Chapter Study Outline

  1. During the 1950s, the nature of jazz composition changed from a practice that was influenced by European classical music (Third Stream) to one that mined the jazz past including New Orleans polyphony, stride piano, breaks, cadenzas, and standard jazz and pop themes. During this period, nonperforming full-time jazz composers made their appearance.
    1. Four jazz composers represent four approaches to expanding the jazz canvas:
      1. Monk worked with blues and standard song forms.
      2. Mingus worked with and expanded conventional forms, adding effects from gospel, ragtime, bop, classical music, and other sources.
      3. Gil Evans radically transformed the work of other composers.
      4. George Russell introduced modalism and new ways to approach harmony, and he changed the relation between composition and improvisation.
  2. Thelonius Monk (1917-1982)
    1. After Ellington, Monk is the most performed of all jazz composers, with his work having been adapted for every king of jazz style and for classical music. This is remarkable given that Ellington composed between 1,500 and 2,000 pieces of all varieties including popular songs, while Monk composed a mere 70 pieces with only one barely mainstream piece among them ("'Round Midnight"). During his early years, Monk was considered eccentric and a mediocre composer. Today he is much appreciated.
    2. After moving to New York when he was four, he started to teach himself piano by listening to his sister's piano lessons. Later, he joined drummer Kenny Clarke as part of the house band at Minton's Playhouse. Playing at Minton's put him at the center of the bebop movement.
    3. "'Round Midnight" was the most important of his early pieces. It became the theme song for the Cootie Williams big band, which recorded it in 1944. After lyrics were added, it became popular with singers.
    4. Alfred Lion, the owner of Blue Note Records, became a fan and signed Monk in 1947. He recorded for Blue Note for the next five years.
    5. In 1955 Monk was signed to a new label, Riverside. In 1956 he recorded Brilliant Corners with Sonny Rollins and Max Roach. It was a major jazz event even though the title tune was extremely difficult.
    6. He began a six-month residency at the Five Spot with John Coltrane. Many artists of all kinds were attracted to this band, and Monk became a hero to the "beats."
    7. By 1962 Monk was signed by the major label Columbia, and two years later Time magazine ran a story on him. The quartet, with saxophonist Charlie Rouse, toured the world.
    8. After achieving acceptance he withdrew. By the mid-1970s he slipped into seclusion; he died in 1982. In 2006, he was awarded the Pulitzer prize in music.
    9. Style
      1. Monk used traditional song forms (AABA) and blues as a basis for his compositions. Sometimes he would alter standard harmonies with whole-tone and chromatic scales: "Just You, Just Me" became "Evidence"; "Blue Skies" became "In Walked Bud"; "Sweet Georgia Brown" became "Bright Mississippi." He commonly used dissonances, which had up to that time been considered mistakes. Minor seconds are common. By accepting these dissonances, Monk changed the way we hear jazz.
      2. This does not mean that he was a free-jazz player nor that he was he immune from mistakes. When he made them, he would "save" them.
      3. "Rhythm-a-ning"
        1. One of his best-known pieces, it is based on "Rhythm" changes and a melody that draws from Ellington's "Ducky Wucky" (1932) and Mary Lou Williams's "Walkin' and Swingin'," which was written for Andy Kirk in 1936. A modernistic bridge is added to this renewed older material.
        2. Monk first recorded it in 1957. The recording here is from 1962, when he had first signed with Columbia Records. Charlie Rouse, Monk's longtime tenor saxophonist, joined the quartet in 1959 and plays here with a soft sound particularly suited to Monk's piano playing.
        3. Close listening reveals how much the musicians are responding to Monk: the drummer responds to Monk's rhythmic ideas; Rouse uses Monk's melodic suggestion in his solos. The bassist lays down a rock-solid foundation over which all this can happen.
  3. Charles Mingus (1922-1979)
    1. He is a virtuoso bassist and a composer who expanded the scope of music while assimilating music for the church, New Orleans jazz, swing, bop, and Romantic and modern classical music. He was a spokesman linking jazz and the civil rights movement; and a memoirist shedding light on the struggle for equality among African American artists.
    2. Mingus was brought up in the Watts area of Los Angeles, which was predominantly black and Mexican American. His family went to church regularly, which is where Mingus heard the gospel music that would be a lasting influence on him. He played piano, trombone, and cello before taking up the bass, which he studied with jazz bassist Red Callender and Callender's teacher, Herman Rheinschagen, who had played with the New York Philharmonic. Mingus was told to leave cello for the bass because, as an African American, he was likely never to get a job playing in a symphony orchestra.
    3. In 1950 he received national attention with the Red Norvo trio in New York, where he played with Parker, Powell, Getz, Davis, and Ellington, among others.
    4. In 1956 he signed with Atlantic Records and recorded his breakthrough album, Pithecanthropus Erectus. He completed his second Atlantic album, The Clown, putting him at the forefront of jazz thinkers and establishing him as one of the greatest living bass players. He created great music with just a small amount of composed material.
    5. He became notorious for his bandstand comments, often castigating musicians onstage. He hated musicians who relied on clich├ęs.
    6. After 1957 his comments turned political. He recorded "Fables of Faubus" in 1959 in response to Arkansas governor Orville Faubus's refusal to integrate Little Rock Central High School. Columbia refused to let him sing the lyrics, so he released it on the smaller Candid label. Other jazz musicians started speaking out after this.
    7. Mingus's compositions could be fastidiously arranged or more collaborative in nature. For longer pieces the latter style did not work so well. In a famous 1962 concert the musicians were still correcting scores as the curtain was going up. To accommodate his longer pieces, he started to hire arrangers and copyists to help organize his work. He also began to open up about his personal life in prose writing and speaking from the stage. Though often difficult and complex, his 300 compositions—spanning cool and hard bop— remain a great pleasure to listen to.
    8. Mingus died in 1997 at fifty-six from Lou Gehrig's disease.
    9. "Boogie Stop Shuffle"
      1. Based on a boogie-woogie shuffle, this fastmoving twelve-bar blues features ostinati, staccato chord punches, unison moaning, a three-note riff, bop variations, improvised solos, and multiple textures with only seven instruments.
      2. The key soloist is saxophonist Booker Ervin, but drummer Dannie Richmond (a former R&B tenor player) and pianist Horace Parlan (with a partly paralyzed right hand) were important figures in the Jazz Workshop.
      3. This recording is the original version edited for the Columbia album Mingus Ah Um. The unedited version has been released by Columbia but cannot match the edited version's excitement.
  4. Gil Evans (1912-1988)
    1. Although a composer of some memorable pieces, he was primarily an arranger who lifted the art of arranging to the level of composition.
    2. Evans was forty-five when he was finally recognized nationally, after he recorded the 1957 album Miles Ahead with Davis. It was made up of a series of trumpet concertos with composed transitional interludes instead of silences between selections.
    3. Evans is best known for his concerto form. His music has featured Miles Davis, soprano saxophonist Steve Lacey, mellophonist Don Elliot, trumpeter Johnny Coles, and guitarist Kenny Burrell. In 1958 he released New Bottle, Old Wine featuring altoist Cannonball Adderley. The ensemble was typically made up mostly of brass.
    4. In 1970 he started to add to the percussion section of his ensemble and, like Miles, who was still his good friend, to embrace fusion. His 1969 album Gil Evans preceded Davis's Bitches Brew. There was a planned collaboration with Jimi Hendrix but Hendrix died before this could happen. Instead Evans arranged versions of Hendrix's music ("Up From the Skies").
    5. By the 1970s and 1980s he routinely revised pieces on the bandstand by conducting, using piano chords and vocal commands. He also wrote film scores, mentored young composers, and worked with pop stars such as The Police's Sting (Gordon Sumner).
  5. George Russell (1923-2009)
    1. Russell was unique on two counts:
      1. He was not an instrumentalist; he was exclusively a composer-bandleader.
      2. He developed a musical theory for jazz and published it in George Russell's Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization. Volume 1: The Art and Science of Tonal Gravity (1953, rev. 2001). Russell is considered a jazz intellectual and not for the general public.
        1. This is not a fair assessment. Although some of his music is challenging, some charms audiences, like "All about Rosie" (1957), which is based on a playground tune, and his suite New York, N.Y. (1959), combining original music with three pop songs along with a rhyming rhythmic narration. The second piece prefigures rap. Almost all of his music since the 1970s has incorporated funk and even disco.
    2. Russell is the father of modal jazz as heard on Miles's Kind of Blue, Coltrane's Giant Steps, and Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage, among others.
    3. Born out of wedlock to a mixed-race couple, he was brought up in Cincinnati by a black family, who adopted him. He took up the drums and, after hearing Max Roach, decided to concentrate on composition.
    4. Russell was inspired to develop his theory by a question from Miles Davis about the relationship among chords. Russell started to analyze chords in terms of the scales that went with them. He realized that if you reduce the number of chords, improvisers will have to think more melodically. This was the basis for modal jazz, which dominated the 1960s, