Joe Henderson's
"Black Narcissus" - The Last Eight

Joe Henderson's "Black Narcissus" is a delicate jazz waltz and one of the legendary tenor saxophonist / composer's better known compositions.

Originally recorded on May 29, 1969 and released as part of Henderson's album "Power to the People" (which included Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Jack De Johnette) on the Milestone label, Joe recorded it several times subsequently. That includes the 1974 version, recorded in Paris and featured on the album of the same name.

It has since been covered by many by other artists.

Although completely different
in emotional intent, scope and style, "Black Narcissus" has striking similarities in compositional structure, as well as harmonic usage, to another one of Henderson's classics, and the subject of an earlier post; namely, "Inner Urge".

I had heard different versions of "Black Narcissus" for years before actually trying to learn it myself. At that point, I realized that this simple sounding tune necessitated some closer scrutiny; especially after hearing many improvisers trying to "ramrod" their way through the last eight measure, "B" section of the tune.


One Cool Warmup.....Comin' Up!!

Here's a nifty little chromatic warmup exercise, great for getting those icicles out of your fingers any time of the year.

It can be worked in over a iii-VI-ii-V7-I (in C: E-7 A7 / D-7 G7 / C / C ) progression, and the breakdown is pretty straightforward.

Question: What's 4 measures long, contains all 12 notes, includes a descending Maj7+5 arpeggio, a descending dim7
arpeggio and ends on the Major 3rd of the key?

Uhhhhhh............Give up?

Just keep on reading and the truth shall reveal itself (...and maybe even set you free!)


Unidentified Descending Shape (UDS)
Landing Near You
Origin determined to be from the planet Tritonius Minorus in the Diminished Scale System, according to reports from Deep Space b9

PictureIdentified as Unidentified Descending Shape (UDS) by Deep Space b9
Don't jump out the window just yet...........!

Swap that tricorder for a trichord and check out this supplementary exercise based on my last post, which deals with a hexatonic scale comprised of two minor triads, a tritone apart (C- & F#-).

As this scale seemed to have been nameless,
for lack of one better I dubbed it the "Tritone Minor Scale".

It's close resemblance to it's likewise Diminished Scale offshoot cousin, the more popularly known "Tritone Scale" (2 Major Triads, a tritone apart), confirms its DNA and keeps it in the family.

The descending shape used for this exercise is the same one used on a different scale in an earlier post, and is a hip way to let your fingers run through the intervallic construction of any scale, regardless of how many notes it contains.


Who Put the "Hex" on My Hexatonic?
(Tritone Minor, That's Who!)

Picture"Impression of Mr. Eerius N. Hedlace at the Piano''. Painting by Pho-Toh Ziap
Here's an interesting and useful hexatonic (6 tone) symmetrical configuration, which I came across recently:

C-Db-Eb  F#-G-A

This scale is actually a derivative of the half tone / whole tone diminished scale, with the E - Bb
tritone removed:

C-Db-Eb (E) F#-G-A (Bb)

In 12 tone set theory, it would be seen as a pair of 013 trichords spaced a tritone apart.

As a triad pair, it consists of 2 minor triads, a tritone apart: C-Eb-G / F#-A-C#

And, if you haven't already noticed, our new friend turns out to be the dark, mysterious, little known first cousin of what has become commonly known to improvisers as the "Tritone Scale", a likewise hexatonic formation; made up of 2 Major Triads a tritone apart (C-E-G / F#-A#-C#) and derived from the same diminished matrix.

As you will see and hear, there is a large qualitative difference between these two "relatives".

I haven't yet found any other names for an exact match to this scale (Slonimsky p.2 #6, no name. Several Carnatic Ragam come close, but no incense).

That's why
I, hereby, take it upon myself to christen it (drum roll).................

"The Tritone Minor Scale" (e.g. C Tritone Minor, F# Tritone Minor, etc.).

Pour the champagne and strike up the band!


On Ramp, Off Ramp - ii-V7 Fourth Cycle Vamp
Sill inspired by "A Study in Fourths" by Walter Bishop, jr.

Since I realize y'all can't get enough of this 4th thing, and as I'm on somewhat of a roll with the subject, I thought I might just continue along this line of thought from the point where we left off last time.

I promise I'll give it, and the esteemed Mr. Bishop, a break after this.

Anyway, it occurred to me that measures #3 & 4 (D-7 / G7) of that exercise contained a complete, uninterrupted 12 tone cycle in perfect 4ths.

"So?!", you say.

"So" I say, "let me see if I can conjure up a few more lines like that one, over a ii-V7 cadence, which use the complete 4th cycle and which resolve to the tonic (I).

Of the 5 lines presented here, each starting on a different diatonic scale tone, 4 of them employ a complete 12 tone cycle in perfect 4ths; while the fifth (line 4) uses a number of shifts and rests, resulting in a series of 027 trichords.

The coolest thing about using a complete 4th cycle in these cases, is that the cycle, being a 12 tone row, contains all twelve notes of the chromatic scale; meaning that it also contains all of the eleven possible note choices, plus one, available for an altered dominant (V7alt) chord.


A Curious Case of Temporary Outness
in the 4th Dimension

Inspired by "A Study in Fourths" by Walter Bishop, jr.

As with these two previous posts (here and here), this particular exercise covers improvisational techniques utilizing the interval of a perfect 4th, inspired by the legendary pianist and composer, the late Walter Bishop, jr., and his currently out of print book, "A Study in Fourths".

