On Sunday, I’ll go to the recording studio to record pre-screening tapes for several music schools including NYU, Eastman School of Music, and the University of Miami (Fl). I’ll lay down six tunes: “Tune Up,” “Billie’s Bounce,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” “Black Orpheus,” and “Darn That Dream.” I will be accompanied by Mike Holmes (piano), Waldo Latowsky (drums), and Bobby Durham (bass). These tunes are pretty tough, but I have been working on them quite a bit, including working with them every day this week with my band director, Mr. Bob Chandler. I will post the recordings here as soon as I have them available. Here’s a little information about the tunes:
“Tune Up” is a be-bop piece by Miles Davis. The amazing thing about this tune is that it goes through three keys, and has six key changes per chorus. It starts out in the key of concert D major for the first four bars (IIm-V7-I progression), C major for the next four bars, and Bb major for the next four bars. Then, there is a four bar turnaround that goes Em-F7-Bbmaj7-A7. This leads back into the IIm-V7-I in D, then C, then Bb, and then each chorus ends with one last IIm-V7-I in D. Be-bop is characterized by advanced harmony and often very fast tempos (usually over 200 beats per minute). Well on the subject of advanced harmony, this tune was later used by John Coltrane as a basis for his tune “Countdown.” That particular tune has a fairly similar melody, but Coltrane makes his own chord substitutions, and uses quite a bit of tritone substitution.
“Billie’s Bounce” is a Blues in F, but it is not a standard 12 bar blues. It is a “Bird Blues,” which means that it is written by Charlie Parker, and has his chord substitutions. Parker made some chord substitutions. So, the substitutions allow for more harmony, and more advanced improvisational techniques are required to navigate the changes. The tune is pretty fast, and has a fairly difficult head, unlike most blues. It is up-tempo, but not terribly fast, I would say around 155 beats per minute. A normal 12 bar blues in F would be as follows:
However, a bird blues is as follows:
F7-Bb7 Bdim-F7-Cm7 F7
Bb7-Bb7 Bdim-F7-Am7 D7
Gm-C7-F7 D7-Gm C7
“Days of Wine and Roses” was written by Henry Mancini, and the lyrics were written by Johnny Mercer. The tune came from the 1962 movie of the same name. For the most part, the tune is in F major, although there are some spots where one can use the whole tone scale, and even one chord where the F minor scale can be used. Some bluesy notes (b9 ) work well at times, but it pretty much stays in one key, though there is a very cool turnaround that is showy for a soloist. The trick with this tune is that it is not a ballad, but it is still pretty slow, which makes it very easy to get ahead of the changes and get lost, which can not happen on Sunday.
“Black Orpheus” is probably the easiest of these tunes. It is a bossa nova (latin style, straight 8th notes). For the most part, it hovers around A minor, which is the relative minor of C major. There are, however, times in the tune where there are some cool chords that one can really play with. Hitting a G# over an E7 chord works very well, and there is a pretty cool C#dim A7(b9) measure that is good for working outside the key. There are a couple of bars in D minor, and a couple in E minor as well, but for the most part, the challenge of this tune is playing something melodic. For me, this will be a showcase on my tone and melody.
The next tune is a bear. “Darn That Dream.” An amazingly slow ballad, with more chord changes than grains of sand on a beach. No, seriously. At times, there are 4 chord changes per measure! Often times, they are not very close to each other either. The first measure contains 3 chords: A major, Cminor, F7. What? Voice leading is a HUGE challenge on this song, and you can not get lost, because if you do it is very obvious. Also, because the tune moves so slowly, the great player can not just play the melody like it is written. You must take a lot of liberties with the melody in order to keep it from being too boring.
The very last tune is another Miles Davis tune, “All Blues.” It comes off of the Kind of Blue record, so this will be interesting to try. It is a pretty standard blues in G, but the tough part of it is that it is in 6/8. This tune lends itself to being a modal tune, so I will use a lot of mixolydian and dorian scales. Simple melodies work well, and are necessary to help you keep your place because the tune simply feels so strange.
Also, this will take place on November 14, one day after my late saxophone teacher, Dennis Taylor’s, birthday. So, happy birthday DT! Also, a big thanks to Dennis and his wife, Karen Leipziger, for helping to set this up.