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What Is This (Detuned) Thing?

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What Is This (Detuned) Thing? (Jim Funnell)
©2008, 2018 Jim Funnell/Funnelljazz (SACEM/ASCAP)
Recorded live at Conservatoire Gabriel Fauré (Savigny-le-Temple, France) on January 26, 2013. Mixed by Philippe Lopes de Sa and Samuel Bonifait.
Available sheet music: score

Philippe Lopes de Sa – tenor saxophone
Jim Funnell – piano
Florent Nisse – double bass
Louis Moutin – drums


Laszlo Gardony, one of my jazz piano mentors at Berklee, hipped me to his “detuning” technique (playing through a tune and gradually moving chords – or sets of chords – up or down a half step), which I applied here to Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love?.” I then wrote an angular line over the modified changes (instead of keeping and detuning the original melody, which also would have been an option), and threw in some rhythm section hits here and there. These hits are integrally featured during the head, but can then be played at the musicians’ discretion during solos! And there you have it… What Is This (Detuned) Thing?


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getting into the altered sound

Let’s take a look at a few things that can be done when an altered dominant chord presents itself in a tune (e.g. Eb7alt). The first thing to know is that the altered chord derives from the altered mode, otherwise known as mode VII of melodic minor. But to break out of the diatonic sound of the scale and gain a little freedom with it, here are a few tricks…

There are 5 different triads that can be used as numerators (the denominator being the basic chord sound, i.e. combinations of chord tones 1, 3, and b7) to get a solid sounding upper structure triad voicing for an altered chord:

  • bIImi
  • bIIImi
  • bV
  • bVI

getting-into-the-altered-sound_screenshot-1

You can then combine both minor triadic upper structures and both major triadic upper structures to form two hexatonic scales, which can be used as interesting melodic devices:

  • bIImi / bIIImi
  • bV / bVI

getting-into-the-altered-sound_screenshot-2

Now, if you take a closer look at both these hexatonics, you’ll notice that they have five notes in common. These notes make up a pentatonic scale (bV major pentatonic, a.k.a. bIII minor pentatonic), which can also be used as an even more angular melodic device.

getting-into-the-altered-sound_screenshot-3

Click “Download File” below to hear the midi examples notated above. The full PDF document is also available here. Enjoy!


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