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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chord Extensions

Hard to believe we are almost into November. Just seems like last week we were just entering September.
Busy week of practicing, teaching and mixing a recording.

Listened to the fantastic record "Cannonball and Coltrane" originally released as "The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Chicago" in 1959 but later re-released with a new co-leader bill adding tenor saxophonist John Coltrane. It's basically Miles' band of the era without the leader. Paul Chambers on bass, Jimmy Cobb on drums and Wynton Kelly on piano. Beautiful renditions of "Stars Fell On Alabama" and "Weaver of Dreams".

Also listened to more Keith Jarret trio. "At the Deer Head Inn" which has Paul Motian on drums (filling in for the usual trio mate Jack DeJohnette) as well as Gary Peacock on bass. Great recording. Also listened to the trio's "Standards 1" which has probably the finest rendition of "All the Things You Are". John Scofield's version from "Flat Out" is also on the same level!

Here is a lesson that I give to my students about understanding chord extensions. How to hear and be able to use them while improvising. Chord extensions are basically any note beyond the 7th as we are building the chord. As the chord is built we use the root, 3rd, 5th and 7th but while doing so we are skipping a note every time as we ascend. The remaining notes are called extensions. Since we are building the chord (think of a building) the remaining notes are now referred to by another number. Instead of the 2nd, it is now the 9th etc. Just add 7 to the original number of the note. 4th is 11th and so forth. We are left with the 9th, 11th and 13th.

This exercise places the chord extension between two chord tones. By playing the chord tones on 4 and the and of 4
the extension lands on the beat which allows it to stand out but also gives it relevance to the chord because of the proceeding chord tones. When comfortable with the exercise, play the chord tones on 4 and the and of 4 plus 2 and the and of 2 which places the extensions on 1 and 3.
Check out the video. Watch for the cameo at the end courtesy of my dog Stu!

Enjoy and keep listening, going to see and buying music!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday Oct. 20/11

Rainy day here in Toronto. Big storm last night which I got a taste of as I was loading my car after my gig. Fun gig with my other band Echo and Twang. Jake Chisholm is very at home with the blues and it's history which makes it a lot of fun to do a blues gig with him.

Having a busy week. Had a nice jazz corporate gig on Tuesday for the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario. The gig was from 5-6 at a downtown hotel so it was one of those in and out gigs but was a lot of fun. Tenor sax player Alex Dean and bassist Jim Vivian were on the trio gig which was a blast. Haven't played with either of those two for quite a while. They both play really well. Odd thing though, as we were playing some people walking through the hotel decided to play, or should I say run their fingers up and down the keys of the piano that was about 50 feet from the band. People never cease to to surprise me with their lack of common sense or consideration. Oh well.

Been listening to Keith Jarrett Standards Trio "At the Blue Note" from their 1994 box set. The way those three guys play together has always been an inspiration for me. I remember the trio's first Standards recording came out while I was at music College in Calgary in the mid 80's. It has since become the bench mark for everything I listen to jazz wise. Keith Jarrett is one of the best improvising pianists of his generation or of any generation for that matter. No licks or cliche resolutions. Just full out in the moment improvisation. The trio is rounded out by Jack DeJohnette who has been one of the most in demand drummers on the scene since playing on Mile's Davis' Bitches Brew in 1969 and bassist Gary Peacock who has an inane sense of interaction when playing with piano players. Bill Evans and Paul Bley come to mind as well as Jarrett for the last 25 or so years.

Also listed to pianist Steve Kuhn's Mostly Coltrane recording on ECM. Beautiful record. Tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano is on it along with Joey Baron on drums and David Finck on bass.

Teaching my Music to Film class and Pro Tools class tomorrow at the Toronto Film School. Crazy location. Right at Dundas and Yonge. Anyone who knows Toronto knows that intersection is right downtown and downright hectic and crazy to say the least.

That's all for now.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Harmonic Minor Scale

Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow Canadians.
Had a fun gig on Saturday with my old friend George Grosman who sings and
plays guitar. The two guitar thing can work well.

Have a busy week ahead. I'm mixing Tracey Dey's CD, teaching both at home and the Toronto Film School and have a gig Saturday with my jazz alternative Echo and Twang which I co-lead with guitarist/singer Jake Chisholm. Old country stuff with a bit of blues as well. Lots of fun.

I'll also be working on my jazz guitar method book which I started about a month or so ago. I'm thinking of calling it "Bray's Way or the Highway" :-). What do you think?
It's a lot of work but fun. Still learning Sibelius which has it's challenges or should I say I have my challenges with it.
The book is about thinking about music in numbers which allows you to play things in all keys easily and basically see music in a different way. I feel a clearer way. I am also discussing improvisation in depth and hopefully teaching it in a way that a lot of other books seem to miss. For example, the use of the harmonic scale and how it works over a dominant seventh chord if you use the harmonic minor scale based on the fourth of the chord. Over a G7 for instance, you can use the C harmonic minor scale. Unfortunately a lot of books just stop there with their explanation. By using the C harmonic minor scale from the root it doesn't fit. Simple as that. The scale needs to start from the 7th of the scale in order for the strong chord tones to line up with downbeats and essentially make the scale fit with the harmony. You can use the root of the harmonic minor as a pickup into the bar but the scale needs to start on the 7th if it's going to work. Also the Dominant seventh chord has to be in motion for the harmonic minor to work. If the 7th chord is a V or VI chord in a progression like (iii-7  IV7  ii-7  V7) it will work but if the 7th chord is not in motion like a 7th chord in a I  IV V blues progression, it won't work. The harmonic minor scale acts like a spring board into a resolving chord if the 7th is in motion.

Listened to Ed Bickert and Bill Mays "Concord Duo Series number 7" which is live from California. Beautiful collaboration. Ed Bickert is still one of my all time favourite guitarists on the planet and he lives in Toronto! My daughters have swam in his pool but of course I think that's cooler than they do. Youth today.....Unfortunately he doesn't perform anymore much to the disappointment to many fans.
Ed has such a command of chord voicings and sounds like a pianist but still has great single note lines.
Also listened to another favourite guitarist of mine Jim Hall with Ron Carter "Live at the Village West". Too bad about the clanging of cutlery etc in the background, a bit disrespectful, but the interplay between the two is amazing. So much space but full in the same sense. Great version of Sonny Rollin's "St. Thomas" and Gershwin's "Embraceable You".

Well that's all for now.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Weds. Oct. 5th/11

Good week of practising so far. Worked on "You Stepped Out of a Dream", "Peace" by Horace Silver and my tune "Triplicate" which is tricky. Working on soloing better over 5/4 and trying to make it sound natural.

Listened to:

Lee Morgan - "The Procrastinator" with Lee on trumpet, Herbie Hancock on piano, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Billy Higgins on drums and Wayne Shorter on tenor sax. Great recording with an amazing band. 1967 Blue Note recording.

John Patitucci's "Line By Line" with Adam Rogers on guitar, Brian Blade on drums and Patitucci playing beautiful bass. The CD came out a few years ago and is great. The writing and the interplay between the players is inspiring to say the least.

Wes Montgomery's "Smokin' at the Half Note" with Miles' rhythm section at that time which was Wynton Kelly on piano, bassist Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb on drums. Wes playing so musically and effortlessly. He had such a natural warm sound. Playing with his thumb I'm sure contributed to that but also his touch and time is beyond compare. . Wes really shines and I think is spurred on by such a heavy band. This is definitely a desert island pick for me.

Just got a Gibson ES-339 a few weeks ago and am thoroughly loving it. Great semi-hollow guitar modelled after the famous ES-335 but with a smaller body shape.

Well that's it for now.