Thursday, June 5, 2008

Giant Steps

it’s not just art–it’s knowledge

My father introduced me to jazz as a child, so I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t love it. I’ve even refer to it as noise, but they hear it as only noise, because a master jazz musician, like John Coltrane in this case, can play faster than they can think. That’s why, for the most part, jazz is a thinking man’s music.

The key to listening to jazz is to listen to the keyboard player. He can play up to ten notes at one time in a chord. So the reason that the horn man is playing at break-neck speed is because he’s playing all of the notes that the keyboard player is playing, but only one note at a time–and he may have less than a half a beat to get the notes that he selects from the chord in. In addition, he may be adding extra (grace) notes for color.

For example, the first two chords in the tune, Giant Steps, above is Bmaj7, then, D7. A Bmaj7 includes the notes B,D#,F#,A#. Then he goes to D7, which is D,F#,A,C. So when the horn man is playing, he has to see the chord, know exactly what notes are a part of that chord, and then play the notes in a meaningful manner within one bar. And when the music and chords are flying past at break-neck speed, that can be an awesome task. That’s what makes jazz one of the most technical and formidable art forms the world today–and the ability to pull it off is what makes jazz musicians so great.

The average jazz musician easily spends twice the amount of time learning his craft than a heart surgeon spends learning to replace a heart. But that’s understandable, because a heart surgeon can only repair a heart, while Trane could either make it either swell, or break it, depending on his mood.

So now that you understand what’s going on, lets take a moment to listen to Trane beat-up the progressions to “Giant Steps”. And take pride in what you’re hearing, because it speaks of you–your soul, your talent, and your potential.

Eric Wattree

1 comment:

homes portugal said...

I didn't realise the keyboard player could do so much. Great Article! Anyone who doesn't love jazz is missing out.