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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello jazz improvisation fellows!

It's been a long time that I posted some serious content here, so today I decided to share some jazz improvisation approach for all you out there looking for some inspiration.
Today it's a little trick I just found in this famous youtube video by Dexter Gordon from 1964 (most of you guys will know it for sure). It's nothing new to the world here but still an interesting thing that can be adapted to many II-V-I progressions in your own playing and practicing.

Lady Bird 1964

First, let's have a look at the changes on the first 10 bars of Lady Bird (I'm referring to the transposing key for tenor saxophone, Dmaj):

| Dmaj7 | Dmaj7 | Gm7 | C7 |
| Dmaj7 | Dmaj7 | Cm7 | F7 |
| Bbmaj7 | Bbmaj7 | [...]

Here's what Dexter is playing in the last chorus of his solo (3:07-3:17 in the video):

Dexter_LadyBird_1964.jpg

The whole band is playing a harmonical II-V-I extension here which is quite typical for the bebop style at bars 7 and 8 of the song.

Instead of the basic progression

| Cm7 | F7 | Bbmaj7 | [...]

they play

| C#m7 F#7 | Cm7 F7 | Bbmaj7 | [...]

This works in a lot of II-V-I settings for many jazz standards. Nothing special actually but still with a great effect concerning the tension and release of the whole passage.


Now let's look at Dexter's melody in bar 7 and 8. Dexter is playing this harmonic extension melodically by choosing chord tones from C#m7 in bar 7. He's using an upper structure of C#m including the 9th (D#), which leads to C#m9 or, thinking differently, an arpeggiated Emaj chord here. Not knowing what chords were in his mind at this moment but you CAN actually THINK this passage as:
Dexter_LadyBird_1964_detail.jpg
So where does this lead to? To make it short: Thinking melodically you can play (or better think)

| Emaj7 | F7 | Bbmaj7 | [...]

instead of

| Cm7 | F7 | Bbmaj7 | [...]

It works with Emaj chord tones as well as with an Emaj scale. The nice thing about this apporach: It sounds great when the band playing behind you is following you and playing the bebop extension in this moment, but it ALSO works when they're just playing the basic II-V-I progression. The resulting melodical guide tone lines from this approach usually lead to meaningful melodies even if you're playing a clashing Emaj7 chord against a Cm7 chord from the rhythm section. Dexter demonstrated it in 1964, so give it a try today!


Thanks for your attention and your patience, I hope you appreciated this little insight. If you did, I'd be happy if you let me know here by your comment.
Have a nice weekend and a great week!

Jo
 

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Thanks! That's something to think about.

I never knew it was a common device to play a two-bar ii-V a half step up on the first bar. Is there a name for that? Sideslipping or some sort of sub or something?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks! That's something to think about.

I never knew it was a common device to play a two-bar ii-V a half step up on the first bar. Is there a name for that? Sideslipping or some sort of sub or something?
Not sure if it has a name. I've heard it being referred to as "bebop II-V-I" at times. It's quite common in the 50s and 60s, you'll find it on A LOT of recordings from that time if you listen closely. Benny Golson even wrote it explicitly in the first two bars of "Stablemates" but it's been played long before he came up with that song.

How to get there:

Take an ordinary II-V-I:

| Dm7 | G7 | Cmaj

Make Dm7 a dominant chord to the dominant:

| D7 | G7 | Cmaj

Tritone-sub the new dominant:

| Ab7 | G7 | Cmaj

Add IIs in front of each dominant:

| Ebm7 Ab7 | Dm7 G7 | Cmaj

Et voilà.

Mozart has done it a couple of hundreds of years ago (without the IIs in front of the dominants though). In classical German music theory it's the "doppeldominantischer übermäßiger Quintsextakkord mit tiefalterierter Quinte im Bass", unfortunately I don't know the english term for that monster. ;)

Best
Jo
 

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Selmer Balanced Action Tenor Saxophone, Powell Flute
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Half Nelson

Sent from my SM-N950U using Tapatalk
 

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Also note that those first three bars are a quote from the head of another tune, I think Irving Berlin's "Always"
 

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Also note that those first three bars are a quote from the head of another tune, I think Irving Berlin's "Always"
it’s “Dinah”, I reckon,. Dex was always quoting lines.
 
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