The World According to Keitho

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Posts Tagged ‘John Coltrane’

Pledge week

Posted by keithosaunders on January 30, 2017

Let’s have a live look-in on NPR’s winter pledge drive!

—————-//———

This year why not take the plunge and become a gold member. You’ll receive 2 tickets to SF Jazz, our magazine – Boredom Weekly – and the brand new Keillor-Blocker.

This state of the art console attaches to your listening device to automatically block disturbing Saturday programming such as, A Prairie Home Companion, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, & Look Ma, No Hands.

In their place you can choose from among the following:

Game 6 of the 2003 World Series

Noam Chomsky reads The Pickwick Papers

&

Keitho sings A Love Supreme [in the shower]

Finally it is safe to drive a vehicle on a Saturday.

Hurry! There’s a limited supply.

Advertisements

Posted in media, San Francisco, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

My Favorite Things 1965

Posted by keithosaunders on August 7, 2016

Here’s a jaw-dropping version of My Favorite Things as played by the John Coltrane Quintet circa 1965. Music doesn’t get any better than this.

In particular I was blown away by pianist, McCoy Tyner’s, solo.  I’m going to show this to all my young students who play flat handed.  You can see that true power and finesse comes from above.  (No, I’m not speaking religiously here.  Get your mind out of the church!)  Tyner drops his hands onto the keyboard rather than pushing his fingers into the keys.

Technique aside, McCoy’s solo is like a lesson in harmony and rhythm.  He takes the lone E minor chord and superimposes dorian, phrygian, harmonic minor, and diminished modes over it. (among others!)   These modes are interwoven into his barrage of left hand 5ths and right hand 4ths, and are simultaneously rhythmically and harmonically transcendent.

Compare this version with one performed four years earlier to see and hear the evolution of one of the greatest groups in the history of jazz.

Posted in jazz, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Miles’ Prestige transition

Posted by keithosaunders on February 29, 2016

Miles Davis had one of the most fascinating careers in jazz.  He came to New York in 1945 to study at Julliard but soon connected with Charlie Parker and joined his quintet.  The first few recordings Miles made with Bird are the only ones on which he sounds a little tentative. He would soon find his voice and by the time he recorded Birth of the Cool in 1949 he was on his way to becoming one the most influential jazz musicians of all time.

Davis is the antithesis of John Coltrane, whose playing was in a constant state of flux. Miles playing in 1950 – his choice of notes, his warm, personal sound, and his attack –  is not all that different than in 1990.  it was the bands around him — the sidemen he chose – who evolved, keeping Davis’s sound fresh. That’s why hardly any Miles record sounds like the other, yet all are instantly identifiable.

Last week I listened to a box set of all the recordings Davis did on the Prestige label; these took place between 1951-56. Miles sounds great throughout and there are sessions with Milt Jackson, Horace Silver,  a quirky (even for him) Thelonious Monk, and Sonny Rollins.

In 1955 Miles, at the urging of George Avakian, an executive at Columbia records, put together his first great quintet. This consisted of John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones.  Miles first choice for tenor was Sonny Rollins who was busy with other projects.

Before he could sign with Columbia records Miles had to fulfill his obligations to Prestige which he did in the form of marathon recording sessions in 1955 and 56.  These sessions yielded some of the greatest sides known to jazz:  Workin,’ Cookin,’ Steamin,’ and Relaxin.’

I spent the better part of the week listening to the earlier Miles Prestige sides but when I got to the ’56 recordings the difference was stark and immediate.  The quintet has a kinetic energy that is missing from the earlier recordings.  As good as the pre-1956 musicians were they didn’t have the infectious chemistry that Garland, Chambers, and Philly Joe did.  Coltrane is not yet the master improviser he would become a mere couple of years later, but it’s fun to listen to him trying new ideas, stumbling, getting up, and succeeding.  He swings his ass off even though he’s not fully formed.

Check it out!

Serpent’s Tooth 1953 w Sonny Rollins and Bird on tenor!

