Monday, June 6, 2011

Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd: One Note Samba

I don’t often wax jazz nostalgic, but when I do it normally conjures up memoires of music of the late fifties and early sixties when jazz was bordering on the mainstream. Today’s selection comes from 1963 and an album that single handedly created the bossa nova craze in the US in the early sixties.

In 1961 President John F. Kennedy inaugurated a goodwill exchange between the US and Brazil that gave guitarist Charlie Byrd the opportunity to tour Brazil. When Byrd returned, he headed to the studio and was joined by saxophonist Stan Getz. The result is the collaboration by Getz and Byrd known as “Jazz Samba.” One of the often played and often covered tunes is “One Note Samba.”

The song’s title comes from a series of measures where one note is featured over a bossa nova rhythm. In the key of G, the first eight measures center around a D note, this followed by four measures of G, and then four measures of D.

Bossa nova literally means “new trend” in Portuguese and the style developed from samba, but is less percussive than its antecedent stytle. It often features chord variations of sevenths, ninths, elevenths, and thirteenths. I love these chordal structures and if you play keyboard these extended chords are easy to remember as they feature at the 11th and 13th extensions an entire chord a complete step below the primary chord. For the 11th, 9th, and 7th chords, a note is dropped.

In other words for a 13th chord in C – a complete Bb7 is played above the C. A thirteenth is somewhat of a combination of a 7th and 6th chord as the Bb is the 7th and the A is the 6th. For example:

C13 is C E G Bb D F A | a Bb7 chord over C chord
C11 is C E G Bb D F | a Bb chord over C chord
C9 is C E G Bb D | Bb and D notes over C chord
C7 is C E G Bb | a Bb note over C chord

It also can be remembered by playing a minor one step above the 7th of the chord. For example:

C13 is C E G Bb D F A | a Dm chord over C7 chord
C11 is C E G Bb D F | D & F notes over C7 chord
C9 is C E G Bb D | D note over C7 chord

Unfortunately, I never read this anywhere, but figured it out on my own and it makes it easy to remember. If a song calls for F#13, I know that I need to play an E7 over the F#. If it’s a Db11, then I play a B over the Db. Remember this and you will have no difficulty in remembering the structure of extended chords.


  1. came across your blog while searching for the bassist's name -i have been listening to this over and over in my car for the last 2 weeks (on the jobim songbook album)-it's great all around but a real plea sure to hear the guitar and bass solos-just not something you hear often-
    thank youi will be checking back

  2. You are quite welcome. I always liked the bossa nova genre. Glad you liked the blog Thanks for stopping by.