Composed by Johnny Green
Body and Soul is one of the most frequently played ballads in the standard jazz repertoire. It was composed for British actress and singer Gertrude Lawrence in New York City who later introduced the tune to London audiences. The lyrics for the tune were written by Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, and Frank Eyton.
There are countless vocal and instrumental renditions of this tune spanning several decades and it is easy to see why it is so popular. However, the first recording was by none other than Louis Armstrong.
The Nuts and Bolts
As jazz improvisers and accompanists, this is one of those tunes we must know inside and out. We should be able to comp for a singer in any key, improvise over the form, and even play a solo guitar rendition of it!
With regard to common obstacles in jazz standards, this tune covers a lot of ground. There are different types of ii-V progressions, modulations, and even passing diminished chords.
Make sure you take your time with the material available in this lesson. There is a lot of stuff for you to absorb and you will be able to apply it to loads of other tunes if you really take the time to internalize it.
Body and Soul: Comping Ideas
Here are some voicings you can use for comping on Body and Soul. This tune has a lot going on both, melodically and harmonically, so be sure to consider the melody and adding extensions and things like that.
Body and Soul: Chord Melody
This is definitely one of the more involved chord melodies in our standards index. Be sure to take your time with this and really internalize how we are approaching each chord and accommodating the melody notes accordingly.
This is quite a bit of information, but you will find that it will be useful to you for coming up with chord melodies in the future.
Body and Soul: Single-Note Solo
As is the case with the chord melody, this is also one of our more involved single-note solos. Tons of good information and licks to take from here so again, be sure to take your time with it!
In the notation, I took the liberty of simplifying little bits of the rhythm here and there. Be sure to listen to the audio for reference if you’re feeling adventurous.
Body and Soul: Backing Track
If you’d like to download the backing track, you can do so here.
Body and Soul: Chord Reference Sheet
In addition to all of this great content, we have also provided you with a reference sheet full of some basic chord shapes you can use over this tune!
-Coleman Hawkins’ Body and Soul collection released in 1996. This album is a collection of takes from 1939 to 1956 and this version of this tune is one of the most popular.
-Dexter Gordon’s Ballads collection released in 1991. I love this version with the vamp stuff going on in the A sections as well as the Coltrane changes over the bridge. What’s not to love?
-Ella Fitzgerald’s Ella Fitzgerald collection released in 1990. An Ella rendition of just about any tune is practically an instant classic and this one is no different.
-Esperanza Spalding’s Esperanza album released in 2008. This rendition is in 5/4 time and also in Spanish! Quite the take here.
Marc-Andre Seguin is the webmaster, “brains behind” and teacher on JazzGuitarLessons.net, the #1 online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar. He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and professional jazz teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz guitar.