Aebersold Theory on Scales/Chords over Jazz changes?

Discussion in 'Music [DB]' started by Bruce Lindfield, Nov 9, 2001.

  1. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Maybe a question for Chris Fitzgerald, but one that might interest others?

    I was at a workshop this week with a local Sax Player/Composer who took us through a tune he had written and arranged.

    He mentioned that occasionally he teaches on the Guildhall Jazz course in London and had tried this out on the students there and how one of them - an American woman complained about his advice and that she had studied for many years with Jamey Aebersold and wouldn't play what he advised.

    So in the last 4 bars of the tune, there are a series of altered G7 chords and the composer advised that a diminished scale would fit over this part. But the person in question said that no - she would take each chord and play it on its merits.

    So is this what jamey Aebersold teaches and even if this is so - do you think that if a composer "hears it" one way you should play how you feel or how somebody else has told you? I talked a bit more to the composer in the pub and he said how he thought it was ironic as he was thinking of a bluesy feel that came to him from hearing the solos of US-based sax players like Sonny Rollins etc. So is Jamey Aebersold teaching an approach that the classic performers don't follow?

    Sorry that's two questions at least now (!) - but I think it's an interesting area for discussion anyway! ;)
  2. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    I can't comment on Abersold, and I question whether or not the complainer accurately represents what Abersold stands for.
    Use of a diminished scale over a 7th chord is another legitimate harmonic device, nothing new.
    The "person in question" is being arrogant and amateurish. In my world, you make your point if you must, then play what the leader/composer says, or you quit. You don't defy him and keep your job. And if the composer is a guest, sheer courtesy says you just shut up and play. I only wish the woman could experience the kind of humiliation Benny Goodman would have handed out.
  3. While I completely agree with Don with regard to the player's attitude and willingness to do what the composer requested, I wonder if she might have had a point in this regard:

    If you've got 4 bars of a G7, and the only thing that is changing across those bars is the quality of the alterations, it seems like you might not be able to stick with the dim scale all the way without losing some of the movement. Depends on what they really are, of course.

    You'd expect that the composer would have known this, and I think Don's right - it's his tune, so you do what he wants regardless.

    It seems like an unusual compositional device to me, but then I'm still trying to figure out the mysteries of the ii/V.

  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    First of all, this woman is either a complete idiot, or she's acting like one. Or, put in the language of some of my younger students, she's got some "issues".

    Yes, Jamey does teach chord scale relationships, and he does teach that every chord has a corresponding scale...and sometimes, when he plays that way, he plays some things that I wouldn't play because I'm hearing the tune differently. But he ALSO teaches a right brain/left brain approach to improvisation, which translates into PLAY WHAT YOU HEAR. He's big on singing lines over chord changes, and if you can do that, he almost never has an issue with chord scale relationships.

    I've talked about the whole chord/scale relationship thing with him on many occasions, and there are some things that we don't agree on...but the beautiful thing about Jamey is that he doesn't insist that you always agree with him, or that you always teach the same approach that he's teaching - even when you're working for him at the camps. It is common for a student to get up in the morning and go to one of his theory classes where he's talking about "every chord has a scale", and then walk into a master class of mine and hear me talking about thinking of key centers and tonalities within a tune instead of a new scale for each chord....and he's cool with that. In fact, he encourages that kind of thing because it exposes students to different approaches and ideas. And it's not like he's not aware of the concept that often times one scale can cover the changes to a series of chords, and he points this out in his materials again and again.

    Should you play a tune the way the composer "hears it"? Well, if the composer is in the room and he/she is your teacher, you should try to open your ears and hear what they're trying to get across. Duh. But if you're playing the tune for your own purposes, you should play it - or ANY TUNE, for that matter - the way you hear it. If you're not happy with what's coming out, you might try woodshedding the difficult parts and re-training your ear on those, but when it comes time to play, you should only play what you're hearing...if you aren't doing that, you aren't really playing music.

    Is Jamey teaching a method that the classic performers don't follow? Yes and no. The "classic performers" each learned in their own way, and played what they heard. Depending on which "classic performers" you're talking about, you could argue that approaching the jazz idiom from the theory end of things first is an ass-backwards approach, and in many cases, you'd be right. But then again, any time you're teaching music theory, all you're doing is giving people which you hope will help them open their ears to some new sounds.....sounds which will (you hope) EVENTUALLY make it into their active vocabulary.

    Spices aren't food, but lots of food contains spices. Give a master chef a pile of ingredients, and they can create something which will melt in your mouth. Give the same ingredients to a Burger King grill guy, and it'l likely as not come out like some kind of weird WHOPPER. It's not the fault of the ingredients when this happens.
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I do agree with all that you say Chris and I wasn't trying to say that Jamey Aebersold was in any way at fault here, although the woman in question undeniably made herself look a bit silly that's nothing to do with anybody else.

    The para I have copied is what I was interested in and is where the conversation went in the pub afterwards. A lot of time is spent analysing and working out methods for teaching Jazz and I personally spend more time doing this than actually playing the stuff.

    But as our tutor - I might as well give him his real name to make things simpler - as Julian was saying - most of the big names in Jazz like Rollins, Coltrane etc. would have just learnt to play by listening to others and doing it ! So when Julian started composing he was listening to what others had done and mixed this in with his own ideas to create sounds and music.

    Of course when you start getting involved in Education from the teaching side then you find ways of talking about things that make it easier than just saying listen to this and play it.

    But would people be better off not bothering with analysis and learning methods/tools - is it the case that these sort of things are for people who aren't really going to get to the "heights" and that those who are going to be future Jazz "geniuses" will bypass all this anyway?

    I don't mind the honest truth as I am really an avid listener who likes to learn more and understand more about the music - in some ways I don't really feel Jazz in its most traditional sense is the music that I hear as my voice - although I am very interested in improvised music and some Fusion really speaks to me as something that I associate with.

    Anyway I think I'm probably rambling now and need to think about this a bit more - I will just add for Bill that the actual 4 chords were/are G7(13), G7b9,G7#5 and just G7 leading back to Cmin7.
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY


    As to the rest of your post, I'll have to wait until there's more time to answer, but of the four chords listed above, only three TECHNICALLY support the G diminished scale: G7(13), G7b9, and G7 (assuming friendly color tones). The diminished scale has a natural 5 and 6, so TECHNICALLY the #5 in the other chord would clash. But if that's what the guy is hearing then we can assume that it's what he wants. Either way, we're talking about a difference of one or two notes in the overall tonality, and not 4 separate scales.
  7. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    Agreed, I don't see the dim scale with a G7+5. With that, I think F7+11.
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    He said that the #5 is tension leading you back to the Cmin7 - but I'm probably not the best person to talk about this - a lot of Julian's tunes have been impenetrable to me! He also usually has written basslines that I struggle with - like the one that started in 15/4 with two alternating basslines and then went to three measures of 10/4 which fitted in the same space - I "felt" the first part as five measure of 3/4 which meant that the 10/4 part completely threw me! ;)
  9. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    E major scale would fit over that, if you did it just right :)

    I think the composer was just pointing out that the G7 - G7alt. - G7 movement wasn't that important to soloing, but probably a set of voicings that matched some part of the arrangement and got copied over, but the general function of that four bars was a V7 in minor.

    Also, C melodic minor, C harmonic minor (Eb major), C minor pentatonic, C phrygian, ...