Hello again. I’ve been really interested in solo guitar lately. Since starting my regular solo piano gig, I’m very interested in how different players play standards in a solo context, especially guitarists. I think the limitations of the instrument lead to some really unique ways of expressing harmony. So here’s a few of the things that drew me to this recording.
First, the walkup in bars 5-6 and 21-22. Functionally, this is all just trying to get you to IV in measure 8. A typical walkup would be something like: I IMaj7 iimin7 I iiimin7 IVMaj7 I vmin7 I bVII7 I IVMaj7I. In DMaj, this is: I DMaj7 Emin7 I F#min7 GMaj7 I Amin7 I D7 I GMaj7I. So, between the DMaj7 and the Amin7, you’re just walking up the scale degrees of DMaj using seventh chords diatonic to the key. A lot of the time, with this tune, people replace the GMaj7 with a ii-V leading you to Amin7 – so you end up with I DMaj7 Emin7 I F#min7 Bmin7 E7 I Amin7 I D7 I GMaj7I – which also works because you end up with a iii-VI-ii-V in GMaj, and the harmony fits the melody (very important). However, Bernstein follows the F#min7 with Abmin7, and it’s funny how much difference just one chord can make when it’s counter to expectations. By replacing the IVMaj7 with bVmin7, the walkup becomes I IMaj7 iimin7 I iiimin7 bVmin7 I vmin7 I and you end up with a neat half step approach to the vmin7 chord.
Secondly, the progression from bar 8 into 9 and 24 into 25. Instead of a traditional ii-V to VIMaj7 (Amin7 to D7 to GMaj7), Bernstein inserts not only the tritone of V7 (Ab7), but its iimin7 as well (Ebmin7). And instead of using the tritone as a substitution to the original changes, he uses it in addition to the existing ii-V, so the entire progression turns from what would be Amin7-D7-GMaj7 into Amin7-D7-Ebmin7-Ab7-GMaj7. Plus, the little sideslip to Bb7 (tritone sub for E7, V7 of Amin) before the Amin7 adds just a little more root movement into the mix to keep things interesting.
Nextly (not a word, but I like it), Bernstein’s use of triads in measure 9-10. The progression at this point is GMaj7 to Db7, but by treating the GMaj7 as GMaj7(#5) and the Db7 as Db13(b9), the triads at the top of the chords end up being B/G to Bb/Db, giving a really satisfying half step resolution on top.
Lastly, measure 17. I wrote the chord symbol as G#dim7, since there’s a G# in the bass, but I think a better way of thinking about this chord would be as Ddim7. Although Bernstein doesn’t resolve it to DMaj7, this is a nice technique for creating some additional harmonic motion where there typically wouldn’t be. By treating a IMaj7 as Idim7->IMaj7, a chord that would normally be a resting point has some added movement to it. Plus, not to get too technical, but the way Bernstein voices the chord suggests G#WH diminished, and that scale contains C#dim7, which is a sub for A7(b9), so you can think of it as a V7->IMaj7, if you really want to overthink it. And isn’t that what jazz theory is all about? I think the substitution works well here because, even though meas 17 is typically a cadence point, resting on IMaj7, it’s halfway through the form of the tune, so even though it’s a resting point, there’s still that forward movement to the end of the tune. But enough overthinking.
About the transcription – I tried to make it guitar friendly, so everything’s written 8VA, to fit in treble clef. Also, rather than trying to be rhythmically accurate to what Bernstein was playing, which is difficult with a rubato treatment, I tried to be metrically accurate to the form of the tune, so some things may be stretched or compressed from how Bernstein played them so they would fit into the 32 bar form, since I was interested in looking at how what Bernstein played compares to the “typical” harmony, if you can say there is such a thing. And I left off his intro and started at the top of the form which is about 18 seconds in. That all being said, enjoy!