Just Friends

(by John Klenner)

Just Friends was composed in 1931 by John Klenner (Lyrics by Sam Lewis). This tune has a great melody and is a very nice vehicle for improvisation at medium to up tempos (swing or latin). I personally play it on most of my gigs… everybody knows it and wants to solo on the Just Friends form!

It has been written and recorded as a ballad at first (noticeably by Charlie Parker)… as all great tunes, Just Friends has nice lyrics too! Some jazz artists later picked up the temp”, so to speak, ditched the singing and really “burned” on that song.  That’s the essence of bebop, in fact!

I believe that the main feature of that tune, is that it starts NOT on the tonic (I) chord. It doesn’t even start with a cadence leading to the tonic chord! It really starts on the IV major (the C major chord in the key of G major), a harmonic trait found in only but a few tunes. What so nice about it is the ‘transitionning’ from the end of the chorus back to the beginning.

There’s some sort of inherent “depression” within the chord progression … even if it’s not in a minor key (or a sad tune per se), it sounds like the first chord is not what the ear expects! Then the IVm and the few next cadences make for a beautiful improvisation ride!

Chord Melody

Just Friends: Chord Melody for Jazz Guitar

Just Friends now features two distinct levels of difficulty for the chord melody. So here are both a rather simple harmonization (beginner, easy level) and another more intermediate, with nice fancy chords. Download both right here:

Note that both PDFs contain: “lead sheet” style melody with chord symbols on top, like you’ll find in a fake book. Then you have the arrangement in chord melody style (TABS) and the last page is a basic suggested chords for comping guide. Enjoy!

Audio Demonstration: Chord Melody EASY Level

Here’s the audio file for the EASY Level Chord Melody on Just Friends, as played by yours truly. Enjoy! 🙂

Suggested listening

Charlie Parker , of course. It’s the  classic recording of the piece. I also like Chet Baker’s sung version as well as Cannonball’s up-tempo take on that tune.

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