Nuages

Will Patton

This time around we will have a look at Django Reinhardt's "Nuages", a hauntingly beautiful Gypsy jazz ballad. The melody is dark and richly chromatic, and is a great vehicle for an expressive tremolo. Once you have become familiar with this melody to the point where you can really sing it and feel it, don't be afraid to take liberties with the phrasing and the dynamics. It should be played with great feeling.

It is the chord progression, however, that I'd really like to focus on. This kind of chord scrutiny is best done at the piano. The tune alternates between minor and major tonalities. Notice that the first chord is an Eb 9, in the key of G major. At first the ear is not quite sure what the key is, but then the minor II-V-I (A-7b5 / D7b9 / G maj.) brings us to the G major. Be aware of the notes in common between the Eb9 and the A-7b5 (Eb & G), as well as the notes that move (Bb to A, Db to C). Also look at the A-7b5 to D7b9 chord change in this way: only one note really changes, G to F#). These subtle shifts in color, as well as the tri-tone movement in the bass (Eb / / / A / D /) can be very helpful in understanding how to create a solo. Also the minor IIm7b5 / V7b9 usually resolves to a minor chord, and the major nature of the G maj. 7 should be emphasized.

The progression continues in a straightforward way. Note the 1/2 step slip on the A7 in measure 13, a typical Djangoesque touch. Measures 21-24 echo the opening chord changes a fourth higher.

The C minor to G major change in measures 25-27 is the emotional high point of the tune, and when played with feeling has been known to make people fall in love on the spot.

When comping on this tune, play with an even quarter note feel, with a slight emphasis on the two and four. Try to find someone to play the changes along with you, or record yourself on rhythm and play along with the tape. Hearing the melody against the chords will reveal the many harmonic nuances of this great song.

Will Patton