** As featured in issue 47 **
Over the past few lessons we have looked in great depth at two of the most common progressions used in Jazz, the Major and Minor II V I. We have studied how they are constructed harmonically, and have learnt the arpeggio shapes all over the neck. We have also learnt licks and lines built from the arpeggios, with last month’s lesson devoted to Minor II V I licks using arpeggios. There are many Jazz Standards that take these two types of progression and combine them, just take a flick through a “Real Book” and you should start to spot them. Check out the following tunes as good examples of the use of combined Major and Minor II V I's:
All The Things You Are
Like I say, these are just a handful of many, but they are a good place to start, and the melodies you may well have heard before. In this lesson I have prepared a typical Major – Minor II V I progression backing track and written a handful of licks using only arpeggios, these can then be strung together to create one 16 bar solo. Be sure to check out the video to see and hear the licks demonstrated in detail. In this written part of the lesson I want to examine the theory behind this type of progression in a little more detail.
This progression uses the following chords; Cm7, F7, Bbmaj7, Am7b5, D7, Gm7. If you have been looking at a Real Book, you may have noticed that in most cases a Key Signature other than C is not given, or it’s only given at the start not on every line. This is because most Jazz tunes tend to change key a lot, and it would simply become impractical and messy to start changing key signatures all over the place, that's why many Jazz melodies are littered with accidentals (sharps and flats). I have given this progression the key signature of B flat, as other than one chord it is all diatonic to this key, you could play a fairly convincing Jazz solo over this using only B flat Major. Let's have a look at the chords built from the key of B flat.
I II III IV V VI VII
Bb C D Eb F G A
Maj Min Min MaJ Maj Min Dim
Maj7 M7 M7 Maj7 7 Min7 Min7b5
We can see that all of the chords fit apart from the D7, in order for it to stay diatonic it should be a D minor. Why then, has a D7 been used instead? This comes down to the Min II V I theory that we have looked at over the past couple of lessons. The relative minor of Bb is G, if we now look at the harmonised G natural minor scale we get:
I II bIII IV V bVI bVII
G A Bb C D Eb F
Min7 Min7b5 Maj7 Min7 Min7 Maj7 7
We can now see a Min II V I in G, where the V chord has been changed from Minor to Dominant, as discussed before this is to make the resolution to the I chord stronger. It's because of these harmonic alterations and many others that we don’t tend to see strict key signatures, and most players tend to think chord to chord, or progression to progression rather than a blanket key centre. Viewing the progression this way allows you to outline the chord changes far better and make your solo sound more harmonically rich, which has been our whole point of using only arpeggios to date. If you look at the transcription you will see the flat accidental used on any G note over the D7 chord, this is because a D7 arpeggio contains a Gb or F# note.
As always learn the solo, but learn from it and try to apply some of the ideas to your own improvisations.