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4 Little Chords
02/05/13 19:57 Filed in: Harmony Just 4 chords, from the hands of Herbie Hancock, taken from Footprints on Miles Smiles, 0’25’’:
If you need to listen to it, but don’t have Miles Smiles…(I’d encourage you to change that situation) http://grooveshark.com/#!/album/Miles+Smiles/290837 This is such a perfect, elegant little phrase, and it would be pretty good just to shoe-horn it in the next time a few bars of minor modal harmony are left unattended somewhere. Trouble is, there’s something about this phrase that just eats me up - the deep musical logic, its communicative power, the subtlety in the way Herbie delivers it, its placement in the group sound as he repeats it, develops it, breaks it up…. I’ve written before about how I see transcription as being just as much about understanding someone’s musical impulses as it is about imitating their “end-product”. In this instance the end product is just four brief chords, but the musical impulse is pure, distilled Herbie Hancock at his best. What I’ve begun to think, though, is that if you take a step back and listen to the whole group, the power of this phrase is quite revealing about the musical impulses of the rest of the group, and Tony Williams in particular. Voicing Structure Herbie is the master of slinky, chromatically rich quartal (fourths) voicings. The lower three notes of these chords are chromatically descending fourths, landing on G, the fifth note of the chord-scale of C
Despite the fact that Tony in this period is in many ways a busier drummer than. This was. I don’t know whether this was a pre-conceived idea.V .com/jazzblog/ 2/8 . although he still manages quite a lot of dynamic contrast (i. McCoy plays in Elvin’s sound. As I’ve listened and thought about this group. Group Sound. the slight loosening and relaxation of volume through the phrase (particularly as it returns and is extended under Miles at 3. almost glueing together the horn parts and the rhythm section. however. It helps that Tony and Herbie are separated L-R.5/24/13 Jazz Blog Dorian. a band that really knew how to play in a studio. I’m not saying it’s better than the 1967 recordings because of it. seem to mirror the melody of bar 9 in Footprints. and. shapeshifting sounds of albums like Mwandishi. is confident to play under Tony’s sound.e. Touch and Communication If you compare this recording to the various Footprints on the recently-released 1967 Bootlegs. the second chord contains one note from outside. explosive sound in the ’67 live sets means Herbie is generally playing higher up the piano and more aggressively.II . it’s a demonstration of how to generate a sense of direction in quartal voicings. or throughout many of Kenny Wheeler’s compositions). and. and the third chord two. and Tony’s sound is generally operating at quite a high frequency. on Miles Smiles.I bass notes underneath (plus a couple of extras): I think you can hear the dynamics of a tonal progression here. which really transform the colour of the chords. what I’ve come to realise is that even a small musical gesture like this one owes its potency not www. this opens up the dynamic space that Herbie can exploit (whilst also knowing that it’ll be well recorded. it’s just that the group dynamic has shifted a little to exploit the slightly more intimate sense of communication that the studio can provide. and I think it’s because the chords actually have some tonal implications. In either case. for instance. crucially. Elvin Jones. made just 4 years after Miles Smiles. Essence of Herbie…essence of the Miles Davis Quintet Whilst I love listening to Herbie tussle with Tony on the live sessions.tomhewson. The first and last chords are entirely within the mode. The third chord smacks of the phrygian V (the tense.I can really hear the same slinky. Even without my ‘imaginary’ notes. if you listen to either the studio or live recordings of the Coltrane from 1961 onwards you can hear that Elvin and McCoy are operating much more in the same sonic space. in this case. he is almost playing over Tony’s sound. To me. In the studio. meaning that McCoy is almost consistently percussive. Footprints from disc 1). brooding dominant sound at the beginning of Coltrane’s Crescent. after all. particularly in the lower end of his kit (which is also relatively lower in the mix than the ride). Here they are with imaginary i . and the instinctive way that Herbie brings out the colour of each shape are all allowed space to be heard. as a pianist I feel that the way he plays on Miles Smiles is the real late-60s Herbie . There’s a real sense of resolution to the phrase. wider (and lower) in his voicings to match the pitch of Elvin’s kit. On the 1967 live sets. Tony is simmering rather than on a hard boil. which is no mean feat! All this is to say that the subtle weighting of the chords towards the top note.55). for example. His enormous. Although it’s still nowhere near the levels of the 1967 discs. The top notes. the second chord has some of the resonance of either a D half-diminished or a D7#9 (using the diminished scale). generously mixed). Herbie. check out how much more snare and low-end work there is when Herbie is laying out under Miles’s solo in Dolores. or genuine spur-of-the-moment conception. it’s clear that Tony Williams is holding it back a little in the studio.
