The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine is one of the best music theory books one could learn from. The book explains in detail, with examples, starting from basics, how music works.

Levine talks about how the Melodic minor scale is probably the most relevant scale now in modern jazz.

The fifth mode of melodic minor scale is considered by the book as one of the least relevant modes or least used modes within the melodic minor scale.

For an indian musician, the 5th mode of melodic minor is  familar as Raga Charukeshi raga (south indian/ carnatic name).

Charukeshi raga is a prominent raga with numberous compositions.

How Indian raga Charukesi can be used when melodic minor improvisation is called for?

  • Learn a few of Charukesi compositions or phrases.
  • Suppose we are on a bar where F melodic minor improvisation will sound good.
  • Play those compositions on C key – Sa as C
  • C is the 5th note from F. Playing Charukesi from C note will have the same notes as Melodic minor played from F.
  • So C charukeshi phrases will work fine where phrases on F melodic minor are called for.

5th mode F melodic minor will start from C (F melodic minor is : F G Ab Bb C D E F ) – C Charukesi where F Melodic minor is needed.

One more example : modular thinking to use raga Charukesi over melodic minor chords in jazz improvisation

Suppose we need to play Db melodic minor on the chords in a particular bar,

  1. Find the 5th of Db. Fifth of D is A, fifth of Db should be Ab.
  2. play charukesi phrases from Ab note. We know that charukesi is the 5th mode of melodic minor. So Ab charukesi will have the same notes as Db.

Play characteristic phrases, include gamagas and respect the movements of the raga, and it could sound really beautiful and interesting. Maybe some call it Indian Jazz.

Note : A very senior jazz musician once reminded me that it is not enough to play the right notes; not just mathematics and analysis and pattern finding. If one would like to be a jazz musician, there maybe no other way but to understand the music, beyond the theory. Analysis and theory definitely helps, when one remembers that theory came after the music as Mark Levine reminds in his book.

Want to know more about melodic minor chords and how indian ragas fit in? Ask me.