Part 3: Not Not-Quite-As-Amazing (But Still Useful) Augmented Chord

When we arrive at the “B” section of All The Things You Are, the piece returns to the key of G major, where it started in the verse. Harmonically, this part of the piece consists of nothing more than a couple of ii-V7-I sequences in two different keys. Following a VIIo7 in order to get to the Am7 (a E7 or E7[b9]  would have worked just as well – do you remember why?), the progression is as follows:

Am7 –  D7 – G

F#7(b5) – B7 – E

Kern really didn’t need those ii chords; in reality, those are nothing more than a pair of embellished perfect (V7 – I) cadences. He could have done it this way, but that would have been pretty boring to listen to. Hear the difference  for yourself.

Kern ends the “B” section in the key of E major, which harmonically speaking, is quite a distance from F minor. Notice how he handily modulates  back to  the song’s home key, however:

Significantly, the original sheet music (I recommend any arranger and/or jazz player study the original sheet music editions of these songs, even if they don’t wind up using a lot of the material there) identifies the pivot chord (circled in red) as C(+5)/E bass. Why?

Because the editor was a theory jock. Functionally, that’s what the E(+5) chord at that point actually is; an altered C, which is the V7 of the original key of F minor. What’s the difference? Not a thing, really. Do you remember that there only three diminished seventh chords? Likewise, there are only four augmented chords, which are nothing more than stacks of major thirds (again, ignore the way they are spelled and focus on how they sound) :

Although not quite as versatile as a diminished seventh, the augmented triad can be a handy pivot chord. From that E major chord, the composer has a few different options, simply by raising any pitch by a half-step:

Remember that the diminished seventh chord can also move in several directions by dropping any pitch by a half-step. However, the logical resolution of an augmented chord will always be to a minor triad (unlike the CTo , which – through the resulting V7 – can resolve to either a major or a minor chord).

We took a break from our exploration of Kern’s use of the interval of the fourth in this song, which doesn’t seem as apparent in the B section. Those fourths are still there, however – and will be discussed in the next post.

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About KJ at Guide Tone Lines

KJ McElrath earned his Masters degree in Music Theory and Composition from Central Washington University. Composer of several works for big band, wind ensemble and orchestra, which can be heard at BardicCircle.com. I perform a cabaret act with Athena McElrath as McElrath Cabaret, which you can find at http://mcelrathcabaret.com.
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