"St. James Infirmary" is another song from my series of simple Chord Melody solo arrangements.
The melody and chords sit comfortably under the fingers making it a relatively easy tune to play, especially if you are interested in learning how to play jazz standards in a chord melody style.
St James Infirmary (also know as 'Gamblers Blues) is an American folk song and was popularised by Louis Armstrong in his 1928 recording.
Start with the melody
Remember to begin by learning the melody. The lead sheet (downloadable link below) has the melody in the correct positions for the chords to be positioned underneath later.
Next, add the chords
Now that you have the melody down add the chords for the harmony underneath.
Before you play through the arrangement I've written have a go at adding in the chords that are written on the lead sheet. Play the melody note that sits above the chord, then see whether you can figure out a chord that sit comfortable in this position.
You may initially find this a little challenging at first but as you spend more time doing this your ability to place a chord below the melody notes will improve really quickly. Hopefully you will be able to figure out some voicings that work well and are easy to play.
Now that you have had a go yourself, play through the arrangement I've written and compare your ideas with my approach.
St James Infirmary:
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Study the harmony of this arrangement and see how the chords I used differ from the common “fake book” progression.
One of the most fun aspects of playing jazz is personalising the standard material by using your ear to make the music your own. My preferences will certainly differ from many other players. This subtlety is one of the ways to keep the music fresh and interesting to listeners who have heard the tunes played numerous times.
Once this arrangement is comfortable under your fingers, feel free to alter the chords and use your ear to create your unique harmonies.