standards are written over functional harmony chord changes, most of them contain the same elements - like a ii - V - I or a VI - ii - V etc etc. With this being the case, Chad LB has reduced pretty much all standards to relatively few sets of changes. It's still an immense body of study though, but his stuff is really well put together and thought-out.

Available here.
 

Pete Thomas

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@Pete Thomas has a useful page on the Taming The Saxophone pages
Thanks for link, I'd forgotten that page.

At jam sessions the sequence can be a bit of a mess if people don't agree on the ascending or descending bass line at bar 5. Sometimes a nice mess though
Not the easiest sequence to solo over, though there are different approaches
If it's fast enough then it works well for me to play blues licks, but you do need some discretion melodically to make that work.

BTW, I wonder if anyone ever bothers to play the original sequence as wrote, ie with the extra two bar ending tag? (who could ask fior anything more?)
 

rhysonsax

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mrpeebee

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Fine performance all round with very fluent solos that fit the style and the tune very well. Did I hear a little "Flintsones" in your solo ?

Looking forward to hearing some more.

Rhys
Thanks Rhys. :)

I still miss that combo, we always had a great time. But the bandleader (the clarinet player in the recording) wanted to stop because of his age and without him the band didn't survive.

Indeed a quote of the Flinstones, my favourite quote in rhythm schemes! Here is a bit wild full version of that tune played solo sax from 2017:

 

rhysonsax

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Thanks Rhys. :)

I still miss that combo, we always had a great time. But the bandleader (the clarinet player in the recording) wanted to stop because of his age and without him the band didn't survive.

Indeed a quote of the Flinstones, my favourite quote in rhythm schemes! Here is a bit wild full version of that tune played solo sax from 2017:


Certainly wild and brave to have recorded completely solo.

I enjoyed that a lot - Yabba Dabba Doo.

Rhys
 

Profusia

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I had a go at Rhythm a couple of weeks ago as it happens. Rhythm Changes tunes have been completely absent from my repertoire and I felt it was time to remedy that so I had a go a both this one and Flintstones. Struggled on both! I clearly made the backing with more ambition than capability and the speed was too much for me but it was a good fun work out nonetheless.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuQiYfC14WA
 

rhysonsax

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I guess I might as well throw the Flintstones in to the mix as well. Recorded a couple of days before Rhythm and 10bpm slower, but still too fast for me! Sounds very similar of course, especially as in the same key, although slightly different changes.

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thakIADtVb4

I enjoyed both of those recordings a lot. You sound comfortable and fluent and the recording quality is pretty good.

I like that both your backing tracks have the little tag endings that the songs need - my backings didn't.

Your phrasing often appears in "two bar chunks" which I something I notice in my own improvisations and especially on Rhythm Changes, which seem to encourage it. It would be good to work in some longer lines or connect those phrases like the master improvisers do, but my brain gets lost when I attempt that !

Rhys
 

Colin the Bear

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Does Harold Arlen's "Lets fall in love" fall under this umberella?
The alto was trying play it when I was noodling, with out me being involved. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Could just be early onset...
 

brianr

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Does Harold Arlen's "Lets fall in love" fall under this umberella?

No….

it also has that 1,6,2,5 thing going on in the A section, but the B section is different.

this “B” section of “I got rhythm“ is very distinctive, and what sets it aside from lots of other chord sequences.
2 bars each around the circle of 4ths.
So, D7,G7,C7, F7

I think it’s real important to learn to hear this 8 bars, and recognise it when it appears.
Could just be early onset...
Possibly !!!!!
 

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