For this edition of Standards Re-Imagined I’m taking a look at the Hoagy Carmichael classic “I Get Along Without You Very Well.” Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone, Tony Bennett, Kristen Chenoweth, and Carly Simon are among those who have famously covered this song!
It’s fairly standard as a gigging jazz pianist, especially when playing solo, to repeat a song chart many times over. One of the great parts about re-harmonization is it can add layers to an otherwise repetitive progression. One of the methods used to do this is called the Diatonic Approach. This entails using chords within a song key (also known as diatonic) to alter the overall progression based on the notes used in the melody.
The Diatonic Approach is found most often in ascending quarter note melodies which makes “I Get Along Without You Very Well” a perfect candidate to be re-harmonized using this technique. Above is EXAMPLE 1A, the ending section of the verse ends as written. Now, look and listen to EXAMPLE 1B where the same section is re-harmonized using the Diatonic Approach method:
Musically this sounds almost entirely different. So how is the Diatonic Approach applied? First, choose what the target chord will be. This is usually the chord at the end of the phrase. In this case, it’s the chord used on the word “smile.” Then, choose which note of the scale, or scale degree, to harmonize diatonically. In the above example I chose to harmonize on the 2nd, also known in jazz terms as the 9th. Next we work backwards to the bar before and apply the harmonization choice I made for the “smile” chord on the chords in the previous measure. Because the note of G in an F7 chord is already the 9th, this chord already fits! To avoid too much movement, I skip the next note and move to the Bb note on the word “in.” Bb is the 9th in the Ab chord. Similarly, the C note on “your” is the 9th in Bb.
Now let’s take a look at the very end of the song in EXAMPLE 2A .
In the listening excerpt I’ve also included how the phrase turns around musically towards the beginning of the song. This ending is fulfilling for the actually ending, but what about for all the times it could potentially be repeated? Wouldn’t that satisfying ending get old? Here’s where the Diatonic Approach to re-harmonization can be used, as shown in EXAMPLE 2B.
I choose the word “two” with the Bb note as my target chord. I decide to use the 5th scale degree as the note I am going to re-harmonize. Then, I work backwards and choose the 5th scale degree of each note in the previous bar to re-harmonize them in a way that ultimately leads to an unresolved ending that can be used alternatively in a scenario where the song is played over and over.
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