The Unwound Third > Other Musical Interests

Jazz chord: A thing?

(1/2) > >>

Hereís a theory Iíve presented in mixed company in the past. It has been met with everything from healthy skepticism, to basic ignoring, to outright hostility (the latter mostly from people whoíve spent a pile of time learning jazz chords).

Iíve been a solo performer on mandolin and tenor banjo for a few years. I will often play an instrumental verse to a song Iím singing - or licks between lines - while continuing to use notes of the chord as a harmony (however dissonant by times). So if Iím chording in G, I may end up hitting an A or.a C note as part of the melody or lick, while continuing to hit the G, B, and/or D notes as part of that chord. Nothing too wacky there.

My theory: This is what old players originally did, but people tried to express this chordally - and thatís why we ended up with "jazz" chords with all the numbers in them. Someone heard a solo player playing a G chord with an A in it for the melody, and they invented the Gadd9 chord, or sometimes even the G9. As "proof", ask a jazz player to write out the chords for a 12-bar blues song; theyíll end up throwing in a pile of numbers.

When Iíve been feeling particularly vocal about this opinion, Iíve even theorized that there is actually no such thing as any of these complex chords - that they are simply a product of someone trying to express melodic playing via chords. Of course, things have derived from this pattern to get to the point where there is actually a need for some of these chords now (thanks a lot, Charlie Parker!).

To give the full picture, I dislike jazz with all my heart and soul, while loving the blues with just as much vigor.

Since Iím not embroiled in a huge argument about this at the moment, Iím willing to admit that this theory may be - to use a technical term - a bunch of hooey. Or I suppose itís possible that itís true, and I only came to the same conclusion that Iíve never heard millions of other music geeks express.


Prof Scratchy:
Hooeysus#add9 ?

"Jazz chords' is a misnomer. They are chord melody chords and as such are not tied to any single genre.

It's just a natural progression. Where you have extended chords you need to write down how they are extended in some way. So-called "jazz chords" are the connective tissue that move you from one key center to the next key center and eventually back to the root, all the while expressing the song's melody, more or less. That's how chord melody operates. And how can anyone possibly dislike jazz?? :)

Yup. "all the while expressing the song's melody, more or less" is pretty much what I was trying to say in my several paragraphs - but which you described better in a few words. :)

I don't even have to try to dislike jazz; it happens quite effortlessly!

That being said, I have caught myself once in a while enjoying the odd old jazz song, from back before Charlie Parker ruined everything.

Mandolin Paul,
To quote Bob Dylan, "Don't criticize what you can't understand."  Extensions on chords above the seventh are not used simply or even primarily to get chord melody notes. They're mostly used to get interior melodic lines, like tenor and alto parts in choral singing and to provide counterpoint in the middle of harmonic movement. You can ignore all this, though, and remain secure in your opinion and lack of understanding, if that is your preference.


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version