Composed by Sonny Rollins
Tenor Madness is one of the most popular blues tunes in jazz. In fact, if you’ve ever taken any jazz guitar courses in college, it’s probably one of the very first tunes you learn.
Sonny Rollins wrote and recorded this tune for the first time in 1956 on the album with the same name.
The Nuts and Bolts
There is nothing too crazy about this tune. It is a simple jazz blues in Bb and yes, sax players often call it at jam sessions!
The tune can be played at different tempos. Normally, players will take it at a medium-up tempo, but you can learn it slower and add your own chordal ornamentation.
As a rule of thumb with any tune, make sure you are ready to play it in a variety of tempos and settings. Also, be prepared to cover all the bases: comping, walking, melody and soloing.
Tenor Madness: Comping Ideas
Here are some very basic shapes that you can use to begin comping over Tenor Madness. As always, it’s highly recommended that you take these into the different sets of strings and all over the neck.
Tenor Madness: Chord Melody
This isn’t a chord melody so much as it is the melody with little chord stabs here and there. This is a nice thing to practice over melodies and your own improvisations as well. Check out our lesson on Straight, No Chaser for a nice comping etude over a blues.
Tenor Madness: Single-Note Solo
Here’s a quick chorus over the blues. The important thing to note is the use of the #9 to the 3rd of the chord. More simply, we are making use of going from the b3 to the 3 of the chord. This is common in blues language.
Tenor Madness: Backing Track
If you’d like to download the backing track, you can do so here.
Tenor Madness: Chord Reference Sheet
As always, we’ve included a chord reference sheet with some voicings using extensions for you to further your comping ability over this tune.
-Sonny Rollins’ Tenor Madness album recorded and released in 1956. This is the original recording and always a good reference.
-John Coltrane’s Birth of a Genius collection released in 2011. Trane is totally burning on this version. Great licks for transcribing here!
-Toots Thielemans’ Toots Thielemans Live album released in 1987. The legend himself. If you are unfamiliar with his work, this is a great introduction! What a player!
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.