It Is Time for some Jazz

(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.

Spotify link

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”:

Spotify link

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.)

Spotify link

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:

Spotify link

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)

Spotify link

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.”

Spotify link

18 thoughts on “It Is Time for some Jazz

  1. Good stuff, Jim, and congrats to your jazz guitar class. This sounds cool. I also like your groovy music picks. Spontaneously, I feel mostly drawn to the John Coltrane and Jimmy Smith/Wes Montgomery tunes – perhaps not too surprising, given my affection for saxophone and the Hammond B-3.

    I had not heard about the AI-generated Nirvana song. While I like the idea behind the Lost Tapes of the 27 Club project, the thought that some AI program creates music is somewhat creepy. That being said, I must admit that Nirvana-style song doesn’t sound bad.

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    1. The class has got a lot of good stuff. In the first lesson, he had us playing chord tones. He said that as a guitarist if you’re playing chord tones (and know what chord you’re playing against), scales and arpeggios – and combine with a jazz ‘feel’ -you got something goin’ on.

      My son is the world’s biggest Nirvana fan and didn’t like the tune. I actually thought that it sounded pretty good too. I find this whole thing less creepy than, say, a Zappa tour using his hologram that the family did a few years ago. I could not attend this or anything like it.

      https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-live-reviews/frank-zappa-hologram-tour-review-827195/

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  2. Loads of great stuff here, Jim. Coltrane cut is really good… some of his stuff hits me just right. Or at the right time. I dunno exactly. That hits right, though. Dexter Gordon. I’ll be checking out more of his stuff.

    As for the AI project: I found that very interesting (what it stands for and suchlike). The Hendrix cut was the pick of what I heard (as a fan, I really don’t like the Nirvana tune, though).

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    1. Gordon is one of the greats, maybe not as well known. Catch that movie too if you can. Must be out there somewhere. As to the AI project, yeah I couldn’t resist posting that. As to Nirvana, well, whatever, nevermind.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I looked the movie up and added it to my watchlist (directed by the same guy that directed In the Electric Mist, which is a favourite- so I’ll definitely be looking for it). And good luck with the jazz lessons!

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        1. Thanks. In two weeks I already have enough material to keep me busy for months. I don’t know that I’ll ever be a true jazz player. But if I can throw jazz licks in to some of my blues playing I would be fine with that.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I may have sent you on a wild goose chase with that movie. It doesn’t appear to be streaming anywhere. Best I can find is buying it used for about 12 USD on Amazon. I may well do that.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. No kidding – not an easy one to find, but someone has kindly uploaded it to Vimeo, so I’ll bookmark that for later!

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        4. Sure. You just never know when those things will be discovered and disappear. However it now appears to be so forgotten that maybe they don’t really care.

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  3. I love how Coltrane doesnt waste any time getting to business. None of this “making us wait” bullshit.
    I absolutely love that Jimmy and We stuff. So fricken cool. Wes is so clean (Is that the proper term?). Talk about swing. I have that on record and CD. It’s walkin music. I think Wes does a bunch of Beatles covers (A lot of those jazz guys did)
    Dexter is just so cool. Yeah that’s a great flick. He stole a Lester Young saying for that film. Something about “Does Madam burn?”
    I listen to JS a lot and that cut with Harris is why. Listen to that band and the music. Killer.
    Pat M is someone that I put on (not enough) just because I should. Real good cut Doc.
    Im letting McCoy take me out. What a band. What a sound
    Great take. Hang a blue ribbon on it. You have sent me off into jazz land for the day. Good luck with the lessons and let us know how you progress.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is the jazz take I told you I was working on. Needed to get a bit of time to pull it together. You see the kind of stuff we’re listening to and working on. Berklee is one of the best schools in the world. They get ON it. No bullshit.

      I hadn’t heard that Metheny cut in a while. As soon as I listened I said, Is that Jaco? Sure enough. Unmistakable.

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    2. As to the class, I was telling J that I have enough to study for months. If I ever take jazz 201 it won’t be for quite a while. It’s a bit plate of food and I can’t digest it all.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Bill and I were just talking about it. He plays mostly rock and blues but would like to spice it up with some jazz feel. I’m gonna share some of my lessons with him.

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