Our next jam: new and old

Our next jam marks an anniversary for us; we begin our fifth year on September 7th. For years the jam existed only as a dream, but once it became a reality it came together fast and has never faltered. Twice a month our jam continues to offer an ideal forum for experiential learning. The best local jazz musicians rotate through our house band, our educators are experienced and enthusiastic, jammers from a wide range of ages and skills participate, and we have the support of the community. To everyone that has helped: thank you for making this dream come true.

Our next jam also presents a mix of new and old. John Lombardo is on drums and our original and only educator for the first year, Dan Wallach, is back. We have two newcomers: Ben Ferris on bass, and Doug Brown on guitar. As a UW-Madison student Ben was active in many groups and hasn't slowed down since graduating a few years ago. Doug Brown is a well known Madison jazz musician and has performed at the Isthmus Jazz Festival many times with vocalist Michelle Duval, and played as the original guitarist for over 10 years with Harmonious Wail.

Doug is a multi-instrumentalist and has recorded a CD of piano jazz but will likely play guitar most of the night. This will give more opportunities for pianists to play, and since Doug will bring his amp it will be easier for guitarists as well. The tune-of-the-week is "Have You Met Miss Jones?" Michael's notes are already posted below.  See you there!

Notes on "Have You Met Miss Jones?"

The MJJ workshops serve many purposes: everyone is learning something about how to play, how to teach, how to listen, and how to interact. To be as effective as possible at these pursuits, one has to become an observer of details: musical, social, personal, and even how the audience is reacting, or not!

Let's focus on the musical details of this tune, and see if there are features that present a specific kind of opportunity for Jazz Vocabulary Development, which is the focus of this series of notes.

Coltrane changes first appeared in the bridge of this tune. But, let's not overlook the body of the song, as it has one particular feature that will allow the application of a specific sort of melodic approach. Then, let's see if that same approach can be transferred to the bridge.

The A section has two iterations, the first two being identical, and the third one having a harmonic rhythm that doubles its speed at the end, so as to make the tune move headlong to its conclusion, and possible repetition.

Harmonic Rhythm, you may be saying to yourself, What is THAT? It is the rate, regular, irregular, fast, slow, static, or manic, at which the chords change. The A section chords, which appear below, have a nicely regular harmonic rhythm of one chord per measure. How neat and clean...
F Maj7/// D7b9/// Gmin7/// C7/// Amin7/// Dmin7/// Gm7/// C7///

Notice how closely these chords resemble rhythm changes, with the addition of the III-VI substitutes in the second four. Let's use an arpeggio approach to these common and neatly arranged chords.

To maneuver through them, one has to know the arpeggios of ALL the chords, in each of their inversions. That would be root position, and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd inversion. IF you are looking for something to practice to improve or add to your melodic vocabulary, arpeggiating the chords of ANY piece will yield a good, solid base of information to play from.

You may be saying to yourself, I want JAZZ, not a “base of information.” Fair enough. What turns this information into jazz is the application of the vocal inflections used by African-Americans in the development of their music. Not your music, or my music, but Their Music. In today's world of academic jazz, there is a lot of information about notes, chords, scales, rhythm, tunes, procedures, and instruments. There is precious little about the Individual, and The Black Experience, and their place in bringing this musical material to some kind of relevant life in sound. In a future post I will talk about how to animate this technical material with the smears, cries, wails, percussive attacks, sharp dynamic contrasts and speech-like phrases that most Americans use now, since the influence of African-American culture in America is now so pervasive. Who would have thought that a people who were oppressed, abused and kept apart from much of the American Dream would create the most uniquely American art form we have, as a people, an entire people. Let's stop a moment and thank those musical pioneers and brave people who dared to express themselves, and passed their heritage onto us, not only for safekeeping, but as a living art form.

So, back to arpeggios on Miss Jones. Each chord has four arpeggios, as was stated earlier. 1-3-5-7, 3-5-7-1, 5-7-1-3, and 7-1-3-5. Now, I could spell all of this information our for each chord, but the situation does not warrant such a detailed exposition here. You are going to have to KNOW them without me or anyone else telling you what they are, and you will have to respond to harmonic flow in an improvised performance in real-time. So, commit each arpeggio of each possible chord to mental, physical and sonic memory. The list is short. Maj7, dom7, min7, min-maj7, half-dim7, diminished 7 and augmented Maj7. These are ALL the scaletone chords available to tonal jazz. There are alterations and extensions of many of these, but their basic forms are 12 tones X 7 types = 84. Large but clearly finite.

And let’s be clear about the difference between an Inversion and a Position. The inversion uses only the first four notes of a 7th chord, and keeps putting the lowest note on the top, so as to invert that particular series of notes. A Position is staring the same skip-skip-skip-skip pattern from each of the four chord-tones in the root position item. The First Position of the Root position. The second position starts from the 3rd, and goes 3-5-7- up to 9, a new note. The third position starts from the 5th, and goes 5-7-9 and up to 11, if applicable. Not all chords take an 1th without some adjustment. Then the fourth position starts from the 7th, and goes 7-9-11 up to 13, the highest scale-tone available before the series repeats.

So, how to link them together to make a melodic line? The key to this procedure is to resolve the last note of one arpeggio to a chord-tone of the next chord. That is why this piece is so handy. The harmonic rhythm, being utterly regular, makes it practically inevitable that the process will be clear and under control.

So, Fmaj7, root position, F-A-C-E. Got it. But, we have 1/8-notes to play here, and we need four more to fill up the measure. Here we have two choices: the next inversion, A-C-E-F, or the next Position, that is, instead of 1-3-5-7, you could play 3-5-7-9. Let's take each in turn.

F-A-C-E-A-C-E-F...then what? Well, the next chord in measure 2 is F#dim7 or D79b, either one will do. What is the nearest note of this/these chord(s) to the final note of the 8-note pattern from meas. 1? Since the last note of the first arpeggio set is F, one can go UP to F#, or DOWN to Eb. Get the idea?

The two-position, rather than two-inversion idea goes as follows:  F-A-C-E - A-C-E-G-? Thus the next note could be DOWN to F#,  or UP to Ab.

As each set of chords goes by, the first measure of a pair can have this arpeggiated treatment, with the resolution to a chord-tone of the next measure. In a similar but opposite pattern, the 2nd measure of each two-meas. set can get two 4-note arpeggios that resolve to the chord-tone of the first measure of the NEXT set of two. As in:  F#-A-C-Eb-A-C-Eb-F#- ? The chord of measure 3 is Gm7. So that last F# can go DOWN to F nat. or UP to G. Notice how the inversion of a diminished chord is equivalent to the second position. This is because the chord is a uniform structure of ALL minor 3rds. Augmented chords have the same feature, but in Major thirds.

We have been starting from the root of a chord and arpeggiating it twice in 1/8 notes so as to arrive at a resolution point on a chord tone of the next measure's harmony. One can also make these arpeggios go DOWN, and resolve UP or Down. One can also work the arpeggios from the 3rd, 5th, or even 7th of a chord. They can be played as inversions or positions.

If each chord has four chord-tones to start from, and two possibilities for movement, inversion or position, that makes 8 possibilities in all, for each chord. This may seem like a lot, but when you consider how many options there really are for melodic movements between chords, defining this small subset for each chord to practice and add to your “bag” is limited and achievable. Choose the chords from a key, from a tune, or choose one chord type, and move out from there to find all the possibilities that seem practical for your instrument. They will get easier as you go along of course, since the pattern will become second nature. Anything that is NOT second nature is NOT available to you as improvising material in real time.

So, let's look at the bridge, and see how this arpeggiated world works with chord sequences of a more complex nature than modified rhythm changes. OR, are they really that much different?

BbMaj7/// Abm7/Db7/ GbMaj7/// Em7/A7/
Dmaj7/// Abm7/Db7/ GbMaj7/// Gm7/C7/

Notice that the II-V-I changes are staggered in a way that is the opposite of the A section. Meas 1 of the bridge is a solitary BbMaj7. The next two measures have Abm7 /- Db7 / - GbMaj7///, a nice set to “run the changes on,” as Coleman Hawkins would have said. Notice that as the bridge begins, the 2nd and 3rd measures start a change in the harmonic rhythm from a single chord per measure to two chords per measure. Thus, each chord gets only ONE arpeggio, which has to resolve to the beginning of an arpeggio on the second chord, to take us to the resolution point of the following measure, with its single chord. Here is one way:  Ab-Cb-Eb-Gb – F-Ab-Cb-Eb – Db.

Michael BB photo and bioNotice how the root position of the first chord resolves to the second position, NOT the second inversion, of the second chord, in this example. If one were to use the inversion method, that second arpeggio would wind up on Db, which is the note we want ONE 1/8-note later! If you found yourself on that note, you would have to resolve it down a 3rd to Bb, or down a half-step to C natural, which is pretty off-color from the Cb that immediately preceded it. I recommend using only root position and second inversion arpeggios, as their open position and thirds/thirds shape makes them easier to handle and keep track of. However, if you are playing on a chord that lasts two measures or even longer, all four inversions makes a very nice pattern. …YES it is a good starting point…

As for positions, the ability to play an arpeggio from 1-3-5-7, 3-5-7-9, 5-7-9-11 and 7-9-11-13 on any chord will greatly strengthen you ability to manipulate melody and harmonic color together. The final step is to be able to string together a series of arpeggiated chords through a longer series of chords than a basic II-V-I. Learning the arpeggios of all four inversions and the four positions is a KEY element for your Jazz Vocabulary Bag.

