Major7#11: The Jazz Musician’s Ending Chord of Choice

Joe Henderson: Inner Urge

Joe Henderson: Inner Urge

Ok, I have no statistics to back up that headline. However, from listening to jazz for years and years, I do know that it is a very common chord choice for ending a tune. The Major 7 sharp 11 chord is modern sounding and beautiful. While it has almost become a cliché, it is still very effective way to end a jazz tune.
These chord voicings can also be used in tunes. Check out some Joe Henderson tunes like Black Narcissus and Inner Urge. These are extremely fun tunes to play that employ major7#11 chords all over the place. Continue reading

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Soloing with Block Chords Part 6: Major

Antonio Carlos Jobim: Wave

Antonio Carlos Jobim: Wave

Good music should reflect life! Life has it’s ups and downs, happy and sad, rain and sunshine, winter and summer …tension and release. The beauty of anything is so much more vivid when seen in contrast to ugly. If I knock over a glass of water it causes tension as it falls then a release after it smashes and spills. Life and music are all about tension and release. In life you often can’t control this, but, when you improvise, play music, and compose, it is arguably your greatest tool. Continue reading

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Another exercise for developing rock-solid time

Chic Corea: Now he sings, now he sobs

Chick Corea: Now he sings, now he sobs

Developing a rock-solid, unshakable, punctilious, time feel is on the menu today (as is testing out my new thesaurus). This is an extension of a previous post: Feeling the beat: Test and improve your time feel now!. I developed this exercise to help with concentration. I began to notice that some of my students were having problems playing against counter rhythms that were unexpected, such as comping or drum hits and stops. Continue reading

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Soloing with Block Chords Part 5: Altered Dominant

Red Garland

Red Garland

The ability to find new applications for old material is one of the greatest musical endeavors you can undertake. I had a teacher tell me one time that I already knew all the jazz vocabulary I ever needed, but I hadn’t learned how to get the most mileage out of it. In our talk today, I want to show you a “trick” you can use to harmonize the altered scale. Part of the material we will be using has already been presented in an earlier post: Soloing with Block Chords: Part 2 (Unaltered Dominant).
As jazz guitarists, we have to learn to leverage the instruments inherent advantages. For example, the guitar is extremely visual. We can see chord shapes and scale forms in our head. Learn to take advantage of this. Be sure to have a connection with your inner voice, but also visualize the fingering and shapes. Continue reading

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Wes Montgomery Chord Solo Transcription: ‘Round Midnight

The Wes Montgomery Trio

The Wes Montgomery Trio

With all the recent talk around here about block chords, I thought today we would go direct to the horses mouth, or should I say the master’s guitar. Wes Montgomery tastefully combines single lines, octaves, and block chords with incredible phrasing and time feel to create a most compelling style. We can (and will) learn tons of stuff from Wes in coming posts. For now though we will look at his classic chord solo on ’round midnight. I have the entire solo transcribed, but have decided that the chord solo is most relevant to this blog. I am quite sure it is accurate, Continue reading

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Soloing with Block Chords Part 4: Whole Tone Scale

Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Monk

As I peered through the bushes the purple monkey driving a tractor spotted me. I knew I was in trouble when he climbed down asked me for a banana…”cue whole-tone dream sequence music”…”fade to black”

Today we will be exploring the harmonized whole tone scale over dominant 7 sharp 5 chords. This is a very special (and mysterious) scale. My uncle insists that historically, jazz musicians who employed this scale have gone insane. So be forewarned. This scale has a very particular sound and its symmetrical structure makes it extremely flexible Continue reading

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22 Ideas for comping over 1-6-2-5 progressions

Aebersold Vol. 16, Turnarounds, Cycles & II/V7's

Aebersold Vol. 16, Turnarounds, Cycles & II/V7's

Today I would like to offer you 22 voicings that outline a 1 6 2 5 progression (ex. Cmaj7 – Am7 – Dm7 – G7). This is perhaps the most common chord progression ever know to man/woman. This is also known as a “turnaround” and is often found in the last few measures of a song. This turnaround gives us a push to the top of the form.

Be sure to read the “things to remember” bullet points and take them to heart. Memorizing every voicing is not necessary. Play through them a bunch of times and you will begin to hear the finer details of this progression and get it in your ear. Continue reading

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Soloing with Block Chords Part 3: Half-Whole diminished

George Benson Cookbook

George Benson Cookbook

One of my favorite scales to use over a dominant chord is the half-whole diminished. The symmetrical nature of this scale really lends itself to block chords. (half-step, whole step, half, whole, etc.). The tensions that we get over a dominant chord are the flat-9, sharp-9, and sharp-11. This was also one of Wes Montgomery’s favorite. He would sometimes harmonize an entire dominant 7 line with the same diminished voicing. Not only does this technique sound great, it is also very easy to utilize and to integrate into your playing. Continue reading

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Soloing with Block Chords: Part 2 (Unaltered Dominant)

“Gimme some block chords, Red” – Miles Davis

relaxin

Relaxin with The Miles Davis Quintet

If you listen carefully to the beginning of “You’re My Everything” on the album Relaxin’ with the Miles Davis Quintet, you can hear Miles stop Red Garland’s intro and tell him to play block chords. Miles knew what he wanted and I think he was right! Let us continue our block chord discussion, Red.

The second type of chord I would like to examine is the dominant 7. Continue reading

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Chord Soloing with Block Chords:Part 1(Minor Chords)

Miles Davis: Kind of Blue

Miles Davis: Kind of Blue

In our quest for chord soloing freedom, I thought I would jump right into the deep end and begin a series of articles about harmonizing melodies. This harmonization is sometimes called block chords. The term “Block chords” is borrowed from piano players. It is used to describe a locked hand style that harmonizes a melody and usually sounds best in the middle register of the piano. There are an infinite number of ways to harmonize a note so we will have to make some choices along the way. The first chord type we will look at is the minor chord. So our goal here is to harmonize any note that may be played over a minor chord (in theory any note from the chromatic scale.). As you have probably realized by now, the study of comping and chords is more about melody than anything else. The melody you interact with and the melody of the comping. So let’s begin:
Continue reading

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