12 May 2013


Monty Sunshine

It's interesting (and it makes life easier for the performer) that so many tunes played by the traditional jazz bands end with virtually the same simple and pleasing sequence of chords. This harmonic sequence is called THE SUNSHINE PROGRESSION (named after the late Monty Sunshine). These chords take the listener through a short exciting journey before landing safely and reassuringly on the major chord of the home key. Here are the chords for those final eight bars in the Key of C.

What they amount to is:

Bar 1 : Major chord on the fourth note of the scale - setting out on a new adventure.

Bar 2 : Minor chord on the fourth note of the scale - a slight hint of danger.

Bar 3 : The Major Chord of the Home Key - We're safe!

Bar 4 : A Seventh based on the sixth note of the scale - Oh no, someone has just made us laugh.

Bar 5 : A Seventh based on the second note of the scale - one corner yet to turn.

Bar 6 : The Dominant Seventh - always the last step before Home.

Bars 7 and 8 : The Major Chord of the Home Key again - this time for good.

Here's how it looks in the Key of G:

There can be very slight variations. For example Bar 2 is often IV# diminished (i.e. C# diminished in the example above). Bar 5 can be a Minor Seventh based on the second note of the scale. The final two bars could throw in, for example, the major chord on the fourth note of the scale for the final two beats of Bar 7. But essentially it's all the same pattern.

Examples of tunes ending with the sequence are:

At The Mardi Gras
April Showers
Beneath Hawaiian Skies
Bourbon Street Parade
Who's Sorry Now
Tiger Rag
Milenberg Joys
From Monday On
Spanish Eyes

Running Wild
April Showers
Hiawatha Rag [final theme]
It's Only a Shanty
If I Had A Talking Picture Of You
If Someone Would Only Love Me
Knee Drops
Merci Beaucoup
Some of these Days
Second Line
Bill Bailey
Baby Face
Tell Me Your Dream
All of Me
It's a Sin to tell a Lie
I'm Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover
My Little Girl

After reading the above, Tom Corcoran sent me this interesting insight:

Looking at your recent post (Monty Sunshine progression) I've realised there are chords, and then there are chords that work. When you first posted this progression I played it on the uke in first-position chords and thought "OK, I recognise this, so what". But I went back to it a couple of weeks later and played it again; this time starting at the first inversion of C and going up up the neck to the other chords; and I realised what a sweet progression it really is. The right chords in the right place made all the difference. Playing around with other progressions I've found some that work well in first-position chords and others that sound better in a descending pattern, depending on the mood of the melody I suppose. Always a new twist and always something new to learn.

Some tunes essentially use the Sunshine sequence, though with slight or subtle variations.

An example is

I Can't Give You Anything But Love

and, as John Burns has pointed out to me, the chords of the eight bars are sometimes compressed into four half-bars, as in

At the Jazzband Ball
When I'm Sixty-Four.

Finally, here's something I find striking: the following tunes BEGIN pretty well with the eight bars that the tunes above use as their FINAL eight. I think that's what gives them their special character:

After You've Gone
I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me
Glad Rag Doll
That's My Home
When It's Sleepy Time Down South.

Luke Hollady from the USA emailed me with these interesting remarks:
You mentioned in your post that the 2nd bar of this ending is often a IV#dim chord - this is how I've typically been taught to play the progression. Jason Jurzak in NOLA has a fun way of calling this sequence out loud for teaching purposes - I'll see if I can type it in rhythm, as it were.

"Four, four and a half, one one down to six, two, five, one."

"Four and a half" being a quick way of saying "stay on the four but sharp the root".
And I'm a particular fan of "one one down to six" because of the way it implies a walk down from the one chord to the six, usually accomplished by the bass or guitar/banjo player. 

In addition to the songs you list, I've found the Sunshine Progression in Darktown Strutters Ball and Parkway Stomp.