I just got hold of the 2006 Kurt Rosenwinkel transcriptions book and I'm looking through some of the lead sheets and getting confused by some chord symbols.

For example the chords for the first 8 bars for 'The Cloister' (after the drums & piano intro) are:

Ami7 - A/C7(b9) - Db/G - F#/C - F#7sus - Ami7(b6) - CMaj7 - CMaj7

What does an A over a C7(b9) mean? From my (limited) knowledge the something/something notation is used to indicated a particular inversion by specifying the bass note. But here we have full chords!

Does that mean a C7(b9) with an A triad? So essentially a C7(b9)13?

It's also worth mentioning that in some other tunes ('Brooklyn Sometimes' for example) he also uses chords like CMaj7/D so we can have chords both over and under?

Any tips appreciated, thank you!


Generally slashes are used for a bass note under a chord like Db/G, a Db triad with G in the bass.

Poly chords, one chord stacked over another are usually indicated by a horizontal line between the two chords:

enter image description here

It is essentially a C13b9 like you say but I believe the intention is to have the triad at the top of the voicing, basically an upper structure triad.

It’s less ambiguous to use slashes for bass notes and horizontal lines for poly chords, I don’t know if he makes that distinction or not.

As for the Cmaj7/D, this is a D root under Cmaj7, a typical way jazz players play a sus chord, with an added 9 and 13 and no 5.

  • Do you mean a D root over - or under - Cmaj7? I read it as lowest note D, rest of chord Cmaj7 - D, C, E, G, B. So if it's perceived as a sus, it has both 2 and 4, and b7 and 13. Could be called 'D13(no3)..? -As it has 7,9,11 and 13. It's a new one on me! – Tim Sep 30 '20 at 13:50
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    @Tim I do, correction made, I was standing on my head at the time, lol! – John Belzaguy Sep 30 '20 at 13:51
  • Times like that, it's sometimes better to have someone else standing on your head... – Tim Sep 30 '20 at 13:52
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    @tomasn4a there is no set way to do it. C13b9 has an A triad built into it. Some might play something as simple as C-Bb underneath then play the triad in whatever inversion they choose. You can even omit the root if there’s a bass player. Obviously guitarists are a little more limited in their choices than pianists are (10 notes at a time? Lucky @#$*% !) but there are several ways to do it for sure. One is 8-X-8-6-5-5 and another is 8-X-8-9-10-9. – John Belzaguy Oct 1 '20 at 20:11
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    @jdjazz Random tuning? I have enough trouble dealing with the single M3 between the G and B strings! Part of the reason I became a bass player, lol. – John Belzaguy Oct 1 '20 at 20:21

Having looked at some online samples of Kurt Rosenwinkel's work, it seems the transcriber makes no distinction between polychord notation (two chords written as a fraction, one above and one below a horizontal line) and slash/bass notation (one chord, slash, bass note). This is very confusing! Sometimes context clarifies - G/E♭m can only be a polychord - but F/Eb is then ambiguous! Sloppy.

enter image description here

  • Complicated further by the fact that it’s somewhere between a slash and a vertical line! – John Belzaguy Oct 1 '20 at 19:57

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