“Les feuilles mortes”
Song by Yves Montand and Irène Joachim
English title “Autumn Leaves”
Composer(s) Joseph Kosma
Lyricist(s) Jacques Prévert (French), Johnny Mercer (English)
“Autumn Leaves” is a popular song. Originally it was a 1945 French song, “Les Feuilles mortes” (literally “The Dead Leaves”), with music by Hungarian-French composer Joseph Kosma – derived from a ballet piece of music (Rendez-vous, written for Roland Petit), itself partly borrowed from Poème d’octobre by Jules Massenet – and lyrics by French poet Jacques Prévert. The Hungarian title is “Hulló levelek” (Falling Leaves). Yves Montand (with Irène Joachim) introduced “Les feuilles mortes” in the film Les Portes de la nuit (1946). The song is in AABC form. “Autumn Leaves” offers a popular way for beginning jazz musicians to become acquainted with jazz harmony as the chord progression consists almost solely of ii–V–I and ii–V sequences which are typical of jazz. It was originally, and is most commonly, performed in the key of G minor, but is also played in E minor and other keys. Eva Cassidy’s version (clip on the right) is played in B-flat minor.
Its iv7 – VII7 – IIImaj7 – VImaj7 – iiø7 – V7 – i chord progression is an example of the circle-of-fourths progression.