17 March 2013


In other posts, I have classified (by chord progressions) types of tunes in the repertoire of traditional jazz bands. I have done so mainly by looking at their opening bars.

There is another small group of tunes that are distinctive. These are the tunes in a minor key (or sometimes with just one theme in a minor key). I am surprised there are not more tunes in the traditional jazz repertoire using minor keys. The effect of the minor is striking and unusual. For an obvious example of this, just hum St. James' Infirmary to yourself.

Most of these tunes are usually played not in any old minor key but specifically in C minor, G minor or D minor.

The important point is that playing an occasional tune in a minor key gives variety to a jazz concert. And variety is necessary if you want to interest and entertain your audience.

To improvise on minor-key tunes, you have to make a mental adjustment and 'think minor'.

Some you might consider using are:

A Bientôt
A Jazz Battle
At the Jazz Band Ball (usually starts in G minor - part A)
Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen
Big Chief Battleaxe [one theme]
Big House Blues [final theme]
Black and Blue
Blue Drag (sample it - sung by Albanie - by clicking here)
Blue Skies
Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me
The Boy in the Boat
Crying for the Carolines
Crumpled Papers (interesting 12-bar normally in D minor)
Dark Eyes (though the opening chord is the dominant seventh - not minor)
Deep Bayou Moan (Shaye Cohn's lovely 2017 composition - click here )
Diga Diga Doo
Egyptian Ella
Fourth Street Mess Around
Green Leaves of Summer
I Lost My Gal from Memphis
I'm Humming to Myself
I'm the King of the Swingers (part A)
It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing
La Roulotte
Joseph Joseph
Joshua Fit De Battle of Jericho
King of the Zulus
(Sweet) Lotus Blossom
Michigander Blues
Midnight in Moscow
Minor Drag
Mother's Son-in-Law
New Orleans (the Hoagy Carmichael tune)
New Orleans Bump
No Moon at All
The Panic is On
Petite Fleur
Puttin' on the Ritz (Chorus)
Russian Rag (great example at 23 minutes 20 seconds in this Tuba Skinny video: Click here to watch )
Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down
Shout 'Em, Aunt Tillie
Sing Sing Sing with a Swing
Steppin' Out With My Baby
St. James' Infirmary
Take Me Away from the River
That Da Da Strain (usually starts in G minor - part A)
The Mooche
Tight Like This
You Let Me Down
When I Get Low I Get High
Willie the Weeper [first theme]
Who Walks In
Why Don't You Do Right?

The book Playing Traditional Jazz, written by Pops Coffee, is available from Amazon.