<![CDATA[bobbysternjazz.com - Blog: B Natural]]>Sat, 26 Nov 2016 02:36:16 -0500Weebly<![CDATA['Trane Changing Tracks - Rhythmic Variety]]>Mon, 21 Nov 2016 09:00:46 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/trane-changing-tracks-rhythmic-variety'Trane Changing Tracks - Rhythmic Variety Picture
In belated remembrance of the late John Coltrane's 90th birthday, here's a cute little four bar "digital pattern" exercise based on the Cycle of Descending Major 3rds (a.k.a. Coltrane Changes) through the keys.

As mentioned previously in these pages, 'Trane used these four note digital groupings, played in eighth notes, to better negotiate the rapid tempi of several of his classic originals (Giant Steps, Countdown, Satellite, etc), which were based on the descending Maj. 3rd Cycle.

'Trane had an arsenal of these groupings, many of them variations of simple 1235 on Maj. chords (C-D-E-G on C Maj) and b7123 on dominant chords (Db-Eb-F-G on Eb7), as classic examples.

The exercise contained in the downloadable pdf is based on 3513, b795b7.(F-Ab-Db-F on Db Maj & D-F#-B-D on E7), which in eighth notes, can be viewed as inversions of a Major triad (Db) and a minor triad (B min) one whole step lower. As these triads transpose down a Maj 3rd in each instance for the next two measures (A Maj | G min and F Maj | Eb min, respectively), this equates to a descending whole tone bass line in as in "Satellite", (in G concert) where the 5fth of the dominant chords (the minor triads here) are in the bass.

While playing the line in this exercise- or any line, for that matter - in constant eighth notes can be great for practicing, it can quickly get tiring and monotonous if done in a real world performance situation.

Rhythmic variety and balance is the ingredient that gives all the other ingredients their dimension.

Below are examples of how one could simply add rhythmic variety to line #1 of this exercise, without changing the melodic content.

The first two bars of the original exercise, shown below in Ex. #1, are all in eighth notes.

Rhythmic motion, tension and release can be obtained by employing rests, by omitting selected notes, and by moving remaining notes so that they fall and accent different parts of the beat, as in Ex. #2.

Ex. #1

Since there are two F's in the first group of eighth notes in the original, and two D's in the second group, we can replace one apiece with eighth note rests, shifting several of the other notes rhythmically by an eighth note (below).

Ex. #2.

Ex. #3 (below) is a variation of ex. #2. with strategically placed rests.
Another method of rhythmic displacement, (Ex. #4), is anticipation. The pickup note to bar #1, sets the tone as it shifts the first group of eighth notes earlier, so that the last eighth of each 4 note group in both measures (the "ands" of 2 & 4), "anticipates" the chord change on the next downbeat.

Ex. #4
Another important and classic rhythmic device used in breaking up eighth note monotony is the judicious use of triplets. That just might be the subject of another post.

These are just a few quick examples, as there are an almost unlimited number of possibilities in general. As an improviser, being able to take a phrase of straight eighth or sixteenth notes and create rhythmic diversity with rests, for example, is an essential skill to develop.

It can make your exercises sound like music and your music sound even more musical.

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Treble Clef

B. Stern
<![CDATA[8 Will Get You Six - A Diminished Scale Hexatonic]]>Fri, 21 Oct 2016 09:46:32 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/8-will-get-you-six-a-diminished-scale-hexatonic8 Will Get You Six - A Diminished Scale Hexatonic
The 8 note (octatonic) diminished scale has been an essential and popular improvisational tool since at least the mid 1950's. Over dominant chords especially, it's been a common “go to” device for creating “inside / outside“ harmonic tension and resolution.

Because of its alternating whole step / half step (and vice versa) interval scheme, a symmetrical scale structure is formed, which divides the octave into 4 equal parts, spaced in minor thirds.

This symmetrical construction not only builds diminished triads and 7th chords on each of its scale steps, but forms, as well, a number of leaner, meaner 6 note permutations of the original 8 note scale, consisting of several combinations of Major and minor triads.

This simple four bar line is fashioned from 2 of these triads (triad pair) found in any of the three diminished scales – namely, a Major triad and the minor triad found a min. 3rd above it (eg. C Maj & Eb min). The resulting 6 note (hexatonic) scale in this case would be (in C): CEbE - Gb - GBb.

Formed vertically as a chord, this configuration spells out a C7 #9#11 (Eb min. over C Maj).

Functionally, if employed as a bII7, it resolves smoothly to Bb min over B Maj. (B Maj7#11) or C# Maj. over B Maj (B 6/9 #11).

Expressed melodically, the ear would perceive it as having both Maj and min 3rds, as well as both a flat and natural 5th. This creates a strong blues oriented flavor.

Although formed from the above mentioned Major and minor triads, this particular line, ascending and descending in diatonic 3rds, might more accurately be considered a hexatonic line rather than a triad pair, as I have sometimes wondered what the difference is, if any, between the two.

So then, what is the difference?

A line from a triad pair might alternate through several inversions of each complete triad (eg. G-C-E-G, Gb-Bb-Eb-GbE-G-C-E,  Eb-Gb-Bb-Eb, etc.); whereas a hexatonic line, such as the subject of this post, might be expressed in a non-triadic, linear fashion.

The net harmonic flavor would be about the same with both, the difference being the effect that the melodic order and rhythm of the line would have on the listener. 

Or am I just be splitting hairs here?

Also of note is the close relationship this 6 note scale has with the 5th mode of an Eb Pentatonic b2 (C - Eb - E - G - Bb). In fact it is a Penta b2 with an added F#.

There are 4 of these mutually exclusive hexatonic / triad pairs found in each of the three diminished scales.

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Treble Clef

B. Stern
<![CDATA[For Your High-Ness: An Etude on "Someday My Prince Will Come"]]>Tue, 20 Sep 2016 14:00:44 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/for-your-high-ness-an-etude-on-someday-my-prince-will-comeFor Your High-Ness:
An Etude on "Someday My Prince Will Come"

Picture"Heah come da Prince!"
This is yet another solo style etude, which I this time fashioned from the chord changes of the popular Standard American Song, "Someday My Prince Will Come".

This tune has been in my repertoire for a while, but I started to take a closer look at it recently, for reasons I'll get into.

The music for "Someday My Prince Will Come" was composed and scored by Frank Churchill back in 1937 for the first ever full length animated Disney movie, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs".

I don't think I've ever actually seen the whole movie myself, but I think we all grew up knowing about little Ms. White and her seven vertically challenged buddies (Sleepy, Creepy, Peepee, Goofy, Doofy, Humpty & Dumpty....I think - off the top of my head; no?!?!?).

In any case, Someday My Prince has been a staple for improvising musicians and singers and has been recorded often - the definitive version possibly being Miles Davis' 1961 recording on Columbia (featuring tenor solos by both Hank Mobley and John Coltrane) from the album of the same name.

A few of the elements that have made this tune attractive to improvisers (and the classic that it's become) are:
it's 32 bar ABAC song form,
3/4 waltz time and
simple but deceptive chord changes.
One of the first things I had to clear up for myself was how to understand and negotiate the D7 (concert) something in the second bar of of each A section (bars #2 & #17). As it relates to the melody notes - Bb & F# (concert), or b13 & 3 - I suspected some type of altered dominant scale possibility, so I went with D7altered scale material (Eb Melodic Minor) here..

One might first think of a D7 resolving to some kind of G (V7-I), but wait......it deceptively resolves to Eb Maj, which is a Maj 3rd down from G. The A in the melody would suggest an Eb lydian type of scalar approach. Actually, one might still think of it as G natural minor (aeolian) with an Eb in the bass.

The other interesting point - for me, probably the most interesting - is the descending Db dim.7 passing chord which takes place in bars #10 & #14, in the B, or second 8 bar section of the tune. What threw me a bit in the beginning was choosing which diminished scale sounds best here, half tone/ whole tone (Db-D-E-F-G-Ab-Bb-B) or whole/ half tone (Db-Eb-E-F#-G-A-Bb-C).

At first, the former choice of the half/ whole diminished scale seemed to make the most sense, since it contains all the notes of a G7b9#9#11 13 chord which is the V7 of the next chord - Cmin7,
but it just didn't sound or feel right against the recordings, including the Aebersold track used in the audio example (link below) of this etude.


Because, I finally realized that the whole tone/ half tone diminished scale contains the notes of a C7 with a b9, #9, #11 & 13, the dominant of the root of the next chord after Cmin7; which is F7.

In fact, the A in the melody (13th of C7) in that measure is the giveaway, since it is present only in the whole/ half.

In other words, the Db dim7 in bars #10 & #14 basically functions as a C7b9 13 with the b9 in the bass (C13/ Db), or the II7 (V7 of V7) in the key of Bb. The whole purpose of most dim.7 passing chords, ascending or descending, is to facilitate the creation of a chromatic bass line; in this case D - Db - C and possibly F7/ B as a tritone sub in bars #9-12 and #13-17.

Uhh....I think I've got it now.

Getting to the etude specifically, I wrote it from my horn, phrase by phrase as I might play it and then tweaked it, where needed.

Some of my scale choices throughout are:

Melodic Minor over dominant 7th chords (measures #2, 4, 6-8, 12, 16, 18, 20, 24, 26 & 30)

Whole Tone/ Half Tone Diminished over dim. 7th chords in bars #10, 14 & 28.

I managed to sneak in an Augmented scale over the Eb Maj7 in bar #19, and a piece of the same scale again in bar #22.

Bars #11-12 and #15-16 are examples where I express the ii-V7 (C-7 / F7alt, in each case) intervallically - the Dorian mode for the ii and Melodic Minor for the V7alt; using intervals, for the most part, other than that of a second, although there are a few in there.

In bars #29-32, the focus is on the use of "digital type" patterns (i.e. 1235, (b)7123, etc.), a technique frequently employed by John Coltrane from ca. 1957 - 1961, give or take.

Bar #29 (Bb Maj7/ F) starts with a 3 4 5 6 (Bb Maj. scale) sixteenth note pattern the 2nd beat, moves down to a b3 4 5 6 (Ab Melodic Minor) sixteenth note group on the first beat of bar #30 (B dim7/ F, which is the same as G7b9), moving down to the G on the first 16th note of bar #31. This is where it gets kind of interesting. Originally I had the first group of 4 sixteenth notes as G-A-B-D, but removed the A to break up the stream a little bit. With the A still in there, the whole measure would read: 1235 in G;; 8 7 b7 8 over Bb7 (Mixolydian); 3 b3 2 b2 in Eb Maj.

If you didn't catch it already, the superimposed harmony in bar #31 that the line suggests (G - Bb7 - Eb) represents exactly one half of a complete Cycle of Descending Major thirds, or "Coltrane Change cycle, which would continue as (-Gb7 - B - D7) to complete the cycle.

As it is, the cycle continues in bar #32. The original lead sheet might say F7, the line says superimpose 1 2 3 5 in Eb; b7 1 2 3 of F#7; and 1 2 3 5 of B; which is the tritone sub of F7, (the V7 of Bb, the home key) and which resolves perfectly.

All this sounds especially good over these last four bars, since it is over an F pedal, which heightens the tension before going back Bb at the top.

Rhythmically, I felt a lot of triplets, which is something I'm still trying to smooth out the rough edges with.

A triplet feel undercurrent is going on all the time in this music, (listen to Elvin Jones) and there are ways to express it and break it up. I guess I also wanted to avoid steady streams of straight eighth notes and/ or constant 16th note feel. To to achieve a rhythmic balance within the phrases themselves, I've tried to mix it up.

I think there's a lot of practice material here. Maybe take it a line at a time. Isolate some of the ii-V7s and play them through the keys. Use your imagination and have as much fun with it as I did.

For the recorded example, I used a short piece at the beginning of the track from Aebersold Play-a-Long #58 "Unforgettable Standards".

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Bb         Concert         Eb

B. Stern
<![CDATA[Monk's "Skippy" - The Etude]]>Wed, 17 Aug 2016 12:03:11 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/monks-skippy-the-etudeMonk’s “Skippy” - The Etude Picture
Based on a previous post, which included a breakdown of Thelonious Monk's challenging original, "Skippy", I finally got around to putting together a one chorus, 32 bar "solo style" etude, as a means to decipher ways to navigate the changes of this roller coaster ride of a tune.

Monk's only recording of "Skippy" was from the 1952 Blue Note session that was released as part of "The Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 2", and which included an alternate take of the tune, as well.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, composing an etude for oneself can be extremely beneficial, in that it slows down the improvisational process and allows one to better see, hear and comprehend certain melodic and harmonic connections and how they tend to resolve - or not.

It's kind of like transcribing your own mind.

"Skippy" is, in itself, a study in the usage of dominant 7ths and their tritone substitutions (eg. F#7 for C7), moving around the cycle of fifths, as well as descending chromatically.

As the defining characteristic of a dominant 7th chord is the tritone between its 3rd and b7th (C7 = E & Bb, and its tritone sub; F#7 = A# & E), and being that there are only 2 beats per chord for the bulk of the tune (one beat per chord in measures #25-28), I've included the tritone melodically for each chord, in most cases, usually as part of a 2, 3 or 4 eighth note grouping; of which there are more than a few possibilities.
First of all, check out the pretty colors!

The 3 note shape that makes up the first three dominant chords (D7, G7, C7 concert) is highlighted in yellow in the above graphic. It transposes down chromatically (with slight variations in rhythm) for the first measure and a half, and each chord has a single note placed between its respective tritone.

In the case of the D7, it's a Bb (b13 or +5) between the F# (3) and C (b7) tritone. The symbol for this type of chord usually reads D7+5, referring to an augmented 5th, but I'll stick with b13 this time.

For the next chord, G7, the figure transposes down chromatically, but the root cycles down a perfect 5th. The F becomes the b7 and is on the bottom while its tritone B, is the Maj 3rd and on top. The A, as natural 9th in this case, is placed in between the two.

Had the root also moved down chromatically, in parallel with the rest of the figure, we would have simply had a Db7 (b13), the tritone sub of G7, with the exact same interval relationships as the previous chord.

In measure #2, the 3 note figure again moves down chromatically. The root resolves once more to the next V7 (C7) in the cycle of 5ths. The 3rd (E) is again on the bottom while the b7 (Bb) tritone is on top. The b13 (Ab) is, as before, caught in the middle.

While this 3 note figure could be derived from several scale systems, the most obvious choice would be the whole tone scale (a favorite of Monk's); followed by melodic minor (a favorite of mine). They are both excellent choices for conveying the 7 b13 (or 7+5) sound.

Speaking of melodic minor, the two 4 note groups in measure #3 (purple highlight) which make up Bb7 and A7, are derived from that scale (as well as from the Major scale system). This configuration yields a D Maj 7#11/ Bb, better known as Bb7 #9 b13 (see graphic for note labels), and moves down a half step in parallel (including its root), to A7 #9 b13, the tritone sub of Eb7, the next point in the cycle of 5ths.

The cycle continues chromatically with a descending Ab7 9 arpeggio in measure #4, connecting in anticipation to the b7 (B) of the next cycle point, Db7. The 4 note ascending figure (green highlight) in whole steps (b7-1-2(9)-3, in terms of the root) is an important one, which was often utilized at one point by a well known, former Monk disciple named John Coltrane, as part of his legacy, which became known as "Coltrane Changes".