Woody’n You 1956 w the classic Quintet

 

Posted in jazz, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Color me abashed

Posted by keithosaunders on January 22, 2016

And we’re back.

Listen, if you are someone who buys and uses adult coloring books let me tell you something, you’re a moron. I mean, what are you doing with your life? GROW UP. If you colored past the age of 11 you were unmercifully ridiculed and I’ve got news for you, the statute of limitations has not lapsed.

Now put down that pastel crayola, walk over to the mirror and look at yourself. LOOK AT YOURSELF. You’re a shell of a person. Get a hold of yourself, man. There are better ways to relax than painstakingly trying to stay inside the lines of a picture of a Tonka truck.

Look, maybe you’re bored, your life is a meaningless, vapid shell. I’ll allow for that. Here are some suggestions on how to spend your free time more productively.

1) Play tennis

2) Go hiking

3) Put on a Coltrane record and expose yourself to some culture.

4) Take up masturbation

Any of these choices will make you a more productive member of society than coloring.


Keith Saunders's photo.

Posted in life, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

What’s My Line: Coltrane Edition

Posted by keithosaunders on December 8, 2015

Miles-Davis

When I was first getting into jazz back in 1975 I checked out a Prestige Miles 2-fer from the library which contained music from 2 out of the 4 classic quintet sessions. (Workin’/Steamin’/Relaxin’/Cookin’)  These were the sessions with My Funny Valentine, Tune Up, Woodyn You and Airegin, among others. I taped it but for some reason didn’t write down the personnel.

A few weeks before having checked out the Miles record I had listened to a late period John Coltrane record – it was probably from 1966, which was the group with Alice Coltrane, Jimmy Garrison, and Rasheed Ali.  I hated it!  What was that guy playing?  It sounded like a coyote caught in a trap. When I heard the sax player on the Miles record, however, I said to myself, ‘now *that* guy can play.’ Little did I know that it was the same player!

I should add that years later, when my ears were ready for it, I came to like and appreciate late period Coltrane.  It’s fascinating to hear him evolve on records over a ten year period.  I can’t think of anything else like it in the history of music.

Coltrane

Posted in jazz, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The main event: The John Coltrane Quartet!

Posted by keithosaunders on October 14, 2015

I just saw this for the first time last week:  The John Coltrane Quartet playing A Love Supreme live.  Amazing stuff. McCoy’s solo on Resolution, which begins at appx 7.50, is devastating.

I really believe that in an Anchorman-style rumble the Coltrane Quartet would have no trouble with Mile’s 60s quintet. I realize that Miles’ group would have a man advantage, but the quartet would outweigh them and are going to want it more.

Now some of you are probably saying, ‘Woah, woah, woah, Miles knew boxing, mannnn!’ To that I would respond, one word: Elvin.

Elvin would be like, ‘You want a piece of this, Miles?’ *Ba bam bam be ke de bam [three against four to the face] GOOSH CRASH BE BAM CRINKLE OH SNAP [paradiddle] GA-GOOSH IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOU TO PLAY 6/8 GROOVE GROAN SKOOSH CYMBAL*

And that, my friends, would be the end of the Miles Davis Quintet. I would hope they already had recorded Miles Smiles cause that shit is my favorite.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qt435yF2Qg

John Coltrane’s masterwork, A Love Supreme, was only played once in live concert. This portion is the only surviving film of that 1965 performance.
YOUTUBE.COM

Posted in jazz | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Enough with the kinder

Posted by keithosaunders on September 26, 2015

I suppose it was inevitable that as Facebook and the humblebragging that goes along with it have become ubiquitous so have videos of children precociously doing or saying adult things.  Today I saw a video of a young European girl playing the drums along to Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog. She had all of John Bonham’s fills down and you can tell she was coached thoroughly and that she was probably a quick study.  Except that it doesn’t matter.  All it proves is that she has above average concentration.  She didn’t create anything and to be honest she didn’t even groove.

