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So this has been a challenging session - probably the most challenging - certainly the longest. It’s the sort of thing where I hope you might return to it and look at some of the ideas at a later stage. There’s some theory and practice.
The theory: the first thing we looked at was the Pentatonic scale, essentially the Ionian scale - the major scale - but missing out the fourth and the seventh. You can even use that whenever you’ve got a major seventh around, or a 6/9
keeping the improvisation simple on the Pentatonic. Then we had a look at the Ionian modes. Clearly the important ones are the major scale itself - the Ionian mode - and then the Dorian, because that goes with the minor seventh. The major scale goes with the major seventh, the Dorian goes with the minor seventh, the Mixolydian goes with the seventh. So there’s 3 important scales (which) are in there. We also saw the Locrian goes with the half diminished - that’s the minor seventh with a flattened 5. If it’s got a flattened 9 as well then that’s the right scale. If it’s got a natural 9 then that probably isn’t the best scale.
Then we had the Lydian and we will say more about the Lydian in the next session. Then we had an exercise on getting inside the major scale. In particular, we looked at G major. We saw how if you play roots belonging to the major scale and then you improvise over the top - you can add chords as well - as a way of really feeling completely at home within the major scale.
Maybe you can set yourself a task for the next 12 weeks - do a different major scale so that you’re on top of all the major - major sevenths, when they crop up. Then you can look at the minor sevenths, then you can look at the sevenths, then you can look at other scales as well. It’s a rich way of trying to get inside a particular scale. Then we had a look at the melodic minor ascending modes including the minor-major - the melodic minor ascending (scale) itself for a minor chord with a major seventh in - is the key scale. After that, I’d say, the altered.
Altered scales are used a lot these days when you sharpen the fifth, or you flatten the fifth, or you sharpen the ninth, or you flatten the ninth - or some combination thereof - then it’s really good to make an altered scale part of your armoury. Then we saw there’s this Locrian sharp 2 - the other way of looking at the minor seventh with a flat 5 - the half diminished chord - the scale that goes with it when you don’t have a flattened ninth and, as I say, that’s the one that I like to look at. Then we said a little bit about the Lydian dominant.
Again we are going to look at the Lydian dominant a bit more in the next session. So that is all the theory and then we had a look at the practice which was to apply it to particular tunes. First of all we looked at “Blackbird”, and a solo version of “Blackbird”, because there isn’t a playalong version of it, based on Brad Mehldau playing with his trio on Volume 1 of “The Art Of The Trio” series. Then we saw that we restricted use to the Pentatonic scale in the first improvisation - except when you get to the second time bar because there’s a temporary modulation there. Then we used the whole scale later on.
I think you’ll have some fun playing that. Then we had a look at the tune “Solar” - Miles Davis’s “Solar” - because the first 2 bars have this minor-major scale in it C minor with a major seventh in, a natural seventh in. Then we started looking at this wonderful, but complex, standard “Stella By Starlight” and looking at all the scales that we could use if we wanted just to say what the scale that goes with a particular chord. There the key scale, in a sense, that’s new is the altered. That’s what I’d really like you to get your head round that, if you can.
In terms of listening, I’ve given you some references here. There was a version on YouTube once of Brad Mehldau playing “Blackbird” solo, but it’s been taken down. Whether that version or another version will be put up later on, I don’t know, but you should be able to, at least, find somewhere the track with his trio from the album “The Art Of The Trio”, Volume 1, with a wonderful bass player Larry Grenadier and Jorge Rossy on drums. Then I found 3 versions of “Solar” to look at. I mean there’s lots of them on YouTube, but in particular Bill Evans trio - I don’t know who’s playing bass and drums in that. Then there’s Keith Jarrett playing it solo.
Then Keith Jarrett playing it with his Standards Trio (consisting) of Gary Peacock on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums.
Then “Stella By Starlight” - I’ve given you 3 tracks there: Bill Evans with a trio featuring Eddie Gomez on bass and also somebody called Alex Rei on drums (I don’t know who he was), then Jarrett playing “Stella By Starlight” in 1985. I’ve also included for you to listen to one of the earliest recordings I’ve got of my trio - or a trio run by me - which I think was recorded in round about 1974 - so 40 years ago, and it had the young Paul Morgan on bass. Paul was about 17 at the time - just listen how well he was playing - and John Bell on drums.
I think it was recorded in a recording studio - not a particularly good piano, not a particularly good recording - but in it, at least, you should be able to hear how I was greatly influenced by Bill Evans in those days and (kind of, you know) you can hear the influence quite strongly in my playing. Finally, when we talked about playalongs, we said that there’s at least 5 versions of “Stella” in the Aebersold playalong series. If you go to Wikipedia then you can find the list of the Aebersold playalong songs. I’ve given you the address there.
That’s quite useful because it’s got it volume by volume - all the tunes that are covered and the rhythm section, which is also quite interesting - who’s on bass, drums and piano or guitar.
A challenging session but one which I hope will get you started, at least, with Pentatonic scale, the major-minor scale and the altered scale, as kind of like, new scales that I’d like you to master. Good luck.
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