Good Bye Pork Pie Hat (Charlie Mingus)

In Good Bye Pork Pie Hat, Scales, Technics on April 2, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Analysis: Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

Goodbye Pork Pie hat is a 12-bar form consisting of three four-bar phrases, in the key of F minor. The melody tends to outline an F blues scale. when viewed as four-bar phrases, the first and second phrases of the melody are not as similar to each other as you’d expect in a traditional blues.

I think it’s open to interpretation, but you would probably not be wrong to look at this as a basic blues form with unusual turnarounds. The first chord of the first phrase is the i (minor). The first chord of the second phrase is the iv (minor). Where we go wrong is on the third phrase–instead of arriving solidly at the V on beat on of bar 9, we detour through two other chords to arrive there at the top of bar 10. But that does set up the return to i in bar 11, which is quite blues-like. I think that in spite of the chord complexity, the phrasing of the melody argues in favor of blues.

So let’s take this apart one phrase at a time…

| F7 Db7 | Gb B7 | Eb7 Db7 | Eb7 F7 |

The usual turnaround for a minor key would be i – III7 – ii – V or possibly some tritone substitutions for some of those chords. The turnaround in the first two bars is similar, but different. The motion is still circle-of-fifths (Db Gb B), but the B chord is a tritone sub for i rather than for V, which is what makes this odd. The motion from B7 to Eb7 probably can’t really be called a cadence–up a third is just about the weakest possible root motion. I think it’s right to look at the second turnaround as setting up the iv chord in bar 5. The first chord (Eb7) is problematic to analyze. The melody in the third bar is extremely close to the first bar. Eb7 as a sub for F7 is unconventional, but one possible interpretation. So, to place these two turnarounds above each other, we have

| F7 Db7 | Gb B7 |

| Eb7 Db7 | Eb7 F7 |

They are similar, but the second one subs Eb7 for F7, and Eb for Gb (a minor third sub for a dominant chord is more familiar, Coltrane did it a lot). The F7 sets up the iv chord in bar 5 very strongly.

| Bbmi7 Db7 | Gmi C7alt | D7b5 G7 | Db7 Gb |

Standard blues would have two bars of iv followed by two of i here. Mingus gives us the iv, and sets us up to expect the i, not just with the C7, but the melody also really sets up a cadence that we get denied. What we do get in bars 7 and 8 is circle of fifths root motion, and some parallelism (bar 8 echoes bar 7 down one half-step, very familiar in Charlie Parker’s blues changes).

| B7 Bb7 | C7 Eb7 | F7 Db7 | Gb B7 ||

This is truly the difficult one to justify in traditional theory terms. What a traditional blues progression would have here is V, iv, then two bars of i. Mingus delays the appearance of the dominant one bar (that’s one way to look at it). He does deliver us a “cadence” sort of by having Gb in bar 8 resolve to B7 at the top of bar 9. But I sure don’t “hear” that as a cadence. What I think is going on instead is a reversal of the iv and V chord. To me the last four bars function like

| iv | V | i | i ||

Viewed this way, the B7 is a dominant sub for the Bb (iv). Eb is a legitimate sub for C7 (Coltrane-style), and we do land at the i in the right spot, and additionally revisit the first turnaround from the first phrase. What I don’t have a great deal of comfort for is the B7 -> F7 “cadence” from the bottom of the form to the top. That would be weak in most cases. It seems to work out okay here though.

  1. Just a very, very BIG thanks not only for this post but for all the informations you’re giving in this blog. It’s a real lesson. Congratulations for your real good job. Continue my friend.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: