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  1. #1

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    I want to start a conversation about modern jazz harmony and how we guitarists sometimes forget that there were tunes written after 1960!

    In the late '70s, I studied at the university of miami and among other courses, I took a composition course from ronnie miller. His writing influenced me greatly and if you study his work, you will see that it draws from the same branch of the jazz tree which produced chord movements of artists such as Ritchie Bierach, John Abercrombie, Ralph Towner, Dave Liebman?, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, etc.

    Here's a link to one of Ronnie's tunes which epitomize this type of harmonic movement: Sample Flash Music Player Embed Code

    Most jazz guitarists have difficulty comping through this type of chord progression, much less understand its chordal movement or improvise over it.

    We should collectively rectify this situation!
    Last edited by jzucker; 01-14-2014 at 12:42 PM.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Seems like an interesting tune...a cursory glance shows me some phrygian, mixolydian, melodic minor ideas...I'd be lying if I told you I could go in cold on something like this.

    I think guitar players tend to come to jazz later than many other instruments...

  4. #3

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    I'd probably attack this with a lot of stacked fourth voicings. All the sus chords would seem to be looking for that anyway. I would definitely try to stay away from traditional triadic or seventh chord voicings that would imply functional movement.

  5. #4

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    Smart approach, I'd think.


    To go further, the nature of the guitar itself seems to affect this, and the way we learn guitar...We're so attached to "chords," and while a chart for a tune like this has chord symbols, it's not as concrete...it's more about what those symbols imply.

  6. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Boston Joe
    I'd probably attack this with a lot of stacked fourth voicings. All the sus chords would seem to be looking for that anyway. I would definitely try to stay away from traditional triadic or seventh chord voicings that would imply functional movement.
    It's kind of hard to play Maj7#5 chords with 4th voicings though. I wouldn't necessarily voice these types of tunes exclusively with any particular type of chord voicing.

    I think it's more important to understand the functional harmony in addition to what voicings you should use.

  7. #6

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    Well...I would approach it from the idea of keeping voicing pretty small.

    Like just a G triad for that Ebmaj7#5. ..

  8. #7
    you can do that but what makes the voicing is the dissonance so you want to add the Eb underneath it.

  9. #8

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    Right, but I'd want to know my role in a group first before I started getting too big with voicings...If somebody else is hitting that Eb, I could just play a B and D and sound great...of course I could put that Eb on top too...x x 9 7 4 x...mmmmm....

    I wanna play this tune now...
    Last edited by mr. beaumont; 01-14-2014 at 03:28 PM.

  10. #9

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    Just a quick glance ...at bar 7, the A half dim with natural 2nd, could be labeled C min Maj 7/A....a more familiar name to most of us I would assume .Point is bad labeling, or unfamiliar labels make things look more esoteric.
    Marc

  11. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by marcwv
    Just a quick glance ...at bar 7, the A half dim with natural 2nd, could be labeled C min Maj 7/A....a more familiar name to most of us I would assume .Point is bad labeling, or unfamiliar labels make things look more esoteric.
    Marc
    The chord is functioning as a ii chord in that sequence. Sometimes dumbing the music down to the lowest common denominator is not the best way to notate something. At some point, you have to make the assumption that the musicians playing your music can read music (no need for tablature) and that they are on the same page as you regarding modern (circa 1976) chord progressions.

    And Ronnie Miller's been teaching jazz composition at the u of miami for 40 years so I think I trust his nomenclature!

  12. #11

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    Yes ,good point! Where it's going is more important!
    Marc

  13. #12

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    A few thoughts:

    Holdsworth plays some voicings where he'd voice maybe two notes on the top two string and two on the bottom two strings.
    The chords sound really big because of how they're voiced, although there are only four notes involved.

    Good voicings can create the illusion that there are more notes present. When you have a good bass player, you just play the juicy notes in the chord, pick good voicings one after the other and the listeners ears will "fill in the blanks".

    Easier said than done.


    I don't have much experience with such tunes myself. If I tried the tune in the OP, I'd probably get lost.
    It's a whole new territory. Ditch the II-V-I licks, those chords "resolve" ,or not, in a different way.

    I think the reason why so few guitarists get into that style is that those teaching it are mostly piano players or horn players. I don't see many guitarists teaching improvisation beyond the American Songbook.

  14. #13

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    The thing I like about "Modern Jazz Harmony" is that the ambiguity of the chords enables many choices for improv, so good players can be very creative and play with freedom.

    Starting a group for "Modern Jazz Harmony", but starting with simple examples would be a good idea.

  15. #14

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    I'd write out some chord charts (in notation then in box diagram form) then from there I'd play with some different voicings that are "leaner" than what is written possibly using close-position voicings to get that delightful dissonance.

  16. #15

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    To the OP, what exactly do you mean by "modern jazz harmony"? Are you talking about modern sounding chord voicings? Like quartal voicings?

  17. #16
    all of the above. I'm talking about harmonic structures based on chords other than the standard ionian mode.

    Melodic, harmonic minor and other scales.

    I'm talking about slash chords and poly chords. Basically a continuation of what seemed to die in the '70s as the explorations of ECM music gave way to more fusion and eventually smooth jazz.

  18. #17

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    This Dave Liebman book is one of those in Jack's links. It's really deep and covers a lot of territory: A chromatic approach to jazz harmony and melody.

    There are a few tunes that could be good 1st steps towards chord progressions that go beyond 'functional' harmony. Maybe Dolphin Dance by Herbie Hancock (Looooooove that tune) and Steve Swallow's Falling Grace. And then all the Shorter tunes and Liebman/Beirach and on and on...
    Last edited by Ronstuff; 01-18-2014 at 06:54 PM.

  19. #18

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    "Modern" Jazz Harmony-ruth-chords-jpg
    This is what I'd do for starters on that tune. I have displaced some of the extensions down an octave to keep it all in the same general area on the fingerboard.

  20. #19

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    It's great to catch up - and I understand the use of the word "modern" in this context, but it's also good to remember that there has been a lot of creativity, exploration, and growth in jazz composition SINCE the 70s and 80s.

  21. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by JakeAcci
    It's great to catch up - and I understand the use of the word "modern" in this context, but it's also good to remember that there has been a lot of creativity, exploration, and growth in jazz composition SINCE the 70s and 80s.
    The point is that 95% of what is discussed on the internet is '50s harmony. Music will evolve but for some reason, the various jazz guitar boards on the internet seem to be focused on a very narrow time period of the music.

    This extremely important part of jazz - and music in general - is generally ignored.

  22. #21

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    Music and harmony from this era is great! A lot of interesting stuff happening now as well.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by jzucker
    The point is that 95% of what is discussed on the internet is '50s harmony. Music will evolve but for some reason, the various jazz guitar boards on the internet seem to be focused on a very narrow time period of the music.

    This extremely important part of jazz - and music in general - is generally ignored.
    because it is advanced...and 95% of folks find the older, conventional harmony easier to play.

    And I can say that because I'm in that 95%.

  24. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by JakeAcci
    Music and harmony from this era is great! A lot of interesting stuff happening now as well.
    so post some charts of modern harmony and rhythm. Educate us

  25. #24

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    The problem is there is really no one style of modern harmony.

    It's like anything, you need to spend a good long time practicing it. Most of the casual jazz gigs I'm aware of are structured around standards because playing originals can be very tricky. The harmony I tend to write, for example, works in a very different way to the examples here, and many other people's harmony would be different again.

    As a result, musicians tend to cluster around a certain composer - they get to know someone's music intimately and be able to play it - thinking of Mark Turner and Kurt Rosenwinkel's long association for example.

    The alternative is to write some tunes based on a more conventional jazz language. I think many composers have a few simpler songs they can pull out on pick up gigs to personalise the show a bit.
    Last edited by christianm77; 01-18-2014 at 09:09 PM.

  26. #25

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    Important points:

    1) The repertoire of much straight jazz is based on pop songs of the pre-rock era. It has to some extent 'fossilised' despite the best efforts of Brad Mehldau. Therefore the harmony of these songs is not really jazz harmony per se - jazz harmony such as it is kind of what we do to them.

    2) Non standard jazz repertoire is often written by a band member, unless it is one of the modern compositions that have achieved 'modern jazz standard' status - e.g. Aaron Park's Nemesis and Kurt's Zhivago seem to be heading this way. Needless to say no one knows these songs outside of jazz circles, however a song like 'All the Things You Are' is STILL known outside of jazz as a song, even today.

    3) Modern pop and rock compositions seem difficult to shoehorn into the role of jazz standard. I'd be interested to know why. It may be because a lot of these songs are heavily based in the arrangement - be interested to know why people think this is.

    4) Contemporary jazz harmony does not exist in its own little bubble - its influences range from Middle Eastern music, 20th century classical, modern pop and anything else you can imagine, depending on composer!

    5) Therefore I'm not even sure there is thing as 'jazz harmony' :-)