Harmony #6 – My Ship B

This is the second post about the harmony in the A section of Gil’s magnificent arrangement of My Ship.

Some clarification of terms is necessary first:

Target chord – The chord that was aimed toward in the harmonisation. The target chord usually occurs at a melodically or rhythmically important point in the bar and can help explain what harmony precedes and proceeds that moment.

Functional chord – A chord that has a dominant function (V), it leads to a target or other chord. It is often a secondary dominant.

Diatonic chord – A chord that is within the key but does not function, secondary dominants that don’t lead to their respective I’s are included in this category. It is often used to “plane” in scalar passages.

Voice Leading/Other chord – A chord that is hard to define and usually arrived at via voice leading or to create a particular sound.

First A section – bars 5 & 6

Gil alters the melody significantly in bar 5 but keeps the same texture and harmony style.

The target chords are strongly placed and voiced richly.


The chords leading to the Fmaj7/6 are chromatic planning approach chords. For the first time in the arrangement the melody and bass move in the same direction. This adds to the drama of the phrase and is an appealing change with the new melody and rhythm.

The 2nd F major chord is a diatonic chord as its an extension of the F major harmony. Gil applied this technique earlier in the A section.


The Gmi over Ami chord is another diatonic chord. Both of the chords fit within the key and are used in a step wise motion. The final two chords to discuss are both other chords. The Ebmaj13#11 is a fairly simple chromatic passing chord, and the Bbmi/maj7 is some sort of special Gil Evans substitution. It is similar to a upper structure substitution with just a slight change of chord flavour. eg: A7b9 – Bbdim7.

First A section – bars 7 & 8

In the last two bars Gil changes the target chords to be far more ambiguous. The Ami7/D is a far more open sound than just a straight VI chord (Dmi9). The II chord (Gmi7/F) is placed over its 7th and the final V chord (C13b9) has an accented passing note in the bass. Check out more Gil bass lines in this post.


The first Cadd2 continues the upwards motion of the bass. It is interesting to see how Gil purposely thins the texture (3 pitches) on this diatonic chord. He could have quite easily kept the same density of chord by including a 5th & 7th. The Bbmi/Db is an other chord and continues the upwards motion. Like the Ebmaj13#11 in bar 5, Gil maintains excellent voice leading by including this chromatic passing chord.


The Emaj7#9 is a wonderful other chord. Note how all of the inner parts move chromatically and resolve beautifully into the Gmi7/F.


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