All The Things You Might Be

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Apparently the great American songwriter Jerome Kern didn’t like Jazz at all. It’s ironic therefore that his tune All The Things You Are is such a favourite among Jazz musicians, sometimes played as it is and sometimes forming the underlying chord progression for some other tune. Here it is, sung by the sublime Ella Fitzgerald:

The first things you learn if you try to teach yourself something about how jazz works is that there are two basic forms: the Twelve-bar Blues and the Thirty-two-bar form built from an A section and a B section (the bridge) arranged AABA. It’s true that this gets you quite a long way but it doesn’t take you long to realize that many famous Blues are not based on 8 or 16 -bar cycle and many of those that are 12-bar blues don’t have the standard progression. Then you find out that some of the most well-known Jazz standards aren’t AABA either.

All The Things You Are is an example. The chorus of this tune actually consists of 36 bars in a A1A2BA3 form with two twists on the usual 32-bar AABA song-form: A2 transposes the initial A section down a fourth, while the final A3 section adds an extra four bars. The result is much easier to lose your way when you try to improvise but, on the other hand, provides a very rich framework within which to experiment. That’s obviously why Jazz musicians like it so much.

Here is a backing track for this tune that shows you the chords without the melody. Although I’m a fairly incompetent musician I love trying to play along to this sort of thing, playing the melody for one chorus to find your feet and then just letting the chords suggest possibilities. It’s tremendous fun and very rewarding if you do manage to play something original, even if it makes Jerome Kern turn in his grave.

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