Thanks Hayden for the link to Jeff Schneider. He’s got some really interesting stuff there. After reading the thread I got interested in just what Neo Soul is, especially since I grew up with a heavy dose of soul/rhythm and blues. I’m not a fan of hip-hop, but sometimes I’ve noticed that there are some really nice backing grooves going on there and thought they’d be more interesting without the vocals.
I still need to explore a bit further to understand the genre, but it is clearly based on jazz harmony, as you said. It does seem to use some slightly different progressions, and it definitely makes heavy use of electric pianos and synths, minor chords with extensions and cluster voicings. It’s a lush sound.
I found this video on YouTube. He has an interesting formula for forming the voices, and he touches on progressions a bit. It’s worth a look to get a feel for the sounds. He’s clearly trying to sell stuff, but his explanations are pretty well-informed.