Monday, March 28, 2016

Tim Price Bloggin' For D'Addario Woodwinds- The pantheon of great jazz masters- and like minds. Trane & Slominsky.

We are losing the work ethic, and dedication of study- experimentation these days. Entry into the pantheon of great jazz used to be strictly reserved for those who play "who they are," not for those who second-guess what they think the audience or their friends on social media want to hear. The jazz masters all know that individuality can't be mass-produced. ART ! Slominsky and Coltrane still stand tall these days to those who care, and know what they are hearing.Coltrane’s 1961 Impressions album, recorded at the Village Vanguard in New York City,and the Coltrane record " Ole" took my teenage mind out in the 60's. Songs like “India” and “Impressions” propelled me into an out-of-body experience.I listened to the song " Ole" as a teenager in a different mindset than probably most would once I started to understand Trane could never get to that place in time, without being a strong blues player or a serious student of the music. I knew this from hanging around the older musicians I worked with as a teenager in clubs, and listening to the radio from Philly.

I had this great music and immagery around me. What exactly was happening? Why did Trane’s music have this effect on me? I think the answer lies in his approach to improvising. When he switched from chordal to modal music, he was embracing an old world music paradigm that often induces altered states of consciousness.Modal music takes you on a voyage, and certain scales affect people in powerful ways.It is often used in sacramental rituals in traditional world cultures.

Coltrane had read Russian music lexicographer Nicolas Slonimsky’s exhaustive Thesaurus of Scales and Melodic Patterns. It contained not only classic Western modes like diatonic, chromatic, lydian, phrygian and other well-established musical elements, but also modes from various world music genres: Indian scales, North African and African styles, Middle Eastern modes, and more. Coltrane studied these patterns and modes and used them in much of his exploratory music from 1961-1967, the year of his death. He also studied Indian modes and scales with Ravi Shankar.( He named his son Ravi as well, who is also one of my very favorite players )
Yusef Lateef also explored traditional world music in a similar fashion and used these idioms in his music. For both musicians, modal improvisation allowed them to reach a deeper spiritual plane than standard chord progressions would, the latter which Coltrane had thoroughly covered in the 1950s on albums like Giant Steps and his work with Miles Davis for the Prestige sides.
Many cultures outside of Europe see music as elixir, not just entertainment or even art . Music forms a part of daily life, devotion, spirit and ritual, not just in clubs or concert halls. This is where the modal model comes in.

Coltrane was a seeker who wanted to go deeper in his music. And that is why he is revered not only as musician but also as a musical healer as well. He was a true musical sufi who transcended many musical boundaries, and his music prefigured what we enjoy now in world music. And hearing that 1961 album, Impressions and Ole, changed my life and musical journey.

But let me say boldly that the Nicolas Slonimsky book is something still yet to be fully paid attention to in depth. Of course we all know Frank Zappa gave strong props to Nicolas Slonimsky. But if you really study the book in the right way-slowly doors open. I've been into it since buying it in 1970 from the Bumblebee book Store on Hemenway St in Boston. I have sinse bought another hard cover copy as well, as a travel copy. My teacher the late Charlie Banacos and I got deep into the book- and not only did I start to find some great harmonic parts of Coltrane solos, but also key center shifting or the whole-tone pattern of two augmented triads
that appears in an earlier position in Coltrane’s improvisation on “One Down, One
Up”. Plus other nice ideas as - a sesquitone, or minor third, progression used as melodic vocabulary in a Coltrane improvisation occurs just before the E major, C major, and Ab major implied major thirds cycle from the composition “Brasilia”. There are loads more in " Brasilla" and of course " Saturn" with direct links to Slonimsky.

entry into the pantheon of great jazz is strictly reserved for those who play "who they are," not for those who second-guess what they think the audience wants to hear. The jazz masters all know that individuality can't be mass-produced. of Scales and Melodic Patterns contains over two hundred
patterns based on the ditone progression which is the most common link to the interval of the major third. Listen to " Giant Steps". Coltrane used so many
ditone progression patterns out of the Thesaurus in his pursuit of cyclical
material.If you search in the book, Slonimsky labels one particular group of patterns included in the ditone progression portion of the Thesaurus as "Miscellaneous Patterns". These sixteen patterns constructed using dominant seventh chords progressing by the interval of a major third and are further classified by root position, first inversion, second inversion, and third inversion.I was playing them for years, and Charlie Banacos pointed them out to me- and the light went on. It made sense then!
Then there are the, if you will and I hate to use a term free but the word free music with Rashid Ali, where you can hear the cycles going from the book.Those duets recorded with Rashied Ali are mind blowing, "Mars" was done in 1967 and sounds like it was done yesterday and contains a cycle following a perfect fourth inversion then perfect fifth until it is reached again. Once Coltrane finishes one complete cycle of fourths, he immediately starts and completes eight more pitches of another cycle of fourths. Right out of Slonimsky! Not note for note mind you but for sure, the thought intuition. Of course another great example is John Coltrane using the perfect fourth via the principal
interval pattern is as the first motive is the composition "Jupiter", from the Interstellar Space recording again as I mentioned.

