Hey Jazz Guy,
Now that I’ve got the inside playing down, how ’bout that “out” stuff?
—Inside in Indianapolis
How ’bout that “out” stuff? Well, it is worth looking outside the box to examining some simple techniques that can sound fantastically outside. As we did with the inside examples, we’ll use the first eight bars of “Stella By Starlight” for practice. In the first two examples we are using a simple idea—playing a half-step away from the chords. Ex. 1 uses inside lines a halfstep up from the changes, so we’re playing Fm7(b5) to Bb7alt. Then in the next two bars [Ex. 2], we play a half-step down from the changes, Bm7 to E7. Straight inside lines, played a half-step away from the chords can sound mesmerizing. This idea can also be used with other intervals. For the II-V in the next two bars [Ex. 3], we back-cycle a “Coltrane” pattern, in this case we want to resolve to Ebmaj7 so we play B, D7, G, Bb7, to Ebmaj7. Finally we employ a hexatonic scale in Ex. 4 built on two adjacent triads, D and Eb. Playing this over Ebmaj7 gives some “in” notes, like the maj7, 5, and 3, and some out notes, like the #11 and #9. Holding this scale over Ab7(#11) continues the ambiguous effect. These techniques can get rather wild, so practice them hard but keep them in check—they sound best in contrast with other types of playing. Just like in The Matrix where there is no spoon, you can play inside the box and outside the box. Ultimately, there is no box.
Jake Hertzog is the jazz ambassador to the non-jazz world. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Jake’s latest release is Patterns [Buckyball].