“What Is This Thing Called Something Else?” – a playlist by Bob Hecht

April 19th, 2023



“Moose the Mooche,” a 1946 Charlie Parker composition, is an example of a contrafact.  The song’s melodic line is based on the chord changes in George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm.”








What Is This Thing Called  Something Else?

A Playlist of Contrafacts

by Bob Hecht


…..So many of the jazz tunes we know and love are in reality a kind of creative reworking of an existing composition, as opposed to the creation of an entirely new piece including both a new melody and a new harmonic structure.

…..Contrafacts, as such reworkings are called, are the product of writing a new melodic line over an existing set of chord changes, thereby disguising or sometimes completely obscuring the identity of the original piece.

…..So many of the ‘original’ jazz tunes we know and love are in reality based on other tunes.  Charlie Parker, for example, famously wrote innumerable lines on the changes of George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm,” including “Moose the Mooche” and “Dexterity.” Thelonious Monk wrote “In Walked Bud” based on Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies.” Parker wrote “Donna Lee” on “Indiana.” Tadd Dameron wrote “Hot House” on “What Is This Thing Caled Love.” And on and on.

…..In fact, that’s why I’ve called this playlist endeavor, “What Is This Thing Called Something Else?”

…..There are many online resources for this topic if you choose to investigate a little. Click here, for example, for a list of common contrafacts, and the bassist Steve Wallace has written extensively on the subject, which you can read by clicking here.

…..Writing a new line over existing changes offers a compositional shortcut for the composer, and the resulting piece offers the improviser a familiar harmonic structure on which to improvise. In addition, the composer of the new line is able to claim composer credit and royalties. The original composer’s copyright pertains only to the melody, not to the chord sequence.

…..I have assembled a contrafacts playlist, consisting of more than thirty standard tunes that have frequently been “contrafacted.” In each case, the playlist features a ‘straight’ rendition of the standard, followed by two alternative versions. (With some of these standards, of course, such as “Rhythm” or “All the Things,” there are many, many more alternative lines based on the original.)

….. There are several more online resources concerning contrafacts. With a little time looking around the Internet, I’m sure you can find many more.  Here are a few that I found:

Jazz Contrafacts and Reharmonization: A Creative Approach to Jazz Standards, by Eric O’Donnell (of the website Jazz Advice)

Contrafacts, by the guitarist Gilles Rea

Gary Smulyan – Alternative Contrafacts” – from the website  Jazz Profiles


And…here are the original tunes and their contrafacts in my playlist:


“Sweet Georgia Brown”
contrafacts: “Bright Mississippi” and “Sweet Clifford”

“All the Things You Are”
comtrafacts: “Prince Albert” and “Ablution”

“Out of Nowhere”
contrafacts: “Nostalgia” and “317 East 32nd Street”

“Embraceable You”
contrafacts: “A Bird in Hand” and “Quasimodo”

“I’ll Remember April”
contrafacts: “April” and “Salute to the Bandbox”

“I Got Rhythm”
contrafacts: “Lester Leaps In” and “Moose the Mooche”

contrafacts: “Donna Lee” and “Ice Freezes Red”

“What Is This Thing Called Love”
contrafacts: “Hot House” and “Fats Flats”

“Fine & Dandy”
contrafacts: “Keen & Peachy” and “Sax of a Kind”

contrafacts: “Koko” and “Parker 51”

“Lover, Come Back to Me”
contrafacts: “Bean & the Boys” and “Bird Gets the Worm”

“You Go to My Head”
contrafacts: “Hugo’s Head” and “Pasttime”

“Honeysuckle Rose”
contrafacts” “Let’s Call This” and “Marmaduke”

“Star Eyes”
contrafacts: “Capuchin Swing” and “Star Highs”

“You Stepped Out of a Dream”
contrafacts: “Chick’s Tune” and “Motion”

“There Will Never Be Another You”
contrafacts: “Not You Again” and “Split Kick”

“You’d Be So Nice to Come Home to”
contrafacts: “Feather Bed” and “G Minor Complex”

“Stompin’ at the Savoy”
contrafacts: “Byas a Drink” and “Relaxin’ with Lee”

“All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm”
contrfacts: “Little Willie Leaps” and “Reets and I”

“Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise”
contrafacts: “Walk, Don’t Run” and Soflee”

“Just You, Just Me”
contrafacts: “Spotlite” and “Evidence”

“Pennies from Heaven”
contrafacts: “Hi Beck” and “Lennie’s Pennies”

“September in the Rain”
contrafacts: “On a Misty Night” and “Marionette”

“Oh, Lady Be Good”
contrafacts: “Hackensack” and “Dewey Square”

“Look for the Silver Lining”
contrafacts: “Ear Conditioing” and “Two of a Mind”

contrafacts: “Vodka” and “Sunflower”

“All of Me”
contrafacts: “Background Music” and “Lineup”

“Strike Up the Band”
contrafacts: “Tale of the Fingers” and “Palo Alto”

contrafacts: “Stupendous” and “Victory Ball”

“A Foggy Day”
contrafacts: “Deep People” and “Froggy Day”

“Autumn Leaves”
contrafacts: “Some Other Autumn” and “Fall Colors”

“On Green Dolphin Street”
contrafacts: “The Green Street Caper” and “Green Is Mean”

“Alone Together”
contrafacts: “Swet Spot” and “Channeling”

“Lullaby of the Leaves”
contrafacts: “Denzil’s Best” and “Sosumi”

“Love for Sale”
contrafacts: “Ezz-Thetic” and “Encounter”



Here is the 105 song Spotify playlist…Enjoy!








Bob Hecht frequently contributes his essays, photographs, interviews, playlists and personal stories to  Jerry Jazz Musician.  He has a long history of producing and hosting jazz radio programs; his former podcast series, The Joys of Jazz, was the 2019 Silver Medal winner in the New York Festivals Radio Awards.






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