i'm serious here.  lately, i've been listening to my favorite guys (gene harris, oscar, monty alexander) and i've struggled with this issue for a while.  i've been listening to a lot of gene harris and pretty much transcribing his songs, and i'm just not seeing a whole lot of modes being used, if at all.  so why should i spend a lot of time which i don't have (i'm not a pro, i do this as a hobby) to learn modes?  i've tried it in the past and it's not a style that i like nor do i want to play like that.  i don't like herbie hancock, miles davis, chick corea.  so do i really need it?

i realize i am going against the thinking of pretty much all of contemporary jazz, but it's the truth.  as far as i can tell (and i may very well be wrong) i don't have to learn all these modes to play teh great american songbook in a bluesy swinging way like the guys i mentioned above.

as for gene, to me, it seems like he pretty much is focusing on the regular blues scale, normal chord theory, and chromatic passing notes.  i think that covers most of it.  oscar's is more difficult for me to analyze because he plays so many notes, but i think it's along the same lines.  i even transcribed a couple of ray kennedy's solos for john pizzarelli, and they were also pretty much regular chord theory with chromatic passing notes.  i don't see any modal stuff.

so why should i learn it?
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i see your point. but...if the tune requires it they too will use some of the modes, like on milestones, which monty plays, he will use aeolian on the bridge, there's not much other choice. or how about the first 16 bars of caravan: 5th mode of f harmonic minor and then f melodic minor.

and the major scale modes are so obvious that you might not realize that they are playing those.

furthermore, peterson, alexander, and harris all play the three diminished scales, the v7 altered scales (happens to be 7th mode of melodic minor), the lydian dominant scales (happens to be 4th mode of melodic minor), the harmonic minor scales (and its 5th mode), the pentatonic minor and major scales, whole tone scales, and melodic minor scales.
i wrote "and the major scale modes are so obvious that you might not realize that they are playing those."  
so of course they are playing ionian, dorian, phrygian, lydian, mixolydian, aeloian and locrian a lot of the time. there's no away around those in straight ahead jazz.

what they might not often play is the 2nd, 3rd and 6th mode of melodic minor. they do play a lot of the 1st, 4th and 7th mode of melodic minor.

so to really play like harris, alexander and peterson (straight ahead) you need to know all the major scale modes and all the melodic minor scale modes except the 2nd 3rd, 5th and 6th. the thing is that if you are going to learn half the melodic minor scale modes it's hard to ignore that you are also learning all of its modes on some level, they go hand in hand.
ok, bear with me here, all of this is not sitting well with me.  if you don't mind, let's stick to gene harris for now since i'm the most familiar with his style.

i guess i don't understand how he is using the modes in his playing.  i don't hear it, i don't see it.  i probably don't understand how modes are used period.  i've read the books.  i know what the modes are.  i can figure out when i see a chord what mode goes along with it.  what the books don't explain is how the modes are actually used in the real world.  and they sure as hell don't explain it for the style of gene harris.

you wrote "he will use aeolian on the bridge, there's not much other choice".  that is interesting to me because it tells me that there is a rule somewhere there.  what are the rules for playing modes?  again, i don't want to go off and start sounding like herbie hancock (even if i could).  i want to keep it very accessible and bluesy.

how does one go about mixing the blues pentatonic scale (which is used heavily in harris' playing), playing modes, or playing just arpeggiated chords?  let's say you see a chord (or chord progression), what is happening in your brain?  do you pick a mode?  do you pick the pentatonic?  do you just pick the literal chord notes?

ideally, in the end result, when you're an expert, you just play what you're singing in your head.  so, how do the modes help you get there?  i'm sure it helps you filter the notes that should be played over a chord progression so that you know what you're limited to when you hear a certain sound or melody.  is that it?
if u do not like herbie hancock, miles davis, chick it is difficult to say what if anything you need study in the jazz idiom anyways.
it's like to say ''i love classical music but i don't like mozart...''

imho
i don't think it's fair to say i don't like the entire jazz genre because i don't appreciate the contemporary, modal jazz genre.  there are several prominent jazz musicians who feel the same way, although i will admit, we are in a very severe minority.  furthermore, most people that are not that familiar with jazz music in the first place will not appreciate modern jazz and the reason for it is that it's not accessible and frankly, difficult to listen to and enjoy.  my friend and mentor houston person, who is a saxophone legend, is adamant about this and feels the same way.  he insists on playing accessible, bluesy, soulful jazz and i've seen him become rather intolerant about things like modal music and double-time, etc.  he is passionate about having jazz retain a dancing feel to it.  he often says that decades ago, jazz was primarily a dancing music, and now it has become something you just sort of sit there and listen to.  i feel the same way.

