All of Me, written by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons in 1931, has become a staple of the jazz standard library. This tune has been performed widely by many jazz and popular music greats. Perhaps my favorite recording is of Louis Armstrong. Please take the opportunity to listen to this recording. We are treated to Armstrong playing the tune, singing the tune, and even doing some scatting. (Note: The recording is in Db, but we will be playing it in the key of C.)
I think this tune allows for different approaches depending on one’s experience level. If you have less background in theory, I recommend a melodically based improvisation. Play the tune and slowly add variations on the melody, mixing in connecting notes that sound good to your ear. Never fully leave the tune, but play a highly embellished version of the melody.
For those players who are well versed in jazz theory, consider this analysis to guide your harmonic improvisatory choices. The tune starts on the 1 chord for two measures. The harmony then shifts to the 3 chord for two bars. This chord is altered from standard 3 chord to a Dominant seventh. Think of this as the 5 chord in A harmonic minor. In the second four bars we shift to the 6 chord, the “wrong” chord quality as it is a dominant seventh. For these two bars think 5 chord in D harmonic minor. Bars seven and eight are the naturally occurring 2 chord in C major (D Dorian).
Bars nine and ten return to the 3 chord as a dominant seventh. Bars eleven and twelve start a more common progression of six–two as a dominant two bars apiece, the standard two-five-one. The next eight bars are an exact repetition of the first eight. Bar twenty-four travels to the 4 chord still in C major. The next measure goes to F minor — consider melodic minor. We end the form with a 3-6-2-5-1 progression — all the conventional chords in C major except the 6 is a dominant, which is not particularly abnormal.