Giant Steps

After all the griping about musical taste  in two of my earlier posts this week (here and here), it’s probably good to put something up which I think is a masterpiece. You may, of course, disagree….

I came across this on Youtube a while ago. It made me think of the hours I spent trying to transcribe a Johnny Dodds clarinet solo from an old record, and that came out as a single page of music!

Here’s what the incredible virtuosity of John Coltrane‘s tenor sax playing looks like when written down. Or not quite. For some reason, the transcription is done as if the instrument is in Concert Pitch (C) whereas the tenor saxophone is a transposing instrument (B-flat). This means when you play what is written as C on the stave what actually comes out as B-flat, etc. Music for such instruments has to be written taking this into account, but this transcription doesn’t do so. There used to be (and probably still are, here and there) C-melody saxophones but they’re not very popular, and John Coltrane certainly wasn’t playing one on this track!

Neverthless, the speed and inventiveness of his playing is just amazing to behold. The tune is a Coltrane original which involves an unusual (and difficult to play) chord progression based on three keys shifted by major thirds.

It’s  called Giant Steps

3 Responses to “Giant Steps”

  1. […] Giant Steps by John Coltrane is an example I posted a while ago of a supreme piece of high-speed improvisation, and I thought I’d follow it up with this wonderful performance  in which the legendary Charlie Parker plays an extended solo, very fast. […]

  2. […] Anyway, in the following clip Stephon talks about how music actually helped him solve a research problem. It’s basically an extended riff on the opening notes of the John Coltrane classic Giant Steps which, incidentally, I posted about here. […]

  3. […] the jazz classic Giant Steps, by John Coltrane (which I’ve actually posted on this blog here). Not really expecting anything to come of it, I sent a message on Twitter to Bernard Clarke […]

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