[Top][All Lists]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: Jazz chord chaos

From: Thomas Morgan
Subject: Re: Jazz chord chaos
Date: 03 Apr 2001 23:43:02 -0400
User-agent: Gnus/5.0808 (Gnus v5.8.8) Emacs/20.7

As I'm writing this I'm questioning how much of what I'll say will
have a direct bearing on Lilypond.  Perhaps not much, but I found
David's historical reference point very interesting and I think
I might be able to offer a contrasting point of view.

And it may be possible that this kind of discussion will shed some
light on how to work out the details of Lily's jazz chords, so why
not continue to discuss a little?  If the rest of you think otherwise,
forgive me and please ignore this message.

David Raleigh Arnold <address@hidden> writes:

> There is absolutely no reason to have sus4 instead of 11 or b13
> instead of #5.

I am wondering whether this could be a generational difference.
I really don't have much historical knowledge on the subject myself,
but it seems to me that things must have changed; that is the only way
I can reconcile the difference between the description you've given
about jazz chord symbols and the observations I can make about the
reality around me.

For my entire peer group, which consists mostly of young musicians,
and also for middle-aged musicians who I've played with, #5 and b13
certainly deliver two distinct impressions.  C7(#5) implies for us
a whole-tone sound, while C7(b13) is more likely F melodic minor.
It's not a matter of showing off, it's just a matter of practicality.

(If you are interested, Fred Hersch also said that he usually only
considers #5 for major chords; otherwise it is confusing.)

And I've simply never seen C11 used as a replacement for Csus4.
Csus7, Csus4, C7sus, or just Csus are quite common notations, however.
None of these will take any thinking for a reader to recognize.

To me it seems that this experience of mine only can serve to illustrate
your point, however, that flexibility is what's needed, because it seems
we are living in two different worlds.

> 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.

I can sympathize with the rest of your article, but this part just
puzzles me.  After the song is printed, there's no doubt that the
performer can do whatever he or she wants, but if the chord theory
is outside the scope of notation, then the performer's liberty is
even further outside.

Before the piece is printed the important thing is to keep its quality
and accuracy as high as possible.  If everyone assumed that this is
not necessary because in the end the player won't care anyway, that
would seem a very sad state of affairs.  And in fact that is not the
case, at least not everywhere.  With an accurate chart, a good performer
will be able to make sense of the chords first, and then make all kinds
of variations freely.

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

That's a great point.  Not only for someone comping but also for soloists,
don't you think?  But if two expressions have distinct practical meanings,
then the process of recognition will be simplest for the reader if you
choose the meaning that fits the situation.

> 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+.

The only one of those chords that would make me pause is C13(#5b9).
It takes a little thinking to put #5, 13, and 7 together in one chord.
I'm not a pianist, so I can't say for sure, but I would guess that
that one would be tricky to voice.  On the other hand, C7(b9,b13)
presents no special difficulty.

C+ or Caug is rather uncommon.  Of the triads, with this one it seems
to be the least obvious which other notes could be filled in.  I would
assume whole tone again.  It's hard for me to see C+ being illegible,
however.  That's something that really makes me curious.  I'd like
to know why it should be considered illegible.

> In sum, theoretical considerations in composition are really out of
> place in discussing jazz chord notation.

I tend to agree with you, so I feel a little guilty about sending this
message to the list, but those theoretical considerations will have
at least an indirect effect on the notation, if that notation continues
in the direction it is headed (and if I understand properly).


reply via email to

[Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread]