Alone Together, by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, is a prime example of their American Songbook writing which often featured non-standard phrase lengths and alternation between the major and minor modes on the same root.

So, I approach this tune a bit differently. Trading “fours” is not very practical, due to the fact that the phrases are not in four-bar chunks. I focus on the harmony, and let the form flow on its own.

The Big Item here is the wide variety of II-V-I changes in this single song. We get them in D min, G min, A Maj and F Maj. In addition, we get min II-V to a Major chord as well! So, how to negotiate this thicket of chords? Start at the beginning, of course!

Each chord has a scale that goes with it, we are all aware of that, RIGHT? Right. But, the use of that scale is controlled by rhythm, not just harmony. Here is a method for putting the chord tones ON the beat, guaranteed, every time. Once you can do this mechanically or intellectually, it will become your standard way of hearing things. THAT is one of the biggest goals in training the Mind’s Ear for improvisation.

The best starting point, for ANY tune, to get that harmony in your Mind’s Ear, and aligned properly is to find the first 5 notes of the scale that fits the FIRST chord of each measure. Ignore the second chord for now, if there is one. That comes later, when you can play 16th notes on the changes. Play them from the root of the chord, in 1/8 notes, stopping at the fifth of the chord. Simple. Run this pattern of material through the entire piece. Perhaps you will find it a simple matter, maybe you will find that it is not so easy. If it is not so easy, you now know what to practice!

Practicing jazz is, in many ways, harder than actually playing it. It’s like preparing a canvas for the picture. Without preparation, the picture can sag, the canvas might not last, and the image you want to project will not be in proportion, that sort of thing.

The first five notes for each chord, which, for you pianists out there, is nothing more than a five-finger position, are the best starting point. Some examples for the music at hand:

Dm = D-E-F-G-A.
Em7b5 = E-F-G-A-Bb.
A7b9 = A-Bb-C#-D-E.
Am7b5 = A-Bb-C-D-Eb.
D7b9 = D-Eb-F#-G-A.
Gm and Gm7 = G-A-Bb-C-D.
Bm7 = B-C-D-E-F#. (Treatment of Bm7 as a III chord here.)
E7 = E-F#-G#-A-B.
D Maj7 = D-E-F#-G-A.

There is a wide range of five-note patterns here in this diverse group of chords and keys. Lots of use of the harmonic minor scale, where all those lowered ninths come from. Not easy, but also not insurmountable when you have the key to unlock the harmony, and let a line flow through those various key centers.

A few edits here in the changes:Michael BB photo and bio

  • Meas. 7-8 are usually played as Gm7- C7
  • Meas. 11 usually has Fmaj7 to Bb Maj7 in it, rather than F to F7
  • On the bridge, meas. 7 of the bridge should have the same F Maj7- Bb Maj7 movement as the corresponding place in the chorus.

We have 14 bars in the chorus, but the bridge is of a regular 4 and 4 structure. Keep your balance through these two levels, sort of like walking with one foot on the sidewalk, and one foot off the curb!

Remember, a plain minor chord is NOT like a minor 7th chord. It gets the same first five notes, but the similarity ends there. A plain minor chord is a tonic chord, and gets the melodic minor. A min 7th chord moves to a Dom 7th and gets the Dorian mode most often.

If this approach seems easy and flows well, move on to the next level, which is to arpeggiate ALL the chords, in 1/8 notes, from the root up, through the song.

Enjoy working through this well-known but unusual song. See you at the jam!