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Cool, Hard Bop, and Modal Jazz


Modal Jazz

III. Modal Jazz

jazz images 1

Miles Davis

jazz images 2

Charles Mingus

jazz images 3

Pharoah Sanders

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soprano saxophone

A. an outgrowth of Cool and Hard Bop


a precursor to the imminent Free Jazz movement (see Lesson Plan 7) was modal jazz, that is, jazz based on a limited number of modes (particular musical scales), as opposed to a progression of changing chords 

B. an emotional rebirth


Several avid hard bop players (e.g. John Coltrane), after struggling with drug addiction and experiencing spiritual rebirth, focused on modal playing, concentrating on agitated rhythms and distorted timbres as opposed to “making the changes” (i.e., having their improvised notes “fit” the chords); without having to be concerned with chord progressions, modal jazz musicians were freer to concentrate more on emotional content 

C. the first important Modal Jazz recording


Miles Davis’ 1959 release, Kind of Blue; it featured simple melodies and modal harmony, reflecting both cool emotion and hard edge haunted Hard Bop timbres. It became and remains the best selling jazz album of all time. 

D. important figures



John Coltrane, alto sax (1926-1967)

watch video Video of John Coltrane playing "Impressions" (1961) 



Miles Davis, trumpet (1926-1991)

watch video Video of Miles Davis performing "So What" (1959) 



George Russell, piano (1923-2009) 

E. Play


Impressions, John Coltrane (IHJ), and/or All Blues, Miles Davis (JIA), and/or Footprints, Miles Davis (JIA) 

Audio Snippets

speakerspacer ALL BLUES - Miles Davis
speakerspacer Footprints - Miles Davis Quintet

Video Clips

videospacer Herbie Hancock - Cantaloupe Island
videospacer John Coltrane - Impressions
videospacer Miles Davis - So What
the Herbie Hancock institute of jazz
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