tomhewson. the sensitivity of the group to the sonic environment. I’ll do that again in a minute. A quick bout of googling has revealed that Pollock was a big jazz fan. It’s Jackson Pollock’s Yellow Grey Black from 1948: (excuse the internet pic. Hank Mobley and Paul Chambers a lot lately. but to the group sound. but… I’ve been listening to Miles Davis’s live recordings at the Blackhawk with Jimmy Cobb. but here’s what I’m thinking. and many others have pondered this same hookup. 4 little chords can really make you think! 0 Comments and 0 Reactions 'Yellow Grey Black' and the Blackhawk. Transcription and an unconventional analysis. 07/01/13 10:40 Filed in: Transcription I don’t particularly want to go all Pseuds Corner on you. Wynton Kelly. and even the decisions of the studio engineers. and in truth I’ve never really liked it. but I can’t get a good photo of it) I don’t really know much about this picture. This is the second time I’ve tried to write this post. If you would indulge me for a minute. Miles is the yellow Kelly is the silver www. If you’re interested in my opinion. but before I do. To be precise. and I realised that it could save me from my mangled musical analysis. I’ve been listening to Miles Davis’s solo on Bye Bye Blackbird from the Friday night disk a lot recently. For some reason I glanced up at it whilst struggling to write something coherent. here’s a picture I have on my wall.5/24/13 Jazz Blog only to Herbie Hancock himself. In my first attempt I tried to put across in words how I see the mechanics of this group working. I think it’s possibly one of the most satisfying two minutes of small group jazz playing I’ve ever heard. I’m going to go right out there and say that it does a pretty good job at describing what I hear in this music.com/jazzblog/ 3/8 . whether this confirms the originality or unoriginality of my thoughts I haven’t decided. the dramatic relationship between Herbie and Tony.
12 www. but I might be stretching the metaphor. Well. Paul Chambers is as much a melody instrument as a rhythm instrument in this group. bristling tone and almost no syncopation. there’s nothing left to react to. lots of space. i. With Cobb so insistent on the crotchets and leaving so much space at the bottom and in the middle of his sound.tomhewson.? Lastly. the tuneful logic and surprising twists of his bassline really come across. but the space he allows Miles and Kelly is what gives the performance the chance to ascend to the level of improvisational dialogue that is so endlessly joyful to listen to here.a great teacher of rhythm and one of the most important people I came across educationally at Trinity. simple shapes. 0 Comments and 0 Reactions Brad Mehldau Trio .released 26. but that’s the way it can be sometimes…. They seem to leave each other the perfect amount of space. He’s the snare comping that Cobb is leaving out. lots of exercises and analysis aimed at someone in my sort of position. nod in agreement…it’s the silver to the yellow. sets the soundscape for the group whilst acting as a foil for the Miles/Kelly duet. how it almost fades into the canvas? Kelly’s comping is so in tune with Cobb’s feel that he almost sounds like a part of the drum kit at times. It’s balanced. Speaking of silver…notice how it’s both in the foreground of the picture and.e. but there’s just the right amount of it. The black covers the whole canvas with its lines. As it was for a specific Masters project. Larry Grenadier and Jorge Rossy on ‘All The Things You Are’ from Art of the Trio vol. I love this music (and I think I now like this picture). Yellow is the brightest colour on the canvas. There’s not much immediate correlation between the shape of what he’s playing and the content of what Miles and Kelly are up to. 4. lost for space and dialogue. and get in to Jorge’s ride cymbal. sometimes thick and heavy. It’s commentary on what Miles is saying. He is the feel of the group. trading remarks and coming together in unison at the end of bar 15.. right….you can hear the odd skip/push/kick/snare comp if you concentrate on it. if if hasn’t collapsed in an exhausted heap already. and the whole thing stops swinging.. Bold