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Jazz Folks: Where does all this stuff come from?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by AZJim, Feb 11, 2019.

  1. AZJim

    AZJim Member

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    OK, this will be long. ;) Hoping for the uber-erudite experts here – Tag, JonR*, Ed DG, jkendrick, and others -- to chime in. The quick background: longtime semi-pro, sometimes pro bassist, now wanting to seriously work on my jazz guitar playing as I enter my seventh decade. I know WAAAY too much theory, having a Master’s in it from Univ. of CA. But, as you may guess, that was, ahem... “classical” or legit, or whatever you wanna call it. Academic. So except for a few jazz classes (as a non-jazz major) in my undergrad days, I never worked on or really learned “jazz theory,” which is a whole ‘nuther animal from “regular” music theory.

    So...just now got the Randy Vincent drop 2 book. Going through it, of course it’s illuminating and not too hard to grasp, again because I “know” theory. But I can’t help wonder as he goes through examples of various things done by the masters we all know and love – WHO MADE THIS STUFF UP? Where did this come from? Example, near the beginning, he outlines harmonizing a melody with drop 2 chords, essentially with a 6th (or 6/9) chord under the melodic chord tones, alternating with dim chords under the passing notes. The whole melody is done this way. Chord/chord/chord, etc. with every note of the melody. So...who made that up? Who first did that? What’s the lineage? How did they decide, for example, to harm each PT with a dim, and not some other chord? Was is Charlie? Django? Wes? Joe? And almost more importantly, when “whoever made that up” made that up, did they THINK of it in the same way as, say, Randy lays it out in his book?

    Again, as someone who knows too much theory, I’ve long since gotten over the fact that, while there’s a common source, jazz theory terminology departs radically from standard, (tonal) classical theory, to the point that some structures are kind of square peg/round hole (i.e. must be “forced” to make sense, if your reference is traditional theory) and some terminology, again looking through “that” lens, is just plain wrong. Well, of course, I know these terms aren’t “wrong,” because the entire jazz world uses these terms that way and they make sense in that realm.

    But to clarify, my question is not “how it works” – that I understand -- but more, what’s the history, the lineage, who “made it up,” and of course, what were THEY thinking when they made it up?

    *This fits perfectly with JonR’s comments in another thread about the limitations of verbally describing musical structures. Of course, at the basic levels it’s fine, but not too far “up the ladder,” IMO, it falls apart. Or, you end up with multiple labels for the same thing. Not the worst I guess, as long as EVERYONE knows that, and no one tries to lay claim to the “true gospel” at the exclusion of all others. Whew, thanks. Discuss... ;)
     
  2. Bb7

    Bb7 Member

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  3. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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    It wasn't a guitarist.
     
  4. BriSol

    BriSol Member

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    Yea, especially if we're talking about harmonic concepts, it's probably piano players who are most relevant as to where this stuff comes from.

    We can get meta and say some of this came from pre-jazz Debussy and Chopin piano pieces. While the OP makes a strong separation between "classical" and "jazz" theory, in the late 19th and early 20th century, "classical theory" itself went into wild territory.
     
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  5. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    Church organists are a big source of a lot of the language
     
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  6. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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    Figured bass-the original chord symbols.
     
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  7. brad347

    brad347 Member

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    I was speaking more of American gospel organ—not that it’s completely unrelated
     
  8. Neer

    Neer Supporting Member

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    J.S. Bach.

    Then Debussy.

    Fast forward to today, add Schonberg.

    Let’s remember how important Joplin and Joseph Scott and Jelly Roll and James P. johnson etc. were, and even before them Gottschalk.
     
  9. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

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    Yeah, I think it pre-dates jazz in general. But, as an aside, I was thinking about this lately; I never really gave much thought to the whole "bebop scale" thing, as taught by guys like David Baker. I just always thought, "well, those are just some added chromatic tones, you can put them anywhere in the sequence of that scale, I don't really need to think of these as scales on their own". But, if you take say, a dorian scale and harmonize it (essentially inversions of a min6 chord), and then add the accompanying diminished chords (in relation to that min6's V7 chord) and look at the pool of notes you end up with the "dorian bebop scale", which is essentially a dorian scale with an added maj7th (or a melodic minor scale with an added dom 7th). And the more I dug into playing around with alternating I chord voicings on strong notes and V7 (diminished) voicings on weaker ones, the more I realized the added chromatic tones are the same as those in these David Baker bebop scales. So there maybe something to that, IDK....


    edited to add; I always thought those bebop scales added that chromatic note to simply line up the scale better against the strong beats when played in succession, as well as making it an 8 note thing that of course works better in 4/4 time. But I'm starting to see there may actually be some harmonic weight to it as well...
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019
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  10. AZJim

    AZJim Member

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    Yes, I can see that. Romantic theory, especially non Austro-Germanic, did in fact diverge greatly. And - and this may be critical - it did not occur in one linear form, it was all over the place. And thus, like the concept of rhythm, did not lend itself to easily being codified and taught in universities, for example.

