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Varied chords over solid harmonic ideas

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The Mystical View Drop Down
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    Posted: 28 Apr 2014 at 2:01am
I am a jazz musician, and I was wondering what it is called when there is a clear tonal centre and no harmonic movement, but the chords are varied? Examples of this would be John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" or Miles Davis' "In a Silent Way".

I am also interested as to when this idea first appeared in jazz.

Thank you!
"I love music passionately. And because l love it, I try to free it from barren traditions that stifle it."

~Claude Debussy
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote js Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Apr 2014 at 9:38am
I think what you refer to is chord changes that done't introduce any new harmonic material, in other words, one scale or mode will cover all the chord changes, that is the nature of the tunes you just listed.

These kind of static chord changes are popular in modal jams in jazz or rock, such as the /Am Bm/C Bm/ type changes you hear in "jazzy" rock jams like "Moon Dance" or "Whipping Post".

Edited by js - 28 Apr 2014 at 9:40am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote js Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Apr 2014 at 9:43am
Some early examples of jazz tunes that used chord changes that stayed in one mode include "My Favorite Things".

Also there are tunes where there is a shifting back and forth between two modes, such as "Milestones". There are some other Coltrane tunes I'm not remembering the names right now.

Edited by js - 28 Apr 2014 at 12:28pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote js Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Apr 2014 at 9:48am
I remember the Coltrane tune now, its "Impressions". I'm not sure which was first off the top of my head, I'll try to get an answer on that later.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote js Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Apr 2014 at 9:28am
Looks like Miles' recordings in the late 50s(Milestones and Kind of Blue) were the first well known recordings to use static chord changes.
No big surprise that Coltrane is involved in these recordings as he will push the idea further in 1960 with My Favorite Things.

Probably others less famous were experimenting with similar ideas. I always thought static chord changes and modal jams were a natural outgrowth of the beatnik culture at the time with guys smoking banana peels and listening to jazz and Indian ragas back to back, next thing you know it all gets mixed together,
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shrdlu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Aug 2014 at 10:12am
"Impressions" is a speeded up "So What", but its theme isn't the famous "So What" melody. It uses part of "Pavanne", by Morton Gould, which Trane had heard on Ahmad Jamal's recording in the mid 50s. Trane used to refer to it as "So What".

It has a 32-measure AABA structure. The 8 measure A sections are D minor, and the B goes up a half step to Eb minor. People go on about the mode of this, but we just played it as D minor and Eb minor, and it worked fine.

I much prefer the original, slow, "So What" tempo. At the speed of Trane's famous Village Vanguard version, it becomes mainly a practise exercise, based on hours of work, that is, a display of technique. I find it rather boring. We used to pay it all the time (at the high tempo), but I never enjoyed it, because it was too fast to inject any funk or soul into it.
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