Kurt Rosenwinkel and Jonathan Kreisberg Transcription Study: Part 3

Here is part 3 of my studies on Kurt Rosenwinkel and Jonathan Kreisberg.

I extracted 8 concepts for improvisation from my transcriptions of these two great players and then composed the concepts into my own lines (as written ‘soli’) over newly composed harmonic progressions.

The effect that this had on my playing was massive! I really struggled with playing the same ideas over and over and so this approach helped me think of new ways of playing my (rather stale!) vocabulary, rhythmically, harmonically and melodically. Please feel free to download the PDF of my studies (Transcription, actual study text and MP3 recordings of my tunes).

Enjoy and please leave comments!

‘Windows’ is a fast 3/4 swing (220 – 230bpm) by Chick Corea. Again the soloist
improvises over the melody form.

line of interest windows

Uncommon triadal superimposition: On beat 2 of bar 3 Kreisberg superimposes a first inversion C# major triad arpeggio against the traditional harmonic framework (B Dorian or possibly Melodic minor is commonly used here). This is what many practitioners refer to as sounding ‘out’, where a soloist will deliberately choose to play notes against the written changes. When a soloist resolves to (or stays on the strong tones of) the changes it is loosely termed ‘in’ or ‘inside’ playing.
Use of advanced harmonic language: After the ascent of the line (beat 1+ of bar 4), the C# major triad changes to an A# minor triad which is a semitone below the B minor tonic chord. This can be derived from the F# Harmonic Major scale but could also be the utilisation of chromatic ‘side slipping’.
Linear non resolution: The passage of notes does not resolve within the bar or in the measures following by linear means; instead chords are sounded to ground the listener in the original (extant) harmony of B minor.

interpreted passages

Triadal superimposition: To begin I have inserted a F minor triad arpeggio against the Ami11 (‘out’ sound) at bar 9, acting as a dom7V sub derived from E altered (could also be interpreted as an Ab6, in an anticipation of the harmony at bar 10), then utilised two 7-10-11 clusters on the Bmi11 and Gmi11 to imply a resolve (‘inside’ sound). Over the Abma7 at bar 10 I have superimposed an Ami triad arpeggio (outside) in a restatement of the harmony of the preceding bar which moves through a chromatic Eb to an inverted G major triad over the Fmi chord (outside). This infers a Lydian minor sound (C Harmonic minor or C Harmonic major 4th mode) which is chordally resolved at the end of bar 10 by a 3-5-9 voicing of Fmi9 (inside). I have started bar 11 ‘inside’ with a Cmi9 (or Ebma7) arpeggio which descends chromatically to a D maj triad arpeggio (outside) against the Eb sus (normally a Db/Eb would be used here). Bar 12 begins ‘inside’ with a G major triad arpeggio then continues this arpeggio against the C/Db (outside). Bar 13 is all ‘out’ harmony (unresolved within the bar), with an F# major arpeggio against the Emi13, an A# minor arp against the Bmi11 and a G# minor arp against the Gmi11. These triads have all been used to state the diatonic but unrelated harmony of three F# major derived triads (I, II and III), against the changes with the purpose of using harmonic particles that are strongly related to each other (and therefore relatively melodic) but not related to the written chord changes in a primary tonal sense. This could be further described as ‘tonal centre superimposition’. It is possible to derive a set of chords and tonal centres that relate to the changes (even if they modulate), then play notes from a tonal centre outside of these possible choices. Bar 14 is ‘out-in-in-in’ with a G major triad chord played against the F minor but quickly resolved to an Ab minor over F (Fmi7) then arpeggios that are inside the Cmi and Ab7 chord scales. Bars 15 and 16 use an ‘out-in’ form through usage of triad chords that quickly resolve.

Use of advanced harmonic language: Repetitive usage of Harmonic minor and Harmonic major derived triads which can be further developed into usable jazz language upon practice and application.

This was an interesting conceptual study in that it posed many questions about melody; some being: How is melody that is ‘outside’ made to sound ‘right’ to a listener? What are some basic guidelines to melodic inside and outside principles? If every possible tone is related to every possible other tone or set of tones (chords) in some way then how do we define truly out playing? Some answers could be thus:
• The terms ‘in’ and ‘out’ are only useful in a general, subjective sense: harmonically advanced players may hear and use many sounds beyond diatonic or (clustered / unrelated / heavily altered or substituted harmony) which to them is ‘inside’ material but to others may be too dissonant to grasp or relate to and is therefore termed ‘outside’.
• Generally, if an outside line resolves to an inside sound within a certain physical time frame (as in a few seconds but not necessarily within one bar), the casual listener accepts its usage.
• With study, ‘in/out’ forms may be described for any set of chords; this could be any tonal centre (T.C) that has no direct relationship with the written chord set diatonically, or chords drawn from this foreign T.C.

bars 65 72 of the solo

Musical concepts extracted:

• Chromatic usage: Insertion of descending chromatic tones between the 7th and 6th, 6th and 5th, 3rd and 2nd and 2nd and tonic scale degrees of E maj throughout entire passage.
• Extended continuous passages: Linear passage begins at beat two of bar 65 and continues into bar 73. This could be a particular line or lick of Kreisberg’s or a series of interconnected fragments of practiced vocab.
• Traditional passages in modern form: Kreisberg plays ‘traditional vocab lines’ found commonly in 4/4 time but over this 3/4 meter these lines anchor, pivot or change direction on the weaker downbeats (beats 2 or 3) in most bars. This creates a harmonic pulse in rhythmically unexpected places (rhythmic tension).

after rythimic tension

Chromatic usage: Insertion of descending chromatic tones throughout further developed by using ascending tones over bars 21-23.
Extended continuous passages: Linear passage begins on beat one of bar 17 and continues into bar 20.
Traditional passages in modern form: I have inserted traditional vocab lines over the 7/4 meter of this piece which anchor on the strong beats (beat 1, beat 4 and 6) throughout bars 17-21. Then, to create rhythmic pulse tensions I have utilised chromatics that run through change points (thereby not indicating the strong beats or change points) and also broken the 8th note passages up over bars 21-23. I have also stated a rhythmic fragment in bar 24 that is repeated in a displaced manner.

Post recording summary of Rosen Koncept

Rosen Koncept is a total of 40 bars, comprised of 5 lots of 8 bar progressions, each of which correspond to one set of extracted concepts. These were developed and reworked into my own conceptual ideas, on which I based the lines that are written in this final solo. The concepts I utilised are summarised here.

Concept set 1: Intervallic usage, Fragmented scale usage, Semitonic resolution, Out of phase harmonic anchor pulse points. Instead of picking up into the solo form I have started on beat one of the first chord in my new progression. The chords are modulating in a transitional fashion back towards an imagined A major resolution at bar 5 but then a true modulation into Db min takes place. I have sculpted my lines so that over each bar (and the entire measure of 8 bars), the melodic structure of all the notes combined is lyrical and yet the conceptual ideas I have extracted from Rosenwinkel’s original solo are in tact and recognisable. A common element of strong resolution within the melodic structure of a line is when the tonic, 3rd, 5th and 7th of a chord are played on the strong beats (downbeats). Here, this melodic concept is developed by anticipating (playing the preceding weak beat) or delaying (playing the following weak beat) these stronger harmonic tones (1, 3, 5 or 7) onto weaker rhythmic beats. The melody is still stated, even if a little earlier or later than expected, so to the listener’s ear the line is still functional.

Concept set 2: Poly rhythmic grouping, Pattern utilisation and development, Out of phase harmonic anchor pulse points. While obviously derived from Rosenwinkels’ lines, this particular reinterpretation of the ‘scalar transformation concept’ explains how a scale may be practiced in isolation using mathematically applied formulae such as 1-4-5, 2-5-6, 3-6-7 etc. Using this tool, a player may derive many non traditional (nontertian) fragments or ‘germs’ of initial ideas that may be applied across modulating or unrelated harmonic contexts and may also group these in non-linear resolution rhythmic forms (grouping across singular or multiple bars or measures). This is a common
element of Rosenwinkel’s improvisations, where he combines these concepts into a flowing organic note structure that whilst giving the impression of tension or dissonance still ends up sounding musical.

Concept set 3: Pattern usage with large intervallic and scale fragments, Pattern inversion, Rhythmic displacement. From this set of concepts I have extracted one particularly valuable idea; an arpeggiotic description of major 13, minor 13 and dominant 13 chord families by way of 1-5-9-10-13-14 (Rosenwinkel) or 1-6-9-10-13-17-14 (Nacey) formulae. These arpeggios outlines both primary tones and extensions in a manner which is inherently melodic and can be utilised directly into an improvising situation that uses major 13, minor 13 or dominant 13 chords (or simplified primary chords where these extensions are applicable).

Another musical idea is generated here: the usage of tertian arpeggios sounds more melodic when the initial arpeggio is played ascending (or descending) then when the next harmony set (chord change etc) occurs, the opposite motion is used. So there is a ‘pivot’ (change of direction in the flow of notes) usually on or near the chord change point in the bar. In this way (which I have termed ‘close movement’), the melodic imprint is more ‘flowing’ from one sound to the next rather than intervallic and ‘jarring’.

Utilised in combination this concept set can be useful in diatonic situations or if the harmony is transitioning or modulating.

Concept set 4: Continuous subdivided passages, Odd groupings, Pattern embellishment / resolution. Using continuous passages of triplet quarter notes in a 5/4 meter has a destabilising (rhythmically tense) feel; unless (and this is rare) the division of the bar is a minim (2), minim (2), quarter note pulse (1). Commonly a 5/4 bar will be divided 3:2 or into two lots of 5/8 so the triplet quarter note rhythm, which resolves every two beats, fights against this common pulse. I carried the pattern through the first four bars of the measure (25-28) then reversed and broke the pattern up rhythmically which, again, has a particularly tense rhythmic feel. There are three separate rhythmic layers at work here: the meter, the pulse and the grouping which must be taken into consideration when creating practice routines around these concepts. A student must insert these rhythmic ideas into a harmonic context and then assess whether the overall result is melodic and musical (is it creating tension, developing an idea, creating a dynamic within the solo).

Concept set 5: Grouping against pulse, Transitional pattern modulation via superimposition. To precede a chord change (such as the I minor changing to the IV minor), Rosenwinkel commonly substitutes a functional chord at a point after the initial harmony has been stated, over which he superimposes notes that outline a new chord or master scale. This acts as a transitional catalyst into the coming harmonic change. While this is common practice for jazz improvisation, interestingly the harmony used as a transitional function is not limited to a dominant chord, routinely used when moving towards a chord a 4th above – particularly in a minor blues. Again, Rosenwinkel applies
the concept of grouping notes in an uneven fashion against the pulse. This is a great tool for rhythmic tension which I utilised by taking the 5/4 meter, dividing it into triplet 8ths and then using 5 note groupings of a scalar pattern over the chord changes.

Post recording summary of Kreisbergian Mindset

Kreisbergian Mindset is 24 bars in total, broken down into 3 lots of 8 bar progressions each of which correspond to one set of extracted concepts. These were then developed and reworked into my own conceptual ideas, on which I based the lines that are written in this final solo. The concepts I utilised are summarised here.

Concept set 6: Displacement, Development by melodic rhythm insertion. The rhythmic displacement of melodic ideas can be achieved mathematically; an improviser may take a fragment of a line and begin the line at any or all of the other possible divided points in the bar. Composing musically sensible and melodic passages (rather than ‘mathematical / patternistic’ sounding passages) using displacement as a tool might then be developed by inserting notes or rests in an organic fashion.

While this seems arbitrary, a good method could be as follows: define the set of
possible start points for a given linear fragment (say 3 consecutive 8th notes) into a selected bar division (say quarter note down beats) then practice each displaced fragment in isolation (repeatedly playing the fragment on beat one for some time then play the fragment on beat two etc). Repeat this step now with each bar consecutively (starting the first 3 8th notes on beat one, bar two the pattern begins on beat 2 etc) and examine the spaces between the notes (this will be a three and a half quarter notes). In these spaces insert improvised linear fragments of unequal value (longer or shorter) and of varying harmonic content. Repeat until thoroughly practiced, write out / record and evaluate the most ‘organic’ or musically appropriate set of passages.

Concept set 7: Triadal superimposition, Use of advanced harmonic language.
Superimposition in this context is playing harmony that is not diatonically or consonantly relative to the written chords. There are many possibilities for triadal superimposition over any given chord; considering function, alteration of chord by interval etc. To find a way to apply this concept, an improviser could define the set of diatonically relative chords (from mode scales) and consonant variations then use this ‘first level’ of substitutions: major triads based of the points that are not diatonically in the scale. The same could be done for all the non relative minor triads. For any major scale derived harmony there would be 9 non relative major and minor triads (there are 3 strongly related major / minor triads in any major key centre). Once this is described and practiced (tonic note against all ‘outside’ triadal superimpositions) a set of ‘harmonic conclusions’ may be drawn from the subjective point of view of the improviser and then applied into appropriate contexts (musical moments where the improviser ‘hears’ them).

Concept set 8: Subdivision, Chromatic usage, Traditional passages in modern form. Playing continuous notes at tempo is not a new idea, (bebop artists were playing in this fashion as long as 70 years ago) but the language (the structure of notes used, the order and direction of notes, the rhythmic groupings etc) is constantly being developed. Here I utilised scale fragments, arpeggio tones, inside and outside playing, chromaticisms, rhythmic groupings and common jazz vocabulary to create a continuous passage of notes with a mix of both modern and traditional approaches. A great method to develop an improvisers ‘personalized language’.

‘Conceptual extraction method’ formula: transcribe selected piece(s) note for note,
isolate and mark passages of interest, extract the concept(s) from the chosen lines, write a new context (different from the original), compose original linear passages and insert them into the new context, practice the passages (and the harmonic framework), record and analyse.

I have extracted many concepts and discovered methods for the application and development of these concepts into new musical contexts. While the concepts are certainly useful in isolation, there is a much greater overall effect when they are merged together in certain combinations (described above as concept sets). Once written into a selected harmonic and rhythmic context by way of linear passage, they must be practiced, recorded and analysed to be truly effective as improvising tools or practicing methods.

I believe this research holds great value for instrumentalists interested in improvising in a modern jazz form and for researchers interested in deconstructing and analysing modern jazz improvisation.

I am interested in refining my work here through future research by way of; further development of modern improvising tools by conceptual extraction, other instrument transcription and developing singular concepts into multiple usages through derived practice methods.

[Content below protected for Premium members only]

Are you a free member yet?
Learn more from Dixon Nacey
ENTER EMAIL to access our FREE LESSONS section as well as updates about upcoming lesson releases.


  1. steve vanderhorst says:

    Slowly going through this…not a great reader, but get there eventually. Thanks Dix.

    • dixonnacey says:

      great Steve – just had baby boy number 3 and he’s settling down, plus set up little home studio so we are back in action and ready to put up heaps of content for you. Let me know if you need anything!

Speak Your Mind