If you are unfamiliar with Mr. Bishop and his contributions to the music and its vocabulary,
this is a must see video, whatever your instrument happens to be.

While Walter Bishop, jr. certainly wasn't the first to come up with the concept of using fourth cycles as a tool for improvisation, his legacy as a contributor to the concept lives on, through his book, as well as the above linked instructional video.

In this case, we're talking about working some of these modified fourth cycles over a common, six measure iii-VI-ii-V-I chord progression.


Three's a Pair! - Melodic Minor ii-V7-i Triad Pairs

The use of Triad Pairs (adjacent diatonic triads which form a hexatonic, or six note, scale), has been a relatively recent addition, historically speaking, to the general vocabulary of improvised music, becoming more prevalent among improvising musicians during the past 30 years or so.

One of the earlier examples of the use of triad pairs can be found in the well known 1959 recorded TV version of John Coltrane's solo on Miles Davis' "So What", when he was still a member of the trumpeter's quintet.

Coltrane can be heard to clearly enunciate both G and F Maj. triads (built from the 5th and 4th scale degrees, respectively, of the C Major scale) in sequence
over a basic D-7 for most of the first 10 bars of his second chorus, beginning at 4:51 of the above linked YouTube video.

There are many subsequent examples of the use of these, and other, triad pairs to be found in 'Trane's solos on numerous versions of his own compositional adaptation of the "So What" changes; namely, "Impressions".

Likewise, the same G and F Maj. triad pair is in evidence on Coltrane's 1962 trio recording of his  original, "Big Nick" (solo transcription here).


A Perfect Fourth Story - Ch. 2:
Melodic Minor 4th Shape ii-V7-i Application

Judging from the title, this post is a follow up to last week's, with some ideas on how one could apply these particular Melodic Minor 4th shapes in a ii-V7-i situation; at least in theory.

What I've done here was to copy one of the single measure shape patterns from a particular MM scale for the ii7b5, and another one from the MM scale a minor 3rd above it for the V7alt, but not from the same identical scale degree, so that while the shape remains the same, the pattern's interval makeup is slightly different.

A common Melodic Minor device is that whatever you play on the ii7b5, you can transpose that same  phrase up a minor 3rd as a parallel sequence for the V7alt and it should sound pretty cool, right?

Eg: Line 1, measure #1 of last week's exercise: D-G-C-G  Ab-D-G-E = D-7b5 (from the 6th scale degree of F Melodic Minor).

Now drop down to Line 7, measure#1: F-Bb-Eb-Bb  B-F-Bb-G = G7alt (7th scale degree of Ab Melodic Minor, up a min. 3rd from F, although the pattern begins on the 6th of Ab MM).

Now that you've gotten this "up a minor 3rd thing" digested, please be informed that we'll be avoiding it like the plague this time!


A Perfect Fourth Story:
Melodic Minor 4th Shape

Picture4 Leaf Clovertone
The interval of a perfect 4th, being an inverted perfect 5th (the 2nd harmonic overtone in the natural overtone series), is predominant, both melodically as well harmonically (where harmony exists), in all types and styles of music on Planet Earth.

Traditionally, western music
is based on a series (cycle) of 12 consecutive perfect 4ths (5ths) i.e.: (C-F-Bb-Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-B-E-A-D-G), which when juxtaposed to create a row of 12 equidistant semi-tones (C-Db-D-Eb-E-F-Gb-G-Ab-A-Bb-B) becomes known, of course, as the Chromatic Scale.

It's from this Chromatic Scale that we commonly draw our 7 note Major Scale matrix based on the interval scheme of:

Whole Step/ Whole Step/ Half Step/ Whole Step/ Whole Step Whole Step/ Half Step.
(C-D-E-F-G-A-B = C Major).

But you already knew that, right?

Or, we can take a series of 6 consecutive perfect 4ths (eg. B-E-A-D-G-C-F), and we have the same 7 notes of that same C Maj. scale.

We can even drop the first and last notes (B & F), which create a tritone, and that'll give us a good ol' C Maj Pentatonic Scale (C-D-E-G-A).

Smashing! Wouldn't you agree?!

It's only when we bust up that plan by messing with the note E (the hallowed Maj. 3rd); altering it down a half step, (making it an Eb and a min. 3rd), that we enter the dark netherworld of C Melodic Minor....

And then the real fun begins!


Funkman's D-Lite - Contortion, Distortion
& 7#9 (Maj / Min)

PictureDr. Funkman Whosen-Evernitiz
The dominant 7th chord is probably the most flexible harmonic device in Western music, both in it's functionality as well as its note choices.

Theoretically speaking, all you need is a tritone and 9 of the 10 remaining notes of the the chromatic scale, excluding (again, theoretically speaking) only the Maj. 7th (which works great as a passing tone, etc.), and you're good to go.

Think I'm lyin'

Using D7 as an example for this post, let's build a chromatic scale and label each note's function (notes in italics are the altered tensions):

D=root; Eb=b9; E=9; F=#9; F#=3; G=sus4(11); Ab(G#)=b5(#11); A=5; Bb(A#)=b13(#5); B=13; C=7; C#=Maj7.

Only the last note C#, the Maj7 in this case, gets uninvited to the party, but it usually "passes" by via the backdoor, anyway.

Count 'em up. That's 11 out of 12 legit (and 12 out of 12 if we sneak that Maj7 in there).

Is that flexible or what?