Jazz Classics Arranged For Cello

Here on this page you will find some classic jazz standards, transcribed and arranged for cello as the instrumental (melodic) protagonist.

“somebody played a wrong note …… and jazz was born”

We can find many metaphors from the natural world with which to compare the creation and development of musical styles. A tree (or a river), with its multiple branches, is quite good, but the concept of evolution is even better.

When Scott Joplin, Afro-American composer and pianist, created his new “Ragtime” musical style in the early 1900s, little could he know that this tiny new branch that he had placed on the tree of music would later not only grow into a huge and beautiful tree but would also multiply and diversify, creating ultimately a whole new tropical forest: the magnificent musical world of 20th-century popular music. Joplin’s fusion of dancing African folk rhythms and classical harmony ultimately gave rise to jazz, rock, pop, and all their multiple offshoots and variants, which are like new species that developed from a common ancestor. We can thank the Afro-American culture not just for jazz, but for the whole kaleidoscopic forest of 20th-century “popular” music.


Perhaps the most fundamental of the musical “mutations” that characterise jazz and differentiate it from Classical music are its rhythmical transformations. Basically, we are referring to a “loosening” of the rhythms, most notably through the abundance of syncopation. Also, the jazzy loosening and rounding of the sharp, tense, formal, rhythmical edges of so much classical music (that’s why it’s called “square”) is reflected in the predominance of underlying triplet subdivisions (compound time) even when the music is notated with binary (non-compound) time signatures.

If we want to give a four-square classically notated rhythm the loose, cool, dance and swing character of jazz, not only do we add syncopations but also we change it into compound time. To avoid complexities in the notation, and because “everybody” knows how to interpret the “swing” style, most jazz and pop music is notated with simple four-square binary rhythms but we usually need to “compound” (or “tripletise”) these rhythms if we don’t want the music to sound like Beethoven. Here are two examples from the jazz classic “Take Five“. Don’t be put off by the fact that this piece is in five: we are only looking here at the compound time subdivisions of the 8th note (quaver) movements:

This “loosening up” of rhythms was matched by a parallel loosening up of harmony but we won’t be talking about that on this website.

Here below are links to the cellofun editions of some classic jazz standards. Be aware that Bossa Nova, a particular style of jazz, developed in Brazil, has its own dedicated page (click on its highlighted link):

  1.   “Alone Together” (1932) by Arthur Schwartz
  2.   “Body and Soul” (1930) by Johnny Green
  3.   “Caravan” (1937) by Juan Tizol
  4.   “I Got Rhythm” (1930) and “Summertime” (1935) by George Gershwin
  5.   “Killing Me Softly” (1970) by Charles Fox
  6.   “Maria”, “Tonight” and “Somewhere” from “West Side Story” (1957) by Leonard Bernstein
  7.   “Moondance” (1970) by Van Morrison
  8.   “Stella By Moonlight” (1944) by Victor Young
  9.   “Take Five” (1959) by Paul Desmond and Joe Morello