The Full Wiki

Modal jazz: Wikis

Advertisements
  
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  (Redirected from Modal Jazz)
Modal jazz
Stylistic origins Jazz, Indian music, Medieval music
Cultural origins Late 1950s
Typical instruments Piano, saxophone, trumpet, double bass, drums
Mainstream popularity Early 1960s

Modal jazz is jazz that uses musical modes rather than chord progressions as a harmonic framework.

Contents

History

An understanding of modal jazz requires knowledge of musical modes. In bebop as well as in hard bop, musicians use chords to provide the background for solos. A song starts out with a theme that introduces the chords for the solos. These chords repeat throughout the whole song, while the soloists play new, improvised themes over the repeated chord progression. By the 1950s, improvising over chords had become such a dominant part of jazz, that sidemen at recording dates were sometimes given nothing more than a list of chords to play from. Creating innovative solos became exceedingly difficult.

In the later 1950s, spurred by the experiments of composer and bandleader George Russell, musicians began using a modal approach. They chose not to write their pieces using chords, but instead used modal scales. This means that the bassist, for instance, does not have to 'walk' from one important note of a chord to that of another, as long as they stay in the scale and accentuate the right notes. The pianist does not have to play the same chords or variations of the chords, but can play anything within the scale being used.

The way a soloist creates a solo changed dramatically with the advent of modal jazz. Before, a soloist played a solo that fit into a set of chords. However, with modal jazz, a soloist creates a melody in one scale (typically). Therefore, the goal of the musician in modal jazz is to make the melody as interesting as possible. Modal jazz is, in a sense, a return to melody.

Theory

It is possible for the bassist and the pianist to move to notes within the mode that are dissonant with the prime (tonic) chord of that mode. For example: within the C ionian mode, the notes of the scale are CDEFGAB, with C being the root note. Other non-diatonic notes, such as the note Bb, are dissonant within the C ionian mode, so that they are less used in non-modal jazz songs when playing the chord C. In a modal song, these other notes may be freely used as long as the overall sound of C ionian is entrenched within the listener's mind. This allows for greater harmonic flexibility and some very interesting harmonic possibilities.

Among the significant compositions of modal jazz were "So What" by Miles Davis and "Impressions" by John Coltrane. "So What" and "Impressions" follow the same AABA song form and were in D Dorian for the A sections and modulated a half step up to E-flat Dorian for the B section. The Dorian mode is the natural minor scale with a raised sixth.

In improvising within a modal context, a musician would basically start by thinking about playing the notes within that specific mode (e.g., D Dorian: D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D). It is also possible to take several notes from that mode (though not all) to create smaller scales or note choices for improvisation. For example, in D Dorian, one may play the notes of the D minor triad. This is what Miles Davis does at the beginning of his solo in "So What". The player may even choose any of the triads available in that mode: C major, D minor, E minor etc. One thing to note is that choosing an upper structure triad using the 9th, 11th and 13th of the chord will result in tension.

The player may also use the many different pentatonic scales within the scale such as C major pentatonic, F major pentatonic and G major pentatonic. Note that these scales are also relative A minor, D minor and E minor pentatonic, respectively.

Compositions

Miles Davis recorded one of the best selling jazz albums of all time in this modal framework. Kind of Blue is an exploration of the possibilities of modal jazz. Included on these sessions was tenor saxophonist John Coltrane who, throughout the 1960s, would explore the possibilities of modal improvisation more deeply than any other jazz artist. The rest of the musicians on the album were alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly (though never on the same piece), bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Jimmy Cobb. (Kelly, Chambers, and Cobb would eventually form the Wynton Kelly Trio.) This record is considered a kind of test album in many conservatories focusing on jazz improvisation. The compositions "So What" and "All Blues" from Kind of Blue are considered contemporary jazz standards.

While Davis' explorations of modal jazz were sporadic throughout the 1960s--he would include several of the tunes from Kind of Blue in the repertoire of his "Second Great Quintet"--Coltrane would take the lead in extensively exploring the limits of modal improvisation and composition with his own classic quartet, featuring Elvin Jones (drums), McCoy Tyner (piano), and Reggie Workman and Jimmy Garrison (bass). Several of Coltrane's albums from the period are recognized as seminal albums in jazz more broadly, but especially modal jazz: Live! at the Village Vanguard (1961), Crescent (1964), A Love Supreme (1964), and Meditations (1965). Compositions from this period such as "India," "Chasin' the Trane," "Crescent," "Impressions," as well as standards like "My Favorite Things" and "Greensleeves" have entered the jazz repertoire.

Coltrane's modal explorations gave rise to an entire generation of saxophonists (mostly playing tenor saxophone) that would then go on to further explore modal jazz (often in combination with jazz fusion), such as Michael Brecker, David Liebman, Steve Grossman, and Bob Berg.

Another great innovator in the field of modal jazz is pianist Herbie Hancock. He is well known for working in Miles Davis's Second Great Quintet, Herbie Hancock recorded a number of solo albums, beginning with Maiden Voyage, prior to joining Miles' band. On the title song of this album Hancock has just a few suspended and minor chords that are played throughout the entire piece and played with a very open sound due to Hancock's use of fourths in voicing the chords. The piece's haunting repeating vamps in the rhythm section and the searching feeling of the entire piece has made Maiden Voyage one of the most famous modal pieces of all times.

A true pre-cursor to modal jazz was found in the hands of virtuoso jazz pianist, composer and trio innovator Ahmad Jamal whose early use of extended vamps, (freezing the advance of the song at some point for repetition or interjecting new song fragments) allowed him to solo for long periods infusing that section of the song with fresh ideas and percussive effects over a repetitive drum and bass figuration. Miles Davis was effusive in his praise for Jamal's influence on him, his playing, and his music: a perfect setup for the modes that awaited in Davis' future.

External links

Advertisements

Advertisements






Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message