How to Analyze Jazz Standards. The Berklee Method – mDecks Music

Let me show how to analyze the jazz standard Recorda-Me.

You can find the final analysis, along with 1300+ other jazz standards fully analyzed in The Jazz Standards Progressions Book by mDecks Music

I’ll show you the process we go through when we create an analysis of a jazz standard.

The harmonic progression in Recorda-me seems pretty simple at first glance.

Recorda-me Chord Progression

The first chord is Am7, and the key signature, with no flats, indicates we could be in C major or A minor. If we look at the first chord, it’s an Am, and the last chord in the song is E7 – the V7 of a minor. So everything is pointing to the key of A minor.

So let’s set the map up to the key of A minor and add the I minor. The first thing to notice is that the i minor is paired with the melodic minor scale by default.

Remember, in jazz the best scale to use over a I minor is the melodic minor. You get the natural 6th and natural 7th, which are great notes to use on a I minor.

But look closer at the chord symbol and the melody in the chord progression: It says Am7, and the melody lands on F# both pointing at an A minor Dorian scale.

Then we must choose the correct chord-scale for this chord, and luckily for us, Mapping Tonal Harmony offers a Dorian scale on a I minor.

Now, the next chord is Cm7, which clearly doesn’t belong in the key of A minor. It is true it could be the sub/V (shown in the picture) but this chord should eventually target the V7, which is not what’s happening here.

The sub/V in A minor is a Cm7

This Cm7 is functioning as the ii of Bb. In fact, we can see a 2-5-1 in the key of Bb: Cm7 F7 Bbmaj7.

This could only be a direct modulation – probably to the key of Bb. So, let’s see what happens if we do that. I’ll add a direct modulation to the key of Bb and enter iim7 – which is Cm7, a V7 here (the F 7,) and the Imaj7, which is Bbmaj7.

So far, so good. Now, the chord still makes sense in the key of Bb. A ii – V of the bVII, borrowed from the minor, and resolving as expected to the bVIImaj7. This is a very common move – turning the Imaj7
into a minor chord, which becomes the ii/bVII – as you can see indicated by the headless arrow that Mapping Tonal Harmony is showing.

Direct modulation to Bb major (measure 5)

Now the same trick will take us to the bVI. The bVIImaj7 turns into a m7, making it the ii/bVI. So this is a simple ii – V of bVI. Abm7 – Db7 – Gbmaj7 (the bVI in the key of Bb,) and now a ii – V of V. Also very standard, except this Fmaj7 should be an F7 – if we’re staying in Bb – since the V is a dominant chord.

So this must be a modulation to F, which is also very common – modulating to the key of the V.

So we can insert the Gm7 as the ii/V in the key of Bb. The C7 is the V7/V in the key of Bb, and then it is used as a pivot chord, turning into the V7 of the new key. So let’s change to the key of F on the C7. And there it is.

The C7 is now a pivot chord. It was the V7/V in the key of Bb, and it is now functioning as the V7 in the new key of F. And the last chord is an E7#9 which is theV7/iii in the key of F.

Now, since we’re going back to the key of A minor – at the beginning of the song – we can add a new pivot chord modulation right here – on the E7#9. So let’s change to the key of A minor and the E7 is now functioning as theV7 in the new key.

You must be thinking: “Great! That’s the analysis!”
Actually, this is where it gets interesting, because if we look at the melodic structure of the song, something stands out right away, which will make this analysis ok, but not perfect. If we take a closer look at the melody – on the Am7 – it’s sequenced on the Cm7.

So, this is clearly a transposition of both the melody and the harmony. Look, the first note is the natural 13 – an F# in Am7 – and an A natural on the Cm7, which implies Dorian for both chords. And all the rest of the notes are the same degrees against their current chord. OK, I can hear you thinking: “So what? Everything looks good. The Am7 says Dorian, and the Cm7 says Dorian also. We modulated to Bb – right on the Cm7 – which agrees with the melodic line being a transposition. Everything looks right to me!”

Well, not quite. When we look at the melody…
The transposition is a minor 3rd up, but our modulation was from A minor to Bb major.
And even worse, we’re modulating from a minor key to a major key. But nothing changed, if we look at the melody against the harmony.

But the worst problem is that the Am7 is playing the role of the tonic here, and the Cm7 is playing the role of the iim7. This is a red flag that we absolutely cannot ignore.

So, my first intuition was to reconsider this Am7 as also being a iim7, which implies we’re in the key of G major. Then the Dorian scale makes total sense – with Am7 being the iim7. Also, the song modulates to Bb, which is a minor 3rd up exactly as the melody does. But… there’s always a but… where’s the G chord? How could we be in G without a G chord ever being played, not to mention, there’s no D7 from the dominant region!

How can we be in the key of G major without ever playing a chord in the tonic region, or the dominant region. Well, we can’t! So what’s going on here? Actually, the issue is that we’re trying to fit the section of the song into a tonal setting, and this song is modal in the first eight bars.

It only changes to a tonal progression after this F7. What’s confusing is that, at the end of the song, we have this E7#9, which is the V7 in the key of A minor. And a V7 in a minor key implies that we’re in a tonal piece of music. Had we been in Dorian throughout the entire song, the V chord would have been a m7 chord.

This is where we can push the limits a bit of Mapping Tonal Harmony Pro, and take it into modal music.

So the Am7 was a Dorian im7 chord, and then the Cm7 is a direct modulation to C Dorian, which I can do simply by adding a direct modulation to C minor, and inserting the im7 with the Dorian scale. And Mapping Tonal Harmony is now showing a direct modulation from a i minor Dorian to another minor Dorian. See? We have never moved outside our home- the tonic – which is actually a Dorian tonic. When we arrived at the F7, we should already be in the key of Bb, and in a tonal setting. So let me simply repeat the Cm7 on the first two beats of this bar (here,) and insert a pivot chord modulation from the key of C minor to the key of Bb major. The Cm7 was the one minor in C Dorian, and will now become the iim7
in the key of Bb. It’s still a Dorian sound, but should now be reinterpreted as a iim7 in the key of Bb. Now the map clearly represents the harmonic progression.

Recorda-me harmonic analysis as shown in The Jazz Standards Progressions Book by mDecks Music

Remember, the first section is modal, and the second is tonal. And here we can see the paths to the bVII, that turns into a m7, taking us to the bVI chord which – as I said before – you’ll find in so many tunes.

Okay, I hope this was helpful. And it’s also showing all the work we do to create the analyses of the songs in the The Jazz Standards Progressions Book.

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