As previously mentioned, there are more than a few ways to place melodic content in and around a tritone. Some other configurations in this etude are:

b7-1-2-3 (G7) & (F7) meas. #5

3-#4-#5-b7 (Ab7) same as b7-1-2-3 (D7) tritone sub - meas. #7

3-#4-b7-1 (G7) meas.#8

b5-3-1-b7 (F#7) meas.#9

3-2-b7 (E7) meas. #10

b7-6-b7-3 (Ab7 & G7) meas. #11

Can you find any others?

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Bb         C         Eb

Note: The harmonic substitutions in measures 29 & 30 are voiced E-D#-G-B (Eb7+5/ E) and Eb-G-A-Db (Eb7b5) (concert) respectively, each lasting a bar apiece.
Both the melody and harmony from those 2 bars are derived from the E Melodic Minor scale system.
B. Stern
<![CDATA[A Line in Fourths ii-V7 - 027 Trichords]]>Thu, 14 Jul 2016 12:06:36 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/a-line-in-fourths-ii-v7-027-trichordsA Line in Fourths ii-V7 - 027 Trichords
This 4 bar melodic line is built predominantly on the interval of a perfect 4th, wrapped neatly within the confines of various 027 (Major Scale steps 1-2-5) trichords (3 note groupings) and their inversions.

As a technique for melodic and harmonic improvisation, 027s began to show up regularly in the early to mid 1960's in solos and compositions of such pioneers as McCoy Tyner, John Coltrane, Joe Henderson; Woody, Wayne, Herbie .....y'know; them guys.

The use of the 027 trichord, as a basic melodic unit, was and is a practical way to break free of the standard bebop scalar motif approach. It not only opens the door to a more intervallic melodic line (perfect 4ths, pentatonics), but can easily lead to the creation of an inside-outside (and vice versa) tension and release approach to building improvised and composed melodic lines; not to mention the potential for piquing ones interest in other types of trichord units (013, 025, etc).

First of all, the numerical designations of any trichord are based on the distance, in half steps, ascending from the "root".

Ex: C=0, D=2 (half steps), G=7 (half steps).

In 12 tone parlance, a trichord's inversion is known as a a rotation. Root position (C-D-G) is prime form. First inversion (D-G-C) is called first rotation. Second inversion (G-C-D) is second rotation.

Fair enough?

In this eight bar line, different inversions of 027s are employed over a 4 bar ii-V7-i; with a slight harmonic detour. The time signature is 12/8, which should feel like 4/4 being played in triplets. Tempo:  dotted quarter = 120 bpm.
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The above example demonstrates how this line, consisting of 027s might be harmonized. In this case, I tried descending tritones (dominant 7ths, cycle of 5ths, tritone subs), for the most part, and they seemed to work. In most cases, the bottom note of each chord voicing is the root, which might normally be played by a bassist.

The chord symbols refer to the left hand voicings only and don't take into account the extensions created by the melodic line.

In the second four measures, various eighth notes are replaced with rests. This method of tonal subtraction is an example of how one might break up the potential monotony of a constant stream of eighth notes, and inject the line with a rhythmic life of its own.

Here's a breakdown of the trichords in Measure #1. Remember, "root position" of an 027 is the same as Major Scale steps 1-2-5, with the bottom note determining its so called "key":

A-7       D-A-E desc.   first inversion (rotation)   prime form:  D-E-A

F7b5     F#-B-C#         second inversion              prime form:  B-C#-F#

Bb9  -  This trichord (Ab-Eb-F) is not an 027 (it's an 025). However, if we include the final note of the previous trichord (C#) with the first two of this one, we get C#-Ab-Eb (first inversion of Db-Eb-Ab prime form) trichord. The C# overlaps and is an extension (b13 and #9) to both F7 and Bb7, respectively. This type of anticipation works moving into the next chord, as well: Eb-F-Bb prime form.

Eb7b5  -  Trichord F-Bb-C (second inversion, Bb-C-F) again starts from the final note of the previous group. The trichord under the Eb7 (Bb-C-G) is an 029, but from its second note, it overlaps 027-wise into the next chord D13 (C-G-D descending; prime form C-D-G).

See if you can label the trichords in the next measure? It's as easy as 125 (or 027)!

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Treble Clef

B. Stern
<![CDATA[A 'Trane Back@sswards - The Cycle of Ascending Major Thirds]]>Mon, 20 Jun 2016 10:41:29 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/a-trane-backsswards-the-cycle-of-ascending-major-thirdsA ‘Trane Back@sswards - The Cycle of Ascending Major Thirds
"Giant Steps, Giant Steps, Giant Steps"! How we love ya! As one of John Coltrane's best known originals, it's been an obstacle course as well as a right of passage for several generations of aspiring improvisers since its recorded inception in 1959.

Despite its notoriety, "Giant Steps" is but one of 9 known Coltrane originals in which he featured, in whole or in part, the Cycle of Descending Major 3rds, aka "Coltrane Changes ("Countdown", "Satellite" and "26-2" are some of the others).

Originally, 'Trane's intended use of this cycle was as a substitution for the more mundane ii-V7 harmonic movement as well as a device, which in his own words, "...would take me out of the ordinary path".

Since the Cycle of Major 3rds uses three key centers and divides the octave into 3 equal parts, regardless of direction (eg. B-G-Eb / descending or B-Eb-G / ascending), this poses a question: What's the difference in the quality and effect of a descending cycle (Coltrane Changes, aka Giant Steps Changes), as opposed to an ascending one?

