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|In Tune -- by Bill Fuller
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“I Got Rhythm”
In 1930 George Gershwin wrote a song for the musical, “Girl Crazy” which was
introduced by Ethel Merman. He had no idea what a seminal composition he had created.
It was used again in a 1943 Hollywood film starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland
also titled “Girl Crazy,” and then in the 1963 film “April in Paris” starring gene Kelly. The
name of the tune was “I Got Rhythm.”
From the 1930’s on to the present day the rhythm changes of no other tune in jazz or
popular music have had a wider influence than the changes in “I Got Rhythm.” Other
composers have constructed melodies wholesale to mask the changes from “I Got Rhythm”
upon which they are built. This, of course, was done to avoid paying royalties to Mr.
Gershwin, who, as it turned out, had penned a brilliant opus.
So common are these changes in so many tunes that most jazz players are at least
somewhat familiar with them. While embarking on a tune that might not be too familiar to one
player at a jam session, it’s not unusual to hear somebody say something like, ‘You’ll get it.
Just listen. It’s based on the changes of “I Got Rhythm”.’
There are sources that list well over 100 jazz and popular tunes that are based on the
changes of “I Got Rhythm.” Most of these do not fit historically into the lexicon of classic
traditional jazz but rather into swing, bop, pop, and modern. Don’t forget the tune wasn’t
written until the dawn of the swing era. However, most of them are familiar to even the
moldiest of figs. Tunes such as:
SHOESHINE BOY – written in 1936 by Saul Chaplin.
DON’T BE THAT WAY – written by Edgar Sampson in 1938.
JUMPIN’ AT THE WOODSIDE – by Count Basie in 1938.
WIRE BRUSH STOMP – by Gene Krupa in 1938.
COTTONTAIL – written in 1940 by Duke Ellington.
SEVEN COME ELEVEN – by Charlie Christian in 1940.
LESTER LEAPS IN – written in 1940 by Lester Young.
SALT PEANUTS – composed by Dizzy Gillespie in 1941.
STRAIGHTEN UP AND FLY RIGHT – Nat “King” Cole, 1944
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