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With a performance career spanning four decades, Charlie Austin has played professionally across Western Canada in a variety of settings, including The Tommy Banks Show on CBC and the 1970's and 80's ITV Concert series, where he accompanied singers such as Mel Torme, Henry Mancini, Viki Carr, Connie Stevens, Carol Lawrence, and others. Charlie was the house band pianist and arranger for Second City Television (SCTV), produced in Edmonton. Jazz performances include dates with CBC Jazz Radio Canada and Sam Noto. For over thirty years, Charlie taught in Grant MacEwan University’s Jazz Program, where he influenced a generation of Western Canadian jazz musicians. His comprehensive jazz piano text An Approach to Jazz Piano has been sold around the world. Now retired, Charlie continues to perform, teach, record, and inspire. Recent recordings include solo piano If I Should Lose You (2012) and trio recording Homage (2014).

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Melodic Generic Shapes in Jazz Improv:
A Practice in Discovery

These melodic shapes are documented and championed by Jerry Bergonzi and others. In this discussion, I'll call them Generic Shapes (GS).  They are available in a one octave diatonic scale and can be calculated and practised into improvisation over scales/chords and, over tunes.

Let's say that a GS will have at least three notes, and in fact can be four notes (quite accessible), five notes and even six notes (not totally impractical). I will outline some thoughts I've had for a number of years on this topic over a series of upcoming blogs. There is a lot of detail and understanding to be discussed so it may take a good number of blogs to cover this. A large part of this will be the discovery and application of possible permutations of the original primary Generic Shapes (GS), followed by permutations of primary GS:

  1. Basic Permutation (BP)—(note order change in a GS)
  2. Rotations R (inversions of a GS)
  3. Staggered Starts of each Rotation (SR) of a GS

Five possible four note Generic Shapes:

The first GS under discussion, since it's the most common and is easy to use, is the four note GS.  There are five unique four note Generic Shapes existing within an octave of a major scale or any seven-tone scale. Using the C major scale and C root as an example, they are the following: 

1235 (CDEG), 1345 (CEFG), 1245 (CDFG), 1234 (CDEF—Tetrachord), and 1357 (CEGB—7th chord. 

These are the primary Generic Shapes and each can be played diatonically over any scale tone. For example CDEG 1235 has an ascending intervallic shape of major second,  major second, minor third. This same 'shape' could be applied to say: D Dorian 'D' being the 'new 1' with the result: DEFA which has this same ascending shape only the interval quality may be different as in major second, minor second, and major third. It still falls under the umbrella of being a 1235 GS(4). See Figure 1.

GS 1235:

It may seem arbitrary but starting with 1235 [CDEG] is a good idea because it abbreviates both the major scale, major pentatonic scale, and, it also establishes a triad chord. A possible first device to be used in the task of finding permutations, is a Basic note order Permutation (BP). It turns out that there are six BP for each of the original primary four note GS. The original primary GS, CDEG, is now reordered five times using the same notes for a total of six BP. See Figure 2.

Six Basic Permutation (6BP) applied to the primary GS4 as in CDEG:

CDEG (prograde-original—BP1) can be reversed to GEDC (retrograde—BP2). The next BP can be discerned by doing an obvious process of every other number as in CDEG becoming: CEDG (BP3) which itself can be reversed (retrograde) to become GDEC (BP4). Making a total of four BP so far. The last two remaining BP can be seen by reordering the original by the only remaining ways available: CDEG becomes CDGE (BP5) and the original retrograde form GEDC is given a similar treatment and becomes GECD (BP6). See Figure 2.

Figure 2.

Outlining the above BP (process):

BP1    BP2    BP3    BP4    BP5    BP6
1235 — 5321 — 1325 — 5231 — 1253 — 5312

Thus you have six Basic Permutations (BP) of note order.

Now to each of these examples of six BP we can apply the further changes (permutations) to each GS through: inversion (rotation) and staggered rotation (see the list above under the first paragraph of this blog).

