modal-jazz

Wayne Shorter - "The All Seeing Eye" (1965)

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TRACKS

  1. The All Seeing Eye
  2. Genesis
  3. Chaos
  4. Face of the Deep
  5. Mephistopheles

Wayne Shorter became big when he worked with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. He became bigger when he played with the Miles Davis quintet. During his period with Miles he also made some solo albums. Good ones too. His playing is so good on each album!

The All Seeing Eye is a dark album. Bebop, Hardbop, Modal Jazz… you name it. With support of Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard and many more. This album only has five tracks, but they all sound very fresh, daring, dark and mysterious. It’s totally different than his other albums. It’s a good album with good pointers.

Highlights on this album are The All Seeing Eye and Chaos.

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Remembering legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane (born John William Coltrane in Hamlet, NC) - September 23, 1926 – July 17, 1967

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On this day in music history: August 17, 1959 - “Kind Of Blue” by Miles Davis is released. Produced by Teo Macero and Irving Townsend, it is recorded at Columbia Records 30th Street Studios in New York City on March 2, 1959 and April 22, 1959. Recorded in two sessions six weeks apart, it features Davis backed by musicians John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Jimmy Cobb, Paul Chambers, Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly. The songs will be created by Miles giving the musicians chord changes based on musical modes rather than traditional chord progressions, then improvising on those changes. The original LP release of “Kind Of Blue” will be a source of confusion among musicians and fans for years when the three tracks (“So What”, Freddie Freeloader", and “Blue In Green”) on the first side of the album are a quarter tone sharper than originally played. The problem turns out to have been caused by one of the two tape machines recording the session running slower than the other. The album will not be reissued with the songs at the correct pitch until 1992. All reissues from that time on will be mastered using the back up 3-track session tapes cut during the initial recording session. The album will go on to become one of the most popular and influential jazz recordings of all time. Having taken over thirty years for the album to sell over million copies, its sales will explode during the peak of the CD boom, tripling in sales during the 90’s and 2000’s. For the album’s 50th anniversary, Sony Music will release a 3 disc edition featuring the original album along with alternate takes of “Flamenco Sketches” and “Freddie Freeloader” (w/ the false start), along with in studio dialog recorded during the sesssions. The second disc will include live recordings featuring the sextet, with the third disc being a DVD featuring a documentary about the development and recording of the landmark album along with the rarely seen television program “The Sound Of Miles Davis” originally aired on April 2, 1959. “Kind Of Blue” has been certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, and is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1992. In 2002, the album is added to the National Recording Registry by the Library Of Congress.

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#22: Mizzter Blizzard, Paper Mario: Sticker Star

Hi guys! I’d just like to quickly apologize again for the lack of posting yesterday. Life caught up to me and wouldn’t let me go >.< I’ll try to be better about that, but until then I’ve got a great post lined up for y'all today!

Very early in this blog’s lifespan I mentioned how appreciative I am of the Paper Mario: Sticker Star soundtrack. I really feel that Sticker Star was one of the sorely underrated games of 2012, and the dynamic, lively and altogether unique soundtrack was one of the big reason I fell in love with the game (not to mention that the entire soundtrack is jazz-based, of which I am very well-studied and not at all biased towards). Well, earlier this month a member of the OCRemix forums requested that I check out this track from one of the boss fights from the game, and after one listen I knew I had to analyze this music. Without further ado, here’s today’s track: Mizzter Blizzard from Paper Mario: Sticker Star!

Actually, I’d like to add one further ado before I dive into the score: I’d like to talk about some of the influences I’ve identified of this particular piece of music. During the following analysis you’ll hear me talk about how this is influenced by a style of jazz called modal jazz, and I’d like to explain what that is for a minute before I dive in. Modal jazz is a style of small-group jazz developed during the 1960s by Miles Davis, Bill Evans and many other important jazz figures of the time. One of the primary factors in this development of modal jazz is that the previous popular style of small-group jazz, bebop, was entirely based around fast-moving chord changes and verbose, virtuosic solos over these difficult changes. Modal jazz was a shift in the opposite direction, one where the harmonic rhythm would last four, eight, even sixteen bars without changing harmonies. Due to the fact that harmonies stopped moving so quickly, the exact harmonies themselves became more complex, moving away from simple ii7 – V7 – Imaj7 progressions and into chromatic vamps and other harmonies that shied away from the circle of fifths. We started to see the sus chord become an important figure, as well as quartal-style harmony. Many of these developments can actually be traced back to the Impressionist era of classical music, namely a certain Claude Debussy. The most influential piece of modal jazz, as well as the most well-known, is Miles Davis’ record Kind of Blue (this track, called So What) is a great example of these concepts).