To ponder this query, let's take a few giant steps back, so that we might get a more cosmic view of the larger picture. Shall we?

First, let's do an aural and visual comparison of the two versions of this cycle, each of which consists of 3 Maj key centers - each a Maj 3rd apart, preceded by its dominant (V7).

Each of the 4 bar piano examples below contains a complete cycle with repeat, with the last two quarter notes of measure #4, in each case, representing a ii-V7 turnaround back to the top. They are presented here at a slow 100 bpm, using basic shell voicings (root, 3rd & 7th), and written an octave up from where they sound for easier reading.

Both examples are in "Giant Steps" key - B concert.

Ex. 1:

Cycle of Descending Major 3rds (aka "Giant Steps" changes or "Coltrane Changes"):
                                           B Maj  D7 / G Maj  Bb7 / Eb Maj  F#7 / B Maj

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The root movement in the above example goes "up a minor 3rd, down a 5th" (octave displacement due to contrary motion notwithstanding) measure by measure. This translates, unsurprisingly, to 3 Maj chords, descending by a Maj 3rd, preceded by their dominants (V7).

That's the basis for "Giant Steps", "Countdown", "Satellite", etc. But you knew that already, right!?

While an understanding of the root movement can be important, thinking of each chord as its own, separate harmonic entity can give one the impression that there's more here to navigate than there really is.

Because the dominant chord on beats 3 & 4 of each measure and the tonic chord on beats 1 & 2 of the following measure are V7 - I to the same key, there are really only 3 harmonic entities (key centers) to deal with rather than 6.

With this in mind, it becomes much easier to create basic digital (as in fingers, not 1s & 0s) patterns and arpeggios, as Coltrane did, which cover both the dominant and tonic chords and treat them as a harmonic pair. This holds true for both cycles (Ex 3 & 4).

Ex. 2:
Cycle of Ascending Major 3rds:
                                     B Maj  Bb7 / Eb Maj  D7 / G Maj  F#7 / B Maj

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In the example of the "NOT Giant Steps" Cycle of Ascending Maj 3rds above (Ex. 2), the root movement is down a half step, down a 5th (or up a 4th). The order in which the key centers in measures 2 & 3 (Eb & G) appear are now reversed from that in the descending cycle (Ex. 1).

Upon listening to Ex. 2, one's initial reaction might be, "...kinda sounds & feels like "Giant Steps", but...it's different!"; which would be a pretty fair assessment. It's still a Maj 3rd cycle, only the direction has changed; with the obvious difference being in the route taken - low road vs. high road, so to speak.

One thing comes to mind here. Because the Descending Maj 3rd Cycle (Ex. 1) has, what in a classical sense might be considered as being the "stronger" root movement of the two, it's probably no surprise that John Coltrane chose the descending version of the cycle over the ascending one (Ex. 2) for his "device". I think it would be safe to assume that he was well aware of both versions, and he made his choice.

That's not to say that the ascending cycle can't be just as interesting or useful. To the contrary, I feel that its possibilities are definitely worthy of further investigation and exploration, don't you?

Besides direction, another important difference between these two examples is, in each case, the different possibilities for connecting the Maj. and dominant chords melodically in each measure.

To illustrate this difference, the line in the example of your basic "Giant Steps" formula below (Ex. 3) uses a 'Trane-like digital 1-2-3-5 pattern for the tonic Major key and chord (B Maj), for the first 2 beats of measure #1; followed by the dominant (D7) of the new key a Major 3rd lower (G Maj) in bar #2. The 5-4-3-2 numerical annotation refers to scale steps of the new key, and not its dominant, which resolves neatly back to the tonic (G - scale step 1).

This pattern repeats itself for the next 2 measures (the new key centers being G and Eb) with measure #4 being a ii-V7 turnaround, prolonging the movement back to B Maj in measure #1. Coltrane would usually have a ii-V here leading into a different set of key centers ("Satellite", "Giant Steps", "26-2", etc.).

Ex. 3:

Translating, or transposing that formula to the Ascending Cycle works out just fine, as in the example below (Ex. 4) as well as the download.

The connection points between the Maj and dominant chords are different in each cycle - notes F# & D connect chords B & D7 in measure#1 of Ex. 3 (descending cycle) - while at the same spot in Ex. 4 (ascending cycle), notes F# & Bb connect chords B & Bb7. Notice that both connection points are intervals of a Maj 3rd - one descending, the other ascending.

This basic, symmetrical melodic pattern is just the tip of the iceberg of melodic possibilities. It outlines the harmony and connects the key centers easily. It may not be something you'd use all the way through if you were actually improvising, but as an exercise, it's an excellent way to get this cycle into your ears, brain,  and under your fingers.

Ex. 4:

Ok! So now that you've seen, heard, and got a whiff of both the Descending and Ascending versions of the Maj 3rd cycle, you might be asking yourself, "What's the purpose!?", or "I have enough trouble playing "Giant Steps", why do I need to add this to my headaches?"

My answer to the first question, which applies to the second as well, is that one needs to be reminded once again of Coltrane's original intention for this cycle; which was as a substitution and enhancement device for the garden variety ii-V7-I chord progression. Being fluent in both of these cycles (and others, as well) will only increase your options and open up new avenues of discovery.

