Countdown was written by John Coltrane and first appeared on his iconic 1960 release of “Giant Steps”. This composition demonstrates Coltrane’s harmonic innovation which has been dubbed “Coltrane Changes”. Countdown is based off of the chord progression of “Tune Up”, although it may seem like an entirely different tune all together. Trane takes the ii-V-I’s in Tune Up and connects them with a series of re-harmonization’s.
For those who can’t seem to make sense of this chord progression, here is a brief analysis: Each four bars follows the key centers of Tune Up (Dmaj-Cmaj-Bbmaj-Bbmaj). Each key center starts with it’s appropriate ii chord but then cycles through two different keys before arriving at the I chord. The key centers are all a major third down from each other (Dmaj-Bbmaj-Gbmaj-Dmaj). To approach each key center it is preceded by it’s appropriate V7 chord. To begin the cycle, the ii chord is followed by a dominant 7 chord a half step above (Em7-F7) to which each dominant chord is resolved (F7-Bbmaj7). The next key center is cycled to by playing the dominant 7th chord a minor third up from the last key center (Bbmaj7-Db7-Gbmaj7-A7-Dmaj7). The next four bars, and new key, starts by making the I chord the ii of the next key (Dmaj=I of D)(Dmin7=ii of C).