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Yazoo Basin Boogie

Dernière mise à jour : 26 nov. 2018

Listen to Yazoo Basin Boogie:

The river Yazoo is a tributary of the Mississippi, the two rivers forming a delta. It was called Yazoo by the French explorer Robert La Salle in 1682, in reference to the Yazoo tribe which was living near the river’s mouth. Because of the weather in this region and the number of tornadoes, it is a relatively dangerous river and the flow of the Yazoo must be controlled by many basins. During the XIXth century, this river played a strategic role in cotton growing and in the American Civil War.

Like most Boogies, Yazoo Basin almost follows the same chords changes as the Blues changes. Written in the key of D major in a ternary time measure (12/8), it is made up of 3 parts A, B and C of 12 measures each:

Part A A B C A

Measures 1 to 12 13 to 24 25 to 36 37 to 48 49 to 60

Nb. meas. 4+4+4 4+4+4 8+4 4+4+4 4+4+4

As it is the case in many Boogies, the last 4 measures of each part are repeated almost the same and bring unity to the music.

Part A:

The 4 first measures are based on the DM6 tonic chord. Note the opposite motion between melody and bass. It is known that opposite motion can support much more dissonant intervals than parallel motion.

The bass follows a typical Boogie line going from root to root, which could be compared for example to the Weary blues bass: the root, 3rd, 5th and 6th going upward in the first measure, and then the same pattern but in a retrograde downward motion in measure 2 (root, 6th, 5th, 3rd and root).

The melody is a typical Blues pattern: downward chromatic passing thirds from fa#-la to mi-sol. Let’s note that in most cases, this process is rather used in bass register.

The combination of the 2 lines, the treble one with passing tones and the bass with available real chord tones, both creates a dissonant effect but also a real chord.

Indeed, the last beat of measure 1 can be understood as a B° chord, because of the natural F in the melody, approach note of F#. This chord may play the same role as the D° (I°) chord which is often used in Ragtime, Blues or Boogie. The 2 last beats of the treble line in measure 1 can be heard as a double approach of the 1st beat of measure 2 (ré-fa#).

Measure 3 is the repetition of measure 1, but in measure 4, the melody and bass play parallel downward 3rd on the D7 chord (I7). To bring variation, note the neighbor tones on the 2 last beats of the melody. This D7 chord is calling for G6.

Measures 5 to 8: Measures 5 and 6 are based on the GM6 chord. Note the passing A on the 2nd beat of the bass line. Measure 7 uses the same chords as in measure 1 (DM and B°), with the B in the bass and the chromatic motion F to F# in the melody. In measure 8, the approach note F is played again. Note the double anticipation of the A7 chord (the 6th mi-do#) on the last beat of measure 8.

Measures 9 to 12: These are the 4 measures which will be repeated at the end of each part (A, B and C). In measure 9, the A7 chord appears only with chord tones but with great rhythm between treble and bass. On the last beat of the bass, note the approach note A#. This one goes to B on the first beat of measure 10.

This measure is based on the first inversion of the G7 chord (G7/B). Measure 11 uses the same famous Blues pattern as the melody in measure 1. But this time it is written in the bass line. Measure 12 is a final conclusive one with chords I and V (DM and AM). However note the repetition of the chromatic double approach in 6th of the 5th and 3rd of the AM chord (re#-si# going to mi-do#) already heard in measure 8.

Part B:

Measures 25 to 32: These 8 measures are written on the DM6 chord. From measures 25 to 28, the bass follows the same line as measures 1 and 2 while the treble line alternates between ré and fa# (root and 3rd) in quarter notes rhythm.

In measures 29 and 30 the melody almost plays the same pattern as in measure 10, but this time over a D bass (and so the natural F becomes an augmented 9th!).

In measures 31 and 32, the melody follows a downward motion on the DM6 chords tones from root to root, with a chromatic passing natural F between F# and E.

Measures 33 to 36 are the same as 9 to 12, but with some modifications in rhythm (2nd beat of measure 34, and beats 2, 3 and 4 of 35). Indeed, the rhythm of the pattern in measure 11 on the DM6 (with quarter notes) may sound this time too conclusive.

Part C:

Measures 37 to 40: The melody plays the same pattern as in measure 10, but this time it is transposed on the DM6 chord tones (5th, 6th and 7th). At the end of measure 38, note the chromatic approach E# of the DM 3rd F#.

Measures 41 and 42: it is the same as in measure 10. These measures are probably based on the inversion G7/B. Indeed, at the end of measure 40, the chromatic approach A# of B may show this chord is GM/B.

Measures 45 to 48: it’s the same 4 measures again (9 to 12) with rhythmic modifications in measures 46 and 47. Note that the first beat of measure 47 is on a first inversion of DM.

What can we learn from Yazoo basin Boogie? Don’t forget…

What brings unity?

The 12 measures Blues changes form

The repetition of the last 4 measures in each part

Repetition and transposition of some patterns (like measure 10, or the Boogie bass of measure 1)

What brings peculiarity?

Typical Blues formulas (approach notes, chromatism between chord tones, use of the I° chord, parallel chromatic 3rd or 6th…)

Specific use of traditional processes (downward Blues 3rd in melody instead of bass in measure 1)

The use of G7/B instead of G7

What brings variety?

Modifications of the Blues chord changes in each part (simplification or enhancement of the harmonic rhythm)

The use of parallel and opposite motions

Rhythmic variations in the repeated last 4 measures

Melodic embellishments (for example neighbor tones)

The use of different registers (for example measure 29 compared to measure 37)

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