Archive for Rhythm Changes

Anachronic Anthropology

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on February 7, 2017 by telescoper

I’m struggling a bit with a heavy cold (or at least I hope that’s what it is) and I had a two-hour lecture earlier today so I’m going to go home and crash out. To keep my readers (Sid and Doris Bonkers) amused, I decided to repost this piece which I’ve actually posted before almost eight years ago. It’s an oddity, but quite an interesting one I think.

The Anachronic Jazz Band is, I think, now defunct but they were from Paris originally. The style they played in could probably be described as like the New York style of the late 1920s, with definite touches of Bix Beiderbecke. On the other hand, the tunes they played all came from the bebop era of modern jazz, such as this one which is the Charlie Parker classic Anthropology. 

You might think that an uncompromising bebop number like this would pose unsurmountable challenges for a traditional jazz outfit, but I think they pull it off rather well. I think though that they were probably helped by the fact that this tune, like many modern jazz compositions, is actually based on a chord progression belonging to a much more familiar tune. In this case the harmonies actually derive from George Gershwin’s standard I Got Rhythm….

Anyway, perhaps the efforts of this fine little band go some way to showing that there’s more continuity between traditional and modern jazz than one might suppose…

 

 

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Cotton Tail

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on January 16, 2017 by telescoper

It’s been a very busy and rather trying day so I’m in need of a bit of a pick-me-up. This will do nicely! It’s the great Duke Ellington band of 1940 playing Cotton Tail. This tune – yet another constructed on the chord changes to George Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm – was written by Ben Webster and arranged by Duke Ellington for his orchestra in a characteristically imaginative and inventive way. Webster’s “heavy” tenor saxophone dominates the first half of the track, but the real star of the show (for me) is the superb brass section of the Ellington Orchestra whose tight discipline allows it to punch out a series of complicated riffs with a power and precision that would terrify most classical orchestras. And no wonder! The Ellington band of this era was jam-packed  with talent, including: Rex Stewart (cornet); Wallace Jones, Ray Nance, and Cootie Williams (trumpet); Juan Tizol,  Joe”Tricky Sam” Nanton, and Lawrence Brown (trombones). Listen particularly to the two sequences from 1.33-1.49 and 2.35-2.59, which are just brilliant! Enjoy!

P.S. The drummer is the great Sonny Greer.

Dizzy Atmosphere

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on July 6, 2016 by telescoper

Whenever I’m in dire need of inspiration – which happens a lot these days – I usually turn to music. I found this not long ago and decided to share it here because it’s not just inspirational, but awe-inspiring. I don’t have any information about the date or location of this  recording of Dizzy Atmosphere – except that it’s obviously live, and that it features the composer Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet after a great solo by the great Charlie Parker on alto saxophone. Bird is absolutely on fire in this performance!  In case you’re interested this is yet another bebop standard that’s built on rhythm changes though it is in an unusual key (A♭) for such pieces. Anyway, never mind about that, just listen to Bird flying through this!

 

Buddy DeFranco Plays Rhythm Changes

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on April 21, 2016 by telescoper

The late great Buddy DeFranco was the musician who finally convinced me that I’d never be any good at playing the clarinet, though I still make the occasional half-hearted attempt. He nevertheless remains a musical hero of mine, not least because he was one of the few people to play clarinet in a “modern” style. I found this transcription of one of his solos on Youtube a while ago and thought I’d share it here. Twelve choruses of rhythm changes at a brisk tempo provide the foundation for a great jazz musician who unleashes a flood of improvisation. Feel free to play along at home!

Bird’s Nest

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , on August 25, 2013 by telescoper

I know it’s a Bank Holiday weekend, but I’ve got so many things to do that I don’t have time for anything but a brief post today. I heard this track on BBC Radio 3 last night and it brought back a lot of memories for me so I thought I’d post it here with some brief comments. When I was at school most of my friends seemed to be into heavy metal, which I found completely tedious, so while they were out buying LPs by Hawkwind or Iron Maiden I was acquiring a secret collection of classic jazz records. Among my most prized purchases was a boxed set of six vinyl discs entitled The Legendary Dial Masters; they’re now available on CD, of course. I listened to these records over and over again and can easily understand why they’re regarded as some of the greatest musical performances of the twentieth century, not only in Jazz but in all music.

