All posts by funnelljazz

major and minor blues scales on Maceo Parker’s “Uptown Up”

Dear fellow funk/blues enthusiasts,

Here’s a transcription of Maceo Parker‘s alto saxophone solo on Uptown Up, the opening track from his album Funk Overload (1998), followed by an analysis of what’s going on melodically…

Note: although Maceo’s rhythm, phrasing, and expression won’t be discussed in length in this post, they are also really hip and definitely worth spending time accurately imitating on your instrument!

Uptown Up - alto sax (concert)_p1

Uptown Up - alto sax (concert)_p2

Shifts between major and minor blues scales:

  • [bar 0 – bar 3/beat 3]: Bb major blues
  • [bar 3/beat 4 – bar 5/beat 2]: Bb minor blues
  • [bar 5/beat 3 – bar 7/beat 1]: Bb major blues
  • [bar 7/beat 2 – bar 8/beat 2]: Bb minor blues
  • [bar 8/beat 3]: Bb major blues
  • [bar 8/beat 4 – bar 11]: C major blues
  • [bar 13/beat 3 – bar 15/beat 1]: C major blues
  • [bar 15/beat 2 – 16/beat 2]: C minor blues
  • [bar 17]: Bb major blues
  • [bar 18]: Bb minor blues
  • [bar 24]: Bb major scale

Passages where major and minor blues scales are intertwined:

  • [bar 12 – bar 13/beat 3]
  • [bar 16/beat 3 – bar 16/beat 4] (ascending chromatic motion)
  • [bar 19 – bar 23]

Comments on “intertwined” passages:

  • D# E F F# G: C blues. E is characteristic of C major blues, while F and F# are characteristic of C minor blues.
  • D D# E F (F#): Bb blues as a melodic anticipation of the next chord/section, with D characteristic of Bb major blues, and D# (Eb) and E characteristic of Bb minor blues. In this case the F# on the 1st beat of bar 17 is a lower chromatic approach to G (scale degree 6 of the Bb major blues scale). The note F# doesn’t belong to either of the blues scales in Bb. Arguably, it could still be heard as the blue note of the reminiscing C minor blues sound. In any case, the F# is part of the ascending chromatic motion initiated on beat 3 of bar 16.
  • C C# D D# E F: Bb blues. C and D are characteristic of Bb major blues, while D# (Eb) and E are characteristic of Bb minor blues.
  • Ab G F Eb D: Bb blues. Ab and Eb belong to Bb minor blues, G and D belong to Bb major blues, and F is common to both scales.

So based on this transcription, a few patterns stand out when intertwining major and minor blues scales:

  • an ascending chromatic motion from scale degrees 2/#2/3 up to scale degree 5;
  • a descending diatonic motion (akin to the mixolydian mode) from scale degree b7.

Conclusion: Maceo sets up the tone of his improvisation by using the minor and major blues scales separately at first, and then begins intertwining them more and more as he goes along. He finally crafts a whole passage featuring extensive chromaticism from bars 19 to 23, before wrapping up with an effective and strong major blues statement (bar 24).

For detailed information about lessons, please visit: http://funnelljazz.eu/lessons/.

pentatonic possibilities

Pentatonics are 5-note scales. Technically, any ordered sequence of 5 notes can be called a pentatonic. But the most common and widely used pentatonic is without doubt the one obtained by reordering a series of 5 notes stacked on top of each other in fifths (for example, the series “C G D A E” gives us “C D E G A” once reordered). This particular pentatonic comes in its “major” form (C D E G A), and its relative “minor” form (A C D E G).

So, what do I mean by “pentatonic possibilities?” Well, to give a more edgy and intervallic (less diatonic) feel to my lines while improvising over changes, I came to ask myself: what pentatonic scales can I use over these chords? Chords derive from modes, and modes from harmony types, so the question could be rephrased as: what pentatonic scales can be extracted from the various harmony types?

For the purpose of this particular post, I will limit myself to the most common pentatonic scale (the one discussed in the first paragraph), and to major, natural minor, harmonic minor, and melodic minor harmony types. Let’s jump in and have a look at major harmony first. The pentatonics listed in the first and last column of the table shown below are extracted from the key of C major (C D E F G A B). Their “major” forms are listed in the left-hand side of the table along with their relative “minor” forms on the right-hand side, and the roman numerals represent the scale degrees for each pentatonic:

major harmony pentatonic possibilities
C D E G A I Maj. pent. <=> VI min. pent. A C D E G
F G A C D IV Maj. pent. <=> II min. pent. D F G A C
G A B D E V Maj. pent. <=> III min. pent. E G A B D

Natural minor harmony is equivalent to the Aeolian mode. Therefore, the pentatonic possibilities in natural minor are the same as in major harmony (the roman numerals indicating the scale degrees, however, would have to change due to the shift to relative minor).

