I was browsing jazz guitar videos on youtube the other day and came across John Pizzarelli doing the following version of I Got Rhythm. John, like his dad Bucky, plays a seven-string guitar and starts out accompanying himself as he sings (i.e., comping). Later her breaks into scatting while playing single line solo guitar. Altogether, great guitar. I decided to see who else had covered this jazz standard and put together a collection of other jazz guitar renditions of the tune.
John Pizzarelli – “I Got Rhythm” (solo) at the Fretboard Journal
But first, some history.
Jazz Standards (jazzstandards.com) has a nice summary of the origins of this Gershwin classic. Ethyl Merman first sang the song written for a Broadway musical, Girl Crazy in 1930. Ginger Rogers was the co-star but people remembered Ethyl Merman. The band that played for the premier of the Girl Crazy was the Red Nichols band. The musicians were an incredible group with Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Jack Teagarden, Jimmy Dorsey, and Gene Krupa. Wow.
You can find additional history at Wikipedia but for a really good story of how it became to be a jazz standard, look up the NPR article.
If you don’t feel like watching all the videos, at least take a look at Martin Taylor and one of the Gypsy Jazz versions. Enjoy.
Back to the Videos
Martin Taylor has a very different take on the standard than John Pizzarelli. Martin Taylor plays fingerstyle jazz guitar. As he explains in the introduction (first minute + of video, music starts at about 1:10 into video) he tried to emulate the left and right hands of a piano player, as translated for guitar.
“I Got Rhythm” Martin Taylor. KNKX Public Radio
The next two videos are Gypsy Jazz guitar versions of I Got Rhythm. Django Reinhardt recorded this tune and now it is a standard among Gypsy players. I’ve included a recording of Django doing the tune at the end of this post.
Bireli Lagrene is an incredible guitarist who has played straight and bebop-infused jazz in addition to Gypsy Jazz.
Bireli Lagrene – I Got Rhythm (gerschwin)
The Rosenberg’s starts with a vocal. Be patient because some great guitar playing comes in later in the video.
The Rosenberg Trio ft. Mozes & Johnny Rosenberg – I’ve Got Rhythm (live @Bimhuis Amsterdam)
If you want to skip to the familiar lyrics and tune, go about 1:10 in the video. Another 20 seconds and you’ll be into the guitar minus lyrics (i.e. about 1:30).
Barney Kessel & Stéphane Grappelli – I Got Rhythm
Grappelli played with Django. It’s not quite Gypsy Jazz but it is great. I love just about anything Barney Kessel recorded. Barney’s solo is at about 2:20 minutes into the video. Notice that both his comping and single line playing are quite different from the Gypsy Jazz versions.
JOE PASS ” I Got Rhythm “
Joe Pass’s recording is pure single line jazz guitar solo
Django Reinhardt – ‘I Got Rhythm’
His solo starts at about 1:04.