Author Archives: noteheads


I remember vividly the times I got to see Mulgrew Miller perform live.   If I was lucky I’d be sitting close to the piano, watching waves of concentration ripple over his face, feeling his deep appreciation of the present moment and the infectious joy of making music.  This song is named after one of his bands, or maybe it’s the other way around.



Gettin’ Mean with Mateen

This tune by pianist Darrell Grant isn’t exactly a blues, but it follows the same road map.  The melody is two statements of a phrase, once over the tonic chord and again over a subdominant, followed by responding phrase that passes through the dominant back to the tonic.  Extra material in the form of a nice intro and interlude makes for a well-rounded and interesting composition.

Gettin' Mean with MateenGettin’ Mean with Mateen – Score

Gettin’ Mean with Mateen – Trumpet in Bb

Gettin’ Mean with Mateen – Tenor Sax

For Spee’s Sake

I love the bass playing of Reggie Workman.  He is always listening attentively to his bandmates, matching their intensity and prodding them to new heights without stealing the spotlight.  On this Freddie Hubbard blues, he gets a short walking feature out front to set up the tempo.

For Spee’s Sake

Saud’s Song

This suspended blues is by pianist Kenny Barron, as recorded by the Sphere quartet.  I posted another blues by Charlie Rouse from this album back in October, and I’ll probably post a third by Buster Williams soon.  I like the way the melody centers around an A natural, which adds some bluesy dissonance when it clashes with the suspended 4ths of the F and Eb chords.

Saud's SongSaud’s Song

Untitled Original 11383

This is one of the previously unheard John Coltrane compositions from last year’s much-touted release Both Directions at Once.  It’s a treat to listen to any collaboration by this great band, even if it sounds more like a ‘first draft’ than a coherent and polished Trane album.

At first glance, the tune seems very similar to the Benny Golson blues we looked at the last two weeks; it’s a fast 12-bar blues in the key of Bb, and features a Gb7sus chord in the turnaround.  This time, though, there is no predictable move to F7 in bar 10, so there’s no strong tonal resolution.  The melody and harmony both avoid the D natural that would put us firmly in the key of Bb major, and the band continues this ambiguity right on into the solos, while Golson’s tune switches to a standard major blues for the band to solo over.

Untitled Original 11383

Untitled Original 11383

The Stroller (Paul Chambers solo)

I really like this bass solo by Paul Chambers.  It’s not just an inspiring display of bowing prowess, it’s also a lesson in blues soloing.

Even at 300 beats per minute, PC manages to build interest and intensity over the course of his solo.  After picking up the bow, Paul takes a couple choruses to warm up; he starts with mostly longer notes and bowstrokes.  By the third chorus Paul is ready to take it to a higher gear, and here he sets the tone for the rest of the solo by utilizing one the key elements of the blues, the “call and response”.  The first 8 bars of the form feature a repeated rhythmic or melodic idea, followed by a counterpoint, or “answer”, in the last 4 bars.  Pay attention to the answer here: every chorus after this will end with a slight variation on this same idea, and this helps the solo feel like one continuous unfolding of a theme.

Each chorus after this will find PC expanding on the idea of call and response, adding energy and complexity until chorus 7 is just an unbroken string of 8th notes.  After this, he raises the stakes again by shortening the length of his call phrase to 3 beats, squeezing even more repetitions into the first 8 bars.  Finally, in chorus 9, the chromatic fall from Bb to Eb hints that the solo is winding down, and Paul provides a satisfying denouement by giving us that familiar answer phrase one last time.

The Stroller (PChambers solo)