The tune Duke’s Place is the opening track from the 1961 LP Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington: Together For The First Time. The melody is probably better known as “C Jam Blues,” which is the original title of the instrumental version recorded by the Ellington band in 1942. (The track is currently available on the album The Great Summit which also includes material recorded at the same time but originally released separately.)
I have heard that Thelonious Monk’s unique piano style was influenced by Duke Ellington, and listening to this solo I can hear the connection. In particular, I enjoy Ellington’s use of motivic development and use of space.
He begins each chorus with a short, sparse idea and that grows and changes bit by bit. Notice the use of the half-step motive in the first twelve bars and the repeated use of the F sharp – G pattern in the second twelve.
Looking at the notated version, it seems like there are at least as many rests as there are notes, and you can hear the spaciousness in the recording. The melody really breathes in a way that is foreign to most piano players.
Listening to a playlist of Christmas music, I heard a bass line that I knew I had heard before in a different context. The line uses a descending “major bebop” scale which is essentially a major scale with an added half-step between the fifth and sixth scale degrees.
As a bass line, playing this scale in a descending pattern over the span of two octaves can fill four bars of 4/4 time and makes for a nice intro.
This first example is played by John Clayton on Diana Krall’s Christmas Songs album on the tune “Winter Wonderland.”
The second example is played by Sam Jones and is used not as the actual intro but as the first four bars of the head on “Sleepin’ Bee” from the album Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley (1961).
Here is the transcription of both lines. I have boxed the scale degrees that are essentially the same in both lines. Jones and Clayton each embellish and end the line slightly differently, but the primary pattern is quite effective and recognizable.
Grant Green plays a concise and expressive solo over the blues form on the tune “Green’s Greenery” from the album Grantstand. This tune is included as the bonus track on the CD version of the album and was not included on the original 1961 release, although it was recorded during the same session.
Brother Jack McDuff (organ) and Al Harewood (drums) create a solid rhythmic foundation for Green to groove on, and the buoyant swing feels great throughout. McDuff and Yusef Lateef (tenor sax) both solo later in the track, and Green improvises two more choruses before returning to the closing melody.
I first heard Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley several years ago while searching for great arrangements for a jazz quintet plus vocalist. At the time, I was focused on the first half of the album that features Nancy Wilson and didn’t pay much attention to the final five instrumental tracks.
I’m happy to say that I’m in the process of rectifying this oversight and the first tune I am focusing on is Sam Jones’ “Unit 7.”
I particularly like the way Joe Zawinul incorporates bebop and blues vocabulary in his solo. The form of the tune is “blues with a bridge” in the key of C. The sections marked A, B, and D are each 12-bars in length while C functions as an 8-bar bridge. The blues progression is slightly non-standard, with an Abmaj7 chord in bar 9 (and, by extension, 21 & 41) that leads to G7alt in bar 10 (and its companions). This harmonic motion is common in a minor blues progression, but less so in a major blues like this one. Also listen for the “Lady Bird” turnaround that happens at the end of many of the phrases (C – Eb- Ab- Db). Zawinul outlines this turnaround clearly at the end of the bridge in bars 31 and 32.