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.