Each one of the original GS (CDEG—1235 as an example) will have 6BP x 4 inversions (rotations) x 4 staggered rotations for a total of 96 possibilities. A first step in practising these might include the 6BP to get familiar with. Basic Permutations (BP) are purely about changing the note order in the starting GS. It sounds like a lot to deal with but once the ideas are committed, there could be some possible freedom experiences in that something right and NEW might emerge from this study. See Figure 2 above.

Permutations (4) through Inversion/Rotation: 'R'

This is a relatively simple process and creates new shapes out of the original.

CDEG 1235 rotated (inverted) once, creates a shape: DEGC (2358) and the new ascending intervallic shape derived is Ma2 Min3 Perfect 4th. By reducing it to it's 'new root tone' D (DEGC) this new shape can be easily thought of as 1247 (Ma2 Min3 Perfect 4th) reckoned from D. In Figure 3, I take this generated GS and impose it on the original root C (CDFB) to get a clearer comparative view.  See Figure 3.

By applying this same thinking process to the 2nd inversion of 1235 (3589 or 3512), related to C as 1 it reads 3589 and if the note E becomes the 'new root' note, the GS of 1235 can be seen as 'E' 1367 (EGCD) in this case the ascending intervals are: min3rd Perfect 4th Ma2nd using only the original notes. Again I've taken this generated GS and imposed it on the original root C (CEAB) to get a comparative view. See Figure 4.

Applying this process to the fourth inversion (rotation) of CDEG, the notes generated are GCDE (589 10) and have a new shape from 'G' (root) which reads 1456 (Perfect 4th, Ma2, Ma2). Note the comparative view with 1456 over a 'C' root (CFGA). See Figure 5.

Thus, from the 4 'rotations' of CDEG (1235), the new shapes 1247 (CDFB), 1367 (CEAB), and 1456 (CFGA) for a total of inclusively: 4 GS through an inversion/rotation process (R). See Figure 6 for a summary of these 4 shapes created by the inversion/rotation of on GS (1235 in this case). All the generated rotations are imposed over a C note as the bottom note. Truly it is the Rotation shapes that serve best as a basis for permutation because once these are learned and learned as transferable (C1235—D12b35 etc.) GS, the application of BP and SR (staggered starts in rotation) can be applied as they are gradually learned.

N.B. If one takes into consideration the 6BP applied to each one of these 6BP x 4R there are 24 individual yet strongly related Generic Shapes (GS).

The next application of permutation emerges when the rotations (R) are given staggered starts (S).

This additional device (GS4 x 6BP x 4R x 4 SR) creates the rest of the potential 96 GS permutation possibilities with four notes. It is simply a process achieved by staggering the start of a single rotation, for example 1235 can be started on successive notes in the shape: 1235, 2351, 3512, 5123. This same idea can be applied to the other rotations of our example: DEGC can be started in a sequence of staggers on the same shape. DEGC EGCD GCDE and C(octave up)DEG.. and so on. When BP (6) and R (4) and S (4) are multiplied the potential numbers of GS is 6BP x 4R x 4S = 96 possibilities. See Figure 7.

See the page below which illustrates the 96 possibilities (on C major etc.) of the GS4 (1235). See Figure 8.

Figure 8.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Outlining Barry Harris' Bebop Scale Tone Seventh Chords

The major bebop scale has been in common knowledge for decades. I have outlined the tonic/dominant (IMa6 iiDim) polarity in an earlier blog (March, 2012). So check that out and you’ll see a few examples of some ideas for expanding upon that idea. OK, then comes Barry Harris (a well known jazz piano/educator) who instructs us with some mysterious sounding, but not necessarily rocket-science, ideas for the bebop scale. The scale: in C major: C D E F G G# A B C.

For starters, most jazz players these days will study the scale-tone sevenths of at least four or five different scale types, so most are familiar with playing scale-tone sevenths for example, in major scales in a step-wise root motion as in C major:

CMa7 Dmi7 Emi7 FMa7 G7 Ami7 Bmi7(b5) CMa7 and learning the modes that are often associated with those chords.

