Composed by Jerome Kern
Yesterdays is among the most popular tunes in our “Great American Songbook.” It was composed by Jerome Kern in 1933 for the Broadway show Roberta with lyrics by Otto Harbach. Make sure not to confuse this tune with the Beatles classic – something I did for a very long time!
This tune has been performed by everyone from Oscar Peterson to Barbara Streisand and is a must-know for any serious jazz musician.
The Nuts and Bolts
This is really one of my favorites. It sounds great as a ballad, but many like to play it at medium and up tempos. It’s also a great tune for improvising because it goes back and forth between D minor and then the cycling dominants.
Depending on the tempo at which you play it, the amount of chords can changed. The tempo helps to determine how often you want to precede target chords with some kind of ii-V cadence or whatever you prefer.
Check out lots of versions and try to figure out the chords that are being used. Personally, I often like to play the melody by itself – no chords – and an octave lower. Wes plays it this way and I’ve somewhat adopted his approach. As with anything, find your own way of playing the tune.
Yesterdays: Comping Ideas
Here are some basic chord voicings that you can use to comp over this tune.
Yesterdays: Chord Melody
Here is a pretty simple chord melody for Yesterdays. For the section with the descending bass line over the static minor chord, I chose to move that cliche up to one of the middle voices. Just a little liberty I decided to take with it!
Yesterdays: Single-Note Solo
In this solo, I was pretty faithful to the changes but I did take a few liberties. Just remember, you don’t have to hit every single change that goes by. Improvisation is more about making melodies than connecting the dots!
Yesterdays: Chord Reference Sheet
As always, we’ve included a chord reference sheet with some fun voicings for you to try over Yesterdays.
-Oscar Peterson’s Get Happy Vol. 2 collection released in 2012. Peterson offers up a very colorful rendition of this classic.
-Billie Holiday’s The Best of Billie Holiday collection released in 2014. Here’s a lovely vocal rendition by this legendary singer.
-Bud Powell’s The Complete Essen Jazz Festival Concert released in 2001. Bud’s group gives it a lovely ballad treatment here.
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