I don't know why I never realized how great the ii-v-i jazz progression is. Neither do I know why I like it so much. I can't exactly describe it. I don't see pictures in my head or feel strong bitersweet emotion or acquire limitless energy; it's just clear and bright and hearing it and soloing over it makes me feel happy. Corny, but true.
I have a theory: to some extent, the emotional pull of music is inversely proportional to its level of cliche; not having heard the ii-v-i before fairly recently (I must have heard it, of course, but my mind never interpreted it in a jazz context as anything but slightly dissonant gibberish) it's Fresh And New and therefore evocative, slipping past my mind's jaded outer wall. The first time you get it, it's like pure inspiration, like when your brain goes from A to C without touching B. As I said, I can't exactly describe it.
The particular song I'm practicing on is Bluesette, a great great 3/4 tune with plentiful ii-v-is. I've been playing it for the past week and a half or so, and considering it progressively cooler, and getting progressively more surprised that my teacher (Paul Finkbeiner) doesn't like it. (In fact, I decided to pop home after my 11 AM Linguitics test and before my 2 PM philosophy class to play on it a bit, but -- if I may take a moment to spam -- got sidetracked finishing off yesterday's daylog.) Then, at the weekly lesson tonight, I realized: he doesn't get it! Not the chords, of course -- he's mastered those long ago, and perhaps they're beginning to seem almost cliche to him -- but the rhythm: superficially he's swinging the eighth notes, but in order for the piece to really swing (and you know what they say) you have to hear it simultaneously in a sort of cool 6/8. I mentioned it, and he got it, and it sounded amazingly better (though thinking about it consciously seemed to have gotten my front brain and back brain tangled up and I couldn't quite play it properly for the rest of the lesson).
So, you know that Woody Allen quote about sex? It's true for Bluesette, too: anyone who says it's just okay isn't doing it properly.
Update after reading Stealth Munchkin
's node on the subject
: come to think of it, I don't particularly like the ii-v-i
in pop or rock music; in fact, I might go so far as to say I actively dislike it (cliche, etc). It's different in Jazz
, though; the chords are altered, or there's anticipation, pre-jumps in scales before the chord really changes, or something. I'll figure it out.