Monday, February 27, 2012

Coltrane Changes on the Blues

I have been meaning to write a blues which incorporates "Coltrane changes", the harmonic progression John Coltrane superimposed over the harmony of many of his tunes during the early 1960s.  There are many articles written to explain the theory behind this progression, and they are easy to find by searching the internet for: Coltrane changes, Coltrane matrix, Giant Steps matrix, Coltrane cycle, augmented matrix, Coltrane substitutions etc.  The Wikipedia article (entitled "Coltrane Changes") referencing David Dempsey is quite good.

On the blues there are two common places to insert Coltrane's progression.  The first is at the top of the form, moving towards the IV chord.  In the key of B, this would look like:

B7  D7 | Gmaj7  Bb7 |  Ebmaj7  F#7 |  B7   =>  E7

The second possible insertion point is at measure 9, starting after the ii chord.  This would look like:

C#mi7  D7 | Gmaj7  Bb7 |  Ebmaj7  F#7  | Bmaj7   F#7 | => B7

I chose to use the first progression, because I didn't like going from B major at the end of the form to B7 at the top of the form, one measure later.

My friend Noah Baerman, devised an interesting Coltrane-based progression in his book, "Jazz Keyboard Harmony", which I endorsed a few years ago.  He started with the matrix and then made reference to the constituent tonal centers in the remainder of the 12-bar progression.  I decided to use his progression as the foundation for my tune, "You Would If You Loved Me".


A couple of days ago I made a Facebook posting, asking for song titles to spark my imagination as I near the end of my 30-day blues writing challenge.  I can thank my former student, Floyd Kellogg for today's title, "You Would If You Loved Me".

If it wasn't for Floyd I wouldn't have met my wife, Jana.  During my first year teaching at UConn, Floyd coaxed me into stopping by the bar across from the UConn Music Building to hear his band "Adios Pantalones".  Yes, they played their final song each night with no pants.  Anyways... Jana was in the audience that night.  I spotted her hanging out with some grad students, and worked my way into a conversation which (I'm happy to say) continues 12 years later.  Thanks Floyd!

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