i was thinking about rhythm changes the other day.  every tuition book, teacher, poster, experienced pro seems to postulate that rhythm changes are as mandatory to learn at the outset as blues.

however, with the exception of oleo that gets called occasionally (normally at a billion miles an hour!), i can't remember having to play rhythm changes on a gig or at a jam session more than a handful of times in the last 5 years.

i also moved from one end of the country to the other, so it's not just the case in the city where i live (although i am wondering if it's just a u.k. thing)

now there are a lot of common devices in rhythm changes, the i-vi-ii-v progression is very common and the cycle of dominants happens in the bridge of a good few tunes it's true, but does this warrant the importance bestowed on rhythm changes by almost everyone?

two questions really: firstly, do you guys play rhythm changes tunes on gigs regularly and, secondly, do you think rhythm changes are still as important to the beginner as they used to be?  

for me personally, i think their importance is overstated as many of the tunes that use this sequence just don't get played around here any more.  i can see how there were a million tunes that used these changes in the past, but i'm not sure how relevant they are in the wider context of what gets played on most bandstands today.

there's no doubt that being able to get round rhythm changes will make you a better player and it certainly won't do you any harm to study them, but should we still be telling beginners that they should focus on these changes as a priority?

i'll be really interested to hear your thoughts.
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interesting.  i when to a local jazz gig two nights ago and ended up sitting in.  (which i had not done in years) the first thing they called was rhythm changes in bb!  i'm glad i was sort up on em:)

i view 12-bar blues, rhythm changes, and such, kinda like learning major scales.  i very rarely play major scales on gigs, but i think i benefit greatly by having them under my belt - both physically and conceptually - and it paid off the other night.

on the flip side, although i recommend that my students  get comfortable with rhythm changes, i very rarely see this goal all the way through during the lessons - too many other things to cover - i figure they don't really need me for that - they can do that on their own time ..hmmm
i agree that saying "that rhythm changes are as mandatory to learn at the outset as blues".  is a gross over statement of the fact.  i teach rhythm changes fairly soon after the blues for a different reason.  i ussually do not even teach the blues until i have been teaching someone for quite some time.. teaching fundamentals for quite sometime along with some method books.  when i finish this i start teaching theory and compostion and jazz and blues.  improvisation i consider the same thing as composition and treat it as such.  the blues is the easiest and most sensible place to introduce improvisation and composition and jazz theory.  from there rhythm changes are just a logical place to go .. to teach many concepts.  for the concept in jazz of how we compose over a certain set of chord changes already created by another composer as in rhythm changes.  no other tune makes the point like rhythm changes.
   so my point is i do not teach them because they are the most called tune on gigs... you are right they are not,  but i teach them early on for the above reasons... they contain all the elements you need to teach jazz theory and composition.
but now that you mention it i am going to go practice rhytm changes because it reminds me i have not for quite a while and i would be caught with my pants down if someone calls them on a gig.  lol.
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