Here are a few jazzy samples. I use Sibelius with the handwritten font but the possibilities are endless on what we can do now with applications like Sibelius, Finale and Dorico.
(Quite Nights of Quiet Stars)
Written in 1960 by Antônio Carlos Jobim and recorded by João Gilberto the same year. This is the original version of this song before the Real Book … changed it … or interpreted it differently. What’s interesting about this song, and many Bossa Nova classics, is that the guitar is the most important instrument not only in leading the chord progression, but also in setting up the rhythmic pattern. Although Jobim was the composer and played piano on the original Gilberto recording, the piano plays sparsely and adds colour to the song, but is not the main driving instrument. It is for this reason that the chords have been altered and substituted over the years as the original guitar chords don’t translate 100% over to the piano. For instance, in the Real Book version of the song, on measure 12 (bar 6 of the verse) you can see a C7sus4 written while on the original song a Gm6 can be heard. While these chords share many notes, in the original song you do not hear a C in this chord anywhere in the ensemble. It is also important to note that in the original song there is no upright bass as the bottom strings of the guitar cover this part. I strongly believe that the guitar approach to these songs is what shaped these tremendous and seemingly complex chord progressions. The guitar chords change subtly from one chord to the next by moving one or two notes, not moving around the neck in various chord positions but remaining in one position. The bass notes descend or ascend often times at a semitone at a time and is quite often playing a different degree of the scale (chord) or a passing note. You can see this especially on the second measure of the introduction that also appears throughout the song. I believe strongly that this is not meant to be an Abo7 chord but an E7(b9)/G#. These two chords again share many similar notes but are completely different, especially in a soloing context. For years I have played the Real Book version of this song, and already having been a huge fan of Bossa Nova music, I always felt as though the chords never sat the way they do on the original recordings. This happens right out of the gate on the first chord of the verse. The Real Book (and many other version of this song) believe that the chord is a D7/A although in the original recording you can’t hear a D anywhere except faintly as a passing note in the melody. It is an Am6 and when played on a guitar, this makes perfect sense.
The melody in this original version has been transcribed from the Portuguese language as close as possible, but keep in mind that it is sung by Gilberto in a way that stretches in time across the bar lines. The chords in the diagrams are as he played them and the rhythm portrayed in the Nylon String Guitar part is a typical pattern played for this style and tempo of a Bossa tune. You’ll notice when you listen that the right thumb only plays half note bass notes as the other 3 fingers (rarely 4) play the syncopated ostanato pattern.
YOU'RE A MEAN ONE, MR GRINCH
(As Performed by Tim Tamashiro and Arranged by Chris Andrew)
My longtime musician friend Tim Tamashiro asked me to lift this song off of his own Christmas Album. The challenge here was to pick out the genius of Chris Andrew's piano intro, chords and arrangement and preserve the spirit of the performance. Not to shoo you away to another arranger but Chris is a top shelf jazz arranger/composer and can be reached here.