[Monday Notes No.58] Sunny is a 1966 Bobby Hebb song, a great Soul music classic. The very simple but effective harmonic progression has made the song enter the jazz repertoire. So it is often the case that Sunny is played in jam sessions, especially jazz-rock ones. Here is the analysis of the song and the music sheet.
In Joe Renzetti’s interesting arrangement the instruments enter one by one. At the beginning of the piece we hear only voice, bass and drums. Guitar and vibraphone join shortly after (0’09”) followed by saxophones (0’32”), second voices (1’02”) and brass (1’32”).
The song continues to increase in strength thanks to this tasteful arrangement and to a precise technical device: the song modulates three times, each time going up a semitone. The first verse is in the key of Em, the following verses are in Fm, F#m and the final verse reaches the key of Gm.
The harmonic progression of Sunny is very interesting and compact. The tonic chord Em seems to fight with the Cmaj7 chord built on the sixth degree of the minor scale. Although the root key is Em, the two chords are almost in balance and create a constant tension.
Il risultato è una progressione armonica molto dinamica, resa ancora più interessante dagli accordi di passaggio G7 e F7 che aggiungono al brano un carattere blues.
Try following the melody of the song and listen for the different colour of the song where these two chords are played: Em (I) and Cmaj7 (VI).
Sunny became popular among jazz musicians thanks to George Benson. The guitarist realised that this harmonic progression was also suitable for the jazz repertoire and in 1968 he made an instrumental version, adding to Bobby Hebb’s original version the only thing it lacked: improvisation.
Since then, George Benson has played this song very often during his concerts. Sunny thus became a jazz standard and many musicians continue to play it.
It’s a very fun piece, ideal for those who want to learn to improvise, especially using the pentatonic scale. If you’d like to try your hand at it, you can download the Sunny sheet music using the link below.
Until next Monday!