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With a performance career spanning five decades, Charlie Austin has played on 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. For over thirty years, Charlie taught in Grant MacEwan University’s Jazz Program, where he influenced a generation of Canadian jazz musicians. His comprehensive jazz piano text An Approach to Jazz Piano, and 450 Contemporary Piano Studies in 15 Keys, his groundbreaking collection of studies in popular styles, have 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, 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.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Diminished Seventh Chord Function

The diminished seventh chord is constructed of four minor third intervals dividing the octave symmetrically. Since there are only twelve chromatic tones, and each inversion will produce four diminished seventh chords, means that in essence there are only three actual diminished sevenths.

They are found diatonically in harmonic minor and harmonic major scales on VII (the raised 7th), and, symmetrically in the "whole/half" diminished scale. This discussion is mainly about the symmetrical diminished “whole/half” scale/chord.

The symmetrical diminished scale is also "invertable" by minor thirds. For example, C symmetrical diminished (referred to as "Sym Dim") scale “inverts” symmetrically to Eb Sym Dim, F# Sym Dim, and A Sym Dim. The remaining notes in this scale i.e. the 9, 11, b13, and Ma7 themselves form a diminished seventh chord (D dim) and inversions that are a whole tone away from the original.

The second of the only two true modes of this symmetrical diminished scale would be "half/whole" (referred to as "Sym Dom") and would be used for the roots of dominant seventh chords with the potential extensions of b9, #9, #11, and 13 (C Sym Dom i.e. Ebdim7/Dbdim7) e.g. C13(b9#9#11) and chords with the same extension potential a minor third away (Eb7, Gb7. and A7).

Note that C Sym Dim: CD EbF GbAb AB C …. is radically different than C Sym Dom: C C#D# EF# GA BbC. C Sym Dom is related to and a mode of C# Sym Dim.

Functions of the diminished seventh chord:
  1. The leading tone function or dominant function of the diminished seventh is popularly called VIIdim/ii. Here the leading tone (half-tone below the root) diminished chord functions as if it were the third of the dominant of the chord it is leading to. For example in C#dim—Dmi7, the C#dim acts as the third of the dominant of Dmi7 i.e. A7(b9). This is acts like a secondary V7 within a given tonality. The scale used could be C# Sym-Dim but mode VII of D harmonic minor could also be used.
  2. The passing chord function of the diminished seventh features voice leading that is used in a descending half step motion. The common example (in C major) is Emi7—Ebdim7—Dmi7—G7 etc. Here the Ebdim7 is creates an urgency to resolve by voice leading to Dmi7. If Ebdim7 can be interpreted as D7(b9), it is as if D7(b9) "resolves" to Dmi7 ... a different chord quality on the same root.
  3. The auxiliary function of the diminished seventh is very useful and has many applications especially when the dim7 chord is assumed to be a part of the four dominant seventh chords it potentially projects: i.e. Cdim/D—/F—/Ab—/B creates respectively: D7(b9), F7(b9), Ab7(b9) and B7(b9). 
The auxiliary diminished seventh chord function acts like a "release" from a chord that remains stationary but is treated rhythmically with its root diminished chord i.e. C6—Cdim—C6 or: C6 at rest — Cdim7 — in tension—C6 at rest. This has many uses.

The auxiliary function can be applied to other chord qualities such as Ma7 or C7 etc., and can be used as approach chords to emphasize the arrival of another chord.

In this example Cdim7 is the auxiliary diminished and can derive four dominant chords that could be called auxiliary dominants:
i.e C6—B7—C6.....
or C6 (or C7)—F7—C7.....
or C6 etc.—Ab7—C6 etc... and even
C6 etc. — D7 —C6 which has a milder tension...and release effect.
They can be utilized with extension/slash/chord derivatives in passing chords. They can be used to harmonize melodic notes that aren't in the scale of the moment for a very much denser and "active" harmonic sound and still sound effective because of the voice-leading that is available with this diminished chord function.

Many effective choices of extension color and slash chords are inherent in the Sym-Dim (whole/half) and Sym-Dom (half/whole) scales.

For example, in the Cdim scale (whole/half) on 9, 11, b13 and (ma)7 there resides sevenths chords D7, F7, Ab7, and B7. These dominant 7ths chords would use D (half/whole), F (half/whole), Ab (half/whole), and B (half/whole) respectively.

Other chord qualities that are found in this scale also on the same four roots are: mi7(b5), 7(b5), mi7 but they are treated as extensions of those dominant seventh chords: i.e. Fmi7(b5)/D7 = D13(b9#9+11) and also as slash chord components.

The C diminished seventh chord and inversions have extension possibilities which when mixed in with 9, 11, b13 and ma7 form, for example, C dim9, C dim11, C dimb13 and popularly, CdimMa7 to name only a few. Ideally you can stack the two diminished chords in the make up of the symmetrical diminished scale to make a powerful if slightly crowded vertical chord as in Ddim7/Cdim7.

These ideas should be worked out and written out in a tune context even if only with slash chord symbols. For example: Benny Golson's Stablemates. Any tune will do if it has some "out-of-the-chord" tones that might need reharmonization. Reharmonziation certainly is not restricted to these extended diminished concept chords and is a whole topic unto itself.