At last count, there were 5,276 jazz tunes based on the harmonic structure of “I Got Rhythm.” Like so many statistics, that one is invented; I have no idea how many “Rhythm” knockoffs there are. They started coming not long after George and Ira Gershwin (pictured) wrote the song for the 1930 Broadway musical Girl Crazy. Sidney Bechet’s “Shag” materialized in 1932, and earlier than that there may have been “IGR” contrafacts—as such chordal derivatives are known. Bebop thrived on them. Fats Navarro, for instance, wrote one called “Eb Pob” (spell the words backward). Charlie Parker wrote “Steeplechase,” Bud Powell “Wail,” Sonny Rollins “Oleo.” The list goes on. And on. And on. Chances are that at this very moment, somebody is writing another one.
In the improbable event that you don’t remember how the original song goes, guitarist John Pizzarelli and his bassist brother Martin performed it a few years ago on a Ramsey Lewis television show. They refresh our memories.
In the next exhibit, we present one of best-known and best-loved of all the pieces inspired by “I Got Rhythm.” It is performed by its composer, Thelonious Monk, with Charlie Rouse, tenor saxophone; Larry Gales, bass; and Ben Riley, drums. This is from a 1966 broadcast on the BBC in London.
I’m away tomorrow for a reunion with old friends, then quickly back home for a family celebration. Rifftides will return anon. In the meantime, go to Archives in the right-hand column and look around. In the more than a decade of posts, you may find something you’ll like.
Have a good weekend.