statements.All The Things You Are (Complete) 08/12/12 12:39 Filed in: Transcription Whilst at music college I started a mad project in order to learn a bit more about playing in 7/4 transcribing the trio of Brad Mehldau. I included an ‘educational’ booklet. These were quite heavily influenced by Barak Schmool .just look at bars 9-15 for an example. It’s comping as an active pursuit. make a comparison. lurking in the background but popping up in the spaces to ask a question. a word on Miles.11. Kelly is stuck. but that ride cymbal. if you’re just glancing.com/jazzblog/ 4/8 . Here’s the transcription (pdf) If you’re interested in the ‘booklet’. I’ve decided to upload the whole thing now. It’s quite disconcerting how in-tune they are with each other’s phrasing . I could go on. 1 Comment and 0 Reactions Slightly Peculiar . See posts here and here .if everyone’s reacting to something. It’s really all crotchets on these choruses . wilfully consistent and unreactive. here’s the intro and the analysis and exercises Go nuts people.5/24/13 Jazz Blog Chambers is the black Cobb is the canvas Let me explain. In any case. sometimes barely there at all. If you look at the transcription you’ll see that Miles and Kelly are operating in symbiosis. When Mobley comes in. It’s the silver that makes it though. And don’t you just love that little interjection at bar 14 from Wynton? So on the beat and so punchy.
. and a fabulous natural reverb which sound engineer Josh Kemp really captured. The hall has incredible acoustics. a sparkling clarity.a new(ish) Steinway D picked out by Vladimir Ashkenazy.but more often than not it's a battered upright with hammers like dead wood and the expressive power of a breeze block.. The Music www. sonorous touch. a meaty.5/24/13 Jazz Blog 02/11/12 12:28 Filed in: Composition In September last year I took a trip down to rural Suffolk and the stunning Potton Hall to record some music I'd been writing since the spring. The main attraction was the sublime piano that lies in residence there . Let's just say it was a treat. a thunderous bass.com/jazzblog/ 5/8 . As a jazz pianist you dream of sitting down at an instrument with and endlessly deep tone.tomhewson.
It'll be available to buy on iTunes. which changes to catch strongly and which to just hint at.magicians of chords and sonorities. apart from at the very end of the head (bar 35)..5/24/13 Jazz Blog Every pianist spends a huge amount of time alone at the piano.. To download it. It's really about how he manages to keep tension and forward motion whilst leaving a lot of space and playing with quite a narrow tonal range. The tunes didn't begin life as solo piano tunes. Aside from the obvious thing of playing it in various keys. The countryside where my family still live inspired quite a lot of the music ..). you can have a little listen to a couple of tracks here. He avoids resolving onto chord tones. often leaving space (bars 2-3 of the form). click here. sometimes the music that comes out really needs a group to put it across.. Here's what I see: -He avoids resolving strongly onto the key centre (F Major) at the beginning of the head. Picking your battles 04/10/12 15:32 Filed in: Transcription The basic transcription. but after I'd written a couple I decided that they just had to be. but something with a wider angle. In doing this he never 'closes' his harmonic drive.. This isn't a small-scale analysis of lines/changes/language (I'll be doing that too). To download this version of the transcription. I've come to realise that this is largely down to how he chooses his battles .. "I'm not sure where a kit or a tenor sax is going to fit in there. A few people have asked me why I chose to do my first full album as a solo one. The Autumn is where I think the album belongs.. I'm always trying to find new things to get out of transcriptions like this.anyway.. It's possible.which parts of the sequence to play. 0 Comments and 0 Reactions Lee Konitz . which to leave.book tickets here.particularly the three pieces that start the album..com/jazzblog/ 6/8 . click here. Messiaen. seen through where I was as musically in summer of 2011 (John Taylor. a bit like harmonic 'keepy-uppys' (keeping a soccer ball in the air for all you nonbrits)..tomhewson. for me is like asking a painter to paint a portrait whilst wearing tinted sunglasses (perfect pitch. It took a little while. Sometimes it's pretty self-sufficient. eMusic and Amazon from the 26th November.. www.. I finally got around to finishing it. Bill Evans. Before then.life's a bitch. Might put that on a t-shirt). One idea that popped up was to put all the choruses on top of each other to see what sort of patterns come up regularly.. which.well nothing could be further from the truth! The truth is that sometimes I write things where I end up thinking. In jazz.. and the beautiful artwork by my sister Kate places it perfectly. Kurt Rosenwinkel... but requires some adjustment. usually joking that it's because I don't like playing with other people. not least because the recording is almost a semitone sharp. or playing short fragments and cross-rhythms (bars 8-9). It became a bit of a homage to my growing up with the piano and to all the music I loved playing when I was younger.I Remember You (Motion). and the chorus comparison Back in the spring I started to learn this incredible piece of improvising from Konitz's Motion (with Elvin Jones and Sonny Dallas)..'. I'm launching it at The Forge in Camden on the 29th November .
Review from Bruce Linsday at allaboutjazz To read more and purchase physical CDs please visit the ‘Solo’ page CDs Composition General Gigs Harmony Music Tech Practice Transcription 2013 2012 2011 www. It's a bit of a dark art. The changes that follow (Bbm7 Eb7 Am7 D7) are very rarely left alone . seeing if I can still keep the improvisational focus going. Interestingly. but once that change is repeated in the second and third A sections it doesn't carry the same impact so he is happy to leave it and work with other changes. Let's see. The main point of interest in this tune is the tritone shifts in root notes that occur in bar 2 of the A section and bar 2 of the bridge (in my transcription those are bars 2 and 18). -He always resolves quite strongly onto chord IV in the A section. on the repeat of the first A and during the last A (bars 10 and 26). perhaps stripping it back to 3 or 4 places in the head to play.he prefers to leave space once chord ii is reached (i. He's really in tune with the inner dynamic of the changes. The genius of this sort of restraint is that when you break free (such as at the end of chorus 3 into chorus 4) the line carries a lot more expressive power. he doesn't play so strongly over this change. picking and choosing what to play based on the structure of the whole tune. bar 8). but the similarities reinforce the fact that this is not a developmental. What struck me when looking at it this way is how closely Konitz stays to the phrasing of the melody. and it's something I think you can work at just in the same way you can work at language on a smaller scale. -The largest density of notes is to be found at the end of the bridge (bars 23-24).tomhewson. Of course there are a lot of differences.com/jazzblog/ 7/8 . What I might try is taking a tune and really take apart the dynamics of the changes. What this tells me is that he is interested in expressing this change at the two most important formal points in the tune (the top of the head and the beginning of the bridge) in order to get some momentum at the start of those sections. Only picking one place in the head to resolve to chord I could also be a good exercise. In Practice? I think there's something quite broad to be taken from this that I might use. shaped solo but one that operates at a fairly constant level of intensity and ingenuity throughout. usually with a chord tone on beat 1. the use of space and the control of resolution. Only in the 5th chorus is he not playing a long line over this part of the form.e.5/24/13 Jazz Blog -There are some changes that he does tend to catch. It actually surprised me how many similarities in terms of space and phrasing there were between the choruses. 0 Comments and 0 Reactions 'Slightly Peculiar' receives airplay on BBC Radio 3 and Jazz FM.
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