This post features an exercise which shows how close position voicings for the ‘short’ (i.e. one-bar) ii-V progression are useful both vertically, as inversions that allow a player to perform the progression without the awkward leaps that result from voicing both chords in root position, and horizontally, as the basis for melodic patterns that outline the progression. Each of the four staves of the exercise sequences a pattern which I associate with a particular voicing of the ii-V progression through a pattern of descending whole step ii-Vs. The pattern on each staff suggests a voicing, and that voicing can be practiced in two ways before the lick is combined with the voicing. The following examples use what I call the three note root position voicing, and can be used to work up to practicing the lick on the first staff, which is based on measure 3 of Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round Midnight’. First, practice the voicing through a pattern of ii-Vs descending by whole steps, with the last ii-V resolving to its I chord:
Finally, you can move on to reading from the exercise sheet, playing the melodic pattern in the RH while playing the LH voicings from memory. This process can be repeated for the other staves: – practice the ii-V-I voicing that starts with the ii chord voiced ‘off the 3rd’ as shown in this post before moving on to the pattern on staff two -practice the ii-V-I voicing that starts with the ii chord voiced ‘off the 7th’ as shown in this post before moving on to the pattern on staff three -practice the ii-V-I that starts with the ii chord voiced ‘off the 5th’ (i.e. 2nd inversion of the minor 7th chord) for staff 4.
Staff 2 uses a lick from the third to last bar of ‘Donna Lee’ (an example of a ‘convex’ one-bar ii-V pattern), which I see as based ii-V with the ii chord voiced ‘off the 3rd’ (what Phil Degreg calls the ‘B voicing’.) The range of the L.H. voicings for this pattern should be adjusted to avoid the voicings going too high (above C5) or too low (below C3.) Staff three shows a pattern Barry Harris calls the ‘turnaround lick’ which also appears in the Benny Harris tune ‘Reets and I’, played by Bud Powell on ‘The Amazing Bud Powell Volume 2.’, and (in a more diatonic form) in the bridge of Jimmy Giuffre’s ‘Four Brothers’. Staff four shows pattern adapted from ‘Afternoon in Paris’. Each lick is transposed down by whole steps through six keys. The title of the exercise, ‘Midnight Donna and Reets in Paris’, is a way to remember the order of the licks in the exercises, titled by their sources.
There are two other ways to practice this exercise: with the RH playing the voicing while the LH plays the melodic pattern, and a contrapuntal approach, in which the exercise works as a canon: the LH starts alone on Staff 1, then the RH plays Staff 1 an octave up while the LH goes on to staff two, and so on. The contrapuntal version can also be played by any combination of instruments in pairs: once one player or group has finished bar 8 of the top staff, a second player or group can begin the exercise when the first player or group begins the second staff.
Below the exercise are some thoughts on how many of the same player-composers in the bop tradition who were able to find great variety in melodic patterns based on chord voicings also showed an interest in anagrams and wordplay, particularly in their choices of tune titles.
In the 2010 thriller movie ‘Shutter Island’, Leonardo DiCaprio plays Edward Daniels, a U.S. Marshal who is plagued by nightmares about an arsonist named Andrew Laeddis, Later in the movie, it is revealed that the names ‘Edward Daniels‘ and ‘Andrew Leaddis‘ are anagrams of each other, created by a mysterious mastermind. In other words, the two proper name/surname pairs share the same group of letters, and one was created by rearranging the letters of the other. (To find out which name came first, watch the movie, or in a pinch, read the Wikipedia entry.) Anagrams were a common interest among at least three great jazz piano masterminds: Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver and Bill Evans.
According to Robin D.G. Kelley’s biography ‘Thelonious Monk: The Life And Times Of An American Original’, the title of the tune ‘Eronel’, usually attributed to Monk, is a reverse spelling of ‘Lenore’, the one-time girlfriend of one of the tune’s principal authors, the pianist Sadik Hakim. (By Kelley’s account, Hakim wrote the melody with Idrees Sulieman and Monk later added some characteristic touches.) Kelley also mentions Monk had a black onyx ring inscribed with the word ‘MONK’, which he liked to point out could be read as ‘KNOW’ when viewed upside down. Horace Silver titled one of his compositions, ‘Ecaroh’, with a reverse spelling of his name, and also used the same word to name his publishing company. Bill Evans named two modal tunes with anagrams of friends’ names: ‘Re: Person I Knew’ (Orrin Keepnews) and ‘N.Y.C.’s No Lark’ (an elegy for Sonny Clark). Sonny Rollins encoded the word ‘Nigeria’ by spelling it backwards in the title of his composition Airegin, and Barry Harris created an African-sounding word by spelling Art Tatum’s name backwards in the title of ‘Mutattra’ (from Listen To Barry Harris.) Wordplay also continues to be a common form of humor among rank-and-file working jazz musicians (sometimes called ‘club date musicians’); it is not uncommon for ‘In A Sentimental Mood‘ to be referred to as ‘In A Semi-Mental Mood’.
It is only natural that these player/composers would title their songs with coded words, given that the musical language in which they composed and improvised, called ‘Bebop’ after the Dizzy Gillespie tune of the same name, was originally conceived as a kind of musical code, a private language which could only be spoken by those in the know. In bebop, often the tunes themselves were musical puzzles, concentration exercises designed to separate the hip from the square. In his biography Wail: the Life of Bud Powell, Peter Pullman notes that at Minton’s Playhouse, one of the venues where bebop was developed, the tune ‘Epistrophy’ (another Monk collaboration, this time with Kenny Clarke and Charlie Christian) ‘was one of the pieces used to keep the uninitiated off the bandstand’. (In this tune, Monk works a mind-bending variation on the 32 song form. Where most tunes with this form open with two identical, similar or contrasting eight-bar phrases, the first 16 measures of Epistrophy contain four-bar phrases arranged palindromically – A,B,B,A – which forces the improviser to ascend and descend a symmetrical harmonic ‘hill’ at the beginning of each chorus before they can reach the more traditional bridge and last A.) There is a parallel between the way that bop players (or those influenced by bop) were sometimes inclined to build song titles out of alternate spellings of words and the way that they often gave their melodic lines a cryptic aspect by using multiple ‘spellings’ or arpeggiations of chords. In a number of Monk tunes, a short melodic figure is immediately followed by an altered repetition of it. ‘Well You Needn’t’ opens with an ascending arpeggio of F major immediately followed by a descending one, and ‘Four In One’ opens with an ascending major blues scale followed by a descending one that comes within two notes of being an exact retrograde: A fun variant on these kinds of opposite-motion melodic lines are mirror exercises on piano, which have been discussed both by Harold Danko in a Keyboard Magazine column and Chick Corea in a recent online video ‘lesson’. Chick’s video reminded me of how I discovered at one point that both Monk’s ‘Straight No Chaser’ and Tadd Dameron’s ‘Hot House’ can be harmonized with mirror (i.e. inverted) counterpoint. (Other examples of ‘found counterpoint’ – countermelodies derived from an altered version of the original tune – include the Modern Jazz Quartet’s canonic version of ‘Bags’ Groove’, and Fred Hersch’s canonic arrangement of ‘Bemsha Swing’; one or both of these led me to discover that the Dizzy Gillespie tune ‘Bebop’ also works as a canon.) In contrast to the immediate reversals and respellings in the Monk tunes cited above, Jimmy Giuffre’s ‘Four Brothers’ and John Lewis’ ‘Afternoon in Paris’ both feature different spellings of the same chord within their first eight measures. This abundance of arpeggiation is necessary because chords lasting only two beats occur frequently in these tunes, and in bebop, arpeggiation is a common strategy for melodically navigating two-beat chord changes. Most of the two beat changes in ‘Four Brothers’ and ‘Afternoon In Paris’ belong to one-bar major ii-V progressions. A major ii-V progression is defined by two important characteristics: a minor 7th chord is followed by a dominant 7th chord, and there is the interval of an ascending fourth between the roots of the two chords. In the Barry Harris system, the two chords in the one bar major ii-V progression (i.e. one where each chord lasts two beats) can be outlined with a single ascending seventh scale (using the ‘seven up’ pattern) or a single descending seventh scale (using the ‘seven down’ pattern). Barry Harris’ scalar approach to the ii-V can be contrasted with the more intervallic, arpeggiated approach to the one-bar ii-V progression in the melody to ‘Four Brothers’, which navigates the one-bar major ii-V with a melodic pattern that might be called the opposite-motion arpeggio. The A section begins with what could be called a ‘convex’ ii-V pattern (an ascending arpeggio of a ii chord voicing countered with a descending arpeggio of the V); and the bridge includes a ‘concave’ shape. The one bar minor ii-V progression shares some of the same characteristics as the major ii-V, with two alterations: the minor 7th chord is now a minor 7 flat five (a.k.a. half diminished) chord, and the dominant chord has at least one alteration, a lowered ninth (i.e. ‘flat nine’), sometimes accompanied by or replaced by other alterations including sharp five. Barry Harris‘ approach to the one bar minor ii-V progression is to apply the seventh scale from a major third below the root of the half-diminished ii chord, either with the ‘seven up’ pattern, or the ‘seven down’ pattern. With the ‘seven down’ pattern, the last note in the scale is raised a half step to form what I refer to in another blog post as the ‘seven down to the third’ scale. (This seemingly abstract approach to the minor ii-V is consistent with the many accounts of Monk’s description of the half diminished chord: according to Kelley, he always called the first chord in the introduction to ‘Round Midnight’ ‘C minor sixth with A in the bass’ rather than ‘A minor seven flat five’. In this context, Harris is taking the same approach to the ‘minor sixth’ here as he takes to the minor 7th chord in the major ii-V.)