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Why does this harmonic minor run sound good over the "wrong" ii-V?

Kozureokami

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Hello all...this is my first post and I am a relative beginner as a player. So please bear with me if the post is either ignorant or just confusing.

In his solo on Horace Silver's Moon Rays, Clifford Jordan plays a descending G harmonic minor scale run in 8th notes, beginning on the fifth degree of the scale as an upbeat. So it's d (upbeat) C Bb A G Gb Eb D C. (I'm not using concert key notes, but notes as played by the tenor). He plays this over an F major chord which sounds like a strange idea I guess but it sounds beautiful moving to the next chord, which modulates to a different key. But my question isn't abut that! Because the run sounds like a ii-V (half-diminished/b9) and it was being played over an F major chord, I kind of assumed it was going to work as a Gmi7/C7 ii-V, but it didn't work all that well. However, it sounded great as an Am7/D7 ii-V, with the ii chord using a b9 (the Bb note) and the V chord also using a b9 (the Eb). I have no idea why this sounds so good and why it doesn't sound as good on the Gmi7/C7. Can anyone out there explain this? Thanks!
 

jbtsax

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Hmmm. . . . With your knowledge of harmony it is hard to believe that you are a relative beginner as a player. Perhaps you play a chording instrument like piano or guitar.

Your question intrigued me to the point that I found the recording of this solo and a transcription as well so I could see and hear what you are referring to. The Youtube video sound quality isn't great, but you can hear what he's talking about at 3:29 in the tenor solo.

To me a ii7 V7 (Am7 D7b9) over the Fmaj7 chord doesn't make harmonic sense because of the chord that follows which is an Abm7. I would guess he is hearing an Am7 based on the Fmaj7 extension to the 9th followed by an
A diminished, and then the Abm7. The rest of the tune has several instances of these types of descending chromatics. Perhaps the best answer is that it sounds good because it sounds good. Hopefully @aldevis will weigh in and help us out here.

 

Morgan Fry

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That line implies the iii-VI7b9. Imagine the line goes down to the Bb (3rd of the Gm -- ii), you'll see at least Bird (somewhere in Kim?) and Dexter using this line, too. The next 2 bars are just the first 2 up a half step -- a common enough device, guys will often get into it the way Clifford does here -- play up to it as if it were going back to the ii like you expect from the hundreds of tunes you know that do that, then surprise, we're up a half step instead. Telegraphing it by implying e.g. an Eb7 isn't typically done, it defeats the purpose of the harmonic device. Implying the D7 like here makes more of it.

FWIW, the changes in the transcription --sus chord is right for the head but for blowing they're playing the first 2 Gm C7.
 

jbtsax

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Thanks Morgan. That makes a lot of sense.
 

Kozureokami

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Hmmm. . . . With your knowledge of harmony it is hard to believe that you are a relative beginner as a player. Perhaps you play a chording instrument like piano or guitar.
Your question intrigued me to the point that I found the recording of this solo and a transcription as well so I could see and hear what you are referring to. The Youtube video sound quality isn't great, but you can hear what he's talking about at 3:29 in the tenor solo.

To me a ii7 V7 (Am7 D7b9) over the Fmaj7 chord doesn't make harmonic sense because of the chord that follows which is an Abm7. I would guess he is hearing an Am7 based on the Fmaj7 extension to the 9th followed by an
A diminished, and then the Abm7. The rest of the tune has several instances of these types of descending chromatics. Perhaps the best answer is that it sounds good because it sounds good. Hopefully @aldevis will weigh in and help us out here.

Thank you for this. Although I don't really understand why Jordan was playing this phrase over the F major (actually Eb major in concert key), and why it sounded so good there, my initial problem was why it sounds good if I play it over a ii-V (Am7 D7). It's easy to understand why the Eb over the D7 sounds good (b9), but why the Bb in the descending run over the Am7? Now I'm wondering if maybe the Bb is implying that the D7 to follow is augmented???
As for the "not sounding like a relative beginner part" (Why, thank you! :)), actually I'm not a music beginner, just a saxophone beginner. I've noodled around with music all my life (guitar, flute, piano), but never really learned to actually play in anything approaching a real way. Good enough to teach my kids a few tunes, but that's about it.)




 

Kozureokami

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That line implies the iii-VI7b9. Imagine the line goes down to the Bb (3rd of the Gm -- ii), you'll see at least Bird (somewhere in Kim?) and Dexter using this line, too. The next 2 bars are just the first 2 up a half step -- a common enough device, guys will often get into it the way Clifford does here -- play up to it as if it were going back to the ii like you expect from the hundreds of tunes you know that do that, then surprise, we're up a half step instead. Telegraphing it by implying e.g. an Eb7 isn't typically done, it defeats the purpose of the harmonic device. Implying the D7 like here makes more of it.