Now, let’s have a look at melodic minor harmony. It turns out only one pentatonic scale can be extracted from this harmony type. It is shown in the table below in the key of C melodic minor (C D Eb F G A B):

melodic minor harmony pentatonic possibilities
F G A C D IV Maj. pent. <=> II min. pent. D F G A C

Finally, due to its flatted 6th scale degree, there are no common pentatonic possibilities in harmonic minor harmony.

For detailed information about lessons, please visit: http://funnelljazz.eu/lessons/.

Charlie Rouse on Monk’s Dream: shaping a solo with chord tones, chromatic approaches, and triads

My favourite passage from Charlie Rouse‘s solo on Thelonious Monk’s 1962 recording of Monk’s Dream – Take 8 is made up of the four closing phrases below (Charlie’s final statement right before the piano solo starts).

Most of the soloing is built on chord tones here (melodic emphasis on the notes that make up the changes). It is also interesting to pay close attention to the use of chromatic approaches, and to the way various triads emerge to define a distinct melodic contour.

Monk's Dream, Charlie Rouse_C

Approach notes:

  • Db in bar 1 (technically the “second” measure here: the very first one is used to show the pick up and is thus incomplete with only 3 beats; let’s call this “pick up” measure “bar 0″) approaches the following C from above (upper chromatic approach)
  • A# in bar 3 approaches the following B (which is itself an anticipation, corresponding to the major 7th of the following C chord) from below (lower chromatic approach)
  • first E in bar 5 is lower chromatic neighboring tone
  • D# in bar 5 is a lower chromatic approach to the following E
  • the notes A (diatonic note to the E7sus/B chord) and G (chromatic note since it doesn’t belong to the E mixolydian scale from which E7sus/B derives) in bar 7 enclose the following Ab
  • both Abs in bar 8 are upper chromatic neighboring tones
  • Ab and G# in bar 9 enclose the following G chromatically

For detailed information about lessons, please visit: http://funnelljazz.eu/lessons/.

Spirit of the Snail video with melting snowball poem

Spirit of the Snail is a syllable-based melting snowball set to music; the poem is about simply staying present and draws upon shamanic snail symbolism…

When one dawdles sweetly and considers how
calm, stillness, and contemplation reveal
the detailed beauty of slow motion,
obviousness resurfaces.
Slowness seems necessary,
in all simplicity.
No one can lock up,
deep in its shell,
the spirit
of the
snail!

vegan broccoli salad and Teddy Wilson

Welcome to Jimi’z Café, a place for simple recipe ideas for the hungry, vegan and gluten free jazz musician… And what to listen to while you cook them!

Well actually, a place for all people with taste buds and ears who enjoy healthy food and good music: I’ll make a point of pairing each recipe with some of my favourite jazz for you to discover and enjoy in a multisensorial fashion. :)

So, let’s dive in! Here’s our first one: a tasty vegan broccoli salad accompanied by master pianist Teddy Wilson’s on “Fools Rush In.”

Jimi'z Café - vegan broccoli salad photo © Jim Funnell
Jimi’z Café – vegan broccoli salad
photo © Jim Funnell

Now, ingredients… For the dressing:

  • soy sauce;
  • rice vinegar;
  • olive oil;
  • safflower oil;
  • tahini.

For the salad:

  • broccoli (boiled or steamed for just a few minutes);
  • garlic;
  • linseeds;
  • cilantro.

Oh, and let’s not forget: Teddy’s inimitable swing!

She’s Out of My Life arrangement on Jazz Magazine staff playlist

The arrangement of Tom Bahler’s hit song “She’s Out My Life” that Jim Funnell contributed on saxophonist Philippe Lopes de Sa‘s debut album Woandering has been featured in a monthly playlist curated by the staff at Jazz Magazine, France’s foremost publication entirely dedicated to jazz.

playlist Philippe Lopes de Sa / Jim Funnell
Jazz Magazine
2017-07

Philippe Lopes de Sa / Jim Funnell
She’s Out of My Life

“Not only are the eleven original compositions by this saxophone and piano duo remarkable, but this arrangement of Michael Jackson’s hyper-emotional ballad (“Off the Wall”, 1979) will not possibly leave you indifferent.”

Where? “Woandering” (philippe-lopes-de-sa.com / cdbaby.com)

Le Baiser Salé concert announcement on Le jars jase jazz

20170217 Baiser Salé
Double bill concert “AfuriKo + Jim Funnell’s Word Out” at Le Baiser Salé (an inimitable Parisian jazz club when it comes to jazz with a world music flavour!) announced on jazz critic Guillaume Lagrée’s blog “Le jars jase jazz:” Jazz concerts selection in Paris and Île-de-France for February 2017.