Jazz Theory Question - Mood Indigo

LiveSimply

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I'm trying my hand at a couple of songs outside of the blues in order to help me learn some new chords and progressions.

One of the songs I am trying to learn is Mood Indigo by Duke Ellington, Irvin Mills and Albany Bigard.

Originally I thought that the song's progression was in Ab Major, but a couple of chords are throwing me and I cannot find a mode that fits neatly into what's happening.

I'm thrown by the fact that I'm seeing a couple of bits where there is the following progressionf: Ab6 / F7 / Bb9 /Bbmin7 ....

If it was purely major that F would be minor and we wouldn't see a Bb (just the Bb minor).

Additionally, the song starts from Ab to Bb9 (and not a Bb minor note).

Anyone know this song and if there is a specific Mode that fits its progression that I'm missing?

Thanks in advance.
 

huw

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Don't forget to apply "Huw's first paradigm" - any major chord can become a minor, and any minor chord can become a major, at any time, anywhere, for no other reason other than it sounds good. Doesn't change the root movement, therefore structurally the same.

;)

As for that F7, look where it's going (Bb) and ask how it being major instead of minor changes the movement between the chords...
 

LiveSimply

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Thanks, Huw.

So I take it that the F is major instead of minor because it just sounds good and the Bb9 is major because the F facilitates its resolution (being its 5th)..... but the tune remains Ab major.

Subsequent to my post I also read a separate analysis that stated that the altered pitches and embellishing tones gave it a more "bluesy" flavor (per jazzstandards.com).

Thanks again.

It's going to take a while to learn how to hit all of these new chords in time. I'm still new to these 6, 9 and 13th chords.
 

JonR

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Anyone know this song and if there is a specific Mode that fits its progression that I'm missing?
FORGET MODES! Modes have nothing to do with jazz of that era. Zero. Nada.

It's all about "functional harmony":
1. root movement in 5ths (down, or 4ths up);
2. secondary dominants (V7 of any chord in the key, not just I)
3. substitutions (tritone subs, dim7s, etc)
4. modulations
5. voice-leading

...er maybe a few other things, I guess, but start there.
 

JonR

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Remember the job of any chord is twofold:
1. to harmonize the melody
2. to lead to and/or from the chords either side (i.e. chord "function")

Jazz likes to explore many kinds of flexibility in both these.
Eg, harmonizing the melody, in simplest terms, means the main melody notes (longest, strongest) should be chord tones: meaning root 3rd or 5th most of the time. But jazz quite likes to reharmonize, and melody notes may end up as 7, 9, #11, 13. (Not by changing the melody, remember; by changing the chords.)

Similarly, the simplest kind of functional chord movements (down 5/up 4) are frequently subverted by substitutions.

But the point is still to start from, and appreciate, the basic moves first. Here's a list of jazz chord types according to function:

MAJOR KEY
I = maj7, 6
ii = m7
iii = almost never used, except as sub for I
IV = maj7, sometimes maj7#11
V = 7, 9, 13
vi = m7
vii = dim7 (borrowed from minor, see below. The diatonic vii chord, m7b5, is rare in this context.)

MINOR KEY
i = m6, m(maj7)
ii = m7b5 (half-dim)
III = maj7
iv = m7
V = 7, 7b9, 7#9, 7alt
VI = maj7 (sometimes 7)
vii = dim7

Remember all the chords in a key (other than dim or half-dims) can have their own V7 chords (secondary dominants). (That's what the Bb7 and F7 are in in Mood Indigo.)

Moreover, any V7 can be replaced with a tritone substitute, usually appearing as bII of the following chord. (Eg, instead of E7 leading to Am, you'll commonly find Bb7; and that goes to an Am chord in any key.)
You'll also find dom7s sometimes resolving up a whole step to a major tonic (Bb7 > Cmaj7), known as the "backdoor" progression.

You can look at all that from the perspective of the chord types. There are SIX basic 7th chord types:

Maj7 = I and IV in major key; III and VI in minor key
dom7 = V in major and minor key; bII in minor or major key; bVII in major key; occasionally (in blues) IV in major or VI in minor.
min7 = ii or vi in major key; iv in minor key. Very rarely iii in major key. A little less rarely, i in minor key
m7b5 = ii in minor key.
dim7 = vii in minor key, occasionally vii in major key. Common substitute for dom7 chords (as rootless 7b9 chords).
m(maj7) = i in minor key

Tonic chords can also often be 6ths (m6 in minor).

You'll notice in some jazz charts "7#11" chords (lydian dominant), which is usually a sign of a dom7 which is not a V7 chord. Ie, it will usually be resolving (a) down a half-step (to minor or major), (b) up a whole step (to major), (c) down a 4th (to major).

