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Can't understand why this chord change works...

Posted by jjjtttggg 
Can't understand why this chord change works...
March 27, 2017 08:41PM
Hi all...

New here, hoping somebody can help me.

I'm trying to understand why a chord change works in the showtune/jazz standard "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face".
In the second half of the song (first verse words "I was serenely independent and content before we met, surely I could always stay that way again and yet." The chords as notated in the transcription I have are | Ab6 D7 | Eb C7+ | Fm7 Bb7 | G+ C7+ |. Each chord covers half a measure which is exactly 4 syllables (8th notes) of the words, beginning with the Ab6 on the "-rene-" of serenely. The first three syllables are pick up notes over an Eb6.

The song is in Eb, so the sequence is | IV6 VII7 | I VI7+ | ii7 V7 | III+ VI7+ |.

It seems likely to me the I in measure two is really a iii+, which makes the rest of the phrase make good sense, as does the rest of the song that follows. What I can't make any sense of, though, is VII7 coming after the IV. It works very logically ahead of the next chord (whether it's a I or a iii+, either way it works), but I can't understand the IV - VII7. It sounds good in the song. Anybody here have any ideas as to why, from a theory perspective?

Any insights appreciated, as it is really bugging me!

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/27/2017 08:43PM by jjjtttggg. (view changes)
Re: Can't understand why this chord change works...
March 28, 2017 12:20AM
When you strip out all the augs, dims, 6ths and 7ths, and bearing in mind that, as you say, that I has a strong 1st inv feel about it, meaning it's easy to see it as a iii, and until the last bar when it breaks down, they're basically all V-I (or v-I or V-i) cadences. However, as it happens, the specific case of the first interval, the IV to VII, is the only interval in the major scale that has a 4th spread over a tritone, so it's not actually a perfect cadence but in all other ways it fits into the repeating ascending 4ths (or descending 5ths) progression.

You get the same in the minor key; check out Parisienne walkways, in Am: Am - Dm - G - C - F - Bdim (rather than B flat) ....... <- that last interval is the tritone; it's the VI - ii, which if you take the relative major of Am, which is C major, would be the IV-VII again. You're always going to get that tritone somewhere otherwise you'd need to go round all 12 keys before you landed on the tonic again; Parisienne Walkways tackles the tritone at the end of the progression; Accustomed to her Smile tackles it at the beginning.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/28/2017 12:41AM by Viz. (view changes)
Re: Can't understand why this chord change works...
March 29, 2017 06:12AM
Thanks! That makes great sense. I'm especially interested in the idea that there's got to be a tritone somewhere to avoid cycling through all twelve keys. Seems obvious now that you've said it, but I hadn't occurred to me! I'm looking forward to exploring different progressions with that in mind.

Thanks again...

Re: Can't understand why this chord change works...
March 29, 2017 12:30PM
Awse, good luck :) .......
Re: Can't understand why this chord change works...
April 04, 2017 03:22PM
Perhaps I could add an alternate interpretation to the Ab6 D7 / Eb question?

I don't think the Ab6 much at all leads the ear toward the D7. Rather, I think the chord progression "works" because the D7 leads the ear to the Eb, which is one place the Ab6 would most lovingly like to go.

In the key of Eb, the Ab6 is acting as a ii chord (equivalent to an Fm triad, although the composer asks that it be voiced as a first inversion chord). By it's very nature as a ii chord, it is unresolved and is pulling the listener forward to something else. It requests resolution, and that resolution comes by way of the Eb chord (the I chord) in the following bar. Now the question becomes how to get from the ii back to the I. The D7 enters as a deceptive cadence.

Although it is not written, the D7 will likely have a sharp eleven (a G#). It's there whether stated or not due to the tonal key center of Eb. Under normal circumstances, a D7, acting as a five chord, would lead the ear to a G chord. (And one could even consider the Eb to be a chord substitution for the G chord, but I don't think that is our best interpretation.) Instead, the D7 with a sharp eleven has divorced itself entirely from any direction for resolution. This is the nature of the sharp eleven. It can quite literally resolve to any chord.

Additionally, we could interpret the D7 as a chord substitution, harmonically at least, for a Bb7+, which would contain the Ab (G#) as well as the F# used by our friendly D7. And the Bb7+ would lead naturally to the Eb as a five/one.

I might be inclined to experiment with the progression. If the D7 is tonally too distinct or too strong, I would make it a Dm7b5 instead. This leads most naturally and diatonically to the Eb. Or, in voicing, especially with piano, add the b13 (Bb) to the D7. You could even make it a D7,b9,b13. Heck, throw in the #11! It's all good! But then you just have an altered chord, and that's just crazy. C=
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