i am new to jazz so i don't much about it and i probably ask a lot of stupid questions.  hope you people can put up with that.

every one tells me to start with the 2 - 5 - 1 progression which i understand, i think, and can play.  so for example in the simple key of c the progression would be a dm7, a g7, and a c7. is that the whole progression for a song? what do i do with it? where do i use it?

i would appreciate any advise you can give me.

yahn
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hi yahn,

the reason people say learn your 2-5-1's is that it's the most basic chord progression you can get in jazz.  well, basically.  a 2-5-1 is an extended version of a 5-1, or v7-i, which is the most basic chord progression there is.

if you learn 2-5-1's in all keys, then you know 50% of the chords you'll ever need to know.  

some good songs to study for 2-5-1's (or 2-5's) are autumn leaves, all the things you are, softly as in a morning sunrise, and others.

if you can read music, get this file, it's a great way to get your left hand working when it comes to rootless 2-5-1 voicings while your right hand gets the feel of the scales that go with them.  it's a very useful exercise that i recommend to everyone, including myself.

https://www.scoreexchange.com/scores/124828.html
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it's not so much the 2-5-1 as it is the idea of establishing tonality. there are many different chord sequences which establish tonality, the 2-5-1 is an example of a short, strong way because it is a cadence (bass line down the circle of fifths) and it uses the key's diatonic dominant 7th chord. this is a simple, short way to establish the tonality of the key.

in jazz, the idea is to learn different ways to ways to do two things: establish the tonality of the key of the moment, and establish the tonality of a particular chord which is acting as a temporary tonic.

so, rather than getting hung up on ii-v-i, the first thing you should do is learn to identify tonic chords and tonal centers of songs. once you have identified, those, learn ways to create departures and resolutions to those centers. there are many ways to do this, most of them involve reharmonization, so learn about ii-v-i, and then move on to secondary dominants, and then move on to other chord progressions and reharmonization techniques which achieve the same purpose.
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