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Re: Jazz chord chaos

From: David Raleigh Arnold
Subject: Re: Jazz chord chaos
Date: Tue, 03 Apr 2001 16:39:14 -0400

Historical accuracy and perspective has been the first casualty of this

Jazz chord notation came into use in the forties and fifties. The
Berklee School, or any other school, had nothing to do with it, nor did
they ever make any positive contribution to it.

The most innovative bop musicians were well schooled in traditional
academic harmony from taking courses at NYU.

There were two purposes to changing the chord indications for jazz:
        1) to *simplify*, because more complex chords were being used.
        2) to improve the legibility of fast hand work.

The system is very simple. All chords are dominants, built on the 5th
note of a major scale:

The root
m if 3rd is minor
farthest unaltered extension. 7th is minor unless maj7.
alterations list in parentheses
"add" whatever you want, notes or intervals.

The *only* exception is the dim7 chord, where you have a diminished
triad with a diminished 7th. Because this was the dim7 chord in sheet
music and could not be changed, it was necessary to call a diminished
triad with a minor 7th a m7(b5). This is cumbersome compared to m6, but
this way at least you get the right root.

The /bassnote was later, but isn't it better to sketch a bass part? I
don't see any problem with it, though. :-)

There is absolutely no reason to have sus4 instead of 11 or b13 instead
of #5. The chords are not there to convey a composer's intention or say
anything about voice leading. If you are playing a jazz solo, you don't
care *at all* what the arranger or songwriter wanted, you just want to
find a way to play something with that chord behind you and you don't
care about resolving anything which you are not yourself playing. The
chords are a *given*. You don't have to make sense out of chord
progressions, just *survive* them. An arranger who spells a #5 as a b13
is not trying to help the soloist, he is trying to impress some other
academic who he hopes might study and admire his erudition in some
future age.

Again, if someone would rather have sus4 than add4, why not? I just
don't want it automatic.

As for the person playing the chords rather than playing along with
them, the simpler the better.

Why would you write a C+ at all, instead of a C7(#5) or C9(#5) or
C13(#5b9) etc. in a jazz arrangement? You wouldn't. If you really had to
have it, Caug would be more legible than C+.

In sum, theoretical considerations in composition are really out of
place in discussing jazz chord notation. The composer's intention is
*totally irrelevant*. I wouldn't care much about the arranger's
intention either. The only intention that matters is that of the
performer. He can play the 11th of a 13th chord if he really wants to,
can't he? Does he need lilypond's permission?

Jeff Henrikson is right. :-)
daveA (debian.user) ------------------------------------
         %{         ars sine scientia nihil           %}

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