To the second question, I would answer simply; put the tune "Giant Steps", to the side for the time being! Focus on learning it's main element, the Cycle of Maj 3rds, descending and ascending, and the universe will open up and "Giant Steps" truths will reveal themselves to you in abundance!

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Treble Clef                Bass Clef

B. Stern
<![CDATA[Shape Up! - A Melodic Minor ii-V7 Shape]]>Sun, 22 May 2016 17:57:38 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/shape-up-a-melodic-minor-ii-v7-shapeShape Up! - A Melodic Minor ii-V7 Shape Picture
Here's a four bar Melodic Minor ii-V7 "shape" that will get and keep you in shape - and you don't even need to join a gym, Jim!

The simplicity and symmetry of this little shape make for a perfect warmup type exercise, especially when taken through all the keys.

If you're looking for a way to familiarize yourself with the sound and feel of a Melodic Minor ii-V (using two different Melodic Minor scales), right here might not be a bad place to start.

As with the vast majority of exercises on this blog, you'll find it transposed to all 12 keys. Here, each key is presented in a pair of four bar phrases - the first in continuous eighth notes (first 2 bars); the second broken up a bit by replacing certain notes with rests, thus introducing an element of rhythmic tension and release to the line.

Adding a suggested left hand piano voicing was done originally for my own edification (I am definitely a non-pianist). As with the line itself, the left hand comping rhythm varies between the first and second four bars - the first 4 is in whole notes; the second 4 broken up rhythmically to compliment the line itself, as well as to add a further rhythmic dimension.

                                                                         Take a look:

                                                                        Have a Listen:
                                                          (player opens in new tab/ window)

The basic melodic breakdown goes something like this:

Line #1, measure #1ii - E-7b5 - G Melodic Minor (E Locrian ♮2, hence the F#).

Line #1, measure #2V7 - A7alt - Bb Melodic Minor (A altered - b7 = G, b9 = Bb, b13 = F, root = A, b7 = G, b5 = Eb, 3 = Db (C#), b13 = F)

Line #1, measures #3 & 4I or i - resolves to D..., but D what? If you take a look at the left hand voicing D-A-B-C# (with an E in the melody), you'll notice that the 3rd, either Major or minor (F# or F), has been omitted; so you be the judge. It's purposely meant to be ambiguous here, in order to work with both Maj. & min. melodic material.

In making a comparison of the line between bars #1 & #2 (the ii & V chords), we notice that while both phrases are not exactly symmetrical in their comparative interval relationships, they're virtually identical in regards to their shape. The directions and numerical values of the intervals are all the same; the differences lie only in their qualities (i.e., Maj. vs. min. 2nds and 3rds). Check it out.

Meas. #1 - M3-P4-m3-m2-M3-m2-m3
Meas. #2 - m3-P4-M3-M2-M3-M2-M3

Except for the second and fifth intervals of each measure, all the other interval qualities are reversed. The fact that in measure #2, the altered dominant (altered scale) pattern begins a minor third lower than in bar #1, might have something to do with this phenomenon.

For those of you who are familiar with using different Melodic Minor scales over a ii-7b5 and a V7alt (The Melodic Minor Handbook), a common trick is to transpose exactly what's played on the ii chord, up a min. 3rd to the V. This creates a true symmetrical relationship between the the two phrases, with all their intervals being exactly the same in each case.

In this case, though, starting the second Melodic Minor phrase a minor 3rd lower creates an almost complete inverse interval relationship of sorts.

Kinda gives ya goose bumps, doesn't it?!

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B. Stern
<![CDATA[Playin' the Angles! - An Angular, Intervallic ii-V7-I Line]]>Tue, 12 Apr 2016 11:01:11 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/playin-the-angles-an-angular-intervallic-ii-v7-i-linePlayin' the Angles!
An Angular, Intervallic ii-V7-I Line

Picture"Angular" by Stephen Younts
This nifty little 4 bar ii-V7 line is based on a somewhat angular shape, which is almost identical for both the ii and the V chords.

The line's angularity is due to the absence of any consecutive 2nds (Maj. or min.), with the bulk of its interval content being comprised of different qualities of 3rds and 4ths.

This, however, is not a line built on a four or five note scale. Rather, the ii chord contains 6 out of the 7 diatonic note choices from the dorian mode, while the V7 contains all 7 from Melodic Minor (altered scale).

One of the beauties of this line lies in observing how, while moving from the ii to the V7, the scale tones become altered on the dominant side, while the integrity of its shape remains intact.

Using Line #1 as an example: G-7 / C7alt / F / F | (your basic ii-V7-I with an altered dominant).

The time signature is 12/8, felt as 4 dotted quarters (same as a 4/4 triplet feel). Each measure is comprised of four 3 note groupings.

In Line #1, measure #1, groups 1, 2 & 4 are inversions of 027 trichords (Maj. scale steps 1-2-5); the exception being group 2, which is a root position min. triad.  A trichord is a three note grouping defined by the distance, in semitones between each note, from its root, which is "0" to the other two member tones.

eg.: F = 0, G = 2, C = 7. If we were to put the F on top (G-C-F, ie. two P4ths) we have a first inversion 027 trichord, which happens to be the initial grouping in measure #1.

It's possible to build 5 different 027 trichords from a Major Scale. In F Maj:

F-G-C,  G-A-D,  Bb-C-F,  C-D-G,  D-E-A. The highlighted bottom notes spell out a Bb Pentatonic Scale (IV Mode). In a Major Scale, the relationship between P4s (of which there are 6), 027s (5), and Maj. Pentatonics (3) is intertwined & inescapable (like white on rice; spots on dice, etc.).

Intervallically and directionally, measure #1 also looks like this:

     up: P4 - P4 | down: m3 - M3 - m3 | up: P4 | down: M2 - P4 - m3 | up: P5 | down: M2 / m3

Line #1, measure #2 is based on a C# Melodic Minor scale (C7alt), and all seven note possibilities
are present.

Melodic Minor - and therefore the altered scale - has a unique interval make-up consisting of four P4s, a pair of tritones, and a diminished 4th (which sounds and functions, in most cases, as a Maj. 3rd).

Because of this, the harmonically neutral 027 trichord does not really capture the sound of an altered dominant 7th chord, even though the Melodic Minor system has 3 of them.

eg. C# Melodic Minor (measure #2) - C#-D#-G#,  F#-G#-A#,  G#-A#-D#. So, no 027s here my friends!

Here is the interval breakdown for bar #2 (C7alt):

      up: #4 - P4 | down: m3 - M3 - M3 | up: P4 | down: M2 - M3 - M2 | up: P4 | down: M2 / up: m3

Here's measure #1 once more for a side by side comparison:
     (up: P4 - P4 | down: m3 - M3 - m3 | up: P4 | down: M2 - P4 - m3 | up: P5 | down: M2 / m3)

I count 5 small interval changes (4 by half step; 1 by whole) and 1 directional change. The shape lives on!

Here's how the 4 bars might look when stacked vertically (with the b5 omitted from the dominant):

              G-7                                 C7alt                               F Maj7 #11

This line feels good when played at ca. dotted quarter = 120 bpm (quarter note = 180).
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Treble Clef

B. Stern
<![CDATA[Korner Karnataka #7 - Melakarta #45 - Shubhapantuvarali]]>Tue, 15 Mar 2016 10:39:22 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/korner-karnataka-7-melakarta-45-shubapantavaraliA Little Shubhap in Your BeBop?
Melakarta #45 - Shubhapantuvarali

In this post we'll take a look at Melakarta #45 - Shubhapantuvarali (that's shoo-bop pahn-too-vah-rahlly....no really!). "Shubhap" (for short) has the same tonal DNA as another Melakarta, namely, #36 - Chalanata, which is the subject of an earlier post. It might be helpful to check that out for some pertinent background info, as well as any of the other posts in this category (hey, why not? - they're FreeB's).

Due to the process known as graha bedham, which changes the śruti, or tonic, of a scale (Melakarta) to a different note within that scale, Melas #36 and #45 have the same tonal makeup, with each containing the exact same interval relationships. Only the starting point is different in each case.

This is the same type of relationship found between, for example, the Major scale and any of its modes (Dorian, Phrygian, etc.) - same 7 scale tones; different tonic.

As with the other posts on the subject, the objective here is to investigate the usage of these Carnatic (South Indian) Melakartas (there are 72 in all), as one would treat any 7 note western scale - as a melodic improvisational tool.

Shubhap (#45) can be thought as being formed from the 3rd scale step of Mela #36 (Chalanata). Conversely, the tonic of Chalanata can be found on the 6th scale step of Shubhap.

Each scale, however,  has it's own distinct "soul", with Shubhab having, decidedly, the darker vibe of the two; similar to Mixolydian vs. Locrian, for example, in a modal sense.

In actuality, its tonal layout - 1-b2-b3-#4 5-b6-7-8, would equate this Mela to a Phrygian #4, 7, in western terms. The b3, #4 and the resulting diminished triad from the root - helps to give this scale its dark, brooding and mysterious quality.

Referring to the keyboard graphic on the right, the tritone between scale steps 1 & #4; as well as a full Ab7#9, make for a possible bVI7 - V7 - i harmonic movement.

Although lacking a tritone, the V7 (G7 in C) could theoretically come from the scale tones G (root), Ab (b9), B (3), C (11), Db (b9), & Eb (b13).

The 8 two bar melodic phrases on page 2 of the download are but a few possibilities as to how this Mela might be used melodically in this type of improvisational setting.

It's always fun to practice with a drone. Download these shruti box drone tones, or stream them online.

Shubhap! And ya don't stop!

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B. Stern
<![CDATA[JoHen Tunes Up "Night & Day" - Joe Henderson's Reharm & Solo Transcription]]>Wed, 10 Feb 2016 18:52:02 GMThttp://bobbysternjazz.com/blog-b-natural/johen-tunes-up-night-day-joe-hendersons-reharm-solo-transcriptionJoHen Tunes Up "Night & Day"
Joe Henderson's Reharmonization and Solo Transcription

PictureJoe Henderson w/ Horace Silver in France- July, 1964
Joe Henderson's tenor saxophone solo on his reharmonized version of Cole Porter's "Night & Day" (downloadable transcription below), was recorded for the Blue Note label at Rudy Van Gelder's studio (where else!) in Engewood Cliffs, NJ on Nov. 30th, 1964, ten days before John Coltrane recorded "A Love Supreme" in the same studio.

