Monday, June 14, 2010

album of the day: Giant Steps

The first studio album of all original John Coltrane compositions, Giant Steps was pretty aptly named. It arrived just as Coltrane's second stint with Miles Davis was ending, and Coltrane finally had no other choice for developing his own music but to become and remain a band leader. It also marks a creative beginning for Coltrane and for the future of jazz.

My copy (cd re-issue, 1999) includes the original liner notes, where Coltrane is liberally quoted regarding his writing. Seems like he spent a lot of time fooling around at the piano, until some progression caught his ear, then he worked that up into a tune, found variations, worked those up, etc. This allows me the harmless and ridiculous boast that I write very much the same way Coltrane did, only with guitar instead.

All Music Guide's review is a bit over-the-top on this one. Yes, Coltrane was developing a form of jazz that brought solo musicians into more focus, and thus de-emphasized (and eventually did away with) written melodic tunes. And yes, Coltrane's approach to solos was tremendously innovative and damned weird. But I don't think this album, good as it is, is a radical departure so much as a coherent, cohesive development.

(And if you want to talk about a new way to play a sax solo, well, compare these 1959 recording dates to the 1960 and '61 dates that formed My Favorite Things. Trane put some serious work into his control and concept in those months, is my take.)

It's excellent on its own terms, and the band are superb. I mean, Paul Chambers on bass, you can't beat that. Plus I love love love hearing the emerging new Coltrane sound in tracks like "Countdown" and the title track. Dee-lish!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I believe that the progression for the title track is something like stacked fourths, so that each chord follows mathematically and objectively, rather than subjectively. Then Trane proves what he can do within those bizarre boundaries. The "Giant Steps" are simpler than the great leaps and bounds away from past norms; they also signify the loping, stretched chord changes.
But the big question is what is that clicking sound in the beginning?
"Ba ba ba-da-dum *click-click* ba-da.."

:) Jackson