V7 chords, meanwhile are subject to various other kinds of alterations, typically in minor keys but sometimes in major too. Examples are:
7b9 = V in minor key, suggests HW dim scale (commonly in rootless form, meaning a viidim7 - eg, in place of G7b9 in C minor you might see Bdim7 - the same chord without the G).
7#9, 7#9#5, 7b9b5, etc, sometimes abbreviated to "7alt" = V in minor key, suggests the altered scale.
Plain 9 and 13 chords, however, are normally V in major keys.

Here's a typical "circle progression" in A minor/C major:
Dm7 - G7 - Cmaj7 - Fmaj7 - Bm7b5 - E7 - Am - (Dm)
Notice all the roots are diatonic to C major, and all descend by a 5th (or ascend by a 4th). All are perfect except F-B; which is what keeps it in key, and allows it to return it to Dm after 7 moves.
All the chords are also diatonic to C major, except E7. That's what turns it into an A minor key sequence.
A jazz musician will look at that progression and immediately identify:
Dm7-G7-Cmaj7 = ii-V-I in C major
Bm7b5-E7-Am = ii-V-i in A minor
The Fmaj7 belongs to both keys: IV in C, VI in A minor. (Of course we can also see Am as vi in C major. IOW, if we see Am as vi, then E7 is a secondary dominant. If we see A minor as the overall key, then G7 is the secondary dominant.)

Here's that sequence with some secondary dominants inserted (in red), and a tritone sub (in blue):
D7 - G7 - Cmaj7 - C7 - Fmaj7 - Bm7b5 - Bb7 - Am - A7-Dm

And here it is again with ii chords ("secondary supertonics") added in front of of the new dom7s:
Am7-D7 - Dm7-G7 - Cmaj7 - Gm7-C7 - Fmaj7 - Fm7-Bb7 - Am - Em7b5-A7-Dm...

Notice the choice of Em7b5 before A7, because the target chord (Dm) is minor

So, when looking at jazz charts, always look for ii-V pairs like that, and then look at the following chord. ii-V pairs are often secondary (resolving to a chord other than the key chord), and can often resolve down a half-step (meaning the V is a tritone sub).

This all looks hugely complicated, of course, but just make sure you play through those sequences, and study how the 3rds and 7ths link from chord to chord. If you have the right shapes, you'll notice that the 3rd of one chord descends to the 7th of the next and vice versa - sometimes it will be the same note, sometimes the descent will be a whole step rather than half-step. But the combined effect is a gradual descent through the progression.
3rds and 7ths are known as "guide tones" for this reason: they control the sequence, and any substitute chords will normally retain those notes, the roots and 5ths being more variable.
This kind of gentle descending move is what drives functional moves in jazz. It's why 5ths are often flattened - to lead down a half-step to the next root.
Once you spot those inner moves, you'll have the secret to jazz chord progressions - the engine room of the ship, if you like. You can stop worrying about modes and chord-scale theory, because these melodic links across the chords are what it's all about. The rest is decoration and embellishment - and harmonization of the melody of course.
But even with melody, you'll find it often seems more dependent on the chords than vice versa. Eg, classic standards like Autumn Leaves and All The Things You Are have melodies based almost entirely on the 3rds of each chord, just linked by other short scale moves.

One big important BUT...

The above is the theory that applies to ALL jazz before 1959, and quite a lot of jazz after that too. In 1959 the MODAL revolution began in jazz, which is what gave rise to "chord-scale theory", because you would get sequences of chords totally unrelated in any functional way, often with no shared key or scale. There was no voice-leading (or very little), each chord might last for several bars, and you really did have to treat each chord as an isolated individual entity, as an entire "chord-scale" (mode) for melodic exploration.
This was a totally different approach from previous jazz.
Where things began to get complicated and confusing was (a) jazz musicians started to write tunes combining both approaches, and (b) some teachers or theorists started trying to apply chord-scale thinking back to the older jazz standards. That's where the crazy idea of seeing Dm7-G7-Cmaj7 as "dorian-mixolydian-ionan" came from: that both complicates those sequences unnecessarily, and totally misses the point.
 

JonR

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P.S. - of course, all the above implies that you'll get nowhere in jazz if you don't know which notes in your chord shapes are the 3rds and 7ths! ;)
Some real basic theory of that kind is essential: understanding chord structure, as well as which chords are diatonic to which keys.
 

LiveSimply

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Thanks again, JonR.

I am certainly going to bookmark this response for future reference. Your list of chord types according to function is very useful. I had not run into that yet in my early reading on jazz theory. Also, your "circle progression" will be useful to me as I practice my new chord shapes and utilize the suggested order.

Thanks.
 

JonR

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Tip: Songs with complete 7-chord circle progressions (between minor and relative major):

Autumn Leaves
Fly Me To The Moon
I Will Survive
 

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