Blue drag : harmony question

mikomiko New
edited September 2013 in Unaccompanied Django Posts: 3
Hi everyone!
I'm new to this forum so I hope I post this in the right section (those are confusing) and it hasn't been already discussed. If I got it all wrong, please forgive me :)

Here's the thing :
The chords for Blue drag usually read E-7b5 (half-diminished) for measure 6.
But when I listen to the second voice (Django's guitar), he clearly plays a B natural there!
Also, in the second A-part (not sure about the first), you can hear a C# in the rythm guitar.
Therefore, isn't it rather a A9 than this E-7b5? I find it much nicer to the ear and more interesting.

I hope that is understandable :)
Tell me what you think!


  • spatzospatzo Virtuoso
    Posts: 768
    On my opinion the chord on measure 6 is an A7. The Em7b5 chord is the subdominant sound preparing the dominant arrival and it is not wrong of course.

    The Em7b5 is in fact the doormat in front of the A7th dominant door that leads to the Dm room. Django usually will not use the subdominant doormat before entering the room.

    Usually in all minor keys the 9th of the dominant chord is a b9th (Bb in this case). In fact in his improvisation Django uses first C# in the melody and then goes on with Bb A G F E D C# Bb A A ...

    But in measure 6 during the theme Django plays a bichord B+E (so that's A9) when Stephane plays a G.
  • What Django plays to create and release tension doesn't usually change the fundamental harmony behind in GJ other than the rhythm player might simplify even more to make roon for the soloist.

    Not like regulat jazz where subs and altered harmony is the standard
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • mikomiko New
    Posts: 3
    Well thanks, it's as I thought.
    It just seemed weird to hear that B in the melody while the guitarist I play with played a Em7b5.
    I guess we'll just change that for the theme, then go back to the "classic" chords for the solos.

    I've been playing a lot of jazz and I think I have a pretty good idea of what happens harmonically. But I still struggle a bit with minor 6th chords, and thus with the 9th of the dominant chord (do I play it b9/#9 or natural?). And Django's ideas when he plays a second voice, though wonderful, don't help :)

    Thanks again,
  • StevearenoSteveareno ✭✭✭
    Posts: 349
    Dig that tune and play it occasionally. Always think of Who Put the Blame On Mame! Jammed on it with a ragtime piano player,wanting to learn some more "hot" jazz tunes. It sounded pretty darn good. Love that term "doormat" chord, before "entering the room". Makes sense. Thanks Spatzo! Also heard
    the term "zip code chord" in an analysis of Stardust ...It all seems to work...somehow.
    Swang on,
  • forgot to mention for those who are into the whole theory thing that the Em7b5 is the diatonic 2 chord in Dminor then if memory serves it moves to Bb for 2 beats which is a tritone away from the E so it suggests a tritone sub but its not then down to the A before the Dminor making it a 2 5 1 progression
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • spatzospatzo Virtuoso
    Posts: 768
    In fact Miko the 9th of the dominant chord is in fact the key of the improvisation

    As said Emily Remler:

    1. On major chords play major
    2. On minor chords play minor
    3. On non-resolving dominant chords play minor jazz scale (ie minor chord)from fifth
    4. On resolving dominant chords play minor jazz scale up an half step

    In other words:

    - on a resolving dominant play b9, b13
    - on a non resolving dominant play 9, 13

    That is to say on a G7 going to C (or Cm) play Abm and on a G7 going elsewhere play Dm
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,319
    Abm or Db9?
  • spatzospatzo Virtuoso
    Posts: 768
    Abm6, Abm6/9, AbmM7 ...

    Of course using Db9 the result could be very similar but playing here a dominant should be different as the result of choices is wider.
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,319
    Ok that makes sense. I guess, now that I think about it some more, what it's called in the harmonic context sort of depends also on what the bass player does (root, etc).

    I probably should just shut up about theory stuff since I don't know what I'm talking about...
  • spatzospatzo Virtuoso
    Posts: 768
    On my opinion it is completely independant.

    I mean the bass player plays the basic changes, he follows the chord chart. Improvisation will just use the tensions that will help building contrasting and convincing releases. We know for example that Django's rhythm players were told to keep the matter simple and basic. There will not be any conflict in their choices. Of course if the bass player plays an Abm against a G7 going home to C he will probably banalise the colors used in the improvisation.

    So on the changes G7 => C you have three main opportunities:

    1. You think Fm to C (just as if you were playing E7 to Am)
    2. You think Abm to C
    3. You think G7b9 to C (Ab dim arpeggio with D instead of Db)
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