This month’s transcription is the final half of Jimmy Garrison’s Bass line from “Crescent”, off John Coltrane’s album Crescent. It starts at 4:21 as noted at the top of page one. As always, we’ll be comparing everything to the major scale by the numbers. If you are already familiar with this analysis technique, then go ahead and skip to the next paragraph. If this is new or you need a refresher, then read on.
First, as always, the notes in each line need to be compared with the major scale of the chord for each measure. We can then take our measurements and apply the idea to literally any situation. Let’s take the lick in measure 92 to explain this process.
The chord is some type of Eb chord, in this case, Eb minor seven. Take the Eb MAJOR scale and assign a number to each note. Start with one, and increase by one until you have labeled the last note (high Eb) as eight. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight, a number for every scale note. Now take the notes in the measure you are analyzing (meas 92): Eb, F, D, and Bb, and compare them to the major scale by the numbers. This example gives you 1, 2, 7, and 5. This is your lick. Now in order to apply this lick to all types of chords, you need to know your chord tones. A minor seven type of chord has the chord tones 1, b3, 5, and b7 when compared to its major scale (our ruler). The lick that we are looking at is 1, 2, 7, 5. Take this generic pattern and apply it to any chord. You need to know the chord tones for each chord in order to do this. For instance, over a major seven type of chord, this lick will be unchanged. 1, 2, 7, 5 on a G maj 7 chord gives us G, A, F#, D. Using the lick on a half diminished chord, aka minor 7 flat five, will give you 1, 2, b7, b5. We’ll not get into chord scales here. So if you know that a half diminished chord has the chord tones 1, b3, b5, b7, then you adjust your lick (1, 2, 7, 5) to fit, which gave us 1, 2, b7, b5. If you were using the lick on an “A half diminished” chord, aka A-7 b5, you would play A, B, G, Eb. If this discussion is a bit much to handle, try reading only one paragraph a day.
OK, so if you are reading this paragraph, you are feeling comfortable using the major scale as a ruler to apply ideas more universally. In this analysis, we will touch on some common walking licks and ideas that were used, some “fancy” licks that were played, some thoughts about walking over sus chords, and about chords that are more than one measure long.
As mentioned last month, you will notice that the walking line: 1, 2, 3, 1 happens frequently, sometimes appearing with variations. As you are playing through this transcription, you should be comparing every note to the major scale of the chord it happens “under”. You should perform this analysis at least once through the entire transcription, taking your time to understand what you are looking at. It’s perfectly fine to disregard reading at tempo. When you analyze, feel free to pause and really think about what you are playing.
Next I want to very briefly draw your attention to the triplet figure on beat three of measure 94. This rhythmic figure can often be ignored in most walking lines. It’s a useful tool that should not be forgotten.
Next let’s briefly talk about playing chromatic notes that lead into chord tones. Many of us are used to playing these on beat four of the measure, to lead into beat one of the next measure. But not as many are comfortable applying them to lead into beat three of a measure. Check out beat two of measure 128. Yep, that natural sign is correct. Those two D’s are acting as a lead in tone back to the root of Eb minor.
Now it’s time for the “fancy” licks. These are lines that should be used almost as a garnish as opposed to your tried and true foundation walking licks (like 1,2,3,1). Check out beats three and four of measure 101. Analyze this against the Bb major scale and you will see that it’s just chord tones from Bb7. It’s a really nice lick though, and since it is only chord tones, you can apply it freely and without fear to any chord, assuming of course that you adjust the lick for the chord tones in question. Next lick is measure 107. I really like it when a lick jumps up to the 9 (same note as 2) and then resolves back to the root on the next note. 9’s are pretty safe as well. The only time where a natural 9 would be totally wrong, is if the chord says specifically b9.
Now let’s talk about “sus” chords. Should we constantly avoid the thirds of the chord in a walking line? Take a look at the transcription. By analyzing the walking line, it’s clear that Jimmy is treating all the G7sus4b9’s as just G7b9’s, not “sus” chords. He plays a major third (the note B) on most of the places where this chord occurs. Upon further analysis, it’s clear that he is considering all the Bb7sus chords as actual “sus” chords, meaning that the four (of the Bb major scale) takes the place of any third (either D or Db). When you look at the measures where a Bb7sus happens, in most cases, he plays everything except the third. It’s really important to analyze these measures to get some ideas on how to walk over a “sus” chord without playing any type of third. There are places where he does play a third, but if you analyze each case (of Bb7sus), you will see that this is the exception rather than the rule. Now here’s something to chew on: what’s the difference between a G7sus4 and a Dmin7? Not much at all. Without getting too much into a subject that could take a whole article to cover, let me just say that the most important part of each chord is the third and seventh. In a dominant sus, one of the most important tones is missing, the third. So a Dominant sus4 is actually a blend of the 2 and 5 chords (like D-7, G7). Why am I mentioning this? Because if you see two measures on a sus chord that then moves to a chord up a fourth (like Bb7sus to Eb-), you can actually walk a 2-5 to the Eb. You could “superimpose” a measure of F-7, then a measure of Bb7 instead of two measures on Bb7sus. Make sure to adjust the 2-5 combination to either major or minor, depending on the 1 chord to end up on. Or you could just ignore it and not adjust, it’s jazz right? If this is confusing, don’t worry. Just forget it and read on. It’ll make sense later in your jazz studies.
The last item on our agenda is to discus a few ideas for walking over a chord that lasts for more than one measure. This can turn into a problem if you are called to play on a tune that has four or more measures all on a single chord. If you aren’t prepared with some tricks for these situations, a walking line can quickly become stale. One approach is to target chord tones on the down beats of following measures instead of roots. For instance, as in the example of this piece, there are many instances where a chord lasts for two measures. Instead of meandering in a scale, you can plan to target a chord tone on the down beat of the next measure, and construct a walking line that leads into your target. This will give your lines the feeling of having direction and motion in the midst of static harmony. One further trick to ensure that your lines have the feeling of momentum is to introduce chromatic tones that will lead into your targets. If your line is ascending, play a note that is a half step below the target directly before landing on the target. Practice this idea of chromatics leading into target chord tones over a song like “So What”, which has long stretches of measures over a single chord.
Want to take this idea a step further and get totally crazy? I’m not going to take a ton of time to explain this, because this article is already pretty long. Take a Gmaj9 and take away the root. What chord do you have? B-7. This works for every chord. Every chord has a 9th tone that will work on it. Memorize what type of chord is found on the third of each chord. Maj9 = Min7 from its third, Min9 = Maj7 from its third, dom b9 = dim7, dom9 = half diminished 7, half dim = min7. Ok, you have two measures on a D-9. Walk D-7 for the first measure, and walk Fmaj7 on the second measure. They’re both just notes from D-9, but now you’ve introduced a subtly different flavor. If you have four measures on Amaj7 (Amaj9), try a measure on Amaj7, then one on C#-7 and keep alternating. Very cool, but not easy at all.
That’s it for this month. Hope you enjoyed the rest of this great performance. Next time we’ll look at some funk lines.