What do the chords in parentheses mean, and how could you play Bm7 and B♭M7 at the same time?

sheet music snippet

  • 2
    (In case it's not obvious, this is Autumn Leaves, and at the start of the line would be a treble clef and two flats.)
    – gidds
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 15:03
  • The whole progression is | Cm | F7 | BbΔ | EbΔ | Aø | D7alt | Gm |. For those wondering what the rest of this reharm looks like, it's typically: | Cm | F7 | Bm E7 | Bbm Eb7 | Am D7 | Abm Db7 | Gm |.
    – jdjazz
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 18:36

5 Answers 5


To me it looks like the chords above in parentheses are an alternative progression you can play instead of the ones below them. It's either:

  • | Bbmaj7 | Ebmaj7 |


  • | Bm7 E7 | Bbm7 Eb7 |
  • All the jazz composers were really out there thinking in polychordal progressions.
    – awe lotta
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 0:01
  • 1
    @awelotta, true but BbMaj7 and B-7 don't form a useful poly chord. It is more likely that some form of tri-tone sub and cycle extension are in play.
    – user50691
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 15:01
  • 1
    @phoog, the answer does not suggest that they are played at the same time. Though it doesn't really illuminate the reason that such a sub would be there.
    – user50691
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 15:02
  • 3
    @ggcg correct. The answer in fact suggests that they are not played at the same time, by using the term "alternative," and it was already accepted when I left my comment. But the question "how could you play them at the same time" may be answered without regard to what one would actually do; the answer could say a few words about that. It's probably not necessary, since most musicians experienced in jazz and "western" classical music will know that playing the chords at the same time is impractical at best and would sound fairly awful. My comment was largely intended to be humorous. :-)
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 17:05
  • @phoog, I see now. Very nice.
    – user50691
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 17:35

Several answers point out that this is an alternative progression. An important point is to question why. You definitely do NOT play them at the same time. When this type if choice is given you may have one of them during the solo section to provide more "harmonic texture" if that's a term, or they may be for different endings. It would help to see the next line to know where the chromatic ii-V's are going. Is the tune modulating to Ab? This type of device is very common in Wes tunes as the head may have a simpler set of changes and the solo filled up (chromatic ii-V's are common in Jazz and Bop). The other common use is for the ending of the song (i.e. "on the final time through the head").

  • 2
    The tune here is Autumn Leaves, so the whole progression is | Cm | F7 | BbΔ | EbΔ | Aø | D7alt | Gm |. This is part of a fairly common reharmonization that goes: | Cm | F7 | Bm E7 | Bbm Eb7 | Am D7 | Abm Db7 | Gm |. The half-step descending ii-V's sound good, like you mention, because they form tritone substitutions for secondary dominants. (This is a common form of back cycling.) Without the ii chords or the tritone substitutions, the progression would be: | Cm | F7 | B7 | E7 | A7 | D7 | Gm |. Or you could look at it (pre-tritone sub) as: | Cm | F7 | Bb7 | Eb7 | Ab7 | Db7 | Gm |.
    – jdjazz
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 23:42

The simpler version is the lower one. If one wanted to be a little more adventurous, one could use the chords in parentheses. There are many examples of this in real and fake books. And after this, there are probably many more options of different chords that one may utilise.


They are just alternate chords NOT TO BE PLAYED SIMULTANEOUSLY. It is a ii V7 chromatic progression which is very common in jazz.

It is a "longer" way to get to the I chord. So instead of playing a boring Dm7 to a G7 to a C, you can play, Ebm7 Ab7 Dm7 G7 C. Or Em7 A7 Dm7 G7 C. Or . . . there are dozens of variations. You can do whatever you like. That is what will make you you.

Listen to players like Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Dick Hyman, Peter Nero and Adam Makowicz, they are all prolific ii V players. So instead of playing the written ii V they will go up a half or whole step, a third or a fourth, and work down to the I.

All music is littered with two fives. It is the base of the circle of fourths. As far as standards go, SATIN DOLL or LOVER are loaded with them.

As an exercise, pick a V7 chord and use four chords to two five down to it.


It means you could play either of the two chords Bm7 or BbM7. Many chords can replace another while still maintaining the qualities or jazz music.

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