Composed by John Klenner
Just Friends was composed in 1931 by John Klenner with lyrics by Sam Lewis. It was first introduced by Red McKenzie’s orchestra in the same year and has been covered in a wide array of styles and approaches over the years.
Although the tune is technically in a major key, the lyrics are rather sad. This seems to influence many of the interpretations we’ve heard over the years.
The Nuts and Bolts
This tune has been recorded in a number of different ways. Sarah Vaughan’s version of this tune is really breathtaking for me, and then there are other versions like Pat Martino’s where he takes it at a medium-up tempo.
The interesting thing about this tune is that it actually starts on the IV chord. This is rather unusual and takes to confuse a lot of players. Many novices think that because of this, the tune is actually in the key of the IV chord! Be sure you understand this when calling the tune or you might look silly.
As mentioned previously, even though it is in a major key, the tune is rather sad and it has a few moments that really make this stand out. For example, there is a borrowed chord from the parallel minor after just a few bars where it uses the IVm chord. This, added to the often laid-back interpretation of the melody, give the tune its mood.
Note This is why it’s a good idea to learn the lyrics for these songs!
Just Friends: Comping Ideas
Here you have some simple chord voicings to get you started on comping for Just Friends. Nothing fancy here, just some basic ideas.
Just Friends: Chord Melody
As is the case with most chord melodies, we took some liberties with the chord melody here so be sure to observe the difference between what’s being played and what the actual chord is. You might learn something about how to approach tunes and what rules you can bend or break.
Just Friends: Single-Note Solo
This solo has some cool chromaticism and approach tones happening. There is definitely some useful vocabulary to pick up here!
Just Friends: Chord Reference Sheet
As always, we have included a chord reference sheet at the end of the PDF to give you some extended comping ideas.
-Sarah Vaughan’s Fifty Favourites collection released in 1960. What can we say about Sarah Vaughan that hasn’t been said already? She absolutely crushes it with a wonderfully lush orchestra behind her.
-Pat Martino’s El Hombre album released in 1967. Here, Pat takes this tune at a more up tempo and plays a burning solo. Lots of great transcribing material here!
-Charlie Parker’s Charlie Parker with Strings: Complete Master Takes collection released in 2003. Charlie Parker plays his usual smoking lines with a string section and interprets the melody beautifully.
-John Pizzarelli & Rick Haydon’s Just Friends album released in 2006. The legendary John Pizzarelli and Rick Haydon take this at a nice swingin’ tempo.
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