A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Apple Honey” is based on the chords to George Gershwin’s song “I Got Rhythm,” commonly known as “Rhythm Changes.” It was originally introduced by Woody Herman’s big band, known as “The Herd” and has been since widely performed by collegiate jazz ensembles.

Here are some recommended recordings/videos:
(for international readers who may not have access to these YouTube links, I’ve indicated the original album names wherever possible so you can listen to them on music streaming services, etc.)

Woody Herman (1945)

Woody Herman, Maynard Ferguson, Teddy Wilson (video, 1983)

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Although it can take a while to get to the point where you can improvise over “Rhythm changes” with fluency and ease, the good news is that if you can improvise over one tune that uses these chords, you can improvise over them all! “Apple Honey” uses what are basically “Rhythm Changes” with a few variations. In measures 3-4 of each A Section, there’s a Gm to C#dim7 instead of Dm7 to Gm7, and the bridge substitutes a Gm7 chord for the more usual G dominant 7th. These differences, although subtle, give the tune a slightly different sound than other tunes that use the progression. If you prefer, you can play these chords under the melody and then solo using whatever standard “Rhythm Changes” progression you’re comfortable using.

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

Further links and resources:
Apple Honey: Journey Through The Real Book #18

A big band-inspired rendition with block chords and swing-era rhythms.

What are jazz “Rhythm Changes?”

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

Woody Herman: Wikipedia

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