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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).

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)
N.B. GUITARISTS USE DROP 2s.

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:
Dmi9—DmiMa9—Dmi9—G13—C
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.

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