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Discussion Starter #1
I've got quite some trouble on how to improvise on "Autumn Leaves" (transposed it for alto sax) .

I haven't started playing it yet, but I'm trying to find out how the song is built up. I just can't learn to improvise from just the chords, as they can be in any key! So, what I need to know is: in what key are we in that progression, etc. I think, that it starts on a simple II-V-I progression, but it's till there that I get.

Then you have this odd (for me) GMaj7 chord that goes nowhere (yeah it's the fifth grade of the previous one, but does that happen often, a II-V-I-V-bI or *whatever¨* progression?) I don't know what the composer goes into then. Are there a lot of other jazz progressions that I don't know about? If so, how do I learn to recognize them?

I think he's fiddling a little bit with relative minors or something, and chromatic passages (e.g. Dbm7b5 to F7 and the Bm7, which is the relative minor of DMaj7)
What I'm trying to say: I can't make up a decent solo if I just got the chords, I need a scale! You can interpret these chords in many different ways, unless you can see them in their context, but it's the CONTEXT I just don't seem to distinguish...
 

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Here's a look at a basic way to look at the harmony of this tune:

You context is correct -
It's II V I's in major then in relative minor

For example:
Key of D on alto ( a very common key for this tune is concert F )
II-V-I-IV ( E-7-A7-DM7-GM7) ( normal modes in D )
then to relative minor
ii7b5-V7-i (C#-7b5 F#7b9 B-) ( most basic scale that covers these is B harmonic minor )

Descending thing at the end of the bridge is only difference.
(B- Bb7 |A- Ab7 GM7 |)
Bb7 moving to A- is b2 sub for V7 so it's more or less like E7b9b5 to A-
Ab7 moving to GM7 is b2 sub for V7 so it's more or less like D7b9 b5 to GM7
Lots of choices on this part.

------------------------------
A section
E-7 | A7 | DM7 | GM7 | C#-7b5 |F#7b9| B- |B-

(nice substitution on A section in bar 3 and 4 here is this:
E-7 | A7 | Eb-7 Ab7 | D-7 G7 | C#-7b5 |F#7b9| B- |B- )

B section
C#-7b5 |F#7b9| B- |B-
E-7 | A7 | DM7 | GM7 |
C#-7b5 |F#7b9| B- Bb7 |A- Ab7
GM7 | F#7b9| B- |B- |
 

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I'm sure others can quote chapter and verse on which scales go where, but I think the best context is the melody; start with that when improvising.

Specifically on chords, are you quoting them in concert key or alto key? The default changes in your link are a little messed up -- try the same link ending in "transp=12" for Eb instruments (but the playback will be off -- equiv. to a piano reading alto sax music! "transp=3" will play it in the right key). Note that by "right" key I mean the key in which it's most commonly played, which is G minor concert or E minor for an alto sax.

And the chord at the start of the 9th bar (E7 in transp=12) is definitely a mistake. That whole bar should be Am7 in that key. I think that may be the out-of-place chord you're referring to.

Good luck!
 

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Jebtha said:
And the chord at the start of the 9th bar (E7 in transp=12) is definitely a mistake. That whole bar should be Am7 in that key. I think that may be the out-of-place chord you're referring to.

Good luck!
"Should be Am7 in that key" I think you may have meant E-7. I've never heard it played as you suggest.
Also, the B7 that is incorrectly in that bar could be in the last 2 beats of bar 8 . Probably what they intended.
 

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Pgraves said:
Should be Am7 in that key" I think you may have meant E-7. I've never heard it played as you suggest.
Also, the B7 that is incorrectly in that bar could be in the last 2 beats of bar 8 . Probably what they intended.
By Am7 I mean A minor 7.. in your suggested key of B minor for alto, E minor 7 is correct; in mine (E minor for alto as Cannonball and Miles played it) A minor 7 is correct.

And you're right, that chord could be played on the last two beats of bar 8.
 

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Harri Rautiainen said:
Think of the lyrics and get in the mood.
(I am saying the same as Grumps and that is getting me worried. :) )
YES! To both Grumps and Harri!

Learn the melody, sing the melody, remember the key signature.
The rest tones for the first 2 stanzas occurr at:

Leaves-Window-leaves-Gold

Lips- kisses-hands- hold

No matter what key you are in!!!

The rest tones are all part of the chord, Every other note is a good note and the ones in between are not bad if you don't stay on them too long. From this point you can play the melody, harmonize the melody, expand variations on a theme(a la Oscar Petersen) or improvise.

IF WHAT YOU PRACTICE IS RUNNING SCALES AND CHORDS OVER CHANGES YOUR JAZZ PLAYING WILL SOUND LIKE? RUNNING SCALES AND CHORDS.....
 

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Listen to Cannonball's version.
Cannonball Adderley - Somethin' Else (Blue Note BLP 1595)
http://www.amazon.com/Somethin-Else...7583352?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1179183504&sr=1-1

Yes, melody is most basic improv underpinning,
but plenty of ideas build around both melody and harmony from Cannonball, Stitt and Ammons.
One of the best albums ever.

Boss Tenors: Straight Ahead from Chicago 1961
http://www.amazon.com/Boss-Tenors-Straight-Ahead-Chicago/dp/B00000478H
This one has the chromatic substitution I mentioned.
Nice little thing that makes it a bit more than a one key tune.


Sound clips on both on Amazon
 

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I'm sure I've got a transcription of the Ammons and Stitt solos from that track somewhere - I can't remember offhand what book it's in.
Ammons's bluesy inflections are slightly harder to notate accurately, but both solos are gold-standard examples of how to approach those changes.

it's only a pity that all the aebersold versions don't swing like Jug & Sonny. :(

-A-
 

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Discussion Starter #13
When I hear the tune, I can immediately think of an improvisation on it, it's really weird. Yes, improvising on it by ear is also great, but I think I can make my solo's more consistent and, have a wider "vocabulary" if I know how the song is made... Thanks for the replies, all!!!


Btw, yesterday I looked again, and is it me, or is this song LOADED with II-V-I's??

edit: Indeed, Aebersold makes really useful records, but when he does I think a lot of the song is lost. "So What" e.g, it doesn't have the serenity that the original record has. And one thing that I know: playing along with Aebersold is good for learning the chords and scales used in the song, but when I play with a band, there is this atmosphere, which inspires me A LOT. I get fed up with playing "So What" Aebersold's version (always the same licks and phrases), and then when I get in the band I think of something completely new!
 

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Autumn Leaves was written as a lush ballad. Learn it that way first (without the Roger Williams arpeggios, however). Once you can play it as the composer intended, then you can stretch.

Autumn Leaves is one of those tunes with several "standard" keys. G minor and E minor are the two most common.

It's also one where just calling a key signature can be confusing. Players almost always noodle the first few notes of the melody to communicate the key. If they don't, I always ask them to. At least half the time, the key they play it in is not the key they name. Or the key they name is not the one the rhythm section starts playing in. And that includes experienced players. The tune is a train wreck waiting to happen.

Here are some changes I learned from Buddy DeFranco when he was featured at a club where I was playing piano many years ago. In G minor:

Cm7 / / / | F7 / / / |
Bm7 / E7 / | Bbm7 / Eb7 / |
Am7 / / / | D7 / / / | ...

This substitution requires the melody line to descend from a D to a Db in the 4th measure. Or just break off the D after the 3rd measure and rest in the 4th.
 

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Anyone heard Wynton Marsalis' Album Standard Time that he plays autumn leaves on? Each measure of the A section is in a different time signature. 1/1, 2/2, 3/2, 4/4,5/4, 6/8,7/8, and then the bridge is a hard swining 4/4.
It's killer!

On another note, I am glad to see everybody in this thread knows this tune is in Gmin and not Emin like the real book. It is kind of a pet peave of mine when people don't know standards in the right key. For instance Green Dolphin Street Should be in Eb not C like it is in the Real book. I am not saying that it's wrong to play a tune in any key you wish, in fact this is very good practice. I'm just saying that we should make an effort to learn more tunes from recordings and not fake books. Most people I play with never even realized that Trane played Equinox in Db minor or that Fredie Hubbard wrote Red Clay in Db minor.
 

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I think these transpositions originated from the original real book.
Whoever made it took alto charts and inserted then as is as concert parts.
Green Dolphin Street in C, that's the alto chart that they didn't bother to untranspose. There are lots of others like that. Also some tenor key charts.
Whatever happened to the standards for standards?
 

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I believe a bass player named Steve Swallow is who put the Real Books together. I don't think he was going for a lot of accuracy. It's also the only reason any of his tunes are in the book.
 

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Autumn Leaves is often played in E minor because in G minor, the popular jazz key, the upper range is uncomfortable for male vocalists and trumpet players who want to stay in the staff, and in D minor the lowest note (A below the staff) is also uncomfortable for the average male vocalist.

The so-called "original" would be the key in which the original sheet music is published, which I haven't seen but is probably the same key as the Roger Williams piano hit, which I think is D minor, at least in the first chorus.
 

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paulbrodt said:
On another note, I am glad to see everybody in this thread knows this tune is in Gmin and not Emin like the real book. It is kind of a pet peave of mine when people don't know standards in the right key. For instance Green Dolphin Street Should be in Eb not C like it is in the Real book.
Actually, I think Green Dolphin's original key (as in, sheet music from the show tune) is C. Miles played it in Eb, so that became standard practice. Like you say, it's great to know it in both keys, or every key while we're at it.

Similarly, I think Stella by Starlight's original key is G, and the original first chord is Gdim. It's just standard now to play it in Bb, and to sub a minor ii-V of iii for the i diminished chord.

Regardless, there comes a point when you have to be able to play just about every standard in every key. We have to play with singers, after all, or how many gigs would we have? (How many gigs do we have anyway? :|)
 
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