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Author Topic:  The most feared compositon in jazz
Charlie McDonald


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Post  Posted 17 Feb 2019 8:27 am    
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I ran onto this in the usual way on Youtube. Hit with the title, who could resist? Could it be...?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62tIvfP9A2w

Sure enough, Giant Steps. Why? For the same reason that I'd never attempt to play it, at least with another musician, while I like, "Wait, I think it goes to...."
But that's beside the point unless virtually every other musician has the same fear. Why?

This video is well-produced and whether for jazz listener, sometime musician or jazz buff I always enjoy another explanation of the circle of fifths, basically.
Finally I get a look at the chart. Gee, that shouldn't be so tough. Just because the it's a broken circle of fifthswhere the rules still apply but change
every half bar. Checking out Tommy Flanagan's solo, '... the improvisation is very halted..." Adam Neely says.

So it's a tough piece on the fly, and it's always on the fly. Listening to Coltrane soloing over it the instant Flanagan is done,
he comes in at a run, contrasting the solos further. Like the president says, it's phenomenal. Modulations every half-bar, and this isn't bossa nova.

It's a good video if you like some deconstruction, and if not, I can't understand why. This stuff is great whether I learn anything or not.
Like Giant Steps, it all goes by so fast. In practice, we don't ever really get it, we follow along as fast as we can because, like life, it's jazz.
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Barry Blackwood


Post  Posted 17 Feb 2019 8:47 am    
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I thought it might have been this one....


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Charlie McDonald


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Post  Posted 17 Feb 2019 10:09 am    
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I don't know.... Neutral

Or, if you'll hum a few bars I can fake it, but you can't fake Giant Steps.
Besides, that doesn't look like jazz it looks like Philip Glass.
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Dave Mudgett


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Central Pennsylvania
Post  Posted 17 Feb 2019 10:34 am    
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Deja vu all over again? https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=338488
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Charlie McDonald


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Post  Posted 17 Feb 2019 1:35 pm    
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Yeah, I know. Some guys are slow.
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Jeff Garden


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Center Sandwich, New Hampshire, USA
Post  Posted 17 Feb 2019 1:47 pm    
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Let's work on "Baby Steps" instead, Charlie Smile
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Charlie McDonald


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Post  Posted 17 Feb 2019 4:25 pm    
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Works for me, Jeff. Wink
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Bobby Nelson


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North Carolina, USA
Post  Posted 23 Feb 2019 4:44 am    
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When playing 6-string, i kinda felt that Giant Steps was a "right of passage" before you can call yourself a jazz musician - which I never did. After messing with it on and off for a couple years, I finally came to the conclusion that i didn't really even like the song enough to justify all the work. It's a very interesting, and compelling song from a technical, and structural standpoint but, to my ears, it's not always that musical to listen to. Also, in my case, if Tommy Flanagan can't follow it, none of the guys I played with, who had trouble with Stormy Monday changes, were going to come near it - leaving me with years of work, so I can sit in my den and play for myself.
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Charlie McDonald


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Post  Posted 23 Feb 2019 5:36 am    
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I can dig that, Bobby. After a couple of days mulling with it in my mind I could see how the changes result in the simple bass line (it's all about the bass).
I can't say I'd ever play it, but it reveals something about the workings of the Coltrane mind. Like you, I can't say that I'd ever play it at all,
but this particular video deconstructed it with a look at the circle of fifths which gave me a clue (with Bernstein chiming in on the harmonic sequence). Now I have a clue.
Thanks for your reply. Now back to folk music, devoid of the church modes or anything else I don't use but appreciate.
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Les Cargill


From:
Oklahoma City, Ok, USA
Post  Posted 23 Feb 2019 1:13 pm    
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"Every time I used to see Coltrane he’d have Nicolas Slonimsky’s book."

Probably NSFW because Q uses them soldier words...

https://www.vulture.com/2018/02/quincy-jones-in-conversation.html
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Charlie McDonald


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Post  Posted 23 Feb 2019 1:34 pm    
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"Everyone thinks Coltrane wrote that, he didn’t. It’s Slonimsky."

12-tone. The other shoe drops, and the penny.

Great article, man. Thanks. I'm still reading it.


Last edited by Charlie McDonald on 24 Feb 2019 10:35 am; edited 1 time in total
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Bobby Nelson


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North Carolina, USA
Post  Posted 24 Feb 2019 10:11 am    
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Yeah Charlie, it's more interesting, to me, to look at how Coltrane was thinking musically, than to listen to it. I always like to think about deeper aspects of theory, I guess because that is my biggest deficit - I'm a lot more of an intuitive thinker and less of an intellectual thinker.
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Charlie McDonald


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Post  Posted 24 Feb 2019 12:43 pm    
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I don't know how Coltrane would be classified in that regard; his penchant for the higher frequencies (metaphysics) sounds like a theoretical guy.
If there was something about me that limited my musical development as a career, it would have been too much intellectualizing music. Not enough motion.
So yeah, he's a fascinating guy, considering I never had any of his albums. Way over my head. But I dig the bassline. Th tune could have been written from that standpoint.
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Bobby Nelson


From:
North Carolina, USA
Post  Posted 24 Feb 2019 3:07 pm    
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My ears, and some vague intuition is about all my head wants to contribute to my musical development. Everything else comes from south of my head somewhere (sense of timing, feel, emotion, drive etc) - I hear and feel. the intellectual part came very very hard to me, despite music lessons from the age of 7. I hear more of that from Charlie Parker, and more of the intellectually minded thing from Coltrane. I think Duke Ellington had both - a real upper level master.
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post  Posted 25 Feb 2019 6:54 am    
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Charlie McDonald wrote:
"Everyone thinks Coltrane wrote that, he didn’t. It’s Slonimsky."

12-tone. The other shoe drops, and the penny.

Great article, man. Thanks. I'm still reading it.


Quincy is dead wrong about Giant Steps--it's not 12-tone. Serial or 12-tone melodies are not legit if a note repeats before all 12 tones have been played. There are numerous repeating notes in the Giant Steps melody.

He is right about Coltrane and others studying Slonimsky. But Slonimsky was not an atonally based book.

Paul Bley said things so clearly when he said:
We learned something about the evolution of classical music, which had gone through a parallel sequence of development 75 years earlier than jazz. Once you realized that, you could look at the history of this European art music to see what was coming next in jazz. It was easy in 1950 to see that the music was about to become very impressionistic, and so it did with the work of Miles Davis, Gil Evans, and Lennie Tristano. Even the string arrangements for Bird were highly impressionistic.

After impressionism, atonality was next. The big mystery wasn’t whether atonal music was coming; it was why it wasn’t already here. European music had been atonal since the twenties—what was taking jazz so long? In this regard, classical music threw us a curve, because it led us to assume that this breakthrough would be made by composers. In jazz, the composers were generally inept pianists, which is why they had to become composers. In short, a composer is just somebody who can’t play in real time.


This is really the heart of the problem for improvisers:
Nothing is more difficult than trying to literally force a music beyond its own limitations. I know, because I’ve tried. But here we were in New York trying to force jazz into atonality. It was a concern shared by all of the orchestral writers—George Russell, Gil Evans, and Johnny Carisi. If there had been, for example, an alto saxophone soloist in any of their bands who could equal what they were trying to do, that saxophonist would have become the man of the hour. But the ideas stayed in the score, because as soon as the alto saxophone player stood up to solo, it was Bird again, and didn’t refer to any of the advances that were being made in the writing. You couldn’t really blame the players. It was easier to write that way than it was to improvise that way.”
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Charlie McDonald


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Post  Posted 25 Feb 2019 7:21 am    
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Thanks for the clarification, Mike. My thinking about 12-tone was not about melody but in the root of the changes, but yes, he does repeat sequences
before he's covered all the bases. Copland tried his hand at 12-tone (only once, and it wasn't pretty). I doubt that Gil Evans was drawn in that direction.
It does place limits on what can be done. I wouldn't call it melodic, but that's just me. I guess Quincy isn't god after all, but he has a lot of interesting opinions.
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post  Posted 25 Feb 2019 7:40 am    
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Charlie, I’ve been secretly self-studying 12-tone for a while now and while I have never made any music in that vein, I really appreciate it. I’ve amassed quite a collection of books on the topic and maybe one day it will all find its way into my music.
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Charlie McDonald


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Post  Posted 25 Feb 2019 8:54 am    
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Mike, you can play as many tones as you want, and I will dig it.
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Glenn Suchan


From:
Austin, Texas
Post  Posted 14 Mar 2019 11:47 am    
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Mike Neer wrote:
...Quincy is dead wrong about Giant Steps--it's not 12-tone. Serial or 12-tone melodies are not legit if a note repeats before all 12 tones have been played. There are numerous repeating notes in the Giant Steps melody....


Thanks, Mike your description of 12-tone composition is mostly correct. Arnold Schoenberg is credited with developing 12-tone composition. His 12-tone method indicates that all 12 notes of the chromatic scale are sounded as often as one another, while preventing emphasis of any one note through the use of non-repetitive ordering of a set of pitch classes of the chromatic scale (tone rows).

When one listens to such compositions it becomes apparent of the difference between melodic compositions based on the circle of 5ths (such as "Giant Steps") and 12-tone composition.

Here are some examples of 12-tone composition:
Arnold Schoenberg's "Opus 23, 5th movement"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dImkqBawr3o

Charles Wourinen's "Hyperion"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Hh3TzamrtI


To come back to earth; one of my favorite interpretations of "Giant Steps" is from 12-year old, Joey Alexander's (b. 2003) 2015 recording with his own arrangement:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4V_uaxBVOw

Keep on pickin'!
Glenn
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Charlie McDonald


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Post  Posted 14 Mar 2019 11:55 am    
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That kid isn't afraid of Giant Steps or anything else in jazz. Beautiful. Ignore the video and it's an adult playing.
[drops microphone and gives up piano]
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post  Posted 14 Mar 2019 5:21 pm    
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Glenn Suchan wrote:


Thanks, Mike your description of 12-tone composition is mostly correct. Arnold Schoenberg is credited with developing 12-tone composition. His 12-tone method indicates that all 12 notes of the chromatic scale are sounded as often as one another, while preventing emphasis of any one note through the use of non-repetitive ordering of a set of pitch classes of the chromatic scale (tone rows).



Hey Glenn. I've been hip to Schoenberg and the 12-tone system for quite a while. I find it a great source of inspiration. Glad you do too! I'm also fond of Josef Hauer's music, which is quite different and truly fantastic in its own way (and actually predates Arnold).

However, I am a little confused by your comment "mostly correct." From my understanding of 12-tone rows, one of the most basic rules is that no tone is repeated in any row. That is simply what I am saying--the melody of Giant Steps does not fit that criteria.
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Glenn Suchan


From:
Austin, Texas
Post  Posted 15 Mar 2019 5:52 am    
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Hi, Mike. Thank you for your comment. I always learn something from your posts and I enjoy your input on the forum.

It seems I misunderstood your statement, "Serial or 12-tone melodies are not legit if a note repeats before all 12 tones have been played." I was thinking in terms of a specific note of the chromatic scale. For example, the note G, as in the first octave (G1).

My understanding is that G1 (of the pitch set G1, G2, G3, etc.) may reappear in an inversion, retrograde or retrograde-inversion of the tone row within the sequence of chromatic tones. Is this also what you meant?

Thanks for the nod on Josef Hauer's music. I'm not familiar with his work, but I will check him out.

Have a great day! Smile

Keep on pickin'!
Glenn


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Glenn Suchan


From:
Austin, Texas
Post  Posted 15 Mar 2019 7:41 am    
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Charlie, at the risk of slipping one step further from the original theme of this thread (Coltrane's "Giant Steps" and it compositional structure based on the Circle of Fifths), and as a follow up to Mike Neer's and my discussion on the 12-tone composition structure as developed by Schoenberg, Hauer and others, I've included a YouTube of "Carmina Chromatico", by Orlando de Lassus from his "Prophetiae Sibyllarum", written in approximately 1560.

"Carmina Chromatico" demonstrates a chromaticism based on triadic atonality, which I feel might be an early precursor to 12-tone composition. It begins on C, then to G, then B, then C#m, then E in quick succession. A pause, then F#m. In the first eight bars there are chords on all but one of the 12 chromatic semitones:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=al41WvDW-OA

For your further listing of this early form of chromaticism, here is the complete "Prophetiae Sibyllarum", including the prologue, "Carmina Chromatico" and one composition for each of the 12 ancient Greek Sibylls who had prophesied the coming of the Messiah.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUVNtDxlTP8


Keep on pickin'
Glenn
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Charlie McDonald


From:
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Post  Posted 15 Mar 2019 11:07 am    
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Glenn Suchan wrote:
Charlie, at the risk of slipping one step further from the original theme

No problem. A good discussion should lead to other ideas, hopefully over my head.

I see that Coltrane sort of merged a couple of ideas. It's got to be loose enough for jazz.
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post  Posted 16 Mar 2019 9:14 pm    
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Glenn Suchan wrote:

My understanding is that G1 (of the pitch set G1, G2, G3, etc.) may reappear in an inversion, retrograde or retrograde-inversion of the tone row within the sequence of chromatic tones. Is this also what you meant?


Any tone row can be played in inverted, retrograde or inverted retrograde formation, but a row has to be played to completion in sequence without skipping or repeating notes before an inversion can be played. Is that what you mean?

There is another great composer I'd like to mention who is more recent: Luigi Dallapiccola (1904-1975). A supremely lyrical composer--such beautiful music. Check him out if you have time. Liriche Greche was his first 12-tone composition
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