i'm not judging anyone, i'm just saying what i prefer and what i want to sound like.  i want to play like gene harris and i need to learn the things to do to get there.  it's very difficult finding answers in a jazz community that largely goes against this kind of thinking, but i'm trying.
interesting pieces of music.
right on, 7
we all play modes, whether we realize it or think about them consciously is another thing.
hancock is not a "modal jazz" player just because he wrote a few tunes 40 years ago that explored the modal concept. and knowing and using modes does not make one a modal player. all jazz pianists play some of the modes (dorian, mixolydian, ionian, lydian dominant) whether they know it or not. knowing the modes means you have more understanding of music.
how does gene harris play f7 for four bars on sweet georgia brown if he doesn't use some mixolydian???
the names of the modes are just the greek names given to the scales that all jazz players use every day.

you must be talking about the soular energy album.  i know this recording very well.  i don't see gene playing mixolydian here.  all i hear is blues scale, blues licks, and straight melody with accented color notes.  there are some fast runs in there which i can't analyze right now, maybe those are modes.  but i'd bet money that they aren't necessarily modes, but just one of several licks he has in his pocket.  i say that, because i've heard him repeat licks like that a lot.
i don't think about multiple modes when i see a a single chord on a lead sheet. i think about a mode for each chord if theyare changing tonal centers or if i want more than a vanilla color (all parent major scale) over a i vi ii v or some other changes. in my head, when a chord is suddenly from another tonal center, i visualize the geography of its mode (scale) that association is made in a flash of a microsecond, it feels like automatic and i am not aware that i am thinking, but i am because my brain is reacting and that's still thinking about. that's because i learned my modes in a way so that the chord/scale association come instantly like memorized flash cards. it's pretty effortless at this point. so it only takes a micro center and i think i would have to be unconscious not to be aware of the modal pathways or the layouts on the keys. this is helpful for fingering positions too.

i was listening closely to monty alexander playing satin doll on montreaux alexander last night and when he is not playing his bluesy phrases he is playing major scale with occasional passing tones. the major scale contains dorian, mixolydian. in bars 5 and 6 he plays the mixolydian associated with the dominant chords. notice the "lydian dominant" chord in the turn around.

| c-7 | f7 | dmi7 | g7 |
| gmi7 c7 | f#mi7 b7 | bb | ab7 g7#11 |
not playing the modes from melodic minor limits ones pallet of colors. monty alexander does occasionally use some of the modes from melodic minor along with diminished scales.
i'm not sure if mode are all that useful.  if you know your scales and have a good ear, it's not too difficult to figure out which key signature to play in, because essentially that's all modes are- playing a scale in the key of another scale.

for example, you want a spanish sound?  play an e chord in your left hand and then begin soloing in the right in the key of c.  i don't really care about the mode i'm in, i just know that's the sound i'm looking for.

let's say you're playing impressions or so what where you have a long d minor section and you want to sound "modal".  the sound i'm looking for would be the key of c.

gene harris was a pentatonic player so for the most part, when he was really swinging, you'd hear him getting into the blues scale of the key he was playing in.

monty alexander's playing is also based in the pentatonics for the most part, however he utilizes amazing phrasing to make it shine.
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i remember on some tune chick played an ascending f blues scale over an e7#9 and it sounded cool...so i think, hmmm blues scale half step above sharp 9 chords can be a cool effect -  i guess i could analyze it beyond that, but why?
jazz+, i think you are right about the minor modes and diminished scales.  i'm pretty much just a pentatonic guy, and i know i always have a problem whenever i hit minor chords and diminished, and i get clumsy because in my mind, i don't know what to do there.

scot, thanks for confirming about gene and monty and the pentatonic.  also, i'm relieved to hear that you don't necessarily have to know the modes, but you do have to know the sound you're going for.

one question for all of you:  how come the blues scale is so flexible?  why can you play the pentatonic over a bunch of chord progressions without really changing much and it still sounds like it belongs?  i know that i can often improvise over a long 1-6-2-5 progression without really altering the blues scale i play in.  but i don't know the rules for the blues pentatonic scale, so sometimes i'll hit a progression that's slightly different and i find out that the particular blues scale i chose to play in doesn't work.
how do you know which blues scale is going to work over chord progression?
i have been listening to monty alexander for 30 years and he is not a "pentatonic player". monty plays tons of scale runs often with chromatic passing tones. he will play bebop scales and diminished scales . and the blues scale has 6 notes not 5. pentatonic players noodle on 5 note scales.  mccoy tyner at times plays as a pentatonic player.
i see.  you see!  i don't know any of this stuff, i just do it aimlessly.  when i play, i know that the minor 3rd and flatted 7th pretty much makes it bluesy (throw in the flatted 5th also).

that's why i have to now start understanding exactly what i'm doing so i can be more deliberate and precise in my playing.

monty and gene sound pretty similar to me.  i like gene better because he plays to the crowd much more (in my opinion).  but i can tell that monty's phrasings are more sophisticated than gene's.  mccoy tyner...blah...i don't care too much for him.
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