I saw a video of two pre-teens dancing a sensual mambo.  They were resplendent in Cuban drag and they had all the steps down.  Impressive?  Not to me.  In fact I found it a little creepy having these two youngsters ape a sex-infused dance.

Then there are the pre-teen jazz musicians.  Listen to that kid wail on Giant Steps.  Wow!  But here’s the thing:  An important facet of improvisation is telling your story – it is the musical equivalent of your life’s experience.  What experience does a 10 year old have?  I would hope not much!

Parents, we know what you’re trying to do.  Congratulations, you have a ‘gifted kid.’ Now that your passive aggressive humblebrag is complete, how about tamping down your zeal and letting your kids be kids.

Posted in jazz, life | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Keitho’s guide to the rapture

Posted by keithosaunders on May 21, 2011

Wake up.

Have favorite breakfast (dry cereal and coffee)

Remember to set fantasy lineups on off-chance that I can move into first place before the flood.

Watch Bay Area series, Subway series, and Mavericks vs Thunder, so that I will be able to give all the folks in heaven an up to the minute sports update.

Listen to My Favorite Things

Watch a few episodes of the Honeymooners and Curb Your Enthusiasm

Forgive that flute player for dragging me out to Davenport, Iowa in 1993 for one gig, driving all night non-stop from New York City, and docking my pay $25.00 for oversleeping and being ten minutes late to the soundcheck.

Posted in life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Banjo Billy

Posted by keithosaunders on January 10, 2011

Jazz can be easy, especially when you are not constrained by the moorings of harmony, rhythm, and melody.  It’s about freedom, right?  The freedom to play whatever you want whenever you want.

A couple of weeks ago I played a gig at a club with a quintet.  It was an unusual instrumentation.  The band consisted to trumpet, piano, bass, drums, and banjo. 

Banjo? 

There have been many outstanding jazz musicians who have played unorthodox instruments.  Toots Tielemans is a world-class harmonica player.  How about Ray Draper, the hard-bop tuba player?  [tubist?]  He even played on one of John Coltrane’s recordings.  There are even jazz whistlers although I’m too disgusted by the idea to go to the trouble of citing any.  Take my word for it, they’re out there.

So what the heck, why couldn’t this guy be the Wes Montgomery of the banjo?  Before we began playing the leader asked the banjo player if he knew the tunes that we were going to play.  (he had compiled a list) 

“Sure!  There isn’t a tune written that can’t be played! ”

Who can argue with this logic? 

 The gig began and at first I thought that someone had left the club’s stereo on.  I was hearing strumming totally unrelated to what we were playing.  It must be the radio, what else could it be?

It was the banjo.  It sounded like he was playing random notes at his whim.  Sixteen bars would go by without him playing when all of a sudden you would hear, “Crackly-splattily-triddelly-umph.  BRINGGG!”   Then nothing for another several bars before, “Screachhity-slumphity-Crack!”

That was Autumn Leaves.

The bass player had a very wide beat and a great time feeling.  The trouble was that he played notes that were unrelated in any recognizable way to the chords.  He played with such conviction, however, that you would never know.  Well, unless you actually knew the chords.  

Banjo Billy, however, was not blessed with a good time feeling.  He was on a deserted island with narry a Professor, Ginger, or Maryann in sight.  As for me, I can cross ‘playing a gig with a jazz banjo player’ off of my bucket list.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

My Favorite Things: My favorite record

Posted by keithosaunders on December 5, 2010

When people ask me who my favorite musician is, or what my favorite song is, I find it impossible to come up with an answer.  There are too many to narrow it down to one.  Besides, if I did have a favorite song I would probably overplay it to the point that it would lose its number one ranking.  I do have my list of favorite pianists — Bud Powell, Horace Silver, and Wynton Kelly — and if you put a gun to my head I would choose Bud Powell, but regardless, it doesn’t feel right to narrow such genius down to one person.

