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.