@JazzEdNet convention Jan 6, 2015 with the premiere tentet TimesTen from Austin WOW!

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New Jazz: Pushing its Boundaries with Harmonic, Metric, and Instrumental Devices

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This is an online paper I presented at the
Atiner Athens Greece 5th Annual International Conference
on Visual and Performing Arts

2-5 June 2014. It is excerpted here with examples and audio.


This paper will explore devices used by musicians/composers Bob Mintzer (Yellowjackets), Michael Brecker, Chick Corea, and Hank Hehmsoth to provide a brief snapshot of current jazz techniques in harmonization, rhythm, and fresh orchestration.


Harmony Meter Instrumentation Rhythm Jazz Hehmsoth


Contemporary Jazz in the twenty first century, is tumbling ahead and absorbing, introducing, and synthesizing elements. New techniques are being developed to broaden, and expand the vision of contemporary improvisation, composition, and arranging, to include precision in harmonic structure, organizing rhythm and phrasing, and unconventional instrumentation. Particular attention is given to music examples and detailed analyses of:

  • harmonic explorations
  • odd meter groupings
  • and unique choices in instrumentation.

The future of jazz is a broad topic, and subject to multiple interpretations. These examples are compositional techniques that I have incorporated in my own work.
Of course the proof is in the pudding, so to speak, and the best way to understand these concepts is to hear them, and if you read music, examples are contained in this paper.


2.1    In this example from Bob Mintzer, simple pentatonic “anthem”-like melodic shapes are harmonized in a unique colorful “pandiatonicized” (I use this term loosely, to refer to various complete use of chord/scale possibilities), non-tertial voicing structure, with simultaneous sus-4 and Maj3s, on Is and Vs; lots of cluster shapes, with 2nds providing a constant dissonance “sizzle” (my own term to when referring to the dissonance of mi 2nds and maj 2nds) to harmonization; also “omit”-type voicings that imply upper harmonic color structures while missing more fundamentals like Maj 3rds (another way of categorizing these types are as “slash chord combinations”) with intervallic content in chord structures yielding resonance and interest with complete harmonic information in fresh shapes and structures.

Figure 1. ex. Why Is It?


[1] Mintzer, Bob, 2011. Why Is It?. Timeline – Yellowjackets (audio CD Mar. 2011), Label: Mack Avenue ASIN: B004KBSQMYI

2.2    The melody itself is a D pentatonic scale, over a G in the bass, which generates an overall G maj7.

Figure 2. simple pentatonic “anthem”-like melodic shapes

2.3  The harmonization of this simple melody displays several unique and fresh chord voicings used in contemporary jazz

Figure 3. non-tertial voicing structure with “omit”-type voicings that imply upper structures with missing more fundamentals like Maj3. Notice also the predominant parallel motion.

2.4    Another good harmonic example comes from another recent YellowJackets tune. With a simple melody, a fresh harmonization using these typical structures provides an almost compendium of current voicing structures with omit type voicings, sus+3 colors, and quartal instead of tertial interval dominance. Since many have not seen these extended harmony structures, which have been codified in jazz over the last 30 – 40 years, it is also worthwhile to note that these newer fresh structures are seen in isolation since the 60’s Miles Davis era, but is now more and more frequently used since the 1990’s.

Figure 4. Sus13 and with omit type voicings, sus+3 colors mixed with tertial structures

[2] Ferrante, Russell, 2010. Spirit of the West. Club Nocturne –Yellowjackets (audio CD Mar. 2010) Label: Warner Bros. ASIN: B0046WOXHO

3. Odd Meter Groupings

3.1 Of course Jazz is all about rhythm, and more sophisticated uses of meter. Groupings and phrasings are under development all the time.

Figure 5. Odd Meter Groupings – Rhythmic Diminution – 3 Phrases in 4 bars

[3] Corea, Chick. The Chick Corea Elektrik Band Elektric City, Hal Leonard Pub. Corp., ©1987.

3.2 In this 1986 Chick Corea example, “melodic or motivic diminution” creates a rhythmic “phrase displacement” which groups three phrases in 4 measures. The first is 6 beats, the 2nd is 5 beats, and the 3rd is compressed and ends on beat 4 of measure 4, an odd meter grouping inside of 4 measures.

3.3 I used this same technique in my piece Freedom Stomp 2012 for a 10 piece ensemble, with my own variation:

Figure 6. 

[4] Hehmsoth, Hank. Freedom Stomp, Time Space Fabrics, ©2012.

3.4 The first 4 bars consist of three phrases, each using rhythmic/melodic/motivic diminution.

Figure 7. 

3.5 The first phrase is 6 beats, the 2nd is 5, and the 3rd is 5, 6+5+5=16 beats=4 bars of 4/4. Also each phrase beginning is truncated from the original. The 2nd phrase has only 5 eighth notes before the triplet turn, and the 3rd phrase has only 4 eighths.

3.6 There is a long 60+ year heritage of interesting metric phrasing in jazz. A great early master was Thelonious Monk:

Figure 8. Odd Meter Groupings – Cross – Rhythms

[5] Monk, Thelonious. Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues-Are (aka Bolivar Blues), 1956 (Riverside LP12-226), ©copyrighted by Thelonious Music Corp.

3.7 The form is a 12 bar blues, but the 9th bar is a real 3+3+2 =8 because the bass makes it apparent. The interesting “cross-rhythms”are an early example from the 1950’s. I always return to Monk’s work for creative across the barline phrasings.

4. Fresh Choices In Instrumentation

4.1 Here are examples of a jazz composer merging fresh choices in instrumentation, and the number of players.

Figure 9. Carlos ‘n Charlie’s  2011 – Hank Hehmsoth – a piece for steel drums


[6] Hehmsoth, Hank. Carlos ‘n Charlie’s, Drop6 Publications, ©2011.

4.2 In Michael Brecker’s “Wide Angles” released 2003, instrumentation and arranging techniques show many of contemporary jazz’s influences, including orchestral instruments, and free forms. (score not available)

[7] Brecker, Michael. Wide Angles, 2003 Audio CD Label: Verve ASIN: B0000AKQ96



[1]    Mintzer, Bob, 2011. Why Is It?. Timeline – Yellowjackets (audio CD Mar. 2011), Label: Mack Avenue ASIN: B004KBSQMYI

[2]   Ferrante, Russell, 2010. Spirit of the West. Club Nocturne –Yellowjackets (audio CD Mar. 2010) Label: Warner Bros. ASIN: B0046WOXHO

[3]   Corea, C. and Chick Corea Elektric Band. 1986. The Chick Corea Elektric Band. Third Earth Publishing/Not Bernie’s Publishing Co.

[4]   Hehmsoth, Hank. 2012. Freedom Stomp. Time Space Fabrics. 2012.

[5]   Monk, Thelonious. Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues-Are (aka Bolivar Blues), 1956 (Riverside LP12-226), ©copyrighted by Thelonious Music Corp.

[6]   Hehmsoth, Hank. Carlos ‘n Charlie’s, Drop6 Publications, ©2011.

[7]   Brecker, Michael. Wide Angles, 2003 Audio CD Label: Verve ASIN: B0000AKQ96



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Music Braille Code

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I joined a U.S. government-sponsored exchange program to distribute Braille Music Notation Guides (both printed and in Braille) among Latin American Universities and libraries.
The guides, music examples, exercises, and a double CD with recorded examples will expand the access to inclusive education for all musicians with visual impairments.
As a Fulbright Specialist, I am a member of The U.S. Department of State Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) which provides grants to to carry out public service projects, and supports initiatives that promote shared values and innovative solutions to global challenges. If you are interested please visit and like their new FB page:

Expanding the Access to Inclusive Education for Musicians with Visual Impairments in Latin American Universities, Conservatories and Public High Schools.
“Music Braille Code” is a project currently applying for an Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (2014) provided by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs from the United States of America.