"Night & Day" would be the final track on the "B" side of the original vinyl LP "Inner Urge", Henderson's fourth as a leader for Blue Note; and featured then current Coltrane Quartet members McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones on piano and drums respectively; as well as Bob Cranshaw, who was pretty much Blue Note's house bassist at the time

The album "Inner Urge" was titled after the now classic Henderson original and the subject of an earlier post. Both the tune and the album are iconic examples of '60's compositional, harmonic and improvisational innovations.

PictureA stamp for JoHen?
At this early juncture of his career, Joe was a busy man; having not only recorded 3 of his own albums as a leader for Blue Note during the preceding year and a half, but having also appeared on at least a dozen albums as a sideman for Blue Note during that period; including the "hit" recordings of Lee Morgan's "Sidewinder" and Horace Silver's "Song for My Father". Henderson also became a regular member of Silver's quintet that Spring; a gig that would last nearly two years.

As guitarist Tim Fischer pointed out in his excellent post on the subject of Henderson's reharm of "Night & Day", Joe's choice of that tune for this session was unique because it turned out to be the only standard he recorded on any of his 5 albums for Blue Note.

Interestingly, Fischer points out composer Cole Porter's frequent use of a ii-V7-I harmonic substitution based on the b6th degree of the parent key at the start of several of his best known standards.

All of You” (iv min. - I), “I Love You”, “What is This Thing Called Love” (ii-7b5 - V7 - I), and “Night & Day” (bVI Maj7 - V7 - I) all use some version of this substitution, which includes Maj. or minor chords with roots in the same diminished triad as the b6.

He also notes how the b6 Maj7 creates a Maj. 3rd key relationship to the home key, reminiscent of Coltrane's use of the  "Cycle of Descending Major Thirds", better known as "Coltrane Changes".

In Henderson's version and key, that translates to:

Bb Maj7 / A7 / D Maj7 / C-7 F7 // Bb Maj7 /

The Maj. 3rd relationship (in Henderson's case Bb and D Maj), had already been established by Cole Porter in his original version. Henderson simply inserted a ii-V7 (C-7 F7) in measure #4 in order to take it back to Bb in bar #5, thus creating a true descending Maj. 3rd (Coltrane Change) movement.

Fischer points out that Henderson does not complete the Maj. 3rd cycle which would temporarily modulate into Gb Maj.  Although he cites examples between Henderson's reharm and Coltrane's "Countdown", it has seemed to me that Henderson's "Night & Day" might have more in common with the tune from which "Countdown" was derived; namely, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson's "Tune Up". 

Tune Up (meas. #13-16):
E-7       /    F7         /  BbM7       / A7     /

Henderson's  "Night & Day" (meas. #13-16)
E-7 A7  /  C-7  F7  /  BbM7 A7  / DM7 F7 /

Coltrane's "Countdown" (meas. #-1-4)
E-7 F7 / BbM7 Db7 / GbM7 A7 / DM7

Except for the last measure and a half, Henderson's 4 bar turnaround in bars #13-16 of "Night & Day" is close to an exact match with the corresponding 4 measures of "Tune Up". Joe added the V7 (of D) in the second half of the first bar and the ii-7 (of Bb) in the first half of the second, establishing a 2 beat per chord harmonic rhythm, a la "Countdown".

Henderson then shifts the A7 (V7 of D), originally in measure #16, to the last 2 beats of the preceding bar, resolving up a Maj 3rd (from Bb) to the tonic D Maj for the first 2 beats of bar #16, only to descend back down a Maj 3rd to Bb Maj via 2 beats of F7, its dominant, to begin the second "A" section.

As mentioned previously, Henderson's reharm never moves to Gb, which would complete a full descending Maj. 3rd cycle.

What's curious here is that both tunes are in the same not often played key of D Maj (E Maj for the tenor saxophone). The original key for "Night & Day" is the very common key of Eb Maj concert (tenor key F).

Why then, did JoHen choose D Maj, of all keys; the same key as "Tune Up"?

My guess is that he saw the inherent Maj. 3rd harmonic relationships in both the last 4 bars of "Tune Up", as well as the aforementioned in "Night & Day", and made the necessary harmonic and key change adjustments to successfully fuse the two.

Just a thought!

Anyway, now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's take a look at the solo.

One of the most notable features of Joe Henderson's playing of this period was his use of "sequencing", whereby he would repeat a short melodic shape and / or rhythmic motif, and take it through a set of harmonic changes.

Joe wasted no time here, as he jumped right in at bar #3 with a descending figure, mainly in 3rds, bouncing lithely and tap dancing through several key centers thru bar #8.

What could be the most memorable, singable (danceable?), etc. part of the solo, comes at the end of the second "A" section of Joe's 2nd chorus, from bars #73 thru #79.  It includes the 4 bar descending min. & dim 7ths as well as the previously mentioned turnaround.

What makes this section so musically satisfying, is that he not only maintains the melodic shape over the changing harmonies, but slight variations in rhythmic placement make it a living statement.

Sweet, indeed!

After McCoy's piano solo, in bars #258 - 263, Henderson arpeggiates descending diatonic 7th chords against the changing harmonies; accenting rhythmically, along with Elvin, and against the pulse.

These are just a few of the things, 50-plus years after the fact, that still make Joe's solo here, as well as the whole album, a timeless gem.

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B. Stern