Autumn Leaves is one of the most iconic songs in the jazz vernacular. Joseph Kosma’s song has been recorded by Miles Davis to Diana Krall, and many many others in between. It is a testament to the power of strong melodies, and the staying power of truly great compositional prowess.
In this instance, I challenged myself to try and find something new within this song for myself. Having played it many times, and using it as an educational tool to inform countless students, the song is a bit “played out” to many. But if you look long enough at any of the great songs of the jazz canon, you’ll always be able to find a fresh or intriguing way to put your own artistic stamp on a tune.
When I set out to arrange (or deconstruct) a song, I like to try and keep the melody as intact as possible, so that the song is still recognizable. After all, it is the melody that drives the song, not the harmonies. Here I made some adjustments to the meter (from the usual 4/4 to a driving 3/4) and found some similar, but slightly different, harmonic devices to support the melody. I was imagining the juxtaposition of the muscular drumming style of Elvin Jones mixed with a kind of meditative almost electronica-esque harmonic vamp underneath. I think these two elements create a fun harmonic playground for the band to explore!
This performance features the great support of my friends Chris Ziemba at the piano, Dave Baron at the bass, and Jimmy Macbride on the drums.