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Author David Luebbert
Posted 12/7/08; 1:23:01 AM
Msg# 5561 (top msg in thread)
Prev/Next 5560/5562
Reads 1579

When jazz players record their solos and listen to the playback, they sometimes discover that they've improvised an outstanding idea that they can later develop to create an entirely new piece of music.

Here are three pairs of tunes that show this process at work. In each pair I first play a tune that was originally invented during a solo. The second performance in the pair contains the solo where that melody was first heard.

Yardbird Suite begat "Cool Blues"

In the first pair, we first hear Charlie Parker play the B take of "Cool Blues" (he did four of them in one recording session, all different, with different tempos, different improvised ideas), whose main subject repeats a single identical melody idea three times over blues changes.

Parker invented the source idea of "Cool Blues" at the end of the first 8 bar section of his solo from the Master Take of his Yardbird Suite.

Yardbird Suite was recorded on March 28, 1946. "Cool Blues" was recorded first a year later on February 19, 1947.

Sonny Rollins solo on My Old Flame begat John Coltrane's Like Sonny

In the second pair of songs, we first hear John Coltrane play his Like Sonny, which was first recorded for his Giant Steps album. Coltrane said the tune title referred to Sonny Rollins, because he heard Rollins play an idea that he liked so much that he studied and transformed it into a new composition.

For thirty years after I first heard Like Sonny, I wondered where Coltrane had first heard Sonny's idea. Two years ago I heard Sonny solo on My Old Flame for Kenny Dorham's "Jazz Contrasts" album. That was the source of the idea Coltrane used!

Dorham recorded My Old Flame with Rollins on May 27, 1957. Coltrane first recorded Like Sonny on April 1, 1959.

"After The Crescent" begat "Transition"

Coltrane's ultra-long and ultra-intense blues "Transition" has always been a piece that I've loved to listen to. The middle parts of that piece have drummer Elvin Jones splashing, crashing and rolling like a powerful ocean storm. It's scary, impressive music to listen to.

On the rare occasions when Elvin would become unavailable for a particular recording (usually because he was imprisoned or ill), Coltrane would call drummer Roy Haynes to play.

Where Elvin would thunder, roll and splash with his accompaniment, Haynes' drum sound chattered, snapped, crackled and popped. It's fascinating to hear how Coltrane adapted to converse with these absolute drum masters who played so differently.

Just this afternoon, I heard "After The Crescent" which Coltrane played with Haynes, a piece I don't listen to very often. Starting at around 8 minutes of "After The Crescent", Coltrane starts to find ideas that have bits of the flavor of the "Transition" melody attached to them. At 9 minutes and 30 seconds, the main melody of "Transition" pops out in his solo just once, and then develops into something different.

Coltrane apparently liked this idea enough when he heard the session recording, that he later varied it subtly three different ways and then invented a second idea to end the melody to create "Transition".

Coltrane recorded "After The Crescent" with Haynes on May 26, 1965. Two weeks later he recorded "Transition" with Elvin on June 10, 1965.

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Last update: Sunday, December 7, 2008 at 4:09 AM.