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.
A few years ago I transcribed Ellis Marsalis’ Duke In Blue from the album of the same name (1999). From time to time I like to review this transcription and each time I return to it something new grabs my attention.
This time it was the ascending diminished scale he plays over the sixth bar of the Bb blues chorus. I recorded a wave using Anchor.fm to demonstrate.
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.
“The greatest musicians are the greatest listeners”
I recently listened to the 2002 interview with Mulgrew Miller on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz. The entire show is worth a listen, but one anecdote stuck out to me about the importance of listening deeply.
About halfway through the show, Marian asks about Mulgrew’s private teaching practice and what he tells students in a private lesson. Mulgrew replies:
I tell them I think the most important thing to their development is to learn how to listen.
It turns out that Mulgrew had to learn this lesson the hard way on the bandstand. He recounts a learning experience he had playing the tune Four on a gig with Clifford Jordan:
After I cam to New York, I was on a gig once and I was playing the tune Four. This was with one of the veteran musicians in New York, Clifford Jordan.
I was playing some changes that I had learned from a fake book, and they were not the original changes. Although I had been listening to recordings of Miles playing Four and they were playing the original changes, I just didn’t listen beyond what was on the surface, you know?
Clifford came over to me that night and said, “you know you’re playing the wrong changes on Four”
I said “really?”
And he said “yeah, they’re this…” and he showed me.
I said “wow, that’s amazing. I’ve been listening to that record for years and I hadn’t noticed that.”
I went back home and I put the record on, and there it was, as plain as day, the changes that he was showing me.
What I learned from that is that I had not been listening deep enough—in enough detail—to get all the proper things.
This anecdote has inspired me to increase the amount of practice time that I spend with recordings. To me, listening deeply can mean literally transcribing melodies or harmonies I hear. It can also mean trying to feel the groove on a deep level, or hear specific phrasing or dynamics. Sometimes I will put a record on and simply play along with it, beginning to end. Each time I do, I find that I hear something in a new way, and get inspired to go even deeper.
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.
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.
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.