Jul 9, 2014

"Samba de Orfeu," "Noites Cariocas," and "I Could Have Danced All Night"

If you are a fan of classic sambas and choros, here's a post for you. Check out the similarities between the  "A" sections, in both melody and harmony, of "Samba de Orfeu" (Luis Bonfa, 1959), and "Noites Cariocas" (Jacob do Bandolim, 1957). I'm not necessarily saying that Bonfa had been listening to "Noites Cariocas" when he wrote "Samba de Orfeu" for the movie "Black Orpheus," but one has to wonder.

A nice performance by Paul Desmond and Jim Hall:

Here's the original setting of "Samba de Orfeu," from the end of the movie:

Jacob do Bandolim playing "Noites Cariocas":

The melody of "I Could Have Danced All Night" (Lerner and Loewe, 1956) is kind of similar, too:

Below are charts for the first 16 bars of these three songs, all in the key of C, for easy comparison:

Besides the similar aspects of the melodies, these three tunes all share the same basic harmonic structure in their 16 bar "A" sections:

  • major key
  • first phrase (8 bars) I moving to II or II V in bar 7
  • second phrase (8 bars) II or II V for 6 more bars, then back to the tonic chord in bar 15.

These charts are fairly "vanilla" versions, unembellished. Other charts for these tunes are often crowded up with additional harmonic details.

It's a simple harmonic template, and a common one. A few more jazz-related tunes that follow a similar harmonic pattern: "Begin the Beguine" (1935), "Ve Se Gostas" (1950), "Moon Over Naples" aka "Spanish Eyes" (1965), Bye Bye Blackbird (1926).

When I mentioned to my wife that all of these "harmonic template" similarities might make a good blog post, she said, "But what is your point?"

I replied, "Well, the harmonies of these songs all share a common pattern, and that might be interesting to some musicians."

She said, "But what is your point?"

 I replied, "OK, that means that you can quote pretty much any of these songs in a solo, over any of the other tunes."

She said, "Great! I like quotes. Everybody likes quotes."