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MSBOA / Jazz Commission Project: Supernova

Video Part Five Outline

by Vince Corozine (ASCAP)

This is the fifth in a series of six videos that will take you through the creative process as I compose a jazz waltz, SUPERNOVA, for the Michigan All-State Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Max Colley, Jr….the band director at Northview High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In the previous video I presented a detailed outline for SUPERNOVA, emphasizing three themes, written for three sections, all moving at different speeds. This ensures clarity in the musical lines through differentiation.

I also showed how one can create tension by adding lines one at a time, spread over a period of time. Each line acts as a new layer of sound and converses with the previous line.

It was also stressed that the trumpets playing in Harmon mutes are used for color purposes, rather for linear reasons. I want to create an impressionistic “sheen” or “diffused luster”above the ensemble.

We also explored how interludes are useful for developing the main themes and are useful in building up to a solo or to a modulation. In the case of SUPERNOVA, I used two interludes, both to provide energy building to a solo section, and the second to build to a modulation, which is up a minor third from Am to Cm.

This segment will deal with how I voice a variety of sections and chords for SUPERNOVA.

Let’s look first at how the trumpets are voiced playing with Harmon mutes. Remember that the Harmon mutes provide color rather than stating an obvious musical line.

Clusters, minor seconds, and other dissonances are valuable when one wants to achieve a coloristic “sheen” over the ensemble. For maximum resonance, it is recommended to keep the lead trumpet voiced in 3rds or 4ths with the 2nd trumpet. The use of major or minor seconds between the 1st and 2nd trumpets is a bit jarring in its effect for this type of piece. I employ this principle when voicing chords for saxes, trombones, or strings.

Here are some voicings for trumpets in Harmon mutes taken from SUPERNOVA:

Example 1

Notice in the Gm7 chord that the ninth is added producing a dissonance in the inner voices.

In the Am7 to Gm7 progression, observe how the fifth trumpet supports the first trumpet by doubling it at the lower octave... Check out the dissonant intervals between the third and fourth trumpets in all three examples.

In the last chord, examine the half step dissonance between the second and third trumpets. Minor second intervals add “bite” to a chord.

Notice how the full brass section is voiced, using high-tension chords.

Example 2

Notice in the above example, that the G7#9b9#5 chord, that the root of the chord is omitted. It is best to let the bass play the roots. Including the root in a dominant seventh –type chord, sounds “square” and dated. However, when the root of the chord is in the melody, make the chord a thirtheenth.

Listen to the Cm11 chord, (above) and notice that it has an “organ” quality to it. This is due to the numerous roots and fifths present in the chord. The chord has four roots, two fifths, two elevenths, and one third.

Notice in the Cminor11 chord (above), that a mid-cluster voicing of D, Eb, and F between trumpets 2, 3, and 4, while the 5th trumpet is doubling the lead trumpet an octave lower.

In the above example, the Am6 to E7sus chords, notice the “resonant” fourths between trumpets 1, 2, and 3, for the first three chords.

Observe how the fourth trumpet supports and strengthens the first trumpet for the first three chords.

In the final sustained chord, examine that the 9th is added to the Am6 chord for extra resonance. The chord is superimposed over a D7sus chord in the rhythm section. Notice how the Ds and Es “grind” out a dissonance that adds color to the chord.

A section of four trombones sounds great when voiced either in close or in open position (as does a section of cellos).

Example 3

Notice that the ninth is added to the Am7 chord for added “bite."

Observe that the Fmaj7 chord is missing the root….it is played in the bass. Adding the ninth increases the dissonance and is a better alternative than the root.

In the Am6 chord, see that the ninth is added to the chord, while the sixth is omitted. Notice the dissonant minor second interval between trombones 2 and 3.

In the Cmmaj7 chord the root solidly “anchors” the dissonance above. The C in the fourth bone against the B natural in the second bone sets up a powerful dissonance.

The last Am7 chord is a “cluster” chord, containing intervals of a major second, minor second and major third. Notice that the ninth is added for extra resonance in place of the chord seventh. A chord that contains the notes A, C, E, and G (Am7) would be a tad too mild for this style of writing.

The saxophone section may be voiced in a number of ways including:

a. 4-way close with the lead doubled an octave lower (for fast-moving passages, used extensively in 1930s and 40s big bands)
b. b. 4-way close with the 2nd voice dropped one octave
c. c. 4-way close with the 2nd and 4th voices dropped one octave
d. d. Clusters (ala Thad Jones , Bob Brookmeyer, Gil Evans)
e. e. Open voicings (best for slow-moving ballads, ala Stan Kenton)
f. Unison
g. Unison-octaves (ala Bill Holman, Gerry Mulligan)
h. Thirds (ala Billy May)
i. . A mixture of all of the above.


The four bar phrase above, is articulated in the lead alto sax, and the other saxes will be similarly marked to ensure uniformity within the section.

In the second example, a 4-way close voicing is used, with the second note from the top (A) dropped an octave. This provides a more open sound than does a 4-way close with the lead voice doubled one octave lower.

Notice the high level of dissonance in the next to last chord, (Am69) placing a B against a C. This minor second “bite” energizes the chord.

The last chord employs a fourth between alto 1 and alto 2, which adds a “ring” and provides resonance to sustained chords.

The final chord, Fmaj7, resolves the dissonance perfectly.

The next to the last chord (Am69) is especially dissonant. The B in the second tenor sax, clashes with the C in the lead alto. The E and F# also clash, as does the A and the B. Three clashes in one chord create a “stinging” dissonance with plenty of “edge” to it.

In the same chord, observe how fourths are used between the two alto saxes create tension. (B against the C in the second tenor sax and baritone sax). “Ringing” fourths exist between all the voices except the baritone sax.

The final (E7#9#5) chord places a G natural (#9) in the first Tenor sax , against a G sharp (3rd) in the Bari sax. Notice that when the chords change, the baritone sax moves in contrary motion as compared with the other voices.

It is advisable to keep high tension tones (#11, #9, 13 etc) high in the chord structure, where they will not clash with 3rds, 5ths, and 7ths in the lower supporting structures

In the final video you will hear the Michigan All-State Jazz Ensemble playing SUPERNOVA. The band is under the direction of Max Colley, Jr.


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