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‘Intrepid Fox’ A Melodic Analysis – Part I

Jazzed Magazine • Focus SessionOctober 2015 • October 27, 2015

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By Joel LaRue Smith

In Freddie Hubbard’s composition, “Intrepid Fox,” the melody can be conceived of as several sequences of pentatonic scales. The composition is divided into four sections (a,b,c, and d). The melodies are for three of the four sections (a, b, and d) are all constructed using pentatonic scales as an outline.


To give shape, continuity, and surprise to the melody, there are three devices used within the pentatonic scale construct. These devices are: A. pentatonic modes; B. modal direction; (ascending, descending); C. permutations

The modes of a pentatonic scale can be conceived of in 4 or 5 note groupings.

The names for each pentatonic scale are numbered 1-5.

Whether using 4 or 5 notes, the starting point of each mode is consistent. Mode 1 starts on scale degree 1, mode 2 starts on scale degree 2, mode 3 starts on scale degree 3, mode 4 starts on scale degree 5, mode 6 starts on scale degree 5


Modal Direction

Once the mode of a pentatonic scale is determined, one must establish the direction of the mode. The direction is defined by looking at the first note of the 4 or 5 note motif and determining if the first note of the motif is higher or lower than the starting note.

In Example C, the first note is an F and the last note is an EH, a minor 7th above the EH. So the direction of the mode is ascending. In the second motif, the first note is a BH and the first note is an F, a perfect 5th above the BH so the direction of the mode is ascending. Whereby in Example D, in the second motif the first note is an F and the last note is a BH, a perfect 5th below the F. So the direction of the mode is descending.


Joel Larue Smith has been the director of the Jazz Orchestra & Jazz Studies at Tufts University since 1996.  Under his direction, the Tufts Jazz Orchestra has toured in Cuba, The Czech Republic,  Portugal, Costa Rica, Bulgaria  and was invited to perform at Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2007.   

Larue Smith is the recipient of six Meet the Composer grants, a grand prizewinner for the grant in musical composition from the Queens Council for the Arts, and has won the distinguished George and Ira Gershwin Award from ASCAP.

Look for Part II of ‘Intrepid Fox’ – A Melodic Analysis in the November/December 2015 issue of JAZZed.

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