Today’s intro comes from the classic album Ella and Louis (1956). The rhythm section on the album is Oscar Peterson’s quartet from that era with Ray Brown on bass, Herb Ellis on guitar, and Buddy Rich on drums.
When I think of Oscar, I often think of his astonishing technique or his bluesy vocabulary. This intro showcases another of his strengths: deep swinging lyricism.
I love that you can hear his foot tapping out the quarter note as he plays. The quiet quarter note pulse set against Peterson’s triplet syncopation makes this a textbook example of a medium-slow swing feel.
While playing along with Clifford Brown and Max Roach At Basin Street, I heard Max Roach play this fill as part of the arrangement (you can hear it twice, at 1:25 and 5:21).
The fill is made up of sixteenth notes played on the small Tom, the snare, and the floor tom. I like to think of the pattern as 6-6-4: six on the tom, six on the snare, four on the floor tom. I play them as alternating single strokes, but you could play them as doubles or any other sticking you like.
Red Garland was the pianist for Miles Davis’ group that became known as the First Great Quintet. Stylistically, he is known for his block chord style, but for this week’s transcription we will look at an example of his virtuosic 8th-note lines.
The album Relaxin’ With the Miles Davis Quintet was one of several albums the group recorded for Prestige between 1956 and 1961. This excerpt is taken from the beginning of Garland’s solo on the tune Oleo (a popular “Rhythm Changes” tune by Sonny Rollins).
Things to note:
most of the solo takes place below middle C on the piano
frequent use of enclosing chromatic notes. Chord tones are often approached from above and below by chromatic neighbors.
I have placed brackets around a few notes where the connecting notes are not heard clearly and probably not played at the recorded tempo. My instinct is that these are the “intended” notes but the tempo does not allow for them to come out cleanly.
Garland often plays four or more measures of solid eighth-notes without rests, but when he does rest, it feels just right.
Donald Byrd’s solo on Elmo Hope’s “On It” is a particularly clear example of the hard bop aesthetic. Over the 12-bar blues structure Byrd deftly incorporates both bebop vocabulary and elements of the blues language.
For this transcription, I’ve included three versions—For C, Bb, and Eb instruments. You can flip through them using the arrows.
Update: a previous version of this post had the transcriptions in the wrong key. This should be fixed now.
Richie Powell is one of my favorite hard bop pianists. His vocabulary is clear and accessible and this solo is a great example of that. He died at a young age in the same accident that took the life of his contemporary (and bandleader on this album) Clifford Brown.
Listen for the inventive rhythmic variety that helps the blues scale come to life and the way the energy builds over the three choruses, resolving gracefully in the lower octave.