-Lesson 98: Trumbauer

This past week in my Jazz Theory and Performance class at KU we looked at a solo recorded in 1927 by Saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer.  The entire solo is fantastic, but in this lesson we’ll look at just one idea that he played which  I found interesting in that it uses a concept introduced in lesson 41 Shell + Tension.  The line is over a dominant 7th chord and jumps from the natural 9 up to the natural 13 (2 upper-structure tensions) followed by the “shell” of the chord (3, 1, b7).  This melody can also be deconstructed into 5 note cell i.e. the “shell” (1, 3, b7) plus the natural 9 and the natural 13.


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This group of 5 notes, a type of dominant 7th pentatonic that includes 1, 9, 3, 13, b7, can be used to improvise over a dominant 7th, natural 9, natural 13 chord.  First play Trumbauer’s melody around the circle of 4ths to get comfortable with the sound, rhythm, shape and basic structure, than work on improvising using just the 5 note cell (pentatonic).

Below is Frankie Trumbauer’s Sing’n The Blues solo; The short phrase we’ll work with in this lesson can be heard at the 8 second mark:

Once you’re comfortable with Trumbauer’s melody, try practicing the pentatonic scale abstracted from the line, the challenge for me with this scale is that it has no 5th and jumps from the major 3rd up to the natural 13.  Lastly, practice improvising with just these 5 notes over all 12 dominant 7th chords.  The restricted use of just these 5 notes while improvising will help you find new and interesting melodies that you might overlook if you allow yourself all the notes of the Lydian Dominant or Mixolydian scale.

Lesson 98: Trumbauer PDF

Below is a midi mp3 of the PDF above: