Line Cliché, Chromatic Cliché or C.E.S.H. Voicings.

Bill Evans: Explorations

Bill Evans: Explorations

The term CESH (Contrapuntal Elaboration of Static Harmony) scared the bejesus out of me when I first read it. The what of what? After I initially balked at the language, I found the idea to be both familiar and usable. It means to juxtapose a static chord with a moving line. If you have ever heard the James Bond theme song, you will understand directly what we are talking about. Some people call this Line cliché or Chromatic cliché. This technique can be found in more tunes than James Bond has had…ahh…never mind…it is in lots of tunes. Today we will look at some voicings and some songs that employ this contrapuntal vehicle. I will also show you couple of places that I use it for improvisations and arrangements.
Counterpoint and moving voices add a sophistication to harmony that is worthy of our attention. As an introduction to this, CESH seems to be a great place to start. I suggest you check out some Bill Evans. Listen carefully to how he approaches harmony and the moving “inside” voices of his chords. I have included some essential Bill Evans recordings below.

The Raw Material

Minor 7 with Descending Root is perhaps the most common. Here is a short list of songs where this occurs: Blue Skies, Cry me a River, Feelings, It Don’t Mean a Thing, Masquerade, My funny Valentine, My Romance, My Favorite Things, Stairway to Heaven and many more

C minor descending root

C minor descending root

Minor 7 with Ascending 5th. Some songs that use min7 with ascending 5: Israel, Old Flame, Invitation, Memories of You and James Bond Theme.

C minor ascending 5th

C minor ascending 5th

Major 7 with Descending Root songs include: Bojangles, If, With a little help with my Friends, Truly, and You are so Beautiful.

C Major descending Root

C Major descending Root

Major 7 with Ascending 5th songs: Brasil, Lucky Southern, Idaho and Make Someone Happy.

C Major ascending 5th

C Major ascending 5th

Taking it to the next step

There are two situations that I use the minor 7 with descending root that I would like to show you today. If you have an extended minor chord for say 2 bars (Ex.1 Gmin7), this technique works great and adds some motion to the chord. The second is over any 2-5 (Ex.2 Bbmin7 -Eb7). Below is the first 8 bars of “The Days of Wine and Roses” with examples of this technique marked. The original chords are above the staff and the implied harmony is under (in red). Remember to use this technique both sparingly and tastefully.

Days of Wine and Roses (1st 8 bars)

Days of Wine and Roses (1st 8 bars)

Essential Bill Evans Listening

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2 Responses to Line Cliché, Chromatic Cliché or C.E.S.H. Voicings.

  1. Dustin Adams says:

    Nice article! Just found the website, subscribed, and looking forward to reading more! Thanks!

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