Meet Bill Harrison
Please be sure to download both the mp3 playalong track and the pdf file at the end of this page to get the most benefit from this lesson.
Now that we’ve dipped our collective toes into the world of walking on jazz chord changes, let’s take it one step further. We’ve been examining the ii/V progression, looking at the chord tones and good transition notes for getting from one chord to the other. The next level of complexity is to add the resolution chord (I) into the mix, plus a pivot chord (VI) that is commonly used to return (our “turnaround”) to the ii chord.
The 4 bar turnaround looks like this (Ex. 1): ii-7 / V7 / IM7 / VI7(b9). We’ll work on this in the key of F but all of the concepts apply to every key, of course. In F, the chords are G-7 C7 FM7 D7(b9).
Here’s how these chords are spelled (Ex. 2):
G-7 = G Bb D F
C7 = C E G Bb
FM7 = F A C E
D7(b9) = D F# A C Eb
You’re already familiar with the first two changes, the ii-7 leading to the V7. The resolution chord here is FM7, because it is the I chord in the key of F. The pivot chord is built on the 6th degree of the key, in this case, D.
But notice that we are actually stepping outside of the home key by transforming what “should” be a minor 7th chord (D F A C) into a dominant 7th chord (D F# A C). (Ex. 3) There is no F# in the key of F, nor are there ever two dominant chords in a key. So what we are really doing is creating a “secondary dominant”, a chord that will act as a V of the upcoming ii chord (D7 is the V of G-, right?). A D-7 would be acceptable here (and is sometimes used) but the dominant seventh is a more powerful chord – it has a greater tendency to lead the ear to the G-7.
The explanation for this looks a LOT more complicated than the progression actually sounds. You’ve heard this turnaround a zillion times, as it is one of the most often used harmonic cliches in mainstream jazz and pop. We haven’t tackled the additional note that’s present on the D7 chord, the flatted 9th (Eb). That alteration to the basic dominant 7th chord is so important that I’m going to save it for a future lesson.
For now, try using the same principles that we’ve put into place previously to make a functional sounding bass line through these chords. The backing track is quite slow so you’ll have plenty of time to really hear your notes in relation to the chord voicings being played by the pianist. Don’t forget to lock in with the drummer’s ride cymbal as you cruise through the changes.
There’s room on the accompanying pdf sheet for you to write out your own lines. Feel free to use some of the sample lines I’ve included to get you started. (Ex 4)
Next time – the flat nine.