Jim Hall on Autumn Leaves – Can it get any better?

To me Jim Hall is like the reluctant super hero of Jazz Guitar. In this video I am going to show you some of the ideas he uses on the song Autumn Leaves, both in terms of changing the chords, using poly rhythms and melodies. In my opinion this solo is an understated gold mine of musical ideas.

The devices that Jim Hall are things that you can incorporate into your playing and use to re-interpret the harmony of songs while you are playing them or add more rhythmical variation to your solos. In that way this solo is a really clear take on how you can do a lot with a very simple and famous jazz standard.

Autumn Leaves Reharmonization

There are a few things that Jim Hall and Ron Carter do with the Harmony of the song that really deserves a mention. After that I will break down a few phrases and go over the rhythm and harmony used for them.

The chord progression for Autumn Leaves is this:

The chords are interpreted quite freely through out, but a great reharmonization is used in the 1st solo chorus where the Gm6 is exchanged for a Db7(#11) both at the end of the 1st and the 2nd half of the song.

When you have the root in the melody on a chord you can always do this substitution, and here it works really well at the end of the form since the first chord of the song is a Cm7 so it works as a tritone dom7th.

Another thing that Jim Hall does very often is to substitute the Aø for Eb7#11 this happens mostly in these two places but he also does it in the other minor II V’s. (add transcriptions and audio?)

Example 1 – Tonic Minor and dotted 3 note groupings

The first phrase here is a clear example of how Jim Hall uses melodic minor on tonic chords. Something that I get

The line is a simple melodic minor scale sequence, but the first note is the major 6th. The other thing that really makes this line jump out is the rhythm. A quarter note followed by two 16th notes.

The last bar transitions into a G7 with the B note being emphasized and the line goes on to the next part of the form using a Bdim arpeggio.

This sequence is a great way to get into this type of phrasing and you can experiment with adding it to your own playing making some lines with it, It is also the same rhythm Kurt Rosenwinkel uses a lot with triads

An example of a II V I phrase that uses this could be this:

Example 2 – Triplet motif

Jim Hall works through motifs in many places in the solo. The previous example was also using a scale sequence as a motif.
This example uses triplets and quickly develops a 3 note motif across 4 bars.

The motif is quite simple but it is still impressive that he manages to move it around like this over the form. Th triplet rhythm here is almost a 4 note grouping but not really. Probably because the focus on the melody more than the rhythm.

Example 3 – Reharmonizing in the solo

This phrase is using the same rhythm as in example one, and what Jim Hall is playing can be interpreted as two different sounds.

The phrase is shifting the same melodic motif down in half steps. The motif itself can either be whole tone or melodic minor. It is found in both. The pattern is the same throught the phrase. He plays the phrase 3 times for the Eb7, twice for D and three times for Db7 adding a small tag to end it.

The first part spells out an Eb7(#11) sound, the second a D7(#11) and the 3rd a G7alt or Db7(#11).

 
If you want to play better solos you need to be better at coming up with strong and more interesting melodies. I hope you can use some of these techniques to achieve that.

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