    Not to mention, those weird French dudes really being early jazz adopters anyway.... ;) Yup Bri, you may be on to it here. And yes, let's get "meta," that's where these late night musings of mine come from!
     
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  11. AZJim

    AZJim Member

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    Not wondering where chord symbols evolved from, I know that stuff well, having played in (and directed) early music ensembles for years. More wondering about where the lineage of jazz theory "language" came from, as it diverges from traditional tonal, again "classical" theory.

    Small example, there are structures in jazz that exist and are labeled and treated as stable (harmonically) that are never seen that way in tonal harmony, even to the point that in some cases they just don't exist. One simple one is the idea of chords in "second inversion" (or third...). What looks like a second inversion in true tonal harmony is never labeled as such (usually a dissonant structure which will resolve to a consomance).

    But I'm not quibbling with jazz (and even pop, rock, etc) calling those second inversions, just musing in a more "meta" sense, how the divergence evolved. More so to the point that at the higher levels, jazz theory is very much it's own thing, and the twain hardly meets...

    And thus, what in the world WERE the early (or even mid, i.e. bop era) jazz pioneers thinking when they played, BEFORE we, after the fact, have applied all our clever little labels to things. Certainly, someone playing a minor 7, flat 5, sharp 13, with added 9 didn't think of it as a minor 7, flat 5, sharp 13, w/ added 9. (Being facetious of course!)
     
  12. JonR

    JonR Member

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    :bow
    Or should that be: :brick
    :)

    OK, it's not a guitar thing. It's an arranging thing.
    It's a way of organising chords vertically - "voicing" - so that tones either blend (close-voicing) or are separated (open voicing), to produce different harmonic textures, or to allow melody lines to stand out more.

    E.g., drop 2 voicings make the top note of the chord stand out more, by taking a close voicing and dropping the 2nd note down by an octave. Such as changing this:

    Bb
    G
    E
    C
    (close-voiced C7 in root position - no spaces between chord tones for any other chord tone) to this:

    Bb
    -
    E
    C
    -
    G

    We've taken the G out from below the Bb and lowered it by an octave. That's opened up the top of the chord, helping that Bb stand out. It's also opened the bottom a little (there's space for another Bb in there) and created a 2nd inversion chord.
    Naturally that will give the chord a different texture - and if the whole sequence is drop 2 chords, the top voice will likely stand out more as a melodic line. (What happens with the bass is a different issue: There could still be another C below that G, on a different (bass) instrument. Otherwise, 2nd inversion chords have specific functions, or form particular kinds of bass lines.)

    Drop 3, in contrast, creates a space in the middle of the chord, leaving two close voices on top.

    How this all relates to guitar is - to begin with - that most 7th chord shapes on guitar are drop voicings of some kind, because they have to be because of how the guitar is tuned.
    I.e., there's nothing particularly clever or difficult about playing drop 2 voicings on guitar. Every time we play a cowboy D7 chord shape, we're playing a drop 2 voicing. Same with the standard open position G7 or B7 shape.
    We can play Cmaj7 or Fmaj7 as close-voiced root position shapes. But the open position Dmaj7 (x-x-0-2-2-2) is a drop 2. Amaj7 (as x-0-2-1-2-0) is a drop 3.
    The standard C7 shape on guitar (x-3-2-3-1-0) lacks a 5th, because there is simply no room for it. We can play a full C7 like this: 3-3-2-3-x-x - which gives us the drop 2 voicing above (G-C-E-Bb - no G between E and Bb) Or course, we can play a complete C7 like this: x-3-5-3-5-x, which is another drop 2 (C-G-Bb-E: no C between the Bb and E on top).

    See what I mean? The question is: how much do you care? How much can you afford to care? Does it bother you that we can't play most 7th chords as close voicings? Do you notice the effect of all those drop 2 voicings, as distinct from the drop 3's elsewhere?
    I.e., even if you understand the point of drop voicings, the guitar either forces you to use some, or prevents you using others. The only reason for understanding them is if you fancy yourself as a jazz big band arranger, with a bunch of horns to play with. Or maybe if you want to learn piano (which obviously offers way more chord voicing options than guitar does).

    I'm not saying that appreciating the value of open voicings is pointless. We can create lots of beautiful open voicings on guitar - we just don't need to worry about whether they're drop voicings of any specific type. How about these:
    3-x-0-4-6-x - open-voiced G7
    x-0-2-x-2-4, or x-0-11-13-x-12 - open-voiced Amaj7
    I.e., it's really worth understanding what notes you need in any specific chord, and finding all the possible ways you could put those notes together, in various places on the fretboard. The order of the notes doesn't matter, unless you want a specific one on top or in the bass.
    Obviously, in sequence, that becomes significant. That's what matters about jazz chord sequences on guitar, especially for comping, or for chord-melody playing: you want voicings that link smoothly from one to the next, so melodies, bass lines or guide tones (or all of them!) flow properly. That's more important than worrying about exactly what kind of voicing each one is!
     
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  13. hangten

    hangten Silver Supporting Member

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    Check out the pianist Barry Harris.
    And Monk.

    Harris is all about the alternating 6th chord/dim chord.

    There is a good book called “the Barry Harris Harmonic method for guitar” that you might enjoy...

    Lots of fun!
     
  14. BriSol

    BriSol Member

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    Yea, I'm totally with you on the French seeming to especially have a connection to jazz. Miles took refuge in France for a while himself. I find "the French connection" interesting.
     
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  15. JonR

    JonR Member

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    Chord symbols are used in early music? I always thought they were a jazz/pop thing....
    Jazz theory, as such, wasn't really created - or at least not written down - until well after the music was created.
    Can you give an example from a jazz tune or sequence? (I know what a 2nd inversion is, and I know that classical theory treats it a certain way, I just don't know what you mean by the difference in jazz. I might guess... ;))
    Well, it's all tonal harmony at the beginning. The body of "jazz standards" - the Great American Songbook - is all standard tonal harmony as far as I'm aware. Those musical show composers were all trained in classical principles.
    The main areas where jazz deviates - the influences from outside - are blues inflections (early jazz up to bebop and post-bop) and a mix of Impressionism, African music and some avant garde tonal thinking (modal jazz and beyond).
    Blues might explain some of the chromaticism and substitutions that the bebop players introduced - although Louis Armstrong (steeped in the blues) famously disliked bebop.
    Duke Ellington introduced some forward-thinking harmonies and colours into his arrangements which (I suspect) were influenced by the Impressionists, although it wasn't until Bill Evans worked with Miles Davis that folk like Debussy and Ravel had more significant (although still somewhat superficial) impact: that was when quartal harmony became a central factor in the music.
    Most of them would have known very well what they were doing in those terms, in that most of them had been to music college, or had conventional (classical-based) instrumental lessons, as well as other practical training in the apprenticeship system (working in bands with more experienced players). A few jazz greats lacked a firm grounding in theory (Errol Garner, Wes Montgomery, Django Reinhardt), but still knew some.

    But it's true that "jazz theory" didn't really become a thing - in the sense of academic books, treatises or college courses - until well into the second half of the 20th century. Mark Levine (or rather his publishers) could call his 1995 book "The Jazz Theory Book" (definite article!), confident that there was no serious competition at that point. Obviously jazz books had been written with theoretical content before then, but nothing purporting to present the whole thing in one authoritative volume. (And in fact his book has been roundly criticised ever since as not being anywhere near as comprehensive as the title pretends.)
     
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  16. gennation

    gennation Member

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    Start looking at show tunes.
     
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  17. jkendrick

    jkendrick Member

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    I just wanted to say I am far far from an uber-erudite expert. :p
     
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  18. AZJim

    AZJim Member

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    I started taking "pop" organ lessons at age 9. Little did I know at the time, it was really jazz. She had me playing extended chords, and improvising on melodies, almost right off the bat (not to mention creating my own bass lines on pedals thus, my years as a bassist). And that rep was almost entirely the Great American Songbook, supplemented by the big band, crooners, and early rock records my dad played.

    That said, I haven't transferred that level of adeptness to my guitar playing. And thus, now wanting to do so at age 60.

    Of course, my poorly articulated OP, I fully realize, is kinda more philosophical, or "meta" as Bri said. I know that. But keep the thoughts coming!
     
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  19. AZJim

    AZJim Member

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    No, really nothing complicated. Just that in jazz theory (and admittedly some very outdated versions of classical theory) chord inversions are described as if interchangeable, all as consonant structures, with no attention paid to the harmonic (aural) result of stacking three or four notes in a different order. IOW, we learn "how" to invert chords but we don't learn the specific differences in the sound of different inversions, and more importantly, why that's important.

    It's just, " Cool, I can play any chord in any inversion any time," as if they are functionally interchangeable.

    But once again, I "get" that that's the language, just pointing out a divergence, IMO.
     
  20. cameron

    cameron Member

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    Do you just mean that in jazz you commonly get charts that don't always specify voicings, whereas in classical music you pretty much always get fully written out parts in standard notation?

    Or do you also mean different kinds of harmony, like the blues-based convention of using a dom7 chord as a tonic?
     

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