Some cool things are brewing here at thejazzlanguage.com. I recently heard about a new app called Anchor that is designed around sharing mini podcast-like “waves” of audio and thought it could be an interesting platform to share some ideas about music.
Continuing the series on Intros & Endings, here is an easy ending that can be applied to many different tunes.
The melody for All of Me ends halfway through a four-measure phrase. When this happens, it works well to play an ending that finishes the rhythmic phrase, in this case two more measures.
Here is the two-measure ending that can be heard on Billie Holiday’s studio version of All of Me recorded for Columbia:
Using The Sound
Thinking in the key of F, notice the chromatic descent from the fifth of the chord and the chromatic enclosure of the third that eventually lead back to the root. In addition, the final tonic F6 chord is preceded by the same chord a half-step up, adding to the sense of finality when we finally hear the last chord.
This is a good ending to try in all keys because it is essentially a major triad with chromatic embellishments. The half-step shift at the end is also a common sound to be familiar with.
Consider using this ending when playing in a classic swing style at a medium tempo, especially when the melody of a tune ends part way through a four-bar phrase.
Lots of great vocabulary in this short excerpt from Hank Jones over the A section of Charlie Parker’s tune Confirmation. Major ii-V, minor ii-V, chromatic approach tones, and more! (Listen to Hank Jones play it on the album Bop Redux)
A great tune to learn, and a great pianist to study. Enjoy!
We’re starting a new series here at TheJazzLanguage.com: Intros & Endings. Up until now, the majority of the posts have been solo transcriptions that represent the language of jazz improvisation.
Another important characteristic of the jazz language is the way tunes are arranged. Listening for how artists begin and end their arrangements gives you a sense for how their musical vocabulary relates to the broader jazz idiom.
To begin the series, here is the ending Oscar Peterson’s Trio plays on Night Train from the album of the same name.
You may recognize this as the “Count Basie Ending” featured on classic Basie band tunes like Splanky and Broadway.
For Oscar Peterson’s version, the sound is created by the combination of Ray Brown’s bass in the low end and Peterson’s two-note voicings in the upper range of the piano.
This sound is a great contrast to the “typical” Basie ending that is played solely by the piano and represents the complementary relationship between the bass and piano in this trio.
Using The sound
To apply this in your own arrangements, pay attention to the relationships between the notes played and the key of the tune.
In this case, the tune night train is in the key of G major, and you’ll notice that the bass in playing G in three different octaves.
The essence of the piano part is the top line that starts on C (a fourth above G) and moves up by half steps to C#, then D. Combined with the bass part, this has the effect of providing tension-resolution to the home key of G.
The lower note of the piano part, an E, fills out the harmony. Combined with the upper note, it implies the chords C major, C# diminished, and G major 6, respectively.
Hank Mobley tends to be a polarizing figure. He was famously called the “middleweight champion of the tenor saxophone” by jazz critic Leonard Feather positioning him between “heavyweights” such as John Coltrane and Coleman Hawkins, and “tonal lightweights” like Stan Getz and his ilk.
Feather clarified his position in the 1968 Mobley bio for Blue Note:
Hank is the middleweight champion because his sound, as he once put it himself, is “not a big sound, not a small sound, just a round sound” and because, while fads and fancies change, he has remained for some 15 years a consistently successful performer, working almost exclusively as a sideman except on records, and retaining a firm, loyal following.
As I listened to Mobley for this transcription, the word that came to mind to describe his sound was unencumbered. Putting aside tonal characteristics, I find his vocabulary to be firmly based in the bebop idiom, rhythmically inventive, and original.
In his current Blue Note bio, Mobley is credited as a pioneer of the hard bop sound, described as “jazz that balanced sophistication and soulfulness, complexity and earthy swing,and whose loose structure allowed for extended improvisations.”
Applying those descriptors to Mobley’s sound seems fitting to me: sophisticated, soulful, complex, earthly, swinging.
Here is Hank Mobley soloing over his own composition, This I Dig Of You.
Vijay Iyer, speaking with Christopher Lydon on the Open Source podcast:
When we say [music is] a conversation, that’s being employed as a metaphor. When we think linguistically about conversation we think about the transmission of information. But that’s not all that conversation is. What it is first is music, which is to say it’s a way of harmonizing with one another. So using the conversation metaphor for music is a little bit backwards to me, because really music came first. That’s the sound of us being together. That’s what music is. So conversation is inherently musical, because it’s about harmonization with another person, it’s about grooving with another person, it’s about improvising. It’s all those things already.
Iyer turns the traditional language metaphor on its head by saying that spoken language mimics music, not the other way around. If I were looking for a definition of “jazz” in the 21st (or any) century, I’d say he’s on to something here.
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. Read more
The first time I saw this solo analyzed, it was like a veil had been lifted and I could suddenly see more clearly.
This tune has a (deserved) reputation for being devilishly difficult, in part because of the rapid harmonic motion through seemingly unrelated chord changes. Harmonic analysis reveals that there are really just three basic key centers happening here, and the standard ii-V and V-I and progressions are used throughout.
But what is perhaps more interesting from a language perspective, is how simple the melodic/rhythmic material is. The vast majority of the excerpt here is made up of chord arpeggios or diatonic scalar patterns.
In language learning, an important concepts is “comprehension,” or the ability to understand the message that is being communicated. In musical terms, we want to be able to understand how the melody and harmony are related so that we can truly learn and apply this vocabulary in other contexts.
This excerpt, despite its supposed complexity, might be easier to comprehend than many other solos. Lets look at a few examples.
Bar 2 (first bar of the form):
the first chord Bmaj, and the melody notes are F#, D#, B—a simple 5-3-1 arpeggio of a Bmaj triad
the second chord is D7, and the melody notes D, E, F#, A are simply the scalar pattern 1, 2, 3, 5 of the D7 chord.
Over a Gmaj chord, melody notes are G, D, B—a simple 1-5-3 descending arpeggio of a Gmaj triad
Even longer runs like bar 9 are comprehensible. A descending Bb Dominant Bebop scale over Bb7 chord (and it’s related Fmin7).
Just like learning a spoken language, try this simple approach for developing fluency with this material:
Pick a word or phrase you like
Try to comprehend it
Begin using it in other contexts.
Check out this excerpt that begins at about 0:26 into the tune.