Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Grove Music Online. Grove is a registered trademark. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

date: 07 May 2021

Modal jazzlocked


A style of jazz, developed in the late 1950s, in which modal scales (or their general characteristics) dictate the melodic and harmonic content. The leading exponents were Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Modal jazz rarely adheres strictly to the classical modes (Dorian, Phrygian, etc.), but it creates their flavour, or in some cases that of other non-diatonic scales, such as those of Spanish or Indian music. The term ‘modal jazz’ has also been applied, somewhat misleadingly, to performances based on the major or minor modes. The style has attracted musicians partly because it is relatively undemanding by comparison with those based on chord progressions. Because it is free of frequent harmonic interruption it can more easily create an unhurried and meditative feeling. Many performances are based on a two-chord sequence or a drone. The absence of frequent chord changes alone is sometimes regarded as defining modal jazz.

GroveJ (‘Improvisation’, §4(vi))...

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Please subscribe to access the full content.

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz