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.

ABSTRACT

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.

Keywords

Harmony Meter Instrumentation Rhythm Jazz Hehmsoth

1.    INTRODUCTION

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.    HARMONIC EXPLORATIONS

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.    REFERENCES

 

[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

 

 

About Hank

Welcome to the blog on the website of Hank Hehmsoth. Here you'll find many and varied writings of Hank Hehmsoth, from opinions, to articles and videos from related topics, and last but not least, his music. Hank frequently gives readings and talks in the Austin/San Marcos area as well as the rest of the country. If you are a creative composer or music professor and are interested in Hank teaching a master class on improvisation, composition, and related topics, such as jazz piano and harmony, at your college or university, contact him directly.
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