Join Pete Callard as he continues his exploration of the charismatically jazzy, instantly recognisable and surprisingly versatile Whole-Tone scale.
Last issue we looked at fingering options for the Whole-Tone scale and Augmented chords and triads, and checked out some Whole-Tone patterns. To recap: the Whole- Tone scale contains six notes, all a tone apart. Due to this intervallic construction there is only one shape of the Whole-Tone scale - in which every note can be considered the root - and thus only two different Whole-Tone scales (one starting on C and one on Db; between them they contain all 12 notes of the Chromatic scale). This month we’re going to be investigating applications of the scale and examining how jazz greats have employed it.
As we discovered last time, harmonising the Whole-Tone scale gives us an Augmented triad, but that’s not the only chord for which the scale can be used. The formula of Whole-Tone is 1-2-3-#4-#5-b7, which gives us the components of a dominant 7th chord (1-3-b7) plus the option of an altered 5th (b5 or #5). Thus Whole-Tone is an option on an altered dominant chord and, as we know, any dominant 7th chord resolving to I can be altered; therefore Whole-Tone can be used on any resolving dominant 7th chord. Example 1 demonstrates this, incorporating the scale into a couple of simple II-V-I lines in C, followed by a more sophisticated pattern on a V-I in Eb from Chuck Wayne (Ex 2). As we broached last time, Augmented arpeggios a tone apart are also a great way to outline the Whole-Tone scale, so Examples 3 and 4, featuring lines from Kenny Burrell and Joe Pass, focus on this.
Another application for Whole-Tone is ‘up a semitone over a minor 7 chord’. Although starting on a b2, the scale would then give us b3, 4, 5, 6 and maj7 - all notes from the Melodic Minor scale. This is particularly effective used as an ‘outside’ sound, so I’ve put together a couple of manageable lines over an Am7 chord moving from Am7 to Bb Whole-Tone and back to Am7 (Ex 5). For Ex 6, Michael Brecker demonstrates these approaches on a short III-VI-II-V-I in C, using Eb Whole-Tone over the Dm7 which becomes G Whole-Tone on the G7.
Example 7, a great Hank Mobley line, introduces another area for examination. Mobley takes a four-note grouping moving down a tone (with a chromatic passing note), then a major 3rd, and takes it down in whole steps over the II (Dm7) and V (G7) chords before resolving to I (Cmaj7). What is interesting is that, leaving aside chromatic passing notes, all the notes in the first two bars are from the G Whole-Tone scale, but because of the point in the scale at which Mobley starts, the first bar is completely ‘inside’ - with all the notes also in D Dorian - until the final Eb. The second bar then gets progressively ‘out’ over the G7, but all the notes can be seen as chord tones and alterations of G7. Ex 8 expands on this idea,
This month we’re going to be examining how the jazz greats have employed the Whole-Tone scale.
using four-note sequences over a II-V-I in C. Example 9, from Michael Brecker, suggests using Whole-Tone as a framework for a series of descending major triads.
To close we see examples of Whole-Tone used specifically as an ‘outside’ sound. Example 10 has Bud Powell coming straight down Db Whole-Tone over the C7 and F7 chords, resolving to F7 with the last three notes; while in Example 11 Sonny Rollins uses E Whole-Tone with chromatic passing notes over the Em7 and first beat of the A7 on a II-V-I in D. For Example 12, a V-I in C, the great Joe Pass starts in Ab Whole-Tone over the G7, while our blistering final line, from the excrucuatingly brilliant Wayne Krantz (Example 13), is basically a masterclass in Whole-Tone playing. Have fun!
The great Wayne Krantz with his James Tyler guitar