Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sonata Two: II - Scherzo in D-flat Major

Yes, you read that right, D-flat major. There's a reason for that: It's the only key in which the piece will fit on the guitars. Guitar I has a high B, and Guitar II has a low E during the course of the festivities. Uh huh, naturals, not flats... because there is only one modulation, and it's a tritone to G major. Cool, huh?

This jazz swing tune began as an assignment my second semester at Berklee: The assignment was to write a jazz piece with only one modulation (The first semester it was a non-modulating jazz tune, and I wrote a Bossa Nova for that). I was around a lot of horn players then, and they were always going on about Giant Steps, which I never cared for. To clarify, Coltrane's improvisations are fantastic, but the tune itself is kind of trite. So, I wanted to make only One Giant Leap and a prettier song. I think I succeeded.

I was also very much into the music of Larry Carlton back then, and I had learned two of his pieces: Room 335 and Mulberry Street. So, it is in that style, and it was originally for steel string guitar, and it had string bends in it as well.

Years later, two of my students wanted to play it as a duet for their jazz duo, so I did a second version with accompaniment and without the string bends. Finally, after writing the jazz counterpoint scherzo for Sonata One (Links in the sidebar), I decided to make it a, "classical" piece with the song - or menuetto - in two-part counterpoint, and the improvised section - or trio - with the accompaniment I wrote for the jazz duo. Of course, I also wrote out the pure swing as being in 12/8.

I have not written out the improvisation yet, so the trio is just the accompaniment, and I want you to hear that isolated so that I can make a few points.

Here is the MIDI to AAC version I did in iTunes: Scherzo in D-flat Major

This is a I, vi, ii, V tune, and it modulates at the end of the second cycle of that continuity. I'm using the duo as one big virtual guitar here, so it's what I would play solo if that were possible. The melody is just as I originally wrote it, sans string bends, and the bass line is a modified version of what was in the original accompaniment I wrote (Which we'll cover in a moment). I had to make some changes so as not to violate any contrapuntal laws, and I made the bass part more melodic and interesting in the process. Note how smooth and natural the tritone modulations are. They are not jarring in the least.

The form is A, A', B, A", and when that is trrough, the trio starts.

This accompaniment style is called, "guide tone comping," and it's what the old school guys like Herb Ellis and Joe Pass would do when the situation was right. You improvise the bass part using chromatic approaches to the roots, and in the upper part you have the guide tones, which are the third and seventh of the chord of the moment (Usually, but not always: Sometimes you might want the fifth if it is diminished, &c). Very cool and economical. I was never a great jazz improviser, but I got really good at this kind of accompaniment because it was fun to me.

The way I plan to compose the solo is to make it so that the melody and bass part make correct counterpoint with each other, and disregard the guide tones in those calculations. There are already a lot of parallel fifths among the guide tones - it's a major aspect of the jazz style, after all - but the bass line will be perfect to write counterpoint over. I think this hybridized approach will work well. When? I don't know. Things like this tend to sit percolating in the old bean until they finally manifest themselves.

The trio gets the full A, A', B, A" treatment, and then we are back to the top.

Since the finale is going to be the same fugue that is the finale of Sonata One arranged for two guitars - an arrangement I will be able to actually learn and record - Sonata Two will be done whenever the solo comes to me.