I Love You Porgy Advance Reharmonization Techniques

I love you porgy is a nice composition, with music by the great George Gershwin, and beautiful lyrics by Ira Gershwin and Dubose Heyward. I stumbled upon another wonderful solo piano version of this song by 7notemode on youtube, which is just begging for a transcription. Comparing between the trancription and a standard lead sheet would be very educational for those trying to master reharmonization techniques.

But first, let us enjoy this video of doug mckenzie accompanying a jazz vocalist on this song.

I never really figured out the title of this song, whether it is I love you porgy, or I loveS you porgy. Maybe someone would care to shed a light on this in the comment section, would be very grateful.. 🙂

Anyway, here’s the lead sheet of I love/loves you porgy as you would find it in most jazz fake books.


And here’s the wonderful solo piano playing of 7notemode.


I’ve prepared the transcription for only the first one and a half minute of this video, but it’s enough give you a good idea, and the sophisticated reharmonization techniques embedded in this short transcription is enough to write a very lengthy and technical post already.:)

Things you should know about this transcription before using it:

1) The solo piano playing is in a free tempo, or rubato, kind of feel. So the rhythmic part of this transcription is just a guide. There are also a lot of ritardando or ritenuto in the playing. So don’t go playing the transcription note for note with a metronome, and blame me for how it turned out. 🙂

2) To avoid having too many semiquavers and odd rhythmic values in the transcription, I’ve wrote it in double time instead. In other words, one bar in the lead sheet would be two bars in my transcription.

Now let’s analyze in detail the reharmonization techniques found in this transcription.

One of the most used technique in jazz reharmonization is the ii-V-I turnaround to help you move from one chord to the next. But many of the ii-V-I you will see in a jazz piece maybe “disguised” in many ways, sometimes with more colorful chord extensions, or sometimes with tritone substitutions. Let’s refer to our lead sheet and transcription to see how 7notemode did it.

These are the first two bars of I Love you porgy from our lead sheet,


and this is what 7notemode did to these two bars,


notice how the Bb, Eb, G and Bb chord actually comes from a Cm7, and the rest of the notes in that bar comes from an F7(b9). This Cm7 and F7(b9) gives us the ii and V chord for the following Bbmaj7 chord.
We can also see from the Cm7 chord here that the root note need not always be there to bring out the quality or sound of the Cm7.

Another good example is found before going into the bridge part. Here is the original chords for this example in the lead sheet.


A simple tonic chord F, going to an Am. This is what 7notemode did to fill up the empty space between them.


In the first bar, there’s a movement from the F major chord to the subdominant (Bbmajor) and back again. It may not seem very obvious at first glance, but you can see it from the choice of right hand notes in that bar.
The second bar brings us to our ii-V-I, but this time in a minor key, since the chord we are approaching is an A minor. Therefore, you can see in this bar and Am on the first beat, Bm7(b5) on the second beat, and an E7 on the third and fourth beat. Take note also of the very beautifully placed Bb note in the left hand part, where you can think of it as a #11 note of E7, or thinking in terms of a tritone substitution, with the Bb(b9#11) substitute the original dominant chord. E7.

Tritone Substitutions
This is another favourite technique among jazz musicians when it comes to reharmonization. Let’s try to find some in our transcription.
Here is a cutout of bar 13 – 14 of the transcription.


the normal progression for these two bars would be a Gm7 going to a C7, however in this example, we see how the dominant seventh chord is being substituted by a Gb7 instead, which is the chord a tritone away from the original.

Here’s another example found in bar 20 of our transcription.


Instead of just letting the E7 chord lay there for a whole bar, the dominant seventh chord a tritone away (Bb7) is used in the third beat, thus adding some movement to an otherwise uninteresting bar.

Chromatic Passing Notes
Check out this left hand line found in bar 24 of our transcription.


It would be mind boggling if you try to fit all the notes into a certain scale. Instead try to think of the line being constructed from the chord tones of a G7(b9), with a lot chromatic passing notes to lead into those chord tones. This shows how easy but powerful it is to use chromatic passing notes to add color to your lines.
You can always create some nice lines in your left hand when doing solo piano playing to fill up the gaps, instead of just comping around with chords. This will certainly make your playing much more interesting to listen to.

These are just a few small points to add to my transcription. I am sure you can find a lot more things to learn from it if you take the effort to. Or you can just have some fun playing through it.

Before I leave you with that, here’s a video of I love you porgy, by our favourite pianist Keith Jarret, who’s being talked about quite a lot recently in forums for asking his audiences to turn off their f**king cameras before starting a show , :O read more about it here.


Thanks again to 7notemode for that wonderful solo piano playing, demonstrating reharmonization at its best.  

Enjoy and have fun …… 🙂

Related posts:

Round Midnight Advance Reharmonization Techniques

Pat Metheny mp3 and Transcription on And Then I Knew

Joe Pass Reharmonization on Autumn Leaves Transcription


  • Pimwee

    Reply Reply May 21, 2008

    May I have the whole improvised sheet ,please,I would like to study it ? Thank you.

  • zippy

    Reply Reply August 3, 2009

    In reference to the question about the title of the tune, the question of I Love You Porgy versus I LoveS You Porgy, I thought Id at least share what my thoughts are–although I am in NO WAY 100% sure of their accuracy! 🙂

    I havent researched this question in particular, but I used to teach a course (at a prominent university) called Jazz and Literature. Of the many issues that were discussed, of course the issue of race came up all the time. While I am often uncomfortable getting into racial stereotypes and distinctions, Ive always theorized that the name of the tune depends on the arranger or singer–i.e., Billie Holidays version (my favorite) includes the S in I LoveS You Porgy, while other versions do not. In sum, (and perhaps a linguist would know more about this) I find that some African-Americans, just as a simple matter of their speech patterns and use of the language, will often add an S to verbs, and especially the verb love (eg., I sure loves me some gin–which you can hear in several blues songs, etc.). However, this tendency certainly cannot be generalized and therefore does not apply to ALL African-Americans, obviously; further, I think this tendency has probably faded quite a bit from earlier years in which it seems to appear more commonly.
    In my view, this has nothing to do with proper or improper English, but, rather, has everything to do with cultural differences and the complexity of language. Just food for thought. 🙂 I should research this more, as Ive always wondered about this subtle difference in the titles of such a lovely tune.

  • Cian

    Reply Reply March 9, 2010

    I wonder if anyone has finished 7notemodes version of this tune? I am self taught myself (i started out playing violin while growing up) and Ive always loved jazz music, but have always thought it would be too hard to play with all the off-beats – Im not very good at playing by sight unless I can hear a piece first. I was just last week trying to get 7notemode to send me his music and he told me he did not have the transcription to that song. Can anyone help?

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