(Pictured – Dexter Gordon)
First, a couple of things, one related, the other not so much. The first thing I found of some interest is that “they” used artificial intelligence – the kind that ME has – to create songs by artists Who Are No Longer With Us. Sonny boy wonders if we can ever escape computers. I actually thought the fake Nirvana cut was pretty, pretty, pretty good. The article is here.
Secondly, I have been playing the gee-tar for a number of years, mostly rock and blues. However, I have always wanted to take a jazz course. I considered going to some music shop and finding some random instructor. And then lo and behold as if it read my mind, an ad popped up on Facebook a few months ago for Berklee College of Music right here in Boston. So, I signed up for a Jazz 101 guitar class. I am on the second week (virtual) and so far I’m kinda digging it. I’ll tell more later as the days go by. It’s 12-weeks and (for me anyway), non-credit.
Anyway, that leads to this list. As part of the class, the instructor named a number of tunes that will run throughout the course. I took those songs and put them in a Spotify list so I could immerse myself in them prior to the class. They are by no means all guitar songs but are just jazz tunes to listen to, learn from. And enjoy.
Let’s kick this thing off with a number by the inimitable John Coltrane. The tune is “Some Other Blues” and it comes from Coltrane’s 1961 album Coltrane Jazz. In addition to Trane it features the stellar lineup of Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb – who just left us last year – on drums.
I did a piece in the not-too-distant past on organ players one of whom is the incomparable Jimmy Smith. In 1966 he teamed up with the man who pretty much reinvented jazz guitar, Wes Montgomery. The album is called Jimmy & Wes: The Dynamic Duo.
AllMusic says, “The results are incendiary—a near-ideal meeting of yin and yang. Smith comes at your throat with his big attacks and blues runs while Montgomery responds with rounder, smoother octaves, and single notes that still convey much heat. They are an amazing pair, complementing each other, driving each other, using their bop and blues taproots to fuse together a sound.” And Grady Tate does not suck on the drums:
The song is – what else – “James and Wes”:
The next tune we can, I should think, blame on the Bossa Nova. That’s because its title is, in fact, “Blue Bossa.” It comes from a 1977 album called Biting the Apple and is led by tenor saxman Dexter Gordon. Other personnel are Barry Harris, piano; Sam Jones, bass; Al Foster, drums.
Like the other tunes here, it swings. (If you’re into this sort of thing, check out a movie called Round Midnight that stars Gordon, Herbie Hancock, and – weirdly – Martin Scorsese.)
John Scofield is an acknowledged master of the jazz guitar. His playing has more of a crisp, rock sound without at all being rock. It’s less like the Wes Montgomery’s of the world and more like the Larry Carlton’s or Pat Metheny’s.
The album is Hand Jive. AllMusic says, “Guitarist John Scofield and tenor saxophonist Eddie Harris make a very complementary team on this upbeat set of funky jazz, for both have immediately identifiable sounds and adventurous spirits. Along with a fine rhythm section that includes Larry Goldings on piano and organ, Scofield and Harris interact joyfully on ten of the guitarist’s originals.”
Here’s “Do Like Eddie” live:
Speaking of Pat Metheny, it’s been a while since I picked up on him. He used to live in the Boston area and I had the pleasure of once catching him at a small club. I was sitting there my buddy Bill. The place was so casual that Pat was sitting on the floor behind us practicing his scales. Can you say “no star bullshit?”
“Round Trip/Broadway Blues” is an Ornette Colemen tune from Metheny’s 1976 debut album, Bright Size Life. It was at a time when Pat was teaching at Berklee. It features a couple of guys named Jaco Pastorius and Bob Moses and so, is not too shabby. (Couldn’t find this one on YouTube)
Wikipedia: The Real McCoy is the seventh album by jazz pianist McCoy Tyner and his first released on the Blue Note label. It was recorded on April 21, 1967, following Tyner’s departure from the John Coltrane Quartet and features performances by Tyner with Joe Henderson, Ron Carter, and Elvin Jones.
Producer Alfred Lion recalls the recording session as a “pure jazz session. There is absolutely no concession to commercialism, and there’s a deep, passionate love for the music embedded in each of the selections.” Amen to that.
Here’s our final tune, “Passion Dance.”