With "Night Moods," bass maestro Anthony Jackson treats us to yet another master class in measured excellence.
Harmonically, the main body of the track undulates between Amaj9 and Fmaj7#11. The transition between these two chords is made with silken ease by cleverly utilizing the A, E and B from Amaj9 as the 3rd, major 7th and #11 of Fmaj7#11 respectively. As such, these two seemingly strange bedfellows end up as bosom buddies.
Check out how AJ almost always ends his phrasing over the Amaj9 chords on the fifth (E), yielding a smooth semitonal step to the Fmaj7#11 chord.
In bar 21, the song takes on a new, darker atmosphere via the simple expedient of altering the Fmaj7#11 chord to an F13#11 - in other words, the exotic-sounding Lydian dominant chord. The introduction of the flattened 7 seems to suggest a shift toward Bb, but perhaps unsurprisingly, this never materializes. Instead, the harmony shifts via another non-resolving dominant chord, G13, to Bmin, which, as the II chord of A major, is at least a move back toward the home key.
"Night Moods" also contains another of AJ's trademarks moves, in which he plays the root of a chord and uses the fifth and sixth below from the related scale to cycle back to the root. (AJ's regular use of this pattern, in many different contexts and styles, is likely due to the influence of James Jamerson, who often used the same idea to set up grooves.)
In the 4-bar section from 21-24, AJ injects some breathing space into the track by briefly adopting a new rhythm and longer note durations. When this section reappears later in bars 55-58, we can see how he uses the same basic figure, but this time slightly embellished to reflect the song's gathering momentum.
In the bridge section from bars 25-31, AJ blurs the underlying harmony by superimposing suggestions of an E triad and a D triad (using a low D brought into play by the detuning of his 4-string bass) over the underlying Bmin chord in bars 25-28. He utilizes a similar idea in bars 28-31 over the underlying C#min chord before the semi-resolution of the F# dominant chord in bar 32.
The song ends over an unchanging Fmaj7#11 chord with the delay-soaked flute repeatedly sounding the #11, reiterating the sound that defines the whole track. (Actually, this fade-out chord is technically an Fmaj13#11, as the 13th often emerges from within the rich morass of harmony.) This 13th chord comprises every note on the white keys of the keyboard, so feel free to slam down any non-black keys at random and be confident they're going to fit.
Having said that, taste and refinement are of course required in any application of theoretical knowledge. As such, if you'd got the call from Arif Mardin to lay down the keyboard tracks on this number and proceeded to simultaneously bang out a couple of octaves-worth of white notes with your forearms and elbows in the lower register of the piano, it's a safe bet you wouldn't be getting a second call. ;-)
Transcription © Stevie Glasgow 2008