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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).

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Rock/Blues Triad Progressions

From Chapter 11 of An Approach To Jazz Piano


A sound you will frequently hear in popular music, particularly rock and blues, is that of closed voice triads used in parallel motion, frequently stepping in whole tone sequences.   There are a very interesting, flexible and applicable set of progressions.

You will recognize this classic I-IV-V-IV progression:


I-IV-V-IV is diatonic, that is, all the notes used in these triads belong to the root key.  But this triad-based harmonization approach works equally well for non-diatonic roots and triad notes. I-bIII-IV, for example, is commonly used.  Note that all the triads are major.

This progression is an example of the bending or  “blending” of minor over major tonalities so prevalent in the blues:


Other popular rock/blues triad progressions include the "Spanish" (I bII bIII bII 1) progression:


and the "Fanfare" (bVI bVII I)  progression:


The video shows examples of all of these and a few ways they can be integrated into your playing, but this is just scratching the surface.   For a more in-depth look at these progressions and how they can be used within Blues progressions, see Chapter 11 of An Approach To Jazz Piano

Friday, May 11, 2018

Exploring the "Blue Monk" Chromatic Moving Line Cliche

This versatile chromatic line pattern is ubiquitous in rock and jazz. Here we explore a few ways of incorporating it into your playing.  These lines can be harmonized with each other of course and go forward or back.. and create a similar passing harmony with some tension and release built in. You can apply pedal tones from the root or 5th either with the chord or leaping to the pedal tones alternating with the line or even the harmonized line. It utilizes passing diminished and or auxiliary diminished function i.e. the Ebdim (or Cdim) in this line: C7 Dmi7 (or Dmi7[b5]) to Ebdim to C7/E... The appealing thing is the fact that all the diminished 7ths that arise can be converted into 4 Dominant 7th (a minor 3rd apart)..and you could take it from there with a momentary transposition and back again etc. It's crazy good :) !!




The basic pattern is very simple -- in the key of C:
C D D# E  or  E F F#G or G G# A Bb etc.
but has endless applications. 

Exploring Constant Structure Voicings

This clip continues the exploration of an interesting two handed chord that makes a kind of melodic texture which is surprisingly versatile.  See also Constant Structure 6/13ths over a Blues Scale.  These constant structure chords work great over a blues scale, and are an easy way to generate passing chords in many contexts.




Here we voice the 13ths in the left hand with the 3rd on the bottom (3-13-7-9).  The right hand plays a major 6 chord in root position (1-3-5-6-1).  These can be played on each of the notes of the blues scale.




It's useful to practice these in chromatic sequences, so they will be under your fingers when you call on them in improvisation.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Constant Structure 6/13ths over a Blues Scale

In this clip we play with an interesting two handed chord that makes a kind of melodic texture which is transferable and workable over blues scales.

Start with learning the chords: that is, in chromatic root sequences. Other same-interval sequences like whole tone, minor thirds, major thirds,  perfect fourths (up), and the tritone (#4 or b5) are beneficial too.

Building on that, we can put together this two-handed chord, with a 6 over a V13.




Consider a C minor blues scale (1 b3 4 b5 5 b7 1):

In the right hand play a major sixth chord in root position (1-3-5-6-1).  In the left hand play a rootless voicing of a 13th chord, with the b7 on the bottom (7-9-3-13).   Do this for each of the notes in the blues scale.  It looks terrible on paper, but it's not so bad when you play it.


Note that the general harmonic context for all these chords can be the underlying C7 of the blues.

So this voicing is played over the sequence of a blues scale (1 b3 4 b5 5 b7 1). It sounds okay and strong even though it temporarily breaks some of the niceties of some harmonic rules. Thus for example we have a G13 voicing here sounding okay over the implied C7 chord of the blues in C.  It's part of a strong chain of these voicings that work because the vertical chord sounds like it can and does overrule the horizontal key, i.e. C7 blues (as long as they are moving a little).  Those 13ths over the blues scale sequence have a constant structure -- the same-chord in parallel motion.

This idea will work over all the chords in the blues the same way a blues scale does. It is fun and the concept can be worked with other chord voicings too too.. basically infinite..