A Lesson in Cool

Emily Remler had a deep and intense harmonic sense. She had advanced knowledge of chords and how they worked. That, combined with years of listening and transcribing, gave her formidable ears and chops, particularly when playing changes.

One tool in her arsenal was using the jazz minor scale starting from the fifth of a related dominant seventh chord.

There are three basic types of minor scales:

· Natural minor (in D it would be: D–E–F–G–A–Bb–C)

· Harmonic minor (a minor scale with a raised 7th: D–E–F–G–A–Bb–C#)

· Melodic minor (D–E–F–G–A–B–C#)

In classical music, the melodic minor scale is different ascending and descending (the 6th and 7th notes are only raised on the ascent). In the jazz minor scale the notes are raised both ascending and descending. Here are the notes of the D jazz minor in relation to the chord tones in a G7 chord:

D (5th) E (13th) F (7th) G (root) A (9th) B (3rd) C# (#11) D (5th)

Notice that you get the primary chord tones (root, third, fifth, and seventh), the basic tensions (ninth and 13th), plus the #11, which provides what Remler called, “that Lydian spice.” Plus, because you are thinking in D, you’re not tempted to resolve to the root.

For example, take a G7 chord: The root, third, and seventh are G, B, and F. Some would recommend using the G Mixolydian mode when soloing over G7. But G Mixolydian can be boring, lacking tension and color, whereas the D jazz minor scale includes chromatic tones full of tension and color.