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.
September 28 marked the anniversary of the death of Miles Davis, the iconic jazz trumpeter and composer. This New York Times article from 1991 came up in my newsfeed and sparked my interest in revisiting some of his music from the standpoint of his influence on the jazz language. The full article is worth a read, but here is what the author, Jon Pareles says about his contribution to the idiom:
His solos, whether ruminating on a whispered ballad melody or jabbing against a beat, have been models for generations of jazz musicians. Other trumpeters play faster and higher, but more than in any technical feats Mr. Davis’s influence lay in his phrasing and sense of space. “I always listen to what I can leave out,” he would say.
Here is an excerpt from the beginning of Miles’ solo on “So What” from Kind of Blue. There are so many elements to examine in this short sample, but if nothing else pay attention to the phrasing and sense of space.
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