Comping and Solo Guitar to Sweet Georgia Brown

Get Bare. Ignore Wows!I was trying to find examples of tunes to demonstrate guitar comping styles and I came across YouTube videos of jazz greats playing Sweet Georgia Brown. You may know the tune as the theme for the Harlem Globetrotters Basketball Team. But the tune has been a jazz standard for a long time. Sweet Georgia Brown was composed in 1925 by Ben Bernie and Maceo Pinkard (lyrics by Kenneth Casey). It has been recorded by Ethel Waters, Cab Calloway and of course, Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli. It has also been recorded by the Count Basie Orchestra with Freddie Green – and many others.

My motivation in all this came from thinking how to explain jazz guitar comping to someone. I thought I might refer them back to two of the classic threads in guitar comping. One thread is the Freddie Green style which is typically four to the bar using mostly 3 and 4 note chords. Freddie Green was the rhythm guitarist with Count Basie Orchestra from the 1030s 40s, 50s etc. The other classic comping thread is from a similar time frame and is the Gypsy Jazz style popularized by Django Reinhardt.

Sweet Georgia Brown, though it often has a classic rhythm guitar accompaniment (i.e., comping) is also a great tune for some fast jazz soling. So here are some examples for your enjoyment. I’m not sure if they will teach anyone much about comping or soloing, but they are a lot of fun.

Bucky & John Pizzarelli.
John comping while his father solos.

Herb Ellis

Bireli Lagrene
Sweet Georgia Brown starts ca. 3:12 in but all of it is good. Bireli comps and solos. This is Gypsy Jazz.

Count Basie
Freddie Green comping on guitar – you can see him but can’t really pick him out. Before electric guitars.

Oscar Peterson Trio with Joe Pass
Starts with Oscar Peterson (piano) trading licks with Joe Pass (guitar). Joe Pass does both solo and comping if you wait.

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