Friday 20 December 2019

SYOS Soprano Mouthpiece Demo - Negative Harmony Rhythm Changes

In this video (in which incidentally I am demonstrating my new signature soprano mouthpiece produced by SYOS in Paris) the concept of Negative Harmony chord substitutions is much more developed than in previous examples. The concept derives, readers will remember or can scroll down, from Sonny Rollins's and Sonny Stitt's circle of 5th substitution system, as used in 'The Eternal Triangle'. Appropriately enough this time, the Negative cycle of minors in 4ths, in numerous guises, is expressed this time within the tight form of Rhythm Changes:

Analysis: Initially I aim for the subdominant chord in bar 6 of the sequence: Gm, Dm, Am, Em, Bm, F#m, C#m, G#m, Ebm, Bbm -> F7, Fm7, then rounding off the first 8 with a two-bar, 'backdoor' negative loop turnaround - C, F#m, C#m, G#m -> C. In Negative Harmony the diminished chord is invertible, as are tritone substitutuions, so Fm > C as V-I and the 'Backdoor' G#m > C can be transposed to give Bm > C and Dm > C. All four are valid resolutions for a chain of chords. In addition to this it is possible to jump between these streams. In conventional musical theory D7, Db7 > C can be used as a substitution for the cycle of fifths. In this negative theory the equivalent would be Em, Fm > C., ascending in semitones. Jumping to the Backdoor stream would give Bbm, G#m > C, descending in tones. A major third jump up such as C#m, Fm > C is the fourth move possible within this system. These four moves can be mixed freely, giving many possible ways to construct alternatives sequences.

In the first bridge I am approaching the main chords i.e. A7 in the 3rd bar, using the 'Backdoor' route. The last two bars of this middle eight are a tritone substitution backdoor: G#m, Cm, Gm, Dm, giving a conventional Dm where the G7 would normally be!

At Bar 33, last 8, first chorus, I use the backdoor tritone progression with a mixture of 5 and 6 note groupings starting on the One: Em(for C major7), Bm, F#m, C#m, G#m, Ebm, Bbm, Fm, Cm, Gm(for C7) > F7, propelling things into what will be the last chorus.

In Bar 49 (second chorus, second eight) I run a long sequence with five-beat groupings, starting with Ab minor, aiming ultimately for C, although there is not enough time (it's improvising!) and the C becomes Fm of an E7 altered chord for the start of the bridge.

Altogether this system works because the listener hears the pull towards the cadence points, although vertically the idea of a chord played on top of, or in place of, another chord is virtually a lost concept here. One of the central concepts behind this is the idea of movement within music, to keep the interest and energy moving forward.

Once again I am indebted to the people at SYOS, or Shape Your Own Sound, for their help in developing the mouthpiece, which is an incredibly versatile, free-blowing piece of kit.

The soprano sax is a P. Mauriat PMSS-601DK, 'saxello' style instrument, kindly provided for me by the company back in 2007 and still going strong.

Friday 26 April 2019

I Can't Get Started Transcription

To showcase my new signature model SYOS alto mouthpiece and Signature Custom alto sax, I posted a short improvisation around the classic standard 'I Can't Get Started'. This is a reference to the forward-thinking Paul Bley piano solo entitled 'Started' and as such some of my old and new systems are combined here.

The introduction uses Olivier Messiaen's third mode, a nine note scale which comprises of 1,2,3 of the minor scale, played three times, a major third higher each time. This affords many rich possibilities of combining major and minor 7th and half-diminished arpeggios within that triple tonic axis. John Coltrane uses some similar constructions in his 'I Want To Talk About You' cadenza and later on in 'Interstellar Space'. The scale here is A,B,C,C#,D#,E,F,G,Ab.

When the theme arrives, the 'I Can't Get Started' tonic chord A major seven is formed from the centre of a sharpened 23rd Chord with an implied G root, although the G is never heard. The rest of the chord is stated in the solo: (G), B, D, F, A, C#, E, G#, B#, D#, F#, A#. The idea behind the 23rd chord is to stack thirds until all twelve notes have been used. The A major here actually is drawn from the middle of the chord, allowing a different light to be shone on it from above and below.

At the point in the standard sequence (bar 3) where the beboppers put their string of descending II-Vs, I did start on the G# minor (alto key), but played right through the Negative Harmony plagal cycle of minors, resolving on F minor as if it was an altered dominant, back to A major.

The SYOS mouthpiece (my own Signature) and the Signature Custom horn work really well together. The sound has a lot of flexibility and homogeneity across the range, as you can hear. It is incredibly easy to float out the top A# in the 23rd chord, and even the fourth register C#, E and G# at the end of the solo. I am very grateful to both companies, one in Paris and one in Kent, England for giving me the opportunity to create this splendid 'entente cordiale'.