Bemsha Swing

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This article is about the composition by Thelonious Monk. For the album by Woody Shaw, see Bemsha Swing (album).

"Bemsha Swing" (also known as "Bimsha Swing") is a jazz standard co-written by Thelonious Monk and Denzil Best.

The tune is 16 bars in the form of AABA. It is in 4/4 meter but is often played with a 2-feel.[1] The melody consists of a motif around a descending C Spanish phrygian scale (the A section) and a chromatic sequencing of the same motif a fourth higher on an F Spanish phrygian scale (the B section). The chordal movement by contrast suggests a C Major tonality rather than C Spanish phrygian, its relative minor f (melodic or harmonic), or its relative Major, A♭ Major. However, the song ends on a D♭maj7 (#11) rather than a C chord, a displacement which is characteristic of Monk compositions.

The song was first recorded by Monk on the sessions for the album Thelonious Monk Trio in 1952. It was later recorded with Monk as a sideman on the Miles Davis album Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants. Monk revisited the song on his acclaimed 1957 LP Brilliant Corners.

Free Jazz pianist Cecil Taylor covered the tune on his 1956 album Jazz Advance.

The funk rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers covered the song durng their 1989-90 Mother's Milk Tour, renaming their version "F.U." and adding some lyrics. A live version can be found on their Out In L.A. album. Their bassist, Flea, is a huge fan of Thelonious Monk.

In 1993, American jazz trio Medeski Martin & Wood covered the song with “Lively Up Yourself” by Bob Marley in one track, “Bemsha Swing-Lively Up Yourself,” for their album It's a Jungle in Here.

In 2002, jazz fusion guitarist Larry Coryell covered the song from his album Cedars of Avalon.[2][3]


  1. ^ The Thelonious Monk Fake Book, Steve Cardenas (transcriber), Don Sickler (editor). Hal Leonard, 2002, p. 9.
  2. ^ "Cedars of Avalon overview". 
  3. ^ "Cedars of Avalon". All About Jazz.