There’s a curious story about the Dial sessions, in that they took place in Hollywood California as part of an “exclusive” one-year contract (signed in 1946) between Dial records and Charlie Parker, who just happened to have signed another exclusive contract with the Savoy label based in New York.   By this time in his life, Parker was already seriously addicted to heroin and this example of duplicity is consistent with other aspects of his behaviour: he regularly cheated and scrounged off friends and strangers in  order to feed his habit and probably gave relatively little thought to the consequences of being found out. In this case, the clear breach of contract was pretty quickly rumbled, which could have led to a lawsuit, but it seems to have been settled amicably by the record labels, who agreed that both sets of recordings could be made commercially available.

It would take scores of blog posts to do justice to these great tracks, so I’ll just make a few comments now. First thing to mention is that the LPs forming the boxed set don’t just include the final versions as released, but usually a number of incomplete or discarded takes. At the session in question, recorded on February 19th 1947, there are 13 takes in all for just four tunes. It’s fascinating listening to these alternative versions (which are often, in my view, just as good if not better than the “final” version), not least because they demonstrate the wonderful spontaneity of Charlie Parker’s playing. They also have an experimental feel to them. The track I heard last night, Bird’s Nest, is, on one level, yet another bebop composition based on the chord changes of the George Gershwin standard “I got rhythm”, but what’s very special about it is just how free his improvisation is, both rhythmically and harmonically. It is, of course, well known that Charlie Parker’s nickname was “Bird” (originally Yardbird), and this track in particularly demonstrates that his playing really was very like birdsong – agile, quirky and above all intensely beautiful. The main difference is that most birdsong is actually atonal, which Bird’s music was not.

Another thing worth mentioning about this track is the identity of the piano player. When I heard it last night it triggered a vague memory that Errol Garner made some records with Charlie Parker. Was this one of them? I honestly couldn’t remember, but became increasingly convinced when I heard the piano solo. Later on, a quick search through my discography revealed that I was right. It is indeed a young Errol Garner. Although he doesn’t play badly, he doesn’t sound to me either comfortable or convincing playing bebop. Nevertheless, this session gives an important glimpse into the musical development of a major artist. You could say the same thing about the other tracks made around the same time by Bird and the young Miles Davis.

But that’s enough words. The whole point about music is that it says something that can’t be said with words. Birds manage perfectly well without them too.

Remembering Bird

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on March 18, 2012 by telescoper

Last week saw the 57th anniversary of the death of Charlie Parker, aka Bird, a musical genius on the saxophone whose influence not only on jazz but on twentieth century music is incalculable. I’ve posted quite a few tracks by Bird over the years and one thing I’ve learned from doing that is that he’s by no means everyone’s cup of tea. I can’t do anything about that, of course, but I can at least point out the existence of his wonderful legacy to those (regrettably many) people who’ve never heard of him or his musicI still remember the mixture of astonishment and exhilaration I felt when I first heard him on record and if I can give that sense of joy to just one person via the blogosphere then it’s worth a hundred posts.

Here’s Kim, another one of Bird’s tunes based on the rhythm changes, with an alto sax solo improvised at breakneck speed and with incredible virtuosity. The other day I was talking to a friend of mine who only has a passing interest in jazz and he asked me whether Charlie Parker really was that good. Well, if you’re asking that question to yourself, listen to this and then you’ll have the answer. As far as I’m concerned this is three minutes of pure awesome….

Wee

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on February 20, 2012 by telescoper

Here’s an exhilarating little duo featuring alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson and the extraordinarily brilliant  pianist Tete Montoliu. Lou Donaldson at times sounds more like Charlie Parker than Charlie Parker ever did, but if you’re going to play bebop there’s no better example to follow. Tete Montoliu on the other hand never sounded like anyone other than himself. He was from  Barcelona, by the way, and was born completely blind. The tune, written by drummer Denzil Best, is called Wee although it does have an alternative title, Allen’s Alley; it’s yet another one built around the chord changes of Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm. Anyway, it’s a typically intricate and edgy tune that finds these great musicians at their playful best.