FWIW, the changes in the transcription --sus chord is right for the head but for blowing they're playing the first 2 Gm C7.
Thank you! I see where my problem was looking at the piece of transcription that jbtsax posted. I was (wrongly) thinking that the F major chord was held over into the phrase itself (I think that's what Horace used for the head, but not the solos), but looking at the phrase as jbtsax posted it with an Am/Ao I can see clearly that it is actually a iii/VI moving to the modulating ii/V of Ab/Db, which makes a lot of sense. Thank you both for your help.
 

Morgan Fry

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Thank you! I see where my problem was looking at the piece of transcription that jbtsax posted. I was (wrongly) thinking that the F major chord was held over into the phrase itself (I think that's what Horace used for the head, but not the solos), but looking at the phrase as jbtsax posted it with an Am/Ao I can see clearly that it is actually a iii/VI moving to the modulating ii/V of Ab/Db, which makes a lot of sense. Thank you both for your help.

No, You had it right. I'm assuming the Am Ao are JTBSax's notes, the rhythm section does hold the F chord for 2 bars. The Am D7b9 (not Ao) is implied by Clifford, it's the ii-V of the ii of the home key (F). Repeating the first 4 bars is a super common thing to do. So sticking in a turnaround to go back to the Gm (bar 1) sounds right. Then the tune gets a little tricky by moving up a half step for a couple of bars instead of just repeating.

So you could call it a 3-6, but in F. Or a 2-5 to the Gm. Since it's faster than the rhythm of the chords (tune is mostly 1 chord per bar, this is 2 chords in 1 bar), I suppose it's properly the latter.

The one thing it's emphatically not doing, is modulating into Gb. The Abm just comes out of nowhere. If Clifford was playing a phrase leading to the Abm, the entire line we're talking about would be up a half step. Try it out and see how it sounds.
 

jbtsax

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The one thing it's emphatically not doing, is modulating into Gb. The Abm just comes out of nowhere. If Clifford was playing a phrase leading to the Abm, the entire line we're talking about would be up a half step. Try it out and see how it sounds.
I would suggest that the Abm7 Db7 is, in fact, a ii7 V7 in the key of Gb except it has a surprise resolution up 1/2 step just like the ii7 V7 did in the bar before as you pointed out. It seems to be a pattern. Its kind of like the surprise modulation up 1/2 step in the SOTM "On the Trail" after 8 bars.
 

Morgan Fry

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Sure, bar 5-6 is a 2-5 in Gb. And yeah, you could look at it like you say. Doesn't feel like that to me, though. It feels like a 2-5 up a half step than back into Eb.
FWIW on another listen, Horace does play AmD7 or just Am on bar 4 sometimes. I suppose the Ao isn't exactly wrong -- Ao7 is the same notes as D7b9 but writing it like that obscures its harmonic function.
 

Dibbs

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To me a ii7 V7 (Am7 D7b9) over the Fmaj7 chord doesn't make harmonic sense because of the chord that follows which is an Abm7.
...

Chromatically descending II V progressions are quite common. Round Midnight is a classic example and there another one here, straight after the bar in question. Abm7 Db7 Gm7 C7. You could possibly view the implied Am7 D7 as extending that progression backwards. A form of backcycling.
 

Dave Mac

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Reading this post reminded me of the time, when I was taking Spanish evening classes, and when I arrived in the classroom early the black board was still full of the previous Russian classes work!!

I didn't understand a word but was full of admiration for the people who did
 

Dibbs

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I would suggest that the Abm7 Db7 is, in fact, a ii7 V7 in the key of Gb except it has a surprise resolution up 1/2 step just like the ii7 V7 did in the bar before as you pointed out. It seems to be a pattern. Its kind of like the surprise modulation up 1/2 step in the SOTM "On the Trail" after 8 bars.

It's just a b5 sub of a secondary dominant.

Source progression is:

G7 / / / | / / / / | C7 / / / | / / / / |

b5 sub for the G7

Db7 / / / | / / / / | C7 / / / | / / / / |

Put II's in front of the Vs

Abm7 / / / | Db7 / / / | Gm7 / / / | C7 / / / |
 

Colin the Bear

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The real explanation of why you think it sounds good is because you like it. Now, why you like it? That's probably more to do with what you're listening to, have listened to and what you want to play.

It doesn't do anything for me at all. Today. Next week who knows?

I'm having a fling with Irving Berlin at the mo.
 

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