I'm having trouble understanding when to play minor7♭5 and dominant7♭9 chords. This is definitely because I didn't pay enough attention during my lessons (sorry teachers).

I'm currently working through 'Easy Living'.

In bar 6 there is a G-7 and a C7. We're in the key of F Maj so it makes sense that's just a good ol' II - V.

BUT in bar 7 there's a big fat A7 - D7, then in bar 8 G-7 and C7 repeat themselves. Does the modulation in bar 7 change how I treat the G-7 and C7?

FURTHERMORE. There's a B♭7 that leads into an E♭-7 A♭7 (there's a lot of modulation going on here) I confuse.

Basically I just need to know how to pick a minor II - V. I think then I'll be able to answer my own question.

So if you have an answer, it would sure help me out!


Not exactly sure what the question means, but if it is about changing the chords in some bars, here we go.

Knowing the circle of 4ths/5ths gives pretty well all you need. Let's take several bars - A7, D7, G7, to C. That can be changed subtly into - Em7 A7, Am7 D7, Dm7 G7, C. for one example. What's happening is the main chord originally in each bar is approached by the 'dominant' of it. Using ears will tell if it has to be a m7 or dom7, and the b5 part will sometimes be applicable, others not. Same goes for the 7b9.

In summary, a lot of the time, it's a series of, as you say, II V I (or ii V I). And voicing is so important - especially with close voiced chords moving one to another.

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  • Thanks for taking the time to answer Tim. Means a lot! Reading back through my question now I don't think I worded it particularly clearly. What I should have said was: I'm having trouble identifying minor ii v i(s) when they appear on standards in the Real Book. I've had lessons where my teachers would recommend I change dominant chords to be played as b9s. I think they're looking at the standard and going 'well that should be a minor ii v', but I don't understand why. Is it because it's resolving to a minor? If so -- why is that a special minor that gets different chords? – Andy Dec 29 '18 at 14:08

I’m not convinced that A7 D7 g-7 C7 had any modulation per se. Measures 7 & 8 look like V7/V/ii V7/ii ii7 V7 turnaround. I can definitely hear a D7b9 in the V/ii place as there is good chromatic motion in the voices, especially the E-Eb-D, and a good counterpoint to the ascending bass in the beginning.

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  • Thanks for the answer Richard. Means a lot. I'm really quite new to this whole jazz thing (/ music in general). The reason I thought it was modulating is because there's only one dominant chord in a key right? So wouldn't | A7 D7 | be a key change (isn't that what modulation means? I might be using words I don't understand...) On the plus side there's nice chromatic modulation all throughout the tune! I love the (voice leading?!) | FMaj 7 F#dim | Gm7 G#dim | in the opening 2 bars. Gets me every time. – Andy Dec 29 '18 at 14:15

I'm going to answer the question in the title. Pick Black Orpheus. This is a classic Latin style minor ii-V tune that modulates to the relative major. It has the progression you are looking for and is easy to hear, voice lead, and solo over. It's basically straight A minor. This type of ii-V is rampant in Latin Jazz. Other tunes that use it include, anything Jobim (but with more intricate progressions), Jump Monk by Charles Mingus (he wrote a lot of tunes using this progression).

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  • Thanks! I think I worded the question a little misleadingly. It's not about choosing a tune with minor ii v i's in it, it's more about understanding when to change the written chords on a chart to a minor ii v i. Does that make a little more sense? Thanks for helping. – Andy Dec 29 '18 at 13:53

Am7-D7 is the II-V of Gm7, which is the second of F major, so Its not modulating . Its basically a II-V to the II-V. a minor II-V normally happens before a minor chord, most often the tonic chord, however, Its not uncommon for a minor chord to be preceeded by a major II-V, Its just a jazz musical practice.

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Based on the examples your question, you don't need to worry about any minor ii-V-i progression for this tune - each one you shared is a major ii-V-I, albeit in different keys. Modulations do not affect minor-vs-major.

When the 1 chord is minor in a 2-5-1 progression, then you should consider employing minor7♭5 and dominant7♭9 chords. However, in the Real Book tunes those 2-5s should already be written in so you shouldn't have to magically know when to play a minor progression.

That being said, once you understand these rules you can create the magic in your improv or comping by throwing in some splashes of flavor. (For example, I often take a regular ii-V-I and add a flat-9 to the V. Salty.)

You asked above why a minor I chord needs alterations to the preceding ii-V. There's a few different ways to look at it: I think about the key that we're in for those two measures of 2-5-1. If it's major, a simple option for soloing is the major key of 1. All of the notes in the 2-5 fit within the major scale of 1. HOWEVER, if 1 is minor, then you typically use a minor scale rather than the major. Also then the 2-5 needs to reflect the minor scale of the key you're in.

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