When it comes to my favorite record I’m going to make an exception.  Coltrane was 34 years old when he recorded My Favorite Things on October 24th, 1960, 2 weeks shy of JFK winning the presidency and one month after the Pittsburgh Pirates, behind Bill Mazeroski’s dramatic 9th inning homerun, defeated the New York Yankees in game 7 of the World Series.  I was one day shy of two months old. 

During the previous three years Coltrane had worked with Theloniuos Monk and Miles Davis respectively.  During this period he played long, note-laden solos that critic Ira Gitler dubbed “sheets of sound.”  Between Monk’s angular compositions, and later with his own Giants Steps chord changes, Trane was playing over some of the most intricate, sophisticated harmony ever conceived, and he worked his way through these thorny chord changes like a knife slicing through butter.

By the time of My Favorite Things we see Coltrane straddling his sheets of sound with a more muscular, modally infused lyricism that would inform his classic quartet of the early to mid 60s.  The record is composed of four standards, but the arrangements are so germane to Coltrane that they may as well have been original compositions.  They are disparate songs which are not only connected by Trane’s genius, but by the group’s sound.

Coltrane’s concept meshed perfectly with his new group.  McCoy Tyner Steve Davis, (Jimmy Garrison would not join him for another year) and Elvin Jones infused Coltrane’s earthy relentless tone and hard-driving rhythmic concept with an ideal underpinning, giving him the freedom to expand on his ideas.  You can almost sense that he is so comfortable with his band that he has the confidence to play less.  These musicians were the ideal compliment for him, widening the beat and fusing dissonance, lyricism, and explosive poly-rhythms.       

Tyner’s 8 bar introduction to Richard Roger’s My Favorite Things is at once dark and foreboding.  Coltrane suspends the song’s chords over an E pedal and alternates between major and minor vamps.  The combination of his soprano sax and Davis’s droning E pedal gives the song an exotic, Eastern flavor.  If anyone thinks that it is a simple feat to play over one or two chords for this long a period I would advise them to try this at home and see what happens.  Not only does Trane never run out of ideas, but he shows such an attention to melody and phrasing that we never want him to stop.  The ballad, Everytime We Say Goodbye, perfectly offsets the denseness of the songs that frame it.  It could serve as a treatise on how to play a melody.  It is romanticism at its finest.  

It is side two, however, which for me makes this date.  It is comprised of two devastating arrangements of a pair of Gershwin songs that are both shocking and awe-inspiring.  They are cast against type and perfectly fit the scope of Trane’s style and they seamlessly cohere to the shape of this date. 

Coltrane transforms Summertime from a languid, bluesy number to a tour de force modal vehicle, complete with pedal point, whole tone harmony, and a four bar break that rivals Bird’s all-timer on Night In Tunisia.

The album’s closer, But Not For Me, is Trane’s farewell to Giant Steps changes and it transforms a well-worn vehicle into a personal tour de force.  He uses the Giant Steps progression on the first 8 measures of the  A and B sections, but it is the long tag — the iii-Vi-ii-V turn-around vamp at the end of his solo and final melody chorus — that stands out.  Here is an artist with an inexhaustible wealth of ideas that is able to build tension and excitement over the same four chords for several minutes at a time.  Only Sonny Stitt could play a tag for this long without running out of ideas, but Stitt didn’t have McCoy and Elvin.        

Not long after this recording Trane would give up playing on standards entirely.  True, the Ballads, and Duke Ellington dates were still two years in the future, but by 1960 Trane’s music was in rapid flux and he would not only pare down his notes per bar, but his chord progressions as well. 

 By the time of My Favorite Things Coltrane had become a musician who could play over the most difficult of harmony at any tempo.  Not only did he possess a supreme technical prowess, but he had the ability to infuse his lines with witticism and melody.  This is why he sounds so great regardless of whether he is playing a standard or a composition without any harmonic center.  Even towards the end of his life, when he would sometimes scream into the horn, there is a foundation.  It all comes from substance. 

In 1960 John Coltrane would begin to eliminate what he felt was not essential.  Most of us can only dream of having that luxury and the wherewithal to implement it.

Posted in jazz | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »