The Fiddle Sessions Jazz Violin Project: Go Tell Aunt Rhody – #10 Julian Smedley
By Julian Smedley
As a jazz violinist, my challenge was to improvise over a traditional tune from one genre and era using the vocabulary of a different style and era. To do so, I used devices popularized by Swing era players such as Eddie South, Benny Goodman and Lester Young. I included arpeggios, scales, riffs and rhythmic figures to extend the written chord structures. The chord progression of “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” is simpler than the progression of most jazz standards. The melody implies tonic and dominant chords only (I-I-V-I, I-I-V-I). The standard jazz progression closest to the progression in “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” is I-vi-ii-V7, also known as “Rhythm Changes” (after the George Gershwin tune “I Got Rhythm”). This can be simplified to I-I-ii-V. The placement of the V (dominant) chord in the two tunes characterizes the difference between the genres they represent.
Here are a few notes on the improvisation I recorded: I used basic swing bowing extensively. In measures 1& 2 I used a double-stopped riff (from Eddie South) that lies under the fingers on the violin. Measure 7 takes the blues riff from measure 5 into chromaticism over the V, ending with a rhythmic figure that delays the resolution to the I. Measures 9 &10 step chromatically either side of the chord tones. Measure 15 adds a straight whole tone scale to supplement the V chord.
about the author
Julian Smedley performs gypsy jazz, klezmer and traditional fiddle styles. He has performed with artists such as Gil Evans, Chico Freeman, Paul Horn, Anthony Braxton, Ralph Towner, Gary Peacock, Art Lande and Dan Hicks.
Recent arrangements include an orchestration of Klezmer tunes for the San Francisco Symphony. Recording projects in 2011 included CD’s for gypsy jazz guitarist, Jimmy Grant and work with singer/songwriter Cyd Smith for her upcoming release ‘Wide Open Night’.