The beautiful jazz ballad “Blue in Green” is a jazz piano staple. First appearing on Miles Davis’ classic jazz album “Kind of Blue” in 1959, the song is often attributed to jazz piano hero Bill Evans (though Miles Davis is credited as the composer, many believe Bill Evans played a large role in the composition of this song). In this article we’ll take a look at how to play this piece as a solo piano arrangement. We’ll go through the first few measures and discuss some advanced jazz techniques in the style of Bill Evans to help you create some beautiful, lush piano chords. And don’t forget to check out the complete Blue in Green lesson!
Blue In Green: The Major 7 #11 Chord
Let’s check out the first 4 measures of “Blue in Green.” What do you notice in measure 1?
The ‘E’ in the melody represents the #11 on the Bb major 7th chord, an upper extension that is sometimes used on major 7th chords in jazz. It’s a sound that has some inherent conflict and tension. Here’s a great way to harmonize major 7th chords with #11 – think of a major triad built a whole-step above the root of the chord.
Let’s break that down. We’ll harmonize this Bb major 7th chord by simply playing a chord shell in the left hand (root, 3rd, 7th). In the right hand, we’ll harmonize the ‘E’ by thinking of it as part of a C major triad – i.e., a major triad built a whole-step above Bb. Notice how much beautiful, lush harmony we now have in this chord voicing. The ‘E’ = #11; ‘C’ = 9th; ‘G’ = 13th.
Blue In Green: The ‘A7’ Chord in Measure 2
Let’s look now at measure 2 in which we see an ‘A7’ chord with a ‘C’ natural in the melody. Hmm? What is the ‘C’ natural in relation to A7? The answer is that this note represents the #9. In jazz, dominant 7th chords frequently include lots of upper extensions (things like 9ths, 11ths, an 13ths). These chords can also include altered extensions (things like #9, #11, and b13), such as the #9 we see here. So how will we harmonize this chord and create a lush, dense voicing?
Again, we start simply with a left hand chord shell – A, E, and G, the root, 5th, and 7th. In the right hand we will harmonize the chord by playing an F major triad. Why F major? Using the 3 notes which make up an F major triad we get some great altered extensions over the A7 harmony (F = b13; A = root; C = #9). Of course, we still need the 3rd of the chord (C#) so we include this tone by playing it with our right hand.
Blue In Green: The D Minor 7 Chord in Measure 3
One last quick little tip for harmonizing minor 7th chords – you can create a very cool (and Bill Evans-style sound) by voicing these chords in 4ths. Let’s take a look at the D minor 7 chord.
Notice the intervals of a 4th from ‘D’ to ‘G’ to ‘C’ to ‘F.’ Of course, the melody (the ‘A’) is only a 3rd above ‘F’. This particular voicing is identical to the D minor 7 voicing Bill Evans used on “So What,” another tune from Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue.”