This week’s Transcription Tuesday is the first sixteen bars of Kenny Dorham’s solo on Blue Bossa from Joe Henderson’s debut record Page One (1963).
The tune was written by Dorham and and is the type of tune that you can always call at a jam because everyone will know it (it also tends to get groans from those who feel it has been “worn out”). The harmony is primarily in the key of C minor with bars 9-12 taking a short detour to the key of D-flat major.
If you are not already familiar with the tune, make sure to listen to the original melody in addition to checking out this solo.
I won’t spoil the surprise for those of you who haven’t heard it, but suffice to say this is definitely a solo to study if you have ever wondered how to begin improvising.
This weekend I’ll be playing in the house band for an educational jam session. It’s always a pleasure to work with students as they muster up the courage to improvise on a tune, or confidently showcase the techniques they’ve been working on.
One of our jam tunes this week will be Doxy, written by Sonny Rollins. This tune became an early jazz standard and is often one of the first tunes that beginning improvisers learn.
For this week’s Transcription Tuesday, we’ll look at the beginning of Miles Davis’ solo on Doxy from the album Bag’s Groove released in 1957 (the actual recording took place three years earlier in 1954 and features Sonny Rollins on tenor saxophone, Horace Silver on piano, Percy Heath on bass, and Kenny Clarke on drums).
If you are new to the jazz language, this is a great solo to learn and to study. You can use the steps outlined in yesterday’s How To Start Transcribing to learn the solo by ear, and then check your work against the notated version below.
Once you’ve learned the sound of the solo, try to make sense of the note choices and rhythms by studying the harmony. I didn’t include the chord changes in the transcription, but careful listening to the bass and piano on the recording will reveal the harmony (or you can surely find a chord chart online).
I find the simplicity and clarity of this excerpt inspiring and the tune overall is fun to play. I encourage you to try using some of this language in your own playing.
Donald Byrd’s solo on Elmo Hope’s “On It” is a particularly clear example of the hard bop aesthetic. Over the 12-bar blues structure Byrd deftly incorporates both bebop vocabulary and elements of the blues language.
For this transcription, I’ve included three versions—For C, Bb, and Eb instruments. You can flip through them using the arrows.
Update: a previous version of this post had the transcriptions in the wrong key. This should be fixed now.
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.