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
I transcribed this from an old Coleman Hawkins record featuring Oscar Pettiford on bass. I sometimes show it to students of mine because it’s a nice example of how to compose an effective walking bassline. Oscar uses a few simple ideas to give motion and color to the harmony, and his timing is impeccable. The bass solo shows off Oscar’s dexterity and motivic development, as well as presaging the solo style of the next generation of greats like Paul Chambers.
Crazy Rhythm (OPettiford bassline) – Score
Here’s a transcription of Oscar Peterson’s bluesy solo on the classic “On Green Dolphin Street”, from the album Very Tall, featuring Milt Jackson, Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen. I play the tune often at jam sessions, but this version also holds a special significance for me…
It was a snowy December evening many years ago, when I was still in my teens. I had just acquired a turntable and was excited to start my vinyl collection, so I stopped into a record shop to peruse the stacks. As soon as I walked through the door I heard the mellifluous sound of Milt Jackson’s vibraphone filling the air. I was so transfixed, it was hard to concentrate on the titles of the records I was flipping through. I ended up listening to the entire record while standing at the counter, and bought it as soon as the needle came to rest. To this day I think fondly of Very Tall every time I’m walking on a cold snowy night.
The solo starts at 3:45 of the song for those listening along.
On Green Dolphin Street (Oscar Peterson solo)