I chanced upon a youtube video of Barry Harris working with (astonished) students and he did a similar thing except he played them over the bebop major scale. While paying strict attention to voice leading, each of the four voices, leads to the next note in the scale, creating a very interesting take on the bebop scale. This approach has a very similar effect to the C6 Ddim toggling-polarity application mentioned earlier, yet they sounded different and interesting. Scale-tone sevenths here start out as normal but quickly run into that added note G# (#5 or b6) so the chord qualities start to change quickly from that of the scale-tone sevenths in the pure major scale. I’ve outlined a few ideas from what I heard in B.H’s you-tube video, but basically here is the main theme:

Notice there are eight scale-tone sevenths chords as opposed to seven in a major scale.  Also notice that there are two mi7(b5) chords in the bebop major scale.

Barry Harris played them as triads over a bass note which are outlined below:

              CMa7     Dmi7(b5) Emi11    FdimMa7  G9sus4 G#/AbdimMa7 AmiMa7 Bmi7(b5)

The triads (numerator) over the bass notes can be inverted giving a greater range.

How are these used? They can be used much the same way as the C6/Ddim method. There is the same polarity evident with BH’s approach i.e. tonic dominant toggling. The exception to this would be the V7sus4 or F/G in our example. It’s not a tonic chord but it is an unresolved dominant so it can function also as an unresolved tonic in a way. Once this is looked at the next step (perhaps) could be to learn the associated modes of the major bebop scale. They will be the same as in a major scale except for the added #5/b6. BH quotes the bridge to My Funny Valentine as an example where this might be used—it sounds fantastic! But why is it so hard to learn in all keys and in all forms?

Friday, September 6, 2013

The moving line potential of the Bebop Cliché in the Sound

There are multiple application of the so called Bebop Cliché from the sound. Check out the previous blogs on the Sound (here and here) to get a background on this. Once upon a time in Boston at a Jazz Ed conference, I was encouraged to expand this cliché material this way by none other than David Leibman.

The bebop cliché traditionally springs from the realm of a ii—V7 harmonic progression for example: Dmi9—G13 (—) being expanded to Dmi9—DmiMa9—Dmi9—G13. What it is really about is the expression of a descending chromatic line (it can ascend too, depending on the chord and intention of the player). This was outlined in the last few previous blogs on 'The Sound.' Another thing about it is that it operates as a delaying tactic towards the resolution of the mi9 chord to the dominant V7 chord. The bebop cliché can also be treated more melodically with a melody that has within it the descending/ascending line.

This blog will explore the multiplicity of the 'Sound' Chord (FS1 [Fma13b5] and FS6 [Fmi11(b5]) function and application of the bebop cliché to these functions that seem to arise.

Here is the most common use of the bebop cliché in a ii—V progression. Note that it is expanded in the 2nd two bars.

Here are the most common and useful functions of 'Sound' 1 (FMa7[b5]) and 'Sound' 6 Fmi11(b5) with the roots that create related chords as either a V7 chord or ii chord.

Each of these Sound Chord voicings using in this case an 'F' Sound (Sound 1 and Sound 6)

The bebop cliché line is a chromatic primarily descending line but it is used as an ascending chromatic line as well.

The bebop cliché chromatic line starts on the C# (or perhaps the D note) which is the major 7th in DmiMa7 which and falls chromatically to the B natural which is the 3rd of the G13 (the dominant partner in this ii—V. This cliché then, operates from the Major 7th of the ii and/or #11 of the dominant. It can easily ascend from the 3rd of the dominant chord to the #11 of the dominant chord (even ascending to the 5th).

The Sound chord shown here can be held and manipulated with each of these lines individually either as a chord voicing or as a line which can related to these cliché lines on an individual basis. I'll outline some examples in the next blog in this series.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Secrets of the Sound: S1 used in Chord Progressions.

