John Coltrane on I Hear A Rhapsody

John Coltrane - Lush Life.jpg
John Coltrane – Lush Life. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

From: Lush Life (Red Garland, piano; Paul Chambers, bass; Al Heath, drums)

This cut of I Hear a Rhapsody is from Lush Life, one of Coltrane’s earliest albums as a bandleader. He recorded it in late 1957 and early 1958.

There are plenty  of things to analyze melodically and harmonically in what he plays, but it’s just as valuable to look at what he doesn’t play. Like all great improvisors, Coltrane uses space. When you listen closely to this and other solos, you can hear his intense, clear ideas punctuated by rest. 

Think about someone who is good at giving speeches. They too leave space to emphasize points and add drama. A lot of improvisors forget to leave space. In fact, in my experience, not leaving space is one of the most common mistakes of beginning and advancing improvisors. Try leaving some space when you improvise today. Leave more than you think you should: three beats, four beats, etc. You might find that it makes your playing more melodic, more natural, and more fun!


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