Joseph Befuno

Exotic Scales: New Horizons for Jazz Improvisation, Inc., 2002

The forward to this new scale book raises an important issue­how to creatively and systematically explore harmonic structures underlying modern Jazz. At page 47, the author reiterates this theme, "assimilating even the smallest fraction of this material is guaranteed to get your playing out of the doldrums and into new harmonic territory."

Readers will need to decide for themselves whether the author has accomplished his stated goal.  This is not another fast-track improvisation book; a substantial amount of time and outside research is required to fully assimilate the material presented. Adding to the task is the absence of a substantial glossary and thematic index, and a tendency to rely on grid-like presentations of interval structures, which at times makes reading difficult.  

Exhaustive descriptions of intervals, "exotic" or otherwise, are successful only to the extent that they yield expressive content.  While the techniques presented here may yield new avenues of expression­witness the performances on the companion CD, in MIDI format­readers should bear in mind that creative improvisation is often the result of multiple influences.  This book addresses only the surface of a very complex subject.

While this material is accessible to students of all levels­a knowledge of musical notation and theory is not required­the notion of overlaying or superimposing so-called "outside" scales on diatonic chord sequences may baffle certain students. And while it is entirely valid to challenge conventional harmonic structures, issues of polytonality cannot be introduced without reference to the works of European composers. The "Ravel" scale mentioned at page 36 does not necessarily describe that composer's harmonic practice.  

by  James D. Armstrong, Jr.

Editor, Music in Transition

Back to Contents Page
Jazz Now Interactive

Copyright Jazz Now, September 2002 issue, all rights reserved