Specifics Without Chords

All Blues wasn’t so bad since the bass riff defines the chords pretty well, the chords are well known, and there’s a counterpart that can run through the head.

Black Orpheus, Blue Bossa, and Straight No Chaser all work fine just harmonizing the melody.

My Funny Valentine needs the descending chromatic line for the Cm – maj7 – dom7 – 6, though the bass might do that with double-stops.  Throughout this piece it’s difficult because the melody often hangs on a suspended note, which means any chord-defining note (i.e. 3rd, 5th) will be dissonant and harmony will imply a rather unrelated chord.  So I lay out of the difficult measures, put in fills on the long notes (nice dim to 7b9 progression) and grab the chances for harmony in the odd measure that lends itself.  In the B section, I can parallel the bass by staying on the third through the Ebmaj7 – Fm7 – Gm7 – Fm7 sawtooths.

Misty starts off with 4 bars of filling arpeggios over the long notes, some harmony for a couple bars, and tight harmony in the B section.  Mostly it’s arpeggio fills.

Don’t Get Around Much Anymore is nice because you can harmonize both the melody and the answer for the first four bars, and then you get a nice long note where you can play the third and arrow it a half step up into a stop on the root of the next chord, then lay out until the melody returns in the first ending.  The B section is problematical because the melody is doing suspensions, so it’s probably best to lay out there or put in sparse fills.  I’m still looking for ideas on that.

Autumn Leaves is all about voice leading.  When the melody’s moving, nothing’s needed.  When the melody holds, the chords are circle of fourths, so I’ll pick the third on one and whatever note is conveniently close on the other.  So in the first two bars, Am – D7, I play E and F#; over Gmaj7 – Cmaj7 I play G and E.  Over F#dim – B I stay on D#.  On the last Emin I do some figure off G – F# – G – E.  I lay out eight bars and come in on harmony in the F#dim-B7b9 through the end.

When You Wish Upon A Star is awkward because the melody jumps around and hangs on suspensions.  I stick to the third in the first two bars, which means I cross from below to above the melody; play the fifth in the third bar (where the melody is on the third) and harmonize the half-step slide in the fourth.  I lay out the next 2 bars (suspensions) and do half notes in the 1st and 2nd ending.  The bridge actually gets the same treatment as the first four bars–half notes on the thirds, parallel the half-step slide.

Overall, it’s a heck of a lot easier on the up-tempo tunes.  But if this happens often enough it might be worth plotting out some of the empty stretches.

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