Concrete Blues

Here’s an interesting tune from the pen of saxophonist Craig Handy. I transcribed it from the same album as last week’s post, Bobby Hutcherson’s “Acoustic Masters II”. One of the reasons I like it is that, rather than repeating a set form for solos, each improviser is given just one chord to work with. The rhythm section gives a lesson here on how to keep a lengthy one-chord solo from getting stale – I’ll post some of Ron Carter’s excellent bassline here soon.

Pettiford Bridge

The last few weeks I’ve found myself as often as not playing an outdoor gig on an oppressively hot and humid day, wearing long sleeves and a tie and sweating out all the water I can drink. Once the sun goes down, I find relief in driving home with the wind in my hair and the drumming of Ed Blackwell rolling over me like an ocean wave. His few albums as a leader are full of songs like this one, with pulsing ostinatos and long, exploratory solos.


Here’s a pretty ballad by saxophonist Joe Ford, an encomium presumably dedicated to Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus. I hear a little more Mingus than Monk here, but both composers have worked themselves deep into the subconscious of jazz musicians everywhere and deserve as many tributes as possible.

On a personal note, I haven’t posted much recently because I’ve been having my busiest summer ever as a working musician. I’ve had a gig almost every night since May, and my days are filled with recording sessions, rehearsals and teaching lessons. It’s been very gratifying to know that people’s appetite for live music is undiminished after a couple years of unsteady job prospects. Still, I’m trying to find time to transcribe songs that I like… it’s a relaxing and rewarding experience for me, so I’ll continue to post whenever I have something new to share.

Joy Spring

I recently came across a video of Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis and Ray Brown playing in Amsterdam. It was May 1957, and the trio had been working together regularly for four years, following the tradition of great piano/guitar/bass groups like the King Cole Trio and Ahmad Jamal Trio by consistently turning out new and sometimes intricate arrangements of popular standards.

They also worked as the backing band for Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic series of concerts. Most of the video has the trio laying a swinging foundation for featured acts like Roy Eldridge and Ella Fitzgerald, but some of the most exciting parts of the program come right at the beginning with just these three jazz heavyweights. They begin the show with this laid-back but technically demanding arrangement of Joy Spring.

Every spring I find myself playing this song on gig after gig… maybe next year I’ll try to convince my bandmates to play it in the key of A major.