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Published on June 3rd, 2013 | by Sam


Classic Jazz Endings

Classic Jazz EndingsIf you’ve played jazz gigs I’m guessing you’ve come towards the end of a tune and thought, “How are we going to end this??”   It’s important to have a few classic jazz endings ready go for any situation.  We’ll take a look at 5 different ways to end jazz standards in this article.

Many experienced jazz musicians will either know these or be able to hear them as they’re happening.  You can also give your band mates a heads up on which ending you’ll be using to finish the tune.

Count Basie Ending

The first we’ll look at is usually called the Basie Ending, named after famous bandleader Count Basie.  The count would take the ending to many of his tunes, and would typically play this figure.  The top note stays on the tonic for the ending.  The first chord is basically the ii chord – Dmi7 in this case.  The second chord is a diminished chord on the tonic.  Another well known place to hear the diminished tonic chord is the tune “UMMG” by Billy Strayhorn.  Check out the semi-recent version from Joe Henderson.  Finally the major tonic chord finishes the ending.

Classic Jazz Endings

Sharp 4 Ending

Our next ending is sometimes called the “sharp 4” ending because it starts with the sharp 4 chord in the key.  The sharp 4 chord is a half diminished, then move down chromatically through F9, Emi9, Eb9, Dmi9, Db9, and finally Cmaj9.  The voicings shown have a voice-led line moving down in the top voices.  This ending should be played rubato or in free time – not in time like the Basie ending.

Classic Jazz Endings

Flat 3 Ending

The Flat 3 ending is typically credited to the progression from the bebop standard “Ladybird”.  Start on a major 7 chord on the flat 3 of the key (Ebmaj7).  The chords then move in fifths.  Abmaj7 and Dbmaj7 are next.  This ending really works because the 5th of the key, G, stays in the top voice for all the chords.  The G acts as the 3rd of the Eb, 7th of the Ab, and #11 of the b2 chord.

Classic Jazz Endings

Bluesy Contrary Motion

The fourth ending we’ll check out is more commonly heard from guitarists like Chet Atkins or Jerry Reed, but will work well for ‘bluesy’ tunes.  The top and bottom voices move in contrary motion in this ending.  The top voice moves down the mixolydian scale with a chromatic note between the 6th and the 5th.  The bottom voice then moves up in a typically blues ending from root to b3, 3, 4, and #4.  The two voices end up both on the 5th of the key.

Classic Jazz Endings

Flat 7 Ending

Our final ending is loosely from Joe Pass’s version of “All the Things You Are” from his landmark Virtuoso album.  This ending starts out with a typically ii-V progression.  Where the tonic chord would typically go, Pass plays the b7 chord (Gb here).  The chord moves up a half step and finally resolves up another half step.  This ending works because the root of the key stays in the top voice for the whole ending.

Classic Jazz Endings

Endings are enormously important to have ‘in your bag’ for gigs.  There’s not much worse for an audience than a killing tune that just kind of crumbles at the end.  Look for other classic endings in live recordings by classic piano trios (Oscar Peterson, Nat King Cole, Bill Evans, etc).

What are some endings you use at the end of tunes?

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One Response to Classic Jazz Endings

  1. l,c smith says:

    very informative,,,,,thanks…l.c

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