Next up: Love for Sale

The jam continues to cruise along. On Sunday we had 17 jammers (including 4 from Middleton HS), an appreciative audience, and enough momentum to play until 7:30. The jam is consistently successful and to an outsider it might appear to be self-sustaining, on auto-pilot. Actually, it takes the coordinated effort of quite a few people to pull it off. One of the most important cogs in the machine is Michael Butkus-Bomier, otherwise known as Michael BB.

Michael writes the educational articles posted prior to each jam. Michael has a degree in composition, has written many tunes,  played in many bands, and taught many piano students. He is also an excellent writer and his articles are filled with insightful analysis and ideas for approaching particular songs or chord progressions.

At our next jam on August 17th the tune-of-the-week is "Love for Sale." Make sure you read Michael's article discussing SafeTones to play over the 1st two chords. It may take some time and effort to digest all the information packed into his articles but it is well worth it. The band is Darren Sterud - trombone/educator, John Christensen - bass, Doug White - piano, and Rodrigo Villanueva - drums.

Here are 2 videos with outstanding performances of "Love for Sale. We'll take it at a nice swinging tempo closer to the Cannonball/Miles version.






SafeTones in "Love For Sale"

Love for Sale" has a longer song-form, bigger than any blues, and longer than most “show” tunes. It has four 16-bar sections, three of which are similar, if not exact repeats, and the bridge. The most interesting feature of the song is its opening section, and, by extension, the beginnings of the other two iterations of that same music.

EbMaj7 / / /    / / / /  Bbm6 / / /    / / / / same 4 bars repeat. This music gives the improviser a chance to play music on the tonic chord, immediately followed by the minor dominant, which in this case is NOT a dominant, but a minor tonic 6th or min-maj 7th chord, depending on the lead sheet you may have. Let's talk about this musical material first, and then move on the second topic: Errors and Variations in Jazz Lead Sheets.

The melody here is a mere pentatonic fragment. Bb-G-F. Not much to go on there, and yet it gives a telltale clue. Is there a hidden pentatonic message in this fragment? Yes, of COURSE there is! EbMaj7 can accept the major pentatonic scale of its root, as can any 7th  chord with a major triad as its foundation. No real startling information there. The other more interesting, or at least less obvious option is the pentatonic scale based on the 5th  degree, Bb. Bb major pentatonic gives you Bb-C-D-F-G to work with, all notes that make excellent consonances with EbMaj7. Between the two scales we have, Eb-F-G-Bb-C-D.

What kind of a pattern is that? It is a six-note scale, or perhaps scale is not the best term. I call them SafeTones (R) , a phrase which I have trademarked. There are several kinds of SafeTone-sets.  A six-note set can be derived for every type of 7 th  chord, with more than one option for several of them. This particular one is very easy to visualize as the major scale of the tonic triad, without the 4th  degree. Some SafeTone sets rely on that degree, others avoid or rely on some other scale tone for a particular quality. So, do NOT be convinced by any commercial publications that this note is an “avoid” tone, this 4th  degree, or that other scalar colors that exclude it are “safe” all the time.

So, on to the second chord, Bbm6, or Bbm/maj7, however your lead sheet specifies it. What can be done in the pentatonic realm for this harmony? Let's work the same bit we just did for the previous chord. Bb-Db-Eb-F-Ab is the minor pentatonic scale associated with this root, Yet, just because the triad is minor does NOT admit this scale to the club. Bbm7 takes this scale, even Bb7 could. Let's be clear about the types of chords, their functions, and the scales that go with them. In tonal music, which is to say Not the Blues, and Not “So What”, or any other “modal” tune, minor triads with major 6ths or 7ths are distinct from minor triads with minor 7ths. The contrast is three-fold:

  1. The function of a min7th chord is a sub-dominant one. It leads to a dominant 7th , and then on to a tonic of some kind, or is followed by a deceptive resolution to another series of chords. This function is NOT the same as the min6 or min/maj7th chord. This is a Tonic-type chord, which is usually preceded by its OWN sub-dom and dom7ths. It is a point of resolution, not a transitional chord.
  2. The scale that goes with it must NOT have any reference to the lowered seventh. It has, as its scale of origin, the melodic minor, which, in jazz, has both the same natural sixth and seventh degrees found in the parallel major, that is, the major on the same root, as opposed to the relative, which is a third away. This chord uses a diatonic scale of Bb-C-Db-Eb-F-G-A-Bb. No Ab's allowed!
  3. As far as the Blues goes, that chord sounds like a candidate for the minor blues scale, yet that may not be your best choice. The flatted 5th  of the blues will bang its musical head against the natural 5th  and 6th  of this chord. If your pianist, or your lead sheet are using the min/maj7, the min7 will do the same thing.

