EXPLORING JAZZ ARRANGING
USING GARRITAN JAZZ & BIG BAND
INTERACTIVE EDITION

by Chuck Israels




Lesson 7 - Form (Continued)




Considerations of Form (Cont.):


Here are a few more typical progressions:




Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:



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The operating principle for all of these examples is to delay the arrival of the final dominant chord of the moment as long as possible and to work backwards from that chord, selecting each chord so that it leads logically to the next one, taking into consideration that the chords should accommodate the melody notes. Adjustments in chord quality and tension tones (if any are added to the harmonic texture) are made so that the inner voices move in the most logical and interesting ways. It is not only important to work backwards, but also to become comfortable with that process, so that it becomes second nature. Remember, we get to control the future.

Here is an example of a piece that is normally played with simple harmony, showing how the insertion of substitute chords and the addition of connecting harmonies between essential cadences can enliven the music and provide opportunity for variety in the bass line.




Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:


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Chord substitution patterns should connect with essential cadential arrivals of the composition. There is some artistic leeway in determining where these arrivals might be, but there must be enough of them to allow the composition to remain harmonically recognizable. Once again, the work of Bill Evans provides bellwether examples, especially in his many indelible re-harmonizations of standard tunes.

Becoming familiar with the harmonic possibilities of chord progressions and phrases can be a long process, and it starts with knowing hundreds, maybe even thousands, of American standard tunes, tunes from that unique period in the first half of the Twentieth Century when a large population of composers who understood harmony and form were all working in the same way using similar materials and techniques; composers like George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Harold Arlen, Fats Waller, vernon Duke, Cole Porter, and hundreds of others. Only by knowing many songs and internalizing their melodies and harmonies, can one gain an instinct for finding appropriate solutions to the formal and harmonic “questions” that arise in the process of composing and arranging in the jazz style.

Once a comfortable familiarity with traditional forms has been achieved, there are simple steps that can be taken to enliven interest in the forms. Introductions, interludes and endings can be added, sections can be extended or truncated, changes of rhythmic texture and tempo can be made and modulations can occur. All of these result in noticeable changes and make the trip through the form more interesting. Moving at one speed in one direction for long periods becomes a soporific experience, and too many interruptions and changes of texture and direction is equally frustrating, so the desired result is to keep the piece moving forward with just enough variety to keep it interesting and dramatic.

Here’s an excerpt of a piece that has passages of rapid harmonic activity and forward motion interspersed with moments of stillness. (This piece appears in its entirety in chapter 10.) The form is ABA with occasional interludes. This excerpt begins with 4 measures of static harmony that introduces the tenor solo. This is in stark contrast with the preceding exposition that is full of moving chords. After the tenor solo’s introductory interlude, the first A section appears and the rhythm and harmony begin to move only to be interrupted two measures later with an echo of the interlude, before allowing the piece to proceed in its expected form. The real form is ABA-ABA, because the first 24-measure chorus has a two-beat texture (with 6 measures of stasis in the bridge), and the second chorus has a walking, four-beat rhythmic texture. This divides and delineates the form texturally as well as harmonically and provides a dramatic shape to this part of the piece even before the surface element of the improvised tenor solo is added.



Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:


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The 24 measures that define the main ABA form for this piece were written first. The harmonic activity of the A sections, chords moving by 4ths, by step, and by 3rds, are contrasted with the stillness of the bridge, but by the time there have been two cycles through the form, the overall impression of the music is still one of rapid and energetic chord movement. In order to settle the music and produce a moment of calm before launching into more cycles through the harmonic activity for the solos, it seemed a good idea to insert an interlude, and a D major chord presented itself as the appropriate sound. Only after noticing the salutary effect of that sound was it discovered that there is a chord on every other chromatic root except D, so the D had to sound fresh! This kind of discovery can be reassuring. At the end of the main part of the piece, when there have been some 7 minutes of this complex activity, there is a drum break and a change of tempo leading to a long coda in which the interlude chord takes over and becomes the target sound to which the entire piece seems to lead. This plan evolved as the arrangement was being written from the simple 24 measure lead sheet, and the ensuing developmental details added immeasurably to the effective communication of the musical idea; so much so that the piece now seems incomplete without them.

The opportunity to write a piece for the large forces of a big band were the inspiration for developing the form, but large forces are not required in order to include interludes and other enlivening elements.Here are two examples from the sextet arrangement in example 8-3.




Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:


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In this piece, based on the old standard Out of Nowhere, the Eb9 is the chord most foreign to the key of the piece (G major). It appears twice in a prominent position in the form, but it still seemed a good choice for the interlude.

Here’s an ensemble send-off in the same arrangement that delays the entrance of the first solo by a few measures.






Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:


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In order to achieve successful communication of musical ideas, the progress of the piece needs the coherence of a dramatically told story. The ideas are more abstract than those expressed in spoken language, but they share similar characteristics. They must proceed energetically and develop logically, one idea evolving from another. A balance between forward motion and moments of relief is needed, as are breathing spaces, just like conversation. More complex ideas take more time to absorb, so moments of simplicity and diminished activity are particularly welcome after complicated passages.

Rubatos, passages in changing, conversational tempo are an underused element in jazz arrangements, perhaps because they are so performer dependent. But arrangers who make use of this technique will be rewarded with invigorating contrast when steady tempo enters or reappears. Arrangers who write for singers need to explore this tradition. Examples of song verses with accompaniments written by experienced arrangers abound, and one can go back as far as the recitatives in Baroque Oratorio for early examples of dramatically effective ways to handle this technique. Handel’s music supplies an unerring template, and there are many fine recordings in which the dramatic timing is well demonstrated. Exciting utterances need rapid delivery interspersed by breathing spaces that allow the listener to absorb the idea. When this technique is well done it can escape superficial notice while still adding interest to the music. Duke Ellington and Bill Evans used this on occasion in the inside of forms as well as for introductions and endings. Ellington used it in some arrangements of “In A Sentimental Mood,” and Bill Evans continued that tradition in his interpretation of the piece. Evans also used tempo changes effectively, abruptly slowing the last 8 measures of “Lover Man” in order to emphasize emotional poignancy. Slowing and broadening an ending emphasizes it more than increasing its speed.

Modulations are another useful developmental tool, and there’s a good example of its effective use in Count Basie’s classic arrangement of “One O’clock Jump.” Basie plays introductory choruses (with the rhythm section) in the key of F making a sudden modulation to Db within the space of 6 beats in order to bring in the band in the new key. Modulations can be opportune when issues of range arise, and using them to refresh the sound can suggest changes in instrumentation as well. They are effective when key centers last long enough to be established before they are changed. Example 4-8 (above) is an unlikely candidate for effective modulation because its harmony moves so rapidly that the ear lacks the chance to settle in one key long enough to appreciate change to a new one.

Meter changes and metric modulations are also useful techniques. Earl Zindars’ beautiful waltz, “How My Heart Sings”, has a meter change to 4/4 at the bridge. Bill Evans played the solo section of “Waltz for Debby” and the final chorus in 4/4 as well.

Here’s an example of a passage that could be written entirely in 4/4 but benefits from the clarity and variety that results from changing meter to emphasize the rhythm.



Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:


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Here is a metric modulation that increases the speed of the music creating a new tempo in an exact relationship to the established tempo.



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These are some techniques for modifying standard forms and adding interest and surprise. Used judiciously, they can enliven the musical narrative, provide relief from predictability and hold the ear’s attention. They can help the composer/arranger tell an intelligible story, an abstract one, but a story nonetheless.







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