It is estimated that the world population of people with disabilities is over 1 billion (nearly 15 per cent of the world’s population), over two thirds of whom live in developing countries. Developing countries offer many social scenarios where people with physical, sensory, or intellectual impairments face discrimination on a daily basis. As former students of Latin American universities, we can attest that music faculties in our countries lack the resources to provide an inclusive academic environment for students with disabilities. This project will allow faculty members, alumni, current and prospective students of Latin American Universities, Conservatories and Public High Schools with music departments to acquire the basic skills needed to read and write music in Braille Code.

The goal of this project is to distribute Braille Music Notation Guides to the main Latin American music libraries. The distribution of these guides will: enhance people with disabilities’ access to musical resources; promote equal opportunity in artistic education for people with disabilities; increase the participation of people with disabilities in the cultural environment of Latin America; empower artists with disabilities to express themselves through music composition and performance; allow composers to write and perform music in Braille Code; enhance the pedagogical resources of music libraries; enrich music libraries’ catalogues; foster awareness among able-bodied music students, faculty members and academic staff regarding the importance of inclusive education; reduce artistic and social exclusionary practices; and promote a model for equality in the music making of Universities, Music Conservatories, and Public High Schools with Music Departments of our countries.

The main beneficiaries of this project are students with visual impairments and music libraries. The guides to Braille Music Notation will be distributed in more than 30 academic institutions and libraries across Latin America. Secondary beneficiaries of this project include: current able-bodied students, alumni (as they would have access to the material through music libraries), and current faculty members of Universities, Conservatories and Public High Schools with Music Departments.

Long-term results include: increased number in the enrollment rate of students with visual impairments in music programs and increased number in the graduation rate of students with visual impairments in music programs. We expect the following short-term measurable results:
1. Music libraries will enlarge their collections.
2. Students with visual impairments will have access to music education.
3. Current students and faculty members will enhance their academic and pedagogical resources.
4. Composers will be able to learn an alternative system of music notation.
5. Current students will increase their understanding about disability and inclusion through media outreach and promotion of the project.

If you are a current or past participant of any U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs, please visit the website and join or “cheer” our project using the following link: https://alumni.state.gov/node/6452


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Sir Noël Coward

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“Wit is like caviar – it should be served in small portions and not spread about like marmalade.”

“Extraordinary how potent cheap music is.”

“Work is much more fun than fun.”

“We have no reliable guarantee that the afterlife will be any less exasperating than this one, have we?”


“Nothing is Lost”
by Noel Coward

Deep in our sub-conscious, we are told
Lie all our memories, lie all the notes
Of all the music we have ever heard
And all the phrases those we loved have spoken,
Sorrows and losses time has since consoled,
Family jokes, out-moded anecdotes
Each sentimental souvenir and token
Everything seen, experienced, each word
Addressed to us in infancy, before
Before we could even know or understand
The implications of our wonderland.
There they all are, the legendary lies
The birthday treats, the sights, the sounds, the tears
Forgotten debris of forgotten years
Waiting to be recalled, waiting to rise
Before our world dissolves before our eyes
Waiting for some small, intimate reminder,
A word, a tune, a known familiar scent
An echo from the past when, innocent
We looked upon the present with delight
And doubted not the future would be kinder
And never knew the loneliness of night.


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MozartToday is the birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born in Salzburg, Austria (1756). By the age of five, he was proficient at the violin and piano and had begun composing. In his short lifetime, he composed more than 600 works in almost every genre of the day. Joseph Haydn is said to have told Mozart’s father,

“Before God and as an honest man I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name.”

He later wrote of Mozart that

“posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years.”

Mozart’s premature death has been a matter of great interest over the years. He died suddenly at the age of 35, and people seem to want his death to be as remarkable as his life. His death certificate reads only “fever and rash,” which are not so much causes of death as they are symptoms. Because there’s so little data to go on, rumors have been rife: he was poisoned by a jealous rival; he accidentally poisoned himself with mercury, trying to treat a case of syphilis; he contracted parasites; he was murdered by Jews, or Catholics, or Freemasons. There was no evidence of foul play. He had been productive in his career and was in good health in the months leading up to his death, but two days after his last public performance, he came down quite suddenly with a high fever, headache, muscle pain, and vomiting. His body exuded a foul-smelling odor. Two weeks later, he suffered a seizure, fell into a coma, and died.

Mozart himself started the rumor that he was poisoned, because after he fell ill, he told his wife, “My end will not be long in coming; for sure, someone has poisoned me!” There’s a theory that Mozart was having an affair with a married woman whose husband found out and murdered him. In his play Mozart and Salieri (1830), Aleksandr Pushkin speculated that rival composer Antonio Salieri poisoned Mozart, but he would have had no reason to; although they were rivals, the two composers were friendly, and Salieri’s position and income were far superior to Mozart’s at that time.

A letter written by Mozart not long before he became ill refers to a hearty meal of pork cutlets, one of his favorite foods. It’s possible the pork was infested by Trichinella parasites, which cause trichinosis, the symptoms of which are fever, vomiting, swelling, and muscle and joint pain.

In 2009, a paper published in The Annals of Internal Medicine speculated that the great composer was brought down by a common streptococcal infection — like strep throat — that caused his kidneys to fail. Researchers studied death certificates in Vienna around that time, and there were many reports of deaths involving excessive swelling, which can be a sign of renal failure. In his last days, Mozart’s swelling was so severe that he was unable even to turn over in bed.

Regardless of the cause of death, the end result was the same, and Mozart died on December 5, 1791, at the age of 35. It’s a persistent myth that Mozart was buried in a pauper’s grave. While it’s true that he was buried in a communal plot, that was common practice in Vienna at the time. Only members of the aristocracy received individual burials as we think of them today; people of Mozart’s status and below were sewn, naked, into a linen sack, and placed into a pit with four or five other bodies. Quicklime was sprinkled over the corpses to speed their decomposition. After about seven years, the remains were exhumed and dispersed so that the grave could be reused. As a result, Mozart’s body is lost to us, and scientists have never been able to examine it using modern technology.

Any pianist will tell you of the joys of playing Mozart, for the sheer purity in its playing, but also of the difficulty in it because of its simple, clean exposure in execution. It’s really a unique sensation.

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by Stephen Dunn

The music was fidgety, arch,
an orchestral version of twang.
Welcome to atonal hell,
welcome to the execution
of a theory, I kept thinking,
thinking, thinking. I hadn’t felt
a thing. Was it old fashioned
of me to want to? Or were feelings,
as usual, part of the problem?
The conductor seemed to flail
more than lead, his baton evidence
of something unresolved,
perhaps recent trouble at home.
And though I liked the cellist—
especially the way
she held her instrument—
unless you had a taste
for unhappiness
you didn’t want to look
at the first violinists face.
My wife whispered to me
This music is better than it sounds.
I reminded myself the world outside
might be a worse place
than where I was now,
though that seemed little reason
to take heart. Instead
I closed my eyes, thought about
a certain mezzo soprano
who could gladden a sad day
anywhere, but one January night
in Milan went a full octave
into the beyond. Sometimes escape
can be an art, or a selfishness,
or just a gift you need
to give yourself. Whichever,
I disappeared for a while,
left my body behind to sit there, nod,
applaud a the appropriate time.

“Mercy” by Stephen Dunn from What Goes On: Selected and New Poems 1995-2009. © W.W. Norton, 2010.

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Flaubert on Creativity

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“Happy are they who don’t doubt themselves and whose pens fly across the page. I myself hesitate, I falter, I become angry and fearful, my drive diminishes as my taste improves, and I brood more over an ill-suited word than I rejoice over a well-proportioned paragraph.”
- Gustave Flaubert 

In 2007, editor J. Peder Zane published a book called The Top Ten, in which he asked 125 contemporary writers to name what they consider “the ten greatest works of fiction of all time,” and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary was number two, after  Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

Flaubert said:

“Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

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A Glimpse into Personal Creativity

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A description of her inner work and creative impulses by best-selling poet Sharon Olds Google ChromeScreenSnapz004:

“I said to free will or the pagan god of making things, or whoever, let me write my own stuff. I’ll give up everything I’ve learned, anything, if you’ll let me write my poems. They don’t have to be any good, but just mine.”

It was in the syntax of her prayer that came an epiphany. She explained:
“What happened was enjambment. Writing over the end of the line and having a noun starting each line — it had some psychological meaning to me, like I was protecting things by hiding them. Poems started pouring out of me and Satan was in a lot of them. Also, toilets.”

She started going to writing workshops at the local YMCA, and eventually she published her first collection of poems, called Satan Says (1980). She later realized that she wrote in the structure of the hymns of her youth, which is what felt comfortable to her, but that she “had to ride over the end of the line” to craft her poems.

When her first book was published, she was a few years shy of 40. Within a decade, she’d released several highly acclaimed, best-selling collections, and she’d also become the director of the Graduate Writing Program at NYU. She was so busy that she decided for one year she would not watch TV, read a newspaper or book, or go hear music, just so that she’d have enough time to do her job and keep writing poetry.

She was poet laureate of New York from 1998 to 2000. She still teaches creative writing at NYU, and she writes poems from her apartment on the Upper West Side, in a rocking chair with a view of the Hudson River. She uses different colored ballpoint pens to compose poems, and sometimes puts stickers on the pages of her drafts, which remind her of the stained glass windows of her religious youth. She said that she loves “odd” or “strange” words. She said:
“By the time I see that it’s a poem, it’s almost written in my head somewhere. It’s as if there’s someone inside of me who perceives order and beauty — and disorder. And who wants to make little copies. Who wants to put together something that will bear some relationship to the vision or memory or experience or story or idea or dream or whatever.”

She once described poetry as coming from her lungs, and said that to her,
“Poetry is so physical, the music of it and the movement of thought.”
She said that over the years, she has noticed that ideas for poems will come to her when she’s dancing or running, and that these ideas seem to come to mind with the act of breathing deeply, with the intake of oxygen. She said,
“Suddenly you’re remembering something that you haven’t thought of for years.”

Her advice to young poets is this:
“Take your vitamins. Exercise. Just work to love yourself as much as you can — not more than the people around you but not so much less.”

She once said:
“I’m not asking a poem to carry a lot of rocks in its pockets. Just being an ordinary observer and liver and feeler and letting the experience get through you onto the notebook with the pen, through the arm, out of the body, onto the page, without distortion.”

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Georgia O’Keeffe

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97s/46/hgmp/9675/bw173 OKeeffe



It’s the birthday of American artist Georgia O’Keeffe, born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin (1887). She studied art in college and then supported herself teaching art at various colleges, but she found that teaching left her no time for her own work, and the turpentine smell of the art classrooms made her sick. She went for months and years on end without painting anything, only to start over again and try something new.

On a trip to Taos, New Mexico, O’Keeffe fell in love with the desert. She felt that the thin, dry air helped her to see better, and she devoted the rest of her career to painting desert mountains, flowers, stones, and skulls.

Georgia O’Keeffe said:

“Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.”

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some fast quotes for composers

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“Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”
Mark Twain

“You never know what you’ll want to write until it starts writing itself in your head.”
Jill Ker Conway

“There’s a whole language out there, and one’s role as a writer is to stumble around in it.”
Ciarán Carson

“I like good company, but I like hard work still better.”
Camille Saint-Saëns

“The imagination is not a state: it is the human existence itself.”
William Blake

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