Wednesday, July 23, 2014


I have three favorite tunes from the Roy Brown Quartet Continuation CD.  The first one is Lonely Woman by Horace Silver.  I did an arrangement of that for my last blog post.  Another beautiful tune that he has on the CD is named "One For D".  This  is a slow solo piano number  that must be a tribute to somebody.  It is one of those songs that I forget about until it comes up on a playlist,  and then I can't resist listening to it a few times.

The third song that the quartet just kills is Minority by Gigi Gryce. Minority is a 16-bar jazz standard in a minor key by Alto sax player Gigi Gryce, first recorded with Clifford Brown in Paris on October 8, 1953.  Since it is only 16 bars and typically played very fast, the melody is generally played twice to make the "head" into 32 bars before any soloing occurs.   The Roy Brown Quartet  plays this incredibly fast  and unbelievably tight.  I think I clocked the tempo at something like 240 bpm.   If this song cut doesn't get your blood moving, then you just don't like jazz!

It was time for me to work on a fast song,  so Minority was the choice.  The first problem was that 240 bpm is way outside of my league.  I immediately set out to listen to many recorded versions in an effort to see if I could find any that were played at a realistic speed,   so I could get an idea of how they arranged it for a slower speed.   To my dismay,  virtually every recording on any instrument was at least 200 bpm. Sigh.  Even the ones that sounded more relaxed actually turned out to be more than 200 bpm when I clocked them with a metronome.   Even the solo piano versions!

The Roy Brown arrangement was actually not that helpful for me since besides the speed,  it is actually more of a vehicle for the vibes player than the piano player.   I did find three recordings that were helpful though.

The first was the famous Bill Evans recording from his Everybody Digs Bill Evans album.  In his arrangement,  he creates a lot of movement by having increasing interplay with the drummer.   After his solo,  he first trades 8's  and then escalates to trade 4's with the drummer,  keeping the listener on the edge of his/her seat.  That was an arrangement element that I could steal without too much difficulty,  so that one went in the mix.

Next,  I found one recording by bass player Pat Senatore that was actually under 200 bpm.  This was done at 188,  which is at the outside range of do-ability for me,  so I figure that my arrangement at 188 is legit :-)
Ironically,  his version feels faster than some of the ones that are done at faster tempo,  because his absurdly talented piano player,  Josh Nelson,  has such motion in his ideas  that it seems like it it flying.

Finally,  I've been listening to Paula Shocran's  solo treatment.   This is a tour-de-force of chops and inventiveness.   She starts out playing legato  (which I incorporated into mine),  and then builds and builds to the point where she too is playing 32nd notes at a tempo above 200 bpm.  Sick.  

Even though I'm playing at the slowest tempo of any recording that I found,  I still had a -great- deal of trouble playing solos at that speed.   This is where it is really obvious that unless you woodshed playing scales and licks in all keys at  fast tempos,  you will never do justice to a song like this.  I've always said that I'm not going to subject anyone to  that torture,  but it is depressing acknowledging the profound limitation that this represents.

Roy Brown Quartet

Everybody Digs Bill Evans (1958) 

Paula Shocron

Pat Senatore

Geek Alert

I've made liberal use of  tritone substitutions  throughout the many ii/V's  that are in this song.  I'm trying to substitute not just in the chords themselves,  but in the solos also.

If you are wondering what that  little quote is during the drum interchange,  it is Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka

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