Sept 5, 2015: Alex Hutton

Many thanks to Alex Hutton for a session in which we covered:

The Shadow of Your Smile” by Johnny Mandel
Groovin’ High” by Dizzy Gillespie

As usual, Alex’s session was packed with nuggets of good tips. See the whiteboard at the end of the post!

The use of E harmonic minor was discussed for use in “Shadow” as it could work over most of the tune. Introducing A- and B triads to create a bit of interest.

The use of patterns over the ii-V as a method of internalising the harmony as well as a spring-board for further improvisations: ii (1, 3, 5, 7) V (3, 2, 1, b7).

Starting the pattern on the third instead of the root to introduce 9ths: ii (3, 5, b7, 9) V (1, b7, 6, 5)

For “Groovin'” mention was made minor 6 pentatonics (1, b3, 4, 5, b7) throughout the tune: EbMaj7 (C- pent), A- D7 (A- pent) and G- C7 (G- pent).

Many thanks to Alex for coming to see us.


February 28, 2015: Alex Hutton

Many thanks to amazing pianist Alex Hutton who equipped with his blackboard took us through the dominant seven heavy compositions:

Just in Time” by Jule Styne
Doxy” by Sonny Rollins

Ever with hope in his heart, Alex helps up handle compositions containing sequences of dominant seventh, using a number of techniques

  • Arpeggio/scales
  • Stacked thirds
  • Triad pairs
  • Domininant Bebop scale
  • Pentatonics

The dominant bebop scale (mixolydian with an extra major 7) was shown as a connecting device usually descending and always as a scalar fragment rather than a pick and mix that might be used with other scales.

Pentatonics were a particularly interesting sound reminiscent of McCoy Tyner although (apparently) Alex was showing sixth based ones whereas McCoy would be using sevenths. Suggestions for the pentatonic scales were:

Am6: 1 b2 3 5 7
D7: 1 2 3 5 b7
D7b9: 1 b2 3 5 b7

As with all these things, they sound amazing in the hands of a master, less so in mine. Back to the shed.

November 15, 2014: Alex Hutton

Many thanks to the excellent pianist Alex Hutton who hosted a fun session covering some great Horace Silver compositions:

Sister Sadie” by Horace Silver
Gregory is Here” by Horace Silver
Song for My Father” by Horace Silver

For each of the compositions, Alex went through some possible devices to used in the improvisations. For example “Sister Sadie” consists of long sections of dominant seven chords; convert it into a ii-V to create extra interest, or just consider it as the ii. After playing through the composition and the members soloing over the complete form as will as fours, we focussed on the trickier middle section for a while.

Other tools mentioned to investigate were the use of targetting notes with decorations and enclosures and a few bebop licks.

The composition “Gregory is Here” was written for Horace Silver’s son has an interesting first section alternating between two bars of B7+4 and two bars of Cm7 a couple of times before relaxing into familiar ii-V-i territory. I’d not heard this composition before, but it was quite challenging but enjoyable at the same time. We had a practice on the first section to get used to the unusual chords before doing a complete performance.

Finally a blast through “Song for My Father” completed the sessions.

Lots of playing and some good tips to investigate add up to a great session.

Thanks again to Alex Hutton.


September 6, 2014: Alex Hutton

Many thanks to Alex Hutton for an educational session in which we covered:

“Mack the Knife” by Kurt Weill.

during the session we discussed the application of the diminished scale over dominant chords (7b9)

[full session report unavailable]

Alec Hutton