Dolphin Dance

Here's my take on Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance": 

This is a good example of the old Real Book being WAY off. Over the years, I've gradually amended the changes in the book and, inspired by a discussion of the tune on the RMMGJ news group (Rec Music Makers Guitar Jazz), I finally sat down and picked apart the recording to kind of finalize everything. Here are the chord changes I came up with, based on mainly what Herbie plays over the course of the tune (both chord voicings and the single note choices in his solo) as well as what the bass is playing: 

| Ebmaj7 | Eb7sus | Ebmaj7 | Dm7b5 G7 || 

|| Cm7  | Abmaj7#11 | Cm7 |  Am7 D7   | 

|   Gmaj7  |   Abm7   |    Fm7    |    Fm7     | 

|   Cm7    |   Cm7    |    Am7      |      D7      || 

||  Gmaj7   |  G7sus  |   A/G   |   G7#11    | 

| F7sus  |  D\F   |   F7sus  |  Em7 A7alt   || 

|| Eb7#11 |  Am7 D7 |  Bm7  |  E7 Dm7   | 

|   C#m7  |   F#7  |   Bm7/E   |    Am7/E   | 

| Bm7/E | Am7/E | Eb7sus | Bb7b9/Eb | 

| Abma7b6/Eb | Dm7b5 G7 || 

As you can see, if you compare this to the changes in the Real Book, there are quite a few differences here. First of all, notice that the chord in bar 6 is Lydian, not Lydian dominant. Also, in bars 10, and 11 and 12, the ii-V type progressions as written in the RB should be just plain minor 7th chords. Ditto with bars 13 and 14; the Cm7/Bb is really just Cm7, though the bass occasionally hits a Bb as a leading tone into the Am7 on beat four of the previous measure. 

For the "bridge," I always have played the A/G as Lydian dominant, but upon examination of the recording, I found that Hancock indeed seems to be just sticking to the triad over the bass note, and not one of the soloists plays an F or an F# during that bar, so there's really no telling whether it should be Lydian dom or Lydian. I'm not sure about the solos, but on the head the voicing Hancock plays in bar 20 is definitely a Lydian dominant sound rather than the straight sus4 indicated in the RB. 

Then, in bar 22, the RB says F7sus4, but Hancock's playing basically a D/F and seems to be deriving this from the D half whole diminished scale based on his chord voicings. In bar 24, I indicated A7alt. instead of just plain A7 since I noticed that he always used this voicing, which is the same voicing more-or-less as the next chord, Eb7#11, with the only difference being the bass note. They're both from the Bb melodic minor scale. 

In bar 28, they always seem to play the E7 with a flatted nine and, at one point in Hancock's solo, he plays the Bm7 in the previous bar as a Bm7b5. Starting in bar 33 is an E pedal tone, not a B pedal tone as written in the Real Book. Then, starting in bar 35, the bass goes to an Eb pedal all the way until the last bar of the form where the minor II V leads back to bar 5 for solos. 

The last four bars of the tune are probably the most problematic. The first bar is pretty easy... just Eb7sus (or Bbm7/Eb, if you are used to seeing the Bbm7 in the Real Book). Luckily, in the first chorus of his solo, Hancock plays a bunch of arpeggiated ideas over this section, so it was fairly easy to see what he was thinking harmonically. He's using a rhythmic device that he often employs where he makes it sound like he's superimposing another meter with the arpeggios. It's sort of like quarter note triplets divided into eighth notes. In other words, instead of dividing two beats into three equal parts, he's dividing two beats into six equal parts, but he's adding to the weirdness by using four note groupings, but I'm not sure if he plays it perfectly in time.

On the next bar, he plays an arpeggio pattern from the Bb auxiliary diminished scale. Awhile back, I had noticed that the voicing he used for this bar was basically like a Bb7b9 chord with an Eb in the bass, and using logic, I took the basic scale to be Eb harmonic major, which is simply a major scale with a flatted 6th degree. He's apparently thinking of it as an actual diminished dominant superimposed over a non-diatonic pedal Eb. 

The next bar is the strangest one of the tune and probably the one that the most people disagree on. I noticed that the other soloists pretty much shy away from this bar (empty the spit valve or whatever). Luckily, once again Hancock continues his arpeggio idea over this bar in his first solo chorus. At first, I figured out that the notes he was playing made up two minor triads a half step apart, C minor and Db minor, and I thought maybe he was just sort of thinking of this as a six note scale that the chord was derived from. Then, I noticed that his chord voicing in this bar most of the time contained a Bb which isn't in either of those two triads. Then, when I put all seven notes together, I realized I had Ab, Bb, C, Db, Eb, E(Fb), and G, which is an Ab major scale with a flat 6th, or the Ab harmonic major scale. 

I figured out that a good way to get the basic "sound" Hancock was getting with his chord voicings was to play an Abmaj7 chord and add the E natural to it. An easy way to do this on guitar is to play a drop 2 Abmaj7 voicing on the middle four strings with Eb on the bottom (Eb, 5th string, Ab, 4th string, C, 3rd string, G, 2nd string), and add an open high E. You could also play that Abmaj9 that a lot of people play on the middle four strings at the 11th fret (Ab, 5th string, C, 4th string, G, 3rd string, and Bb, 2nd string) combined with the open E (though, with this voicing, you have to rely on the bass to cover the Eb pedal note). 

This is what I would call a "vertical modal" tune. I first heard this term in a class taught by Ron Miller at the University of Miami. At the time, I thought he coined the term, but I've heard other people use it since then (though maybe they got it from him). Anyway, the idea is that it's a modal tune in the sense that it doesn't really follow "normal" conventions for a show-tune-type jazz standard of diatonic chords or chords borrowed from a closely related key, and it's "vertical" because the chords move around fairly fast, as opposed to something like "Maiden Voyage" which would be (in Ron Miller's terminology) "plateau modal" because the chords last a lot longer. "Dolphin Dance" is a little bit less "modal" than some tunes because it sort of hints at being from an Eb major/C minor tonality, but I still think it meets the minimum requirements.