Hey Jazz Guy February 2011

Hey Jazz Guy,What kinds of things can I play over “Rhythm” changes? –I Got Nothing in Naperville
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Hey Jazz Guy,
What kinds of things can I play over “Rhythm” changes?I Got Nothing in Naperville

Dear I Got Nothing,
Ah … Gershwin’s little delight “I Got Rhythm” is one of the most important forms in the jazz idiom. This tune is a gateway drug to the Great American Songbook and understanding it well can dramatically improve your playing. These chord changes are typical of what you may come across in the A section of this AABA tune. It stays in Bb, with a few out of key moments (such as G7 in bar two and Ebm7 in bar 6). The following examples split up the 8-bar phrase, to demonstrate some of the techniques we’ve looked at so far. In Ex.1 we use a traditional bebop-type line that features the guide tones and altered notes on F7. Ex.2 features wide intervals and emphasizes the b9 on F7. Ex.3 highlights a chromatic line that includes some triplets. The final turnaround in Ex.4 uses upper structure triads, placing a C#m and Emaj on top of Dm7. Lastly, we return to bebop for Ex.5 with the 5 of F7 holding over to become the 9 of Bbmaj7. The idea here is that any type of playing can work over the “Rhythm” changes progression. Using “Rhythm” changes as a base to practice any kind of vocabulary is a great way to expand your playing and achieve a greater understanding of the jazz standard repertoire. Who could ask for anything more? Next time we will take on the B section of this classic form.


Jake Hertzog is the jazz ambassador to the non-jazz world. Send your questions to guitplyr@musicplayer.com. Jake’s latest release is Patterns [Buckyball].