The Sound One (S1) in chord progressions, used exclusively to create that jazz piano (or guitar, or arpeggiated for horns) sound:

I once ran a showcase band at MacEwan, and was getting into some arrangements that called for this S1 sound. I was working with a very interesting go-to-kind of guy on guitar in the band. He didn't know how to voice a G7(#9#5) chord per se, but he knew how to voice dominant 13 chords. So I asked him on the spot to play a Db13 chord / G bass and lo and behold we had the asked for G7(#9#5) chord voicing.  He was surprised but realized that basically, he already had voicings for altered dominant chords which were virtually the same as V13 chords a tritone away.  I was prompted to tell him this, because I had been working this "Sound" thing and that was an action that came out of that study.  So why do this and not stick exclusively to the "normal" extension replacement of seventh chord tones (9 for 1, 13 for 5 etc.)?   Because with the "Sound" there is a built in system for adding color and urgency in a seventh chord in an incremental way.

This blog will deal with S1 in progression in a parallel motion without much voice leading. Inversions and voice leading will be an open topic in future blogs on this "Sound" topic. The change in color from V13 to V7(#5#9) represents the most radical change in color and vertical tension change possible in a V7.   Future blogs on this topic will deal with the graduations of vertical (chord) tension between these two essentials. Primarily these voicings are thought of as left hand comping (rootless) chord voicings, but they can be played as in the right hand too as part of a comping framework and, they can even be a point of departure/arrival in improvised soloing.

Just using the S1 chord (Ma7[b5]) for convenience, these C major and related A minor progressions emerge and are used here as a set of examples. These examples are played in the right hand with the appropriate root in the left hand.

Example 1: V13 — V7(#9#5) — I

Chord symbol Bmi11(b5)———E7(#9#5) —Ami6/9
Function          iimi11(b5)———V7(#9#5) —Imi6/9
Sound/Root     FMa7(b5)/B—G#Ma7(b5)/E—Cma7(b5)/A
S1/Root           FS1/B———    G#S1/E——  CS1/A
Numeral         bVS1/I———— IIIS1/(1)—  bIIIS1/I

Example 2: V13 — bII13 — I

Chord symbol G13———— Db13——— I
Function V13———— bII13——— I
Sound/Root FMa7(b5)/G—BMa7(b5)/Db—I
S1/Root FS1/G——— BS1/Db—— I
Numeral bVIIS1/I—— bVIIS1/(1)— I

Example 3: V7(#9#5) — bII13 — I

Chord symbol G7(#9#5) —— Db13 ——— I
Function V7(#5#9)—— bII13——— I
Sound/Root BMa7(b5)/G—BMa7(b5)/Db—I
S1/Root BS1/G——— BS1/Db—— I
Numeral IIIS1/I———— bVIIS1/(1)— I

Example 4: iimi11(b5) — V7(#5#9)— Imi6/9 
(NB The Sound is used in all three of these voicings)

Chord symbol Bmi11(b5)———E7(#9#5) —Ami6/9
Function iimi11(b5)———V7(#9#5) —Imi6/9
Sound/Root FMa7(b5)/B—G#Ma7(b5)/E—Cma7(b5)/A
S1/Root FS1/B——— G#S1/E—— CS1/A
Numeral bVS1/I———— IIIS1/(1)— bIIIS1/I

Example 5:   iimi11(b5) — bII13— Imi6/9 
(NB The Sound is used in all three of these voicings)

Chord symbol Bmi11(b5)———Bb13— — Ami6/9
Function iimi11(b5)———bII13 —— Imi6/9
Sound/Root FMa7(b5)/B—AbMa7(b5)/Bb—Cma7(b5)/A
S1/Root FS1/B——— AbS1/Bb—— CS1/A
Numeral bVS1/I———— bVIIS1/(1)— bIIIS1/I

I like to learn these in all keys keeping track of voice-leading line movement and inversion to inversion through these progressions.

I experiment with these progressions by sometimes reversing the V7(#5#9) with bII7(#5#9) it does make a difference. I hope you'll try it

Monday, November 19, 2012

Secrets of the Sound: Intro and Connections to the Bebop Cliché.

I'm putting together a series of blogs on "The Sound," a voicing idea with some connected but divergent paths creating transformations of chord quality and chord progression.  In this introduction the concept of the Sound is introduced, as well as how it naturally interrelates with the bebop cliché.

The basic Sound has been heard in jazz piano for over half a century now and we all know it so well it is often referred to as the "Stock 13" chord. I first learned it from the guys I was playing with in the 1960's and heard more about it from a jazz piano book series by John Mehegan, who featured it in what he called A and B voicings which used Fma7(b5) as an example of a G13 chord. The A version was this closed voiced chord in root position and the B version was the second inversion of that.  This particular voicing was described by my friend Mike Nock, as "The Sound" ...heard all over the world where and when jazz was played.  Mike is an Australian (originally from New Zealand) jazz pianist who was visiting Grant MacEwan's music program in the eighties.   He was giving a talk about it.   Of course it was already being taught in our courses there and it was affirming to hear Mike speak of this voicing in this way.  There was a second sound Mike mentioned where the A note in this sample voicing FMa7(b5) was lowered to become (with a G bass) a G13(b9) or, as a stand alone voicing, FDimMa7.

That did get me thinking, Sound 1 (Fma7(b5)) and Sound 2 (FDimMa7).  I did have some conversations with a local brilliant pianist (who will remain nameless for now) about this and over a period of time I was able to piece together a strategy to help to explore Tonality through to Chromaticism.  This was a method of adding more color to a V13 chord in an incremental fashion, with some linear considerations like the bebop cliche.

First of all, the voicing itself, using FMa7(b5) as an example, is used to create the familiar but still enchanting V13 chord as in:

FMa7(b5)/G = G13 (expressed here as a slash chord)

Here are other commonly played chord qualities using FMa7(b5) with other roots:
FMa7(b5)/Db = Db7(#5#9) 
FMa7(b5)/D = Dmi6/9 
FMa7(b5)/B = Bmi11(b5) 
FMa7(b5)/E = E7sus4(b9)
In functional analysis:
bVIIS1/I = I13 ... (V13) 
IIIS1/I = I7(#9#5) ... (V7(#9#5)) 
bIIIS1/I = Imi6/9 ... (Imi6/9) 
bVS1/I = Imi11(b5) ... iimi11(b5) 
bIIS1/I = I7sus(b9) ... V7sus(b9)

Integration with the bebop cliché.

The bebop cliché could be described as a moving chromatic line between chord tones—specifically in V7: 5—b5—4—3 and variations but it is essentially that.

The chord shapes used are named to be descriptive as to their function. It's the drill that many have practised but in order to facillitate a hierarchy of tension/color, I'll reiterate a few basics:

G13—I6/9 using the Sound as notated above would be
FMa7(b5)/G—Emi11/C or in functional terms:
bVIIS1/1 (V13)—iiimi11/1 (I6/9)

We interpolate the related iimi7 of V13:  Dmi9—G13.  Using this Sound method of description we call the iimi9 chord PS1 or the Preparation of Sound 1, i.e. FMa7/D = Dmi9.
FMa7/D—FMa7(b5)/G—Emi11/C and in functional terms:
bIIIPS1/I (iimi9)—bVIIS1/I (V13)—I

For an increase in harmonic rhythm, the bebop cliché is introduced into this progression as another interpolation (which means basically that all the additional changes occur in the same amount of time as the original V—I).  The purpose of this extra harmony is to introduce some additional elements of tension and release into the progression. The iimiMa9 implies the V7/ii and spins out some extra energy to the iimi9 chord before it resolves to the V13 chord (The bridge to Confirmation [Charlie Parker] is a good example).  The bebop cliché in the progression example goes like this:
Using the PS1 designation as the preparation of S1, it is logical that the "Preparation" OF the "Preparation" of S1 (PPS1), could look like this in the progression. Using this "slash chord" method in this progression this is the result:

FMa7/D—FMa7(+5)/D—FMa7/D—FMa7(b5)/G—[Emi11/C] or in functional terms:
bIIIPS1/I (/ii)—bIIIPPS1/I (/ii)—bIIIPS1/I (-ii)—bVIIS1/1 (/V)—I

Sometimes this cliché is expressed melodically over a ii—V as well. Check out John "Dizzy" Gillespie's Groovin' High for an example.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Playing in Keys: The Headache Is Worth It.

