Section 3: Ragtime, the blues, blues form, and 32-bar song form
Written for the piano, the rag was one of the most influential styles of music on early jazz. The left-hand accompaniment pattern of the rag was adopted in early stride-style jazz piano. Scott Joplin is one of the most famous rag composers.
Listen to The Entertainer. This piece has several sections. Listen specifically from 00:00 to 02:16, and consider the following questions:
- How many sections are within this segment? Do any of those sections repeat? How would you label them if you used letters to designate each section?
- Is there syncopation in this piece? How prevalent is syncopation in the melody? How important is the steady left-hand rhythmic pattern to our perception of syncopation in the melody?
- Are there rhythmic/melodic figures that Joplin uses to build his melodies? How are these figures repeated and varied? Examine a brief passage — a phrase or a section — in as much detail as you can. Provide counter numbers. Then listen specifically to the section at 01:48-02:16. Are there differences compared to the section you chose? Is there variation in the melody?
- Do you recognize this piece? It was made famous by the film The Sting in the 1970s.
Section 4: Early Jazz
Among the great New Orleans jazz musicians who recorded in the 1920s were Joe “King” Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet, and Louis Armstrong. King Oliver’s piece Dippermouth Blues, in particular, exhibits the characteristic collective improvisation that defines the New Orleans style.
Louis Armstrong was the first great jazz solo improviser, and he has one of the most distinctive solo styles. West End Blues provides an opportunity to get better acquainted with Armstrong’s solo style.
Listen to West End Blues by Louis Armstrong and Hit Hot Five, another example of the New Orleans polyphony. The melody of this piece is played collectively by the three horns at 00:15 to 00:50 after an amazing trumpet introduction of Louis Armstrong (00:00 to 00:13).
Consider the following Questions:
- Who has the lead voice during the melody? How many soloists are there after the melody? Briefly describe the soloists and their style of play.
- What makes this piece different from the other New Orleans style groups, for example, Dippermouth Blues by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band?
- What is more predominant in this piece, the collective improvising or the featured soloist?
- Describe Armstrong’s singing from 01:26 to 01:58. Does it sound improvised or written?
- Now describe the piano solo that follows from 02:00 to 02:33. Does it sound improvised or written?
- Describe the rhythm section in this piece. How do they support the soloists?
Section 5: Swing and Duke Ellington
The recording for this Discussion Topic is Ko-Ko performed by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra. Notable soloists in Ellington’s orchestra include Cootie Williams on trumpet, Johnny Hodges on alto sax, Ben Webster on tenor sax, and Jimmy Blanton on bass, as well as Duke Ellington himself on piano.
Listen to Ko-Ko performed by Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, and consider the following questions:
- How many soloists are featured in this piece?
- Which instruments are featured as soloists? Does each soloist play for an entire chorus or more? Note: the length of a chorus may be found between 00:13 to 00:31, which is the first chorus of the piece that features the melody.
- How many bars are in a chorus? Joe Nanton’s trombone and plunger solo begins at 00:32. What is Nanton’s style of play often called? Describe the sound of the accompanying trombone section during his solo. How do these supporting accompaniments give harmonic and rhythmic support to Nanton’s solo?
- Describe Blanton’s bass solo. How many choruses does he play? Describe in detail how the band accompanies him during his bass solo. Does the band play continuously during his solo? Which bars of this chorus does the accompanying band play?
Section 6: Swing
Benny Goodman was the “King of Swing,” credited with popularizing swing jazz for the broader American population. He was one of the few white bandleaders regarded as “hot” by black jazz musicians. He was also the first white bandleader to cross the “color line” and hire black musicians. In this discussion topic we’ll hear the Benny Goodman Orchestra performing live at Carnegie Hall—a momentous occasion in itself.
Listen to Swingtime in the Rockies performed by The Benny Goodman Orchestra, and consider the following questions:
- Identify the form of this piece. The first chorus, which contains the melody, begins at the beginning and ends at 00:28. Use letters to designate the sections of this chorus.
- Which section of the band plays the melody? Does this change? Does a different section of the band play any part of the melody during this first chorus?
- The melody of this piece is a good demonstration of call-and-response. Which section is calling and which section responding during this first chorus? Listen to how the reeds and the brass play off each other.
- Listen to the second chorus. How is the second chorus different from the first?
- Now listen to the entire piece. Is the melody played at the end of the piece? How does the piece end?
Section 7: Bebop
In this discussion topic we hear Thelonious Monk’s jazz standard Straight, No Chaser.Monk somehow manages to place his personal stamp on each of his compositions, providing strong support for the view that his work transcends the bebop genre.
Listen to Straight No Chaser. Notice the many distinctive melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic “quirks” that help us to recognize Monk, and consider the following questions:
- The order of solos in this piece is: Blakey (Intro), Monk, Shihab, and Jackson. Provide counter numbers for the beginning and end of Monk and Jackson solos.
- Compare and contrast the solo styles, and describe them. Listen to how they phrase or create musical lines over the chord changes. Try to include some detail.
- What is your impression of this piece? How do these bebop soloists differ from the swing soloists that you have heard?
Section 8: Cool Jazz
Listen to Paul Desmond’s Take Five performed by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and consider the following questions:
- The order of solos in this piece is: Desmond, Morello. Listen to the recording and provide counter numbers for the beginning and end of the two solos. Describe their solo styles. Provide detail of how they phrase or create musical lines over the two-chord vamp.
- A vamp is a chord or a short series of chords that are repeated. The vamp in this piece is one 5/4 bar length and is played between the piano and bass. What is your impression of this piece? How does the 5/4 meter of this piece sound different from the 4/4 meter of most other pieces you have heard?
- How would you compare/contrast the solo style of Desmond with that of Charlie Parker? How would you compare/contrast Morello’s solo style with that of drummer Max Roach and his solo in Ko-Ko? How do these cool soloists differ from their bebop and earlier swing counterparts?
Section 9: Hard Bop
Miles Davis’ mid-50s quintet, along with groups led by Art Blakey, Horace Silver, and Sonny Rollins, was one of the early standard bearers of hard bop. In this discussion, we listen to Miles Davis’ version of Cole Porter’s Love For Sale. Joining Miles on the front line is tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, who came to prominence at this time in association with Davis, and alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley. On Love For Sale, Miles takes a Cole Porter ballad and plays it up-tempo, continuing to establish a “straight-ahead” style of hard bop that remains influential in contemporary jazz today.
Listen to Love For Sale, and consider the following questions:
- The order of solos in this piece is: Davis, Adderley, Coltrane, Evans. Regarding the solos of Adderley and Coltrane: Listen to the recording and provide counter numbers for the beginning and end of these two solos. Compare and contrast the solo styles, and describe them. Listen to how they phrase or create musical lines over the chord changes. Try to include some detail.
- How would you compare/contrast the solo style of Adderley with that of bebop alto saxophonist Charlie Parker?
- How would you compare/contrast the solo style of Coltrane with that of swing tenor saxophonist Lester Young?
- Now listen to how Bill Evans phrases during his solo that begins at 07:41 and ends at 10:11. Describe his style. What makes Evans different from other pianists you’ve heard?
Section 10: John Coltrane
John Coltrane is another giant of jazz. We’ll hear one of excellent works as leader from 1957 to 1964. Coltrane underwent an evolution in his creative style over these years, both as composer and performer. Yet, there is an aspect of Coltrane’s performance artistry that remains distinctly identifiable throughout his career. Remarkably, his music would evolve further in the last three years of his life (1964-1967) into the realm of free jazz.
Listen to Coltrane’s My Favorite Things, and consider the following questions:
- The order of solos in this piece is: Coltrane (melody), Tyner, Coltrane. Regarding the solos of Coltrane and Tyner: Listen to the recording and provide counter numbers for the beginning and end of these two solos. Note: Tyner plays the A section and then “vamps” with the pedal point in the bass before he begins to solo. A vamp is when one or two chords are repeated, usually with a pedal point. Describe their solo styles. Listen to how they phrase or create musical lines over the chord changes. Try to include some detail.
- Do Tyner and Coltrane solo on the chord changes of the melody? What are the modal characteristics of the solo sections of this piece?
- Coltrane worked with many influential pianists such as Monk, Flanagan, and Evans. What makes McCoy different from these other pianists?
- Tyner makes use of quartal harmony and repeating patterns. Quartal harmony is chords constructed in 4ths rather than 3rds. Describe how this sounds.
- Describe the rhythmic feel of drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Davis during Coltrane’s solo. Would you describe the style of these soloists as bop, hard bop, modal, elements of all or something else? Explain in detail using what you’ve learned from the course lessons about these particular styles.
Section 11: Free Jazz and the Avant-Garde
Listen to Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage performed by Herbie Hancock, and consider the following questions:
- There is an introduction to this piece, how many bars is it? The melody (or head) begins at 00:16 and ends at 01:20. What is the form? How many bars is it? Hint: this piece is a modal take on a form you know well.
- How is the melody played by Coleman and Hubbard? How does this group arrange the melody?
- Describe the pulse and repeated rhythm that is played by the piano, bass and drums during the melody.
- Coleman begins his solo at 01:20. How many choruses does he take? How many choruses does Hubbard solo? How many choruses does Hancock solo?
- Briefly describe how the accompaniment of Hancock/Carter/Williams changes over course of George Coleman’s solo. How are they different from other rhythm sections that you have heard? How does this piece end?
Section 12: Jazz-Rock Fusion
Spain, a mix of jazz-rock fusion and Latin jazz, is a famous piece by Chick Corea’s Return to Forever. Let’s listen and consider the following questions:
- The order of solos in this piece is: Farrell, Corea, Clarke. Regarding the solos of Farrell and Corea: Listen to the recording and provide counter numbers for the beginning and end of these two solos. Compare and contrast the solo styles, and describe them. Listen to how they phrase or create musical lines over the chord changes. Try to include some detail.
- How would you compare/contrast the flute solo style of Farrell with that of a hard bop alto saxophonist such as Cannonball Adderley? Does it sound like he has elements of a hard bop style?
- How would you compare/contrast the electric piano style of Corea in this piece with his piano solo style in Steps – What Was?
- Describe the Latin feel of the bass/ drums and percussion during the solos.
Section 13: Postmodernism vs. Neoclassicism
The music of Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, David Murray, and John Zorn is arguably representative of a variety of postmodern approaches to jazz. How does this postmodern approach distinguish itself from the neoclassical approach exemplified in the music of Wynton Marsalis? Along the philosophical spectrum of jazz, where do you stand? Which points made by either of these two philosophic camps do you support? Which points do you oppose?
Section 14: Latin Jazz
Listen to Royal “T”. This piece by Tito Puente is a good example of his Afro-Cuban approach to composing and percussion. See the “Latin Jazz” and “Tito Puente” pages in this lesson to help you describe the style of Royal “T” and the style of Puente’s group, and consider the following questions:
- The order of solos in this piece is: Burtis/Velasco trading eights, Burtis, Rodriguez/Lujan trading eights. Listen to the recording and provide counter numbers for the beginning and end of these solos. Describe their solo styles.
- Compare the style of this piece to that of Dizzy Gillespie’s Manteca.
- The melody (or head) begins at 00:00 and ends at 01:28. How many sections does the melody have? Use letters and counter numbers to designate the sections.
- Describe the Afro-Cuban aspects to the melody? What is “traditional” about the style of the soloists? What is “fresh” and new about their style of soloing? What style of jazz do these soloists most sound like: Latin and/or hard bop?
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