NOW- Here on "Jupiter" what has made it such a tour de' force is that Coltrane has his be-bop roots right in place,is a melodically stronger pattern because of the whole and half step approaches to the pitches of the principal interval. Slonimsky typically uses patterns in the Thesaurus that outline triads-but Trane had added that to bop approach notes and took to to the ultimate zenith of it's limit. The first time I head this it was mind blowing because it was like opera. Between two eras at once in a split second! Trane has the minor triads outlined in fourths. By arranging the pattern the way he does, Coltrane is able to melodically and rhythmically
emphasize the movement by the principal interval of the fourth with the Slonimsky ideas. Not copying have you but fuel for the fire! Remember, I bought my book in 1970, it took me decades of study and asking questions and LISTENING to get to these places. I'm not done either.

But the other interesting part is-first of all- they bring you in. It feels so good. There's a rapture in there. An invitation and a very unique desire to return. I don't know how many times I listened to those records, let alone the cut " Ole". Also I should add this, It is true that Slonimsky does not come right out and say how to specifically apply these concepts and phrases. Instead, he leaves little clues (many of which are in the Introduction) to help guide and provide the reader with a few different options of harmonizations and applications. Quite simply, with the "Thesaurus," you get what you put into it. If you spend time analyzing, applying, and considering the things in this book, it will over time become clear as to what it is all really about.This is NOT a quick fix book. One of the great things about this book is it inspires an individualistic approach; you learn to develop your own way of thinking as you work through it. This makes everyone's appplication of the scales just a bit different from the next person. Two people might approach the same pattern in a totally different way, therefore making the applications constantly evolve and change. Also, if you are thinking this book will provide a "quick fix" for your playing, or make you sound like Coltrane, don't bother buying this book either. One should be aquainted with both classical and jazz harmony before working through this book. Besides the contents of the book there are a few other nice things about it. There is an explanation of terms, which is most helpful as the musician learns Slonimsky's terminology. It is also extremely well organized which lends itself well to an individual curriculum. For the musicians that are ready, and are motivated enough to put in the required time and effort, it will be well worth it, and the musical rewards will compensate the price of buying the book many times over. Slonimsky states in the Introduction, "There are 479,001,600 possible combinations of the 12 tones of the chromatic scale. With rhythmic variety added to the unbounded universe of melodic patterns, there is no likelihood that new music will die of interval starvation in the next 1000 years." Good news!

I'm even at a point where I'm feeling ready to do a Slonimsky-Coltrane masterclass in NYC in 2012 in the spring. I got a few interesting line matrix within chords that work, and some examples and definitions. I've used some of it myself even with some open ended bassoon things of mine, it works great if you use the patterns in the next portion of this analysis of interval cycles based on the tritone progression that are classified by Slonimsky as“Symmetric Interpolations”. The tritone progression is the only interval cycle in the Thesaurus that includes this category. This is due to the fact that since the tritone interval divides an octave equally into two parts, an intervallic symmetry can be created ascending and descending the middle of the octave by 96 strategically inserting interpolations. This works amazing, due to the octaves on the bassoon, and you don't have to resolve at all.

Improvising- results could go places like this;

If I really want to go off- I throw on my WHAMMY pedal and add some additional harmony like a 4th down or a 7th up. I wonder what Nicholas might of thought of that? Hmmm????

On a funny note- Once Ernie Watts and I were practicing this book in my home at almost midnight. Ernie got concerned, and said to me, " Does your wife own a fire arm? "....after the laughter stopped,I assured him it was ok. She was sleeping and the room was sound proofed. We still laugh about that. Another story was, I actually met Slonimsky once in Los Angeles. A friend composer /woodwind player knew him, and took me to meet him. He was really a very interesting man. I was at a loss for words.
If you know me, that might behard to believe, but I said to him, Nicolas you look fantastic. As I was really nervous as I never expected to meet this man in my life! He smiled and said " I SHOULD- I'M NOT EVEN 100 !"....He was a brilliant hang.

In any case- this is a path I've been on for decades and also something of great interest. In closing let me also add,entry into the pantheon of great jazz is strictly reserved for those who play "who they are," not for those who second-guess what they think the audience wants to hear. The jazz masters all know that individuality can't be mass-produced. Think about hard...practice hard and be who you are.

~ Tim Price

No comments:

Post a Comment