Saturday night tunes: Blue Train

I hardly ever post anything here on Saturdays, which I sometimes feel bad about, but it’s mostly because I’m either out doing stuff with my family, like today, or in but trying as hard as possible to approach a state of catatonia. But maybe there’s a way to be catatonic and still keep the old blog rolling, with a little music. Let’s see if I can manage to keep this going week to week. I give it about a 40% chance of actually happening. I’m starting off with John Coltrane’s excellent album Blue Train, because that’s the first one that came into my head when I thought about doing this post. It’s all very scientific, you see. It was recorded and released in 1957 and alongside Coltrane it features Philly Joe Jones on drums, Paul Chambers on bass, Kenny Drew on piano, Lee Morgan on trumpet and Curtis Fuller on trombone. It was Coltrane’s second solo album, after the appropriately named Coltrane that was also recorded/released in 1957. While it doesn’t have the style- and career-defining impact of Giant Steps, which came out three years later, there’s some great hard bop here, and you can hear where Coltrane was heading. Here’s the title track:

Here’s “Lazy Bird,” which is actually one of Coltrane’s first forays into the chord substitution (“Coltrane changes”) that was the real innovation of Giant Steps, especially its title track. Don’t take my word on this; Wikipedia has what seems like (I stress “seems like”; my knowledge of music theory has cratered since my undergrad days) a decent entry on what Coltrane changes are all about. Basically Coltrane figured out that, by moving around the circle of fifths in major thirds (from C to A-flat to E, for example), he could sub a bunch of interesting chord changes over standard jazz chord progressions. I don’t understand it any more than that. Coltrane said he figured this out while working with Miles Davis during Davis’s modal period, since that style gave him so much freedom to explore different chords and tonal combinations, but this album came out two years before Kind of Blue, and if you’ve heard “Giant Steps” (also, knowing what you’re listening for in “Lazy Bird” doesn’t hurt) it seems pretty obvious that he’s already working on this stuff here:
“Moment’s Notice,” which, while I love this whole album, is probably my favorite:
The album also included the standard “I’m Old Fashioned” and another blues, “Locomotion.” Enjoy!

Author: DWD

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