Onwards to Mizzter Blizzard, the implications of modal jazz are evident as soon as the melody kicks in, for another important factor of the genre is that they often used modes of the major scale to compose melodies, rather than strict diatonic major or minor. The beginning passage is in C# minor, however we see an A#, which indicates the Dorian mode (think of natural minor, but with a raised 6th degree). The style of harmonization between the alto and tenor saxophone is also indicative of a modal style, as parallel perfect 5th harmony is a hallmark of the modal jazz era. The music builds excitement in this section through the syncopated sixteenth-note patterns in the bass and melody, as well as with the trumpet responses at the end of each phrase. The chromatic shift from C# to D is also an unexpected lift in the music, propelling us forward to the B section.

At the beginning of the B section we move from D minor to Ab minor, a move that would be unprecedented in many styles of music, however here the shift in color is incredibly appropriate (not to mention unexpected and exciting). This section also features the tension-building technique of changing each minor chord to a half-diminished chord two bars later. For those unfamiliar with the half-diminished chord, it is the same as a minor 7th chord but with a lowered 5th, meaning it is built on a tritone rather than the perfect 5th of minor. You can hear the clear difference in mood between the two chords here, giving each offbeat punch an added bite of tension.

The trumpet melody here has an improvisational quality to it, thanks to both the character of the line itself and due to the fact that the saxophones earlier played in duet, making the solo trumpet a nice change in texture. The line builds and builds into bar 18, where a three-against-two figure in the accompaniment drives the music towards an unexpected resolution on a sus chord.

C is very much a recap of the content from the A section. However, there are some key differences, which I noted in the images above.

D is where we see the unresolved sus chords shifting from one to another in third relationships. In the image I describe this pattern as influenced by “Coltrane changes,” which are based on the John Coltrane composition Giant Steps, which, to summarize it as simply as I can, constituted a merging of ideas from both modal jazz and bebop. Here, in a style similar to Debussy’s compositions, the sus chords move from sound to sound, completely unconcerned with the idea of tonic and resolution. The tonal center of this work is a volatile thing and although we do see a very cute move at the end of D to modulate back to C# minor on the repeat (here’s a hint: Ab is enharmonic to G#), the composer here considers a tonal center the least of his worries. He cares the most about his soundscape, with which he has created a magnificent, exciting piece of music.
That’s all for today folks. I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing! :)

Bonus Track: For today’s bonus track, check out my paragraph above where I discussed the influences of this piece of music. I’ve thrown you plenty of music to listen to up there ;)

((Here’s the PDF of today’s score))

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I think always expect too much from Sun Ra.  I’ve never heard an album of his that didn’t leave me disappointed at first - I keep expecting something more wild, more psychedelic, more intergalactic.  His stuff usually either seems too normal at first, or too messy.  This album at first came across as too repetitive and mellow. 

The thing with Sun Ra though is that you have to accept that he’s operating on another plane than you’re on - you have to follow him.  With ‘Lanquidity’, follow the impressionistic strokes of magic through funky grooves, disco grooves, bluesy grooves, and filmic grooves. The funkier spaces breathe with soft edges and monster cool, and the more difficult to describe pieces - the title track and “There Are Other Worlds (They Have Not Told You Of)” - have floating and dancing melodious improvisations rising above a plodding sort of beat. What you might expect if In a Silent Way went way downtown, and found an alien love-in.

Milestones
  • Milestones
  • Miles Davis
  • Milestones
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SATURDAY JAZZ BRUNCH: Milestones by Miles Davis - I talked about the album Milestones a few weeks ago as the introduction of Miles'foray into the modal side of jazz.  For the unfamiliar, the late 40’s and 50’s were dominated by bebop and hard bop which involved improvisation over complex chord changes in a set arrangement.  Modal jazz however did away with set chord progressions and instead involved using modes (think of scales), which provided greater harmonic freedom but also seemed more sparse because the rhythm was not so “busy”.

I declared Milestones as the launching pad for Miles’ journey from hard bop to modal, but the tune Sid’s Ahead was pretty standard bop.  It was the title tune really explored his experimentation into modal.  Versus the other tracks, Milestones featured very few chords, it just kind of meandered along for nearly six minutes as each musician soloed over modes.  Satisfied with the results, Miles would soon plot and entire album of modal jazz using the same group.  But it all started here, on a mesmerizing track of stellar soloing and musical expression.

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Miles Davis - Nefertiti

Released March 1968 

Recorded June 7, 22-23 and July 19, 1967

Miles Davis- Trumpet 
Wayne Shorter- Tenor Saxophone 
Herbie Hancock- Piano 
Ron Carter- Bass
Tony Williams- Drums

From Wikipedia: The fourth album by Miles Davis’ second classic quintet, Nefertiti is best known for the unusual title track, on which the horn section repeats the melody numerous times without individual solos while the rhythm section improvises underneath, reversing the traditional role of a rhythm section. The music of Nefertiti, while mostly low-key and impressionistic, is rooted in hard bopNefertiti would be the final all-acoustic album of Davis’ career. Starting with his very next album Miles in the Sky, Davis would begin to experiment with electric instruments, marking the dawn of his electric period.

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Miles Davis - ‘So What’

From his 1959 album, Kind of Blue