“It’s just a ii-V-I”
I heard that phrase a lot whenever I took a class in jazz or played with a jazz group. And rightfully so, as there are a lot of ii-V-I chord progressions found in jazz standards.
That being said, would jazz music get boring over time if it uses this progression over and over again? Maybe “predictable” is a better word, but the great jazz composer’s & arrangers new how to use harmonic substitutions to create interesting progressions that still resembled the original.
In the famous ii-V-I progression, the ii is the pre-dominant area. The V is the dominant area. And that leads into the I that is the tonic area.
A crash course in harmonic substitutions:
The I tonic chord can be replaced by bIII , III , IV , bVI , and VI since they all share a common tone on the tonic scale degree. In addition, minor and diminished versions of the I chord can work as well.
As for the dominant chord, they can be replaced by the dominant or major chord versions of the bII harmony. Also, they can be the dominants or tritone substitutes of the tonic area’s substitutions acting on the original.
Pre-dominant areas are more open, being the ii, iv, and tritone substitute in relation to the dominant area harmony.
Below is a compromised (but still relatively large) sheet of various combinations of the harmonic substitutions mentioned above with a few extras, based in a starting key of C:
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