So, let's find a SafeTone set for this chord, and see how it compares to the chord that precedes it. Bb-C-Db-F-G makes a nice pentatonic hybrid for this chord. It uses the root of Bb min, the 2nd  note of every sort of Bb diatonic scale (not mode, but scale, mind you) the min 3rd, and both the 5th  and 6th  of Bb melodic minor. All that is left out is that 4th  degree, again. So, what about some kind of an A?

Lets find out what happens when the 5th  degree is used as the starting point once again. F-G-A-Bb-C are five tones that fit the chord nicely. Is this a pentatonic scale? No, it is not. It is, however, called a pentascale by many piano teachers. It is simply the five notes within the F major triad. We are on to something bigger here. The five notes associated with any major or minor triad are ESSENTIAL notes for playing over, through, and with chord changes in a competent and confident manner. How does knowing this information work for any OTHER chord-tones?

The 5th  of any chord will offer another chance to play a five-note pentascale or five-finger position, on ANY chord. Notice that is just what is going on with the F in Bbm6. But how should we treat the 4th  degree here? Doesn't it usually work in minor better than in major? The answer is, NO. Not if that minor chord is a Tonic minor, the way it is here in "Love For Sale." The reason it works on a min7th chord that leads to a dom7 is the fact that this note is the root of the next chord, AND does not make a tritone with anything that would mislead you from the dom7 that will follow. The 4th  degree on a chord that has a major 7th  will refer you back to the dom7 BEFORE that chord. We want movement Ahead, not backwards.

So, lets use Bb-C-Db-F-G-A as the SafeTone set for Bbm6 or Bbm/maj7. How does that contrast with the set for EbMaj7: Bb-C-D-Eb-F-G   versus Bb-C-Db-F-G-A?   The common tones are Bb, C, F and G. Let's list them another way. F-G-Bb-C. This little fragment is one of THE key structures for modern jazz improvising. It is two 4ths, a whole-step apart. F-Bb and G-C. It is common to both the Eb and Bb major pentatonic scales, and importantly here, it is common to the materials used to improvise over both EbMaj7 and Bbm6. That is the essence of this tune. The rest of the piece is mostly standard II-V progressions.

This leads me to our second topic, errors and variations. The original Boston BumbleBee Bookshop RealBook, the New Real Book, from Sher, the reissued RealBooks from the Hal Leonard, and any other legal fakebook-style compendiums from any other publishers WILL have different chord changes, and even differing melodies for the same tunes. Why should jazz musicians have to deal with this kind of uncertainly or lack of consensus as to accuracy?

Recordings, manuscripts, famous arrangements, personal styles of notation and chord identification, and even the persistence of well-known but accepted errors is prevalent, and can be detected in many printed versions of jazz, Broadway, and pop/jazz music. The reasons for these inconsistencies range from publishers not wanting to create new printing plates for future editions to the transcriber of a piece having a different notion of the music, or even a different version, than another transcriber.

Michael BB photo and bioMeasure by measure, here are some variants found in "Love For Sale."

  • All Eb Maj7 are sometimes shown as Dom7th.
  • Meas.10 can be Ebm7-Ab7, Ebm7-D7, or just Ab7, with or without extensions.
  • Meas.11 can be Db maj or Db7.
  • Meas.12 can be Gb7, Dbm6, Dbm7-Gb7.
  • Meas. 14 can be F7, F7alt, F7+, or B7alt.
  • The repetition of the first 16 can show a resolution to Bb MAJOR 7 instead of Bb MINOR 6th.
  • V7 progressions can have tritone substitutes listed, or not, and can have additional chords after another version's harmony might rest, to keep the harmonic rhythm going, at the same two chords-a-bar pace.
  • The last two bars of the bridge might have chromatic substitutes for the F min7b5-Bb7, or a tritone substitute for the final Bb7.

Be on the lookout for discrepancies between various commercial versions of many different types of jazz repertoire. They will fool you. To mitigate this variability, I have made my own lead sheets in a music typesetting program, for my own private use. When I give music to someone from that collection, I am sure of two things, One, that we are literally and figuratively on the same page, and Two, that the version I have created contains either the most accurate, or the most desirable features of various versions I have encountered.

Love is, of course, not for sale, but jazz is, as is printed jazz music.  Caveat Emptor, or Buyer Beware, of the changes that could be lurking in those changes, but enjoy finding out your own truths and preferences in formatting, harmonization, and even music fonts.