Monthly Archives: March 2013

Petits Mensonges

I just played a wonderful gypsy jazz gig at a toasty Irish bar.  By a stroke of luck, a group of swing dancers came in from the cold and proceeded to drink and dance all night.

“Little White Lies” is just one of many popular tunes played by Django Reinhardt (on his albums it goes by “Petits Mensonges”).  It also appears on the Kurt Rosenwinkel album East Coast Love Affair, and this lead sheet owes a lot to that version.  Along with Avishai Cohen and Jorge Rossy, Kurt turns it into a jazzy calypso.

Petits Mensonges

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Something Like This

Here’s a fun latin-flavored tune by Bennie Maupin (another Detroit-born jazz heavyweight).  It’s featured on Lee Morgan’s energetic Live at the Lighthouse album, recorded in the summer of 1970.  It was a very busy time for Bennie: just six months earlier he had played on the Bitches’ Brew sessions with Miles Davis, and six months later he would be in the studio with Herbie Hancock recording Mwandishi, a collaboration that would lead to the formation of the famed Headhunters group.

The CD reissue of Live at the Lighthouse features no less than five Maupin compositions, but this is my favorite.  Someday I’ll also post “Neophilia” from the same concert, which showcases Bennie’s great bass clarinet playing.  “Something Like This” is driven by bassist Jymie Merritt’s heavy D pedal through the middle of the form.  A bit of trivia for you: Jymie’s son Mike is the house bass player for Conan O’Brien.

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Something Like This

Bitty Ditty

I have long admired Thad Jones as a composer.  He spent four decades writing and playing for big bands, first with the US Army, then Count Basie’s and his own in New York and Europe.  I especially love his harmonic sense.  Often in his tunes the “upper structures” of the chords are mixed into the lower voices of the orchestra, weaving a rich and varied sonic tapestry.  This also highlights the musicianship of the horns and reeds because they must have good intonation in all registers of the instrument.  (I found this out the hard way when I tried to play Thad’s beautiful ballad “To You” with my high school jazz band.)  The song featured here is comparatively easy, and fun to play with a quintet.  Solos on a 12-bar blues in F.

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Bitty Ditty

I transcribed this off an album recorded in 1960 called Motor City Scene.  It stars Pepper Adams and Donald Byrd, backed by Kenny Burrell, Tommy Flanagan, Paul Chambers and Louis Hayes (listed on the cover as “Hey Lewis”).  All the participants except Chambers were born in Detroit, as was Thad.