May 22, 2011

More Jobim Tunes With Borrowed Chords

This post is a sort of necessary follow-up to Jobim’s “Out of Nowhere” Tunes (March 28). There are a few more early Antonio Carlos Jobim tunes with chord sequences borrowed from the “Great American Songbook.” If you are a jazz player, you might be interested in this info just from a theory angle; but knowing this stuff also has the practical value of helping you to insert silly quotes into your solos. Here are the tunes:
Girl From Ipanema (1962): The A section harmony is borrowed from “Take the A Train,” with tritone substitutions for the V chords. Here’s a clip of Jobim playing his own tune, and quoting “A Train.” This is from an all-star jam at a tribute to Jobim. The date is listed as 2002 on the YouTube clip, but I think it was really 1993 (Jobim died in 1994).
The “Ipanema” bridge is harder to solo over than one might think. My solution is to see the bridge as a series of Imaj7 to IVdom chords: Gbmaj7 to B7, then A6 (disguised as F#m7) to D7, then Bb6 (disguised as Gm7) to Eb7, followed by a turnaround in F to set up the last A section. Each of these Imaj7 to IVdom sequences can be treated in a blues sort of way, with guide tones Bb to A, then C# to C, then D to Db. Try thinking of it as three blues sequences, with the guide tones indicating the major third of the key to the minor third of the key. The progression makes more sense that way, and you can get some blues mileage out of it. Jobim inverted the chords to create a more interesting bass line, which obscures their functional logic. (Well, that’s my take, anyway.)
So Danco Samba (1962): This tune has an “A Train” A section, and a “Satin Doll” bridge. (And of course, the A section of “A Train” was itself borrowed from the earlier “Exactly Like You.”)
Wave (1967): The 12-bar A section is a disguised blues, crammed with extra changes. The I and IV are right where they should be in a blues (bars 1 and 5), and the Dm7 G7 dorian vamp in bars 11 and 12 is right where a blues would have had a return to the tonic D7. These “landmark” spots in bars 5 and 11 are each prepared backwards with a series of dominant chords or II V’s that, when played forwards, resolve nicely into each other. It’s the same compositional process as Charlie Parker’s “Blues for Alice,” with a different end result. As in “Blues for Alice,” the I and IV are major 7 chords. Note the blues lick in bars 10-11 of the A section.
One-note Samba (1959): The A section is “I Got Rhythm,” with each chord 4 beats instead of 2 beats, and tritone subs in bars 2, 4, 6, 8, 14, 15, 26. 28, 30, and 32. The last A section has a clever alteration in the last 4 bars. Actually, to be a bit more accurate, it’s based on “Rhythm changes,” i.e. the chord changes evolved by jazz players to make the original Gershwin tune more improv-friendly.
Chega de Saudade (1958): A great early composition, sometimes called the first bossa nova tune. The B section (where it goes into the key of D major) is “When You Wish Upon a Star,” from the Disney movie,"Pinocchio." This borrowed chord sequence goes for 16 measures. You can amuse your audience and your fellow band members with this lengthy quote, at least until everyone is thoroughly bored with hearing it. Then you can keep doing it, like telling a bad joke over and over again. The shape of the melody in bars 1-6 references “Bye Bye Blues,” although “Chega” is in minor, and the chords are completely different.
There’s also “How Insensitive,” which is partly based on Chopin’s Prelude #4 in E minor. I only mention this to round out this article. I’m not sure how to get a good quote out of it.
And don’t forget the corny “Star Trek” quote that you can use on all of those “Out of Nowhere” tunes (see the March 28 post).

Late addition: "Este seu olhar," which pretty much follows the harmonic template of Rodgers and Hart's "Bewitched" - see this post. Another Jobim tune, "So em teus bracos," isn't too far off.


  1. Peter,
    Jobim on Jobim.
    As you and Dan Nieckarz witnessed, a few years ago:
    We were playing our (then regular Sat gig), when during my "Look to the Sky" 2nd chorus flute solo, I started with 2 repeated notes that triggered the head of Jobim's "Fotografia" to the very end.