It used to be said about March that it comes “in like a lion and out like a lamb”. But more often than not this time of year finds us stuck with more blustery cold weather, and March seems to be a lion through and through. Today, as we wait for the winter blues to leave, I’m featuring a long blues solo by one of the so-called “young lions” of jazz.
On Kenny Kirkland’s eponymous 1991 album, the pianist pays tribute to some of the great musicians who influenced his style, including Ornette Coleman. Like some of Ornette’s best sidemen, Kenny lays out for much of the sax solo, letting the alto player meander through blues riffs in many different keys, unencumbered by any harmonic “suggestion” from the piano.
But who is that alto player? The liner notes say his name is Roderick Ward, but it’s telling that such a talented player only appears on one album. Astute listeners may suspect that Mr. Ward is none other than Branford Marsalis, already mentioned in the liner notes as playing tenor and soprano saxes. Why his “alto alter ego” gets an album credit is anyone’s guess, but Roderick Ward can be proud of his tiny body of work.
When Will the Blues Leave (RWard solo) concert
When Will the Blues Leave (RWard solo) – Alto Sax
Here’s a song I first heard on Anita O’Day and Cal Tjader’s Time for Two album. Teddi King recorded the song as well, and this lead sheet is a mashup of the two versions. The phrasing of the melody here is closer to Anita’s version, but she stretches the bridge out to sixteen bars. The form isn’t a twelve-bar blues, but the A sections follow the same harmonic path (first to the four chord, then a turnaround back to one).
I’m Not Supposed to Be Blue Blues
A couple years ago I dubbed this month “Blues March” and dedicated four weeks to various forms of the blues. As I said then, the blues is an art form with a deep tradition, and may be America’s most ubiquitous contribution to human music. I’ve decided to do the same thing this March.
Let’s Make It
Let’s start with this simple tune by trombonist Frank Rosolino. It has a few more chords than your average 12-bar blues, but the underlying structure is the same. The string of changes in bars 2 through 4 finds resolution in the subdominant F chord. Similarly, bars 8 to 10 bring us through the dominant G7 to our tonic C major. I’ve added a new page to the site that I’ll use to periodically write about things that helped me become a better musician and bass player. It seemed appropriate given this month’s theme to post about reharmonizing the blues.