‘Happy Birthday’ in Jazz (updated)

(Note: also check out my new and original Happy Birthday version.)

I was thinking about how to play ‘Happy Birthday’ with a jazz feel and with typical jazz harmonies. I found it at first really difficult to put the standard I-IV-V chords into a more open form with IIm7-V7 progressions. I kept on thinking about and trying different things. Finally I a found a form which sounds jazz-like, yet still natural to me. I sat down and recorded a version this weekend .. sorry, I sang again (of course you need vocals for ‘Happy Birthday’!). The solo instrument is the great Guitalele from Yamaha (illustrated on the image to the left). It is very small, however, since it has six strings, it can be seen as a hybrid between a normal guitar and a Ukulele (which only has four strings). The song also features me on the samba egg.

And by the way, have you thought about this? You know somebody who has birthday? Here is the great idea: Make him happy and send him a link on this post 😉 !

I was contacted by Artem Galitsyn who arranged a big-band style Jazz version with a great femal singer and lyrics in Russian :) ! He kindly allowed me to put his version here online:

For people who are interested in the chords:


|| Gmaj7 Am7 | Bm7 Bb13 | Am7 | D9 |
| Am7 | D9 | Gmaj7 C#dim | Gmaj7 |
| Dm7 | G7 | Cmaj7 | F9(#11) |
| Em7 A7 | Am7 D7 | Gmaj7 Bbmaj7 | Ebmaj7 Abmaj7 ||

Lead sheet online @ wikifonia: I put this Happy Birthday jazz version also online to the website wikifonia which is a collection a lot of publicly available leadsheets. This is a great website. There you are able to download a nicely layouted pdf version of the leadsheet, you can also transpose it automatically, and download the music file itself!

Lead sheet 2: Thanks to Roger (see his comment below)! He send me a lead sheet for Happy Birthday in jazz that you can download :-) !

18 Comments

  1. Ralf says:

    Hi Alex,

    bin gerade im Internatecafe und hoere deine Happz Bdaz Version. Sehr entspannend und schoen. Wuensche Dir auch bald einen schoenen Geburtstag und fuers neue Lebensjahr alles Gute.

    Wenn Du mal nach Muenchen kommst, dann besuch mich doch mal

    Gruss aus Phuket, Ralf

  2. Louis says:

    Bo ey!!!

    Das issn Ding!!! :clap:

    Klasse !!! Klasse !!! Klasse !!!

    Du verstehst es, einem die Löffel zu verzaubern!!!

    Komm mich auch in München besuchen, ja ? Bitte! Bitte!

    brauchst nur das *f* weglassen und durch *ph* ersetzen 😉

  3. Lzuke says:

    Hej, so good… Just using it on piano, not the easiest thing for a classic pianist, but it´s slowly coming, but soo good. I´m glad that ive found this chords, no where you find anything like this, just the basic stuff like “E, H and A” nothing more…

    Thanks…

  4. Alex says:

    Thanks :-) .. I’m happy that you enjoy it. Yeah, I also only found the basic stuff out there, that’s why I thought it should be nice to share these chords.

    best
    Alex

  5. Roger says:

    Thanks so much. Just wrote out a swing arrangement for my trio and your progression was really helpful. Maybe I’ll paste the PDF up somewhere.

  6. Alex says:

    Hi Roger! Thanks for your lead sheet, I just uploaded and linked it on the website!

  7. Another Alex says:

    Thank you so much for these chords!
    I just wrote them all down on a sticky note and got to work. I made a few changes, because I haven’t had piano lessons for a while, but these chords are just great!

    So from one 14 year Alex to a slightly older Alex, Thank you.

  8. Alex says:

    Hi Alex :-) ! Thanks for your comment, I’m glad that you liked the chords!!!

  9. Scott says:

    Awesome job, mate! These chords are beautiful!
    I’ll be playing them for many birthdays to come.

  10. Alex says:

    Hey Scott! Thanks a lot and great to hear that! That’s exactly what you should do .. happy happy-birthdaying :) ! Alex

  11. Jim C says:

    The link for:
    Lead sheet 2: Thanks to Roger (see his comment below)! He send me a lead sheet for Happy Birthday in jazz that you can download :-) !

    http://www.alexklaeser.de/2010/09/happy-birthday-in-jazz/wp-content/Happy%20Birthday%20jazz%20-%20leadsheet.pdf

    gave the dreaded “Welcome to 404 error page!”

    I would love to see the leadsheet.

  12. Alex says:

    @Jim C
    Thanks for the hit, I fixed the link, now it works!
    best, Alex

  13. Jim C says:

    Your new linked worked great! I look forward to playing it with friends… for friends.

    I need to provide leadsheets for instruments in various keys, so I will type it up for us anyway. Should I post those versions here? I would give arranger Klaser-L’Hereault credit along with composers Patty Hill and Mildred J. Hill.

  14. Alex says:

    @Jim C
    Check out the wikiphonia-Link, there your can download even the leadsheet itself which you will be able to modify with the free software musescore (download at http://musescore.org/). Sure, if you have a nice arrangement, I’ll be happy to put it online, just let me know :) .
    best, Alex

  15. simone says:

    hello! great work, I will use your chords with my wife when we play!!

  16. Fred Ryan says:

    I do weekly jazz shows on local community radio here in Ireland. Of the two shows I do one is in support of the local hospital. Both shows are volunteer and non-profit.

    Would you be willing to give me an mp3 to let me use your fine rendition on my show. It would be used to wish Happy Birthday on behalf of listeners from time to time? Would be happy to give acknowledgement.

    Regards,
    Fred Ryan
    +353 87 8101943

  17. Thank you so much! This is a beautiful and accessible arrangement. I will gladly be playing this for my choir members and loved ones now!

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September 9, 2010 Music