Modal jazz

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Modal jazz ( Engl. Modal jazz ) is a style-variety (of composition and improvising style of play) in modern jazz , which during the 1950s from the New York Cool Jazz developed and free jazz via initiated.

Development and Representative

The bebop , which emerged from 1940, developed into cool jazz in the early 1950s , from whose New York scene modal jazz was derived in the mid-1950s.

In the two cool jazz circles working in New York around Gil Evans , Gerry Mulligan , John Lewis with Miles Davis and, on the other hand, especially Lennie Tristano and his school, the variety of modal jazz developed in the interest of free improvisation possibilities for the soloists. It is based on the theory of the diatonic scales , which the composer and arranger George Russell published in 1953 in his music theoretical work " The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization " ("Theory of Modes" for short) (see also the twelve-tone concept of the composer Arnold Schönberg and the atonality of the Second Viennese School ).

In addition to the composers mentioned, John Coltrane and Bill Evans and, somewhat later, Herbie Hancock , Wayne Shorter and McCoy Tyner are considered to be important pioneers of modal jazz . Milestones by Miles Davis from 1958 is considered to be the first modal jazz record. The 40-bar theme of Milestones is based on a few chords belonging to only two scales. The album Kind of Blue , which Davis recorded with John Coltrane, Julian Cannonball Adderley , Bill Evans, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb in modal play in 1959 (see So What ), is still the best-selling jazz album to this day.

Improvisation technique

In modal jazz, the soloist's improvisation takes place on a few modes (scales) that are sustained over long stretches instead of conventional, harmonic chord progressions . In addition to the conventional scales of western music, the modal scales and non-European tone scales that go back to the medieval church modes are also used, and chromatic passages are also increasingly used. Modern musicians who use the modal style also employ many other techniques such as lead tones, circling tones, outside playing and other techniques to enrich their improvisation. The soloist who improvises freely without being tied to a corset of conventional accompanying harmonies of the ensemble has priority. The accompaniment often only consists of a few, constantly repeated chords ( vamps ).

Characteristics and jazz-historical classification

Modal jazz can be interpreted as a result of a partial turning away from bebop, for which complicated chord progressions and artistic phrasing, especially the solos, were characteristic. While the bebop with its many ornaments forced the musicians to do complicated finger exercises, the modal jazz with its rather sparse, minimalist tone sequences seemed more relaxed in this regard. Modal jazz is often of a calm to meditative character in tempo, but has enough tension due to its often unusual harmonies to sharp (not rough) dissonances.

The recognition of modal jazz as its own style is considered controversial. Its great importance for the stylistic transition from the soloist's chord-related improvisation to free tone scales to free jazz is generally recognized.

Important titles (pieces)

Important albums

See also



  1. Wolf Burbat : The Harmonics of Jazz. 2nd edition, dtv, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-423-04472-1 , p. 133.
  2. ^ Joe Viera: Jazz. Music of our time. Oreos, Schaftlach 1992, ISBN 3-923657-38-2 , p. 153.
  3. a b c d e Mike Schoenmehl: Modern Jazz Piano. The musical foundations in theory and practice Schott, Mainz 1992, ISBN 3-7957-0215-1 , p. 112.

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