A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“Day Waves” is a Latin-style tune composed by Chick Corea. It’s on the Stan Getz album Captain Marvel. Recorded in 1972, Captain Marvel is an interesting album because it features an artist from en earlier generation, tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, playing with a group of younger musicians who led him in new and different musical directions. To his credit, Getz included a number of Corea’s compositions on the album.

Here is a recommended recording:
(for international readers who may not have access to this YouTube link, I’ve indicated the original album name so you can listen to the recording on music streaming services, etc.)

Stan Getz: Captain Marvel

With Chick Corea on piano

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
Harmonically, “Day Waves” reflects Corea’s interest in chord inversions, which permeate so much of his writing. Rather than simply let the bass line move from chord root to chord root, Corea will sometimes specify exactly which chord tone he wants in the bass. This affects the composition in several ways. First, it gives the bass line a melodic, often step-wise, motion in counterpoint to the melody that it would not otherwise have. Secondly, the having the 3rd of 5th in the bass, instead of the root, gives an entirely different “feel” or weight to the harmony. Sometimes a chord will sound “lighter,” sometimes it sounds a little surprising, and sometimes the new bass line will give a given chord sequence more forward motion than if only roots were played.

In “Day Waves,” the Eb7(#11) chord in m.12 is an example of Chick’s use of inversions to surprise us harmonically, instead of using the chord in a traditional, “functional” sense. Even though the preceding G7sus4 chord can be seen as moving down a major 3rd to the Eb7 chord, it also works on another level entirely, since there’s a G bass note under both chords. The effect is as if the Eb7(#11) kind of grows out of the G7sus4 chord, as if it’s still a ‘G’ chord of some kind, with altered notes. But at the same time, yes, it’s an Eb7 chord a major 3rd lower than G7. After this, Chick uses a combination of chord roots and inversions to create a chromatically descending bass line that can be felt as relaxing, or stabilizing, after the excitement of the tune’s first half.

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

Further links and resources:
Captain Marvel (album): Wikipedia

Day Waves: Journey Through The Real Book #82

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