Some Freaky Jazz Pentatonic Relationship


Those playing a Dm7-G7-CMajor7 chord progression! (or a “ii-V-I,” which is a fairly common way to get around in a jazz tune):

If you play our old friend A minor pentatonic (think ‘Stairway to Heaven’) over the D minor seventh chord (Dm7), you hear some nice tones (the 5, b7, 1, 9, and 11).

(All interval relationships are as they relate to the chord being played.)

Then, over the G dominant seventh (G7) you can just shift your pentatonic noodlings up one fret (in the case of fretted instruments) and you are in an altered landscape, playing the b9, #9, #4 (or #11), #5, and b7 for some freaky diversions. This altered sound over a seventh chord can also happen in a simpler situation of playing over a blues-style G7. Just take your blues licks and move them up 3 steps (frets) for a temporary ‘outside’ sound to your blues soloing. The dominant seventh, or G7alt is a good place to freak out* — think tension before the resolution provided by coming back to home base: the 1 (or tonic) chord(in this case, CMaj7).

*remember, we’re talking jazz here..and it you can’t freak out in jazz, where in the hell can ya?

And for playing over that C major seventh chord, if you simply shift your pentatonic licks up a 1/2 step again, you are now playing what looks like B minor pentatonic. It’s actually a fine group of notes providing all of the CMaj color tones: 9th, 3rd, #4 (or #11), 6, and Maj7 (the B note, in this case).

So what does this mean? Hmm, I’m not sure. But if you are like me, and you got your bag of licks or ideas, and you try to keep your palette somewhat fresh—you may want to check out this very jazz-approved cycling of our ol’ friend: the five note pentatonic scale.

Anyhow, good luck if’n you choose to try and add this idea to your striving-to-be-hep-jazzcat-toolkit. Nonetheless, playing good music doesn’t really depend on clever note arrangements nor even high-zoot instruments. All you really need is some enthusiasm, a willingness to stay aware of what’s happening (mostly by listening), and the presence to respond honestly to what you experience.

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