It's summer time (so they say). The piano goes more out of tune than at any other time of the year. I could do a quick unison tuning and that might help but I've been taking to putting in my ear inserts to tone down the sound in this small room I have with my lovely little 'Steigerman' grand piano. For some reason that helps to bear the out-of-phasing of the unison-piano-strings.  It would be nice to have it in tune because I've convinced myself that I need to play even complex songs in twelve keys.

I've been using some precious time to do this. I'm finding it helps in many areas:
  1. It gives me a better understanding of the harmony because the new keys are harder to figure out without this understanding.
  2. It definitely helps with hearing intervals, especially leaps.
  3. It creates a better understanding of all keys.
  4. It helps to play in keys that don't always get played in and breaks the tactile memory and makes the player work harder to overcome this.
  5. It's great for technique and fingering issues.
  6. It is good for the understanding of voice leading.
  7. It helps with hearing and the understanding of tonality and all twelve tonal centers.
  8. It helps in the development of piano texture-creation in the new keys which will influence the texture and understanding upon the return to the original key. I always come back to the original key refreshed.
  9. It helps tremendously with improvisation and line creation. Now I can better improvise in these keys and others (I say to myself).
  10. It mainly benefits the inner ear and solidifies the sense of a particular tonality.
The thing is that the songs might be played slower in unfamiliar keys but one rule of thumb is to play musically.  Have articulations, dynamics and beautiful tone uppermost in the mind as the struggle to  play in unfamiliar territory proceeds. I find myself often more 'transported' playing in this way through these keys. In a way the sounds of these keys or at least 'piano keys' will sound new and are worth lingering on in a lyrical manner. In the jazz world (of old and even now) the keys of E, A, B, F# are played much less than the 'flat' keys so there is much territory to be explored. Its nice to be able to play Charlie Parker heads in keys as well and extrapolate phrases and run them through sequential root motion patterns.

I'll follow this article with another featuring one of my favorite and most useful aspects of 7th chord-tones substitution and the pathways that are present when one or more of the chord tone leads to an adjacent chord extension tone—it can contribute to the solo line concept as well.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Polarized Passing Chords with Extensions

Here’s a little exploration of the diminished seventh chords and extensions found in the additive major scale (bebop-type scale), also referred to as a polarized passing tone scale.   Passing tone scales are additive scales with a strategically placed chromatic passing tone, placed in such a way as to create a repeating two-chord structure.

The scale tone sevenths and extensions found in this scale are essentially two polar/opposing harmonic entities: tonic and dominant.

C major bebop (Add b6):

The chord extensions found on the tonic side are mostly from the major scale itself or the root lydian scale.  The chord extension examples of the dominant/diminished aspects of this scale are explored using the Symmetrical-Diminished whole/half (Sym Dim) scale, for example the Ddim7 whole/half scale: D E F G Ab Bb B C (D).

C major bebop (Add b6) with extended chords:
The above with extended chords. Note the diminished chords are extended with notes from the remaining notes found in the Sym Dim scale. Sometimes the numerator of the slash components will be partial major or minor triad or sevenths rather than a whole diminished seventh. This can be pretty harsh with some melody notes. 

Different melody:
Here's the same thing but with different numerators and melody notes—- all diminished based chords are from D Sym Dim (whole/half)—this might work in some situations. Try other numerators on the diminished chord forms: Fdim+5Ma7/—Abdim+5Ma7—Bdim+5Ma7... all over the diminished sevenths shown in the left hand. Of course the rhythm aspect comes in to play with some of the "screechier" diminished sevenths and extensions.


Awkward! chord symbol but it's in there!!

A little different flavor with a diminished source dominant in the polarized passing tone chord:

This time the Auxiliary Diminished is used:

The final example of a passing tone/chord with "polarized components" uses the tonic major chord with extensions and the Auxiliary Diminished with extensions: i.e. Cdim7 whole/half scale: C D Eb F F# G# A B (C). It should give those who want to work with this a point of departure for their own voicing explorations of this topic.