Tag: Language

Ascending Fourth on Jordu

Duke Jordan’s “Jordu” (or Jor-du) is an excellent tune for memorizing the sound of the ascending perfect fourth interval. The first three phrases of the A section all start with the same perfect fourth, so if you listen to the entire head (AABA) you will hear it nine times.

Here is the first phrase:

  • Clifford Brown and Max Roach, Clifford Brown & Max Roach, 1954
  • Duke Jordan, Flight To Denmark, 1974
  • Mulgrew Miller, Solo, 2010

Kenny Drew Solo Break In Two Minutes Or Less

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.

Here is me, trying to explain Kenny Drew’s solo break on Moment’s Notice (from John Coltrane’s Blue Train, 1957) in less than 2 minutes.


Vince Guaraldi’s Intro to “Softly as In A Morning Sunrise”

Guaraldi Intro to Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise

Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise by Sigmund Romberg is a jazz standard commonly played in C minor.

The Vince Guaraldi Trio offers up this tidy intro on the album A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing from 1957.

This would work well as an intro to almost any minor tune with a similar groove, and could also be used as an ending (on the recording there is a studio fade, so we don’t know if this group used it).


Ending on Billie Holiday’s All of Me

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.

Hank Jones on Confirmation

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!

Update: A previous version of this post included a link to the video in instagram. The video is now hosted on Vimeo

Oscar Peterson Ending on Night Train

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.

Oscar Peterson Ending on Night Train

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 on This I Dig Of You

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 Redefines the Musical Conversation Metaphor

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.

Transcription Tuesday: Sonny Rollins on St. Thomas

Sonny Rollins is known for his motivic development and this excerpt from his solo on “St. Thomas” is one of his most famous recorded examples.

Ted Gioia writes in The History of Jazz that:

“Rollins excelled in using these [simple musical motives] as thematic material—restating them, varying them, elaborating on them—a jazz equivalent of the development section in sonata form.”

Beginning with the short two-note motive, Rollins masterfully uses all three of these methods—restating, varying, and elaborating—to tell an engaging and original story.

Sonny Rollins on St Thomas



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. 
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