Author Archives: noteheads

Blue-S

I recently had the good fortune to share a bill with the Italian quartet Accordo dei Contrari.  I was really impressed with the band’s rapport, and the way they make improvising over difficult music seem easy.  This week, to keep my mind occupied while sitting in traffic, I’ve been enjoying their recent album Violato Intatto.  This song in particular has sort of a Mahavishnu Orchestra vibe that I like.

You can hear for yourself on the band’s website.

Blue-SBlue-S

Sweet Soul (For Miles Davis)

Chris Potter wasn’t the only rising young jazz star to appear on Red Rodney’s Red Alert!  Pianist Dave Kikoski also puts in a strong performance, and contributes this tune.

To be honest, I don’t really like this song, but if you’re looking for a tutorial on writing “smooth” jazz, this composition is worth studying.  It has many of the requisite elements:

  • a simple diatonic melody
  • florid harmony full of inversions and unpredictable changes in tonal center – the only real V / I resolution in the tune is the:
  • modulation to a distant key center (D major) to heighten tension
  • extra synthesizers and percussion to add exotic timbres
  • modal vamps to show off impressive soloing chops
  • plenty of reverb!

Sweet Soul (For Miles Davis)Sweet Soul (For Miles Davis)

To be fair, Miles Davis himself put his name on a few songs that seem more ‘sweet’ than ‘soul’, but I suspect he wouldn’t have wanted his name on this particular tribute.  It’s telling that the only tune from this album that’s still part of today’s jazz repertoire is “Little Willie Leaps”, the one written by Miles in 1947 .

I should also say that I’m a big fan of Dave Kikoski, and he has under his belt many unique and impressive performances that stand the test of time better than this one.  Here’s just one: E

In Case of Fire

Speaking of Red Rodney, here’s a tune from his Red Alert! album.  This album is perhaps best known for being the first recorded performance of saxophonist Chris Potter, who would have been 19 years old at the time of the release.  I personally also find this record remarkable in that, up to that point in Red’s 50-year career, no one had yet thought of “Red Alert” as an album title.

In Case of FireIn Case of Fire

Red Alert! is the definition of “mixed bag”; the band runs through several bebop heads at burning tempos, but each one is immediately followed by the kind of “cool fusion” jazz that was popular in the late 1980s.  As such the album fails to set any kind of consistent mood, and it’s hard to enjoy straight through.  Still, it’s worth a listen if you want to hear a veteran like Red helping out two young lions in Chris Potter and David Kikoski.

Hi Jinx

I first heard this tune on the radio many years ago, and I wanted to know more about it but I only knew the title.  Luckily, it’s also the title of the album, Hi Jinx at the Vanguard by Red Rodney and Ira Coleman.  The tune itself is by trumpeter Jack Walrath.  I hope you get up to some hi jinx this Halloween!

Hi JinxHi Jinx