This beautiful bossa nova led the way for the greater influx and influence of Brazilian music into the world of jazz (on the left are pictures of the composer’s original manuscript, and the original girl from Ipanema, Helo Pinheiro). I learned so much about harmony and the relationship of harmony to melody by playing and studying the music of its composer, Antonio Carlos Jobim, so I guess you could say that my interest in reharmonization had some roots in this inspiration.
Although the tune itself is as light and airy as a tropical breeze, the lyrics reveal a melancholy over the unlikely odds of ever knowing this beautiful woman (“…she never sees me…,” “…But I watch her so sadly…how can I tell her I love her…, “…Yes, I would give my heart gladly…”). You get the idea, and so this reharmonization tried to reflect more of that sadness by replacing the original’s F Maj7 chords with related Amin7 or Dmin7 chords. The Cmaj7 in measure #9 only has a major quality for two beats, for the ascending 5th to #5 alludes to the relative A minor heard at the beginning of the tune. This ascending inner voice also provides contrast to the descending inner voice leading in measures #3 and 4, and for what’s soon to come.
I’ve always loved the bridge of this song, and so some of those chords still appear untouched at the beginning of their respective measures (#19, 21, 23, 25, and 27). However, to add contrast I accelerated the harmonic rhythm…first with the cliche, but strong voice leading of Root, Maj 7th, minor 7th (first seen in measures #3 and 4), followed by the minor 6th. By substituting the relative minor of the original bridge’s opening Maj 7th chord in measure #17 (now an Eb minor chord), this harmonic pattern plays out through the bridge’s entire ascending melodic motif. Each time the minor cliche has run its course, it is followed by new descending chords moving at the same pace, that have the long melody note as a common tone. The final four bars of the bridge avoid the original’s standard III-VI-II-V turnaround with descending chords (again) moving in contrary motion to the ascending melody. The harmonic rhythm accentuates the melody’s quarter note triplet polyrhythm, even taking it one step further by grouping the triplets into two note pairs…a polyrhythm of the polyrhythm.
Measure #40’s E+7b9 chord would only be played as a turnaround back to the beginning. I play an opening vamp on A minor for an intro, and have experimented with returning to the vamp in measure #15, before playing the following E+7b9 chord and then moving on to the bridge. In the same way, the vamp could also be inserted at measure #39. I also have liked doubling the harmonic rhythm of measure #32, playing one measure each for the G#min7 and A13#11 chords. Enjoy!
The lead sheet seen below is a JPEG file and will not print well. For a printable PDF, click here: Girl From Ipanema
Also, there was an error in the first publishing of this post. The Eb13 chord in measure #7 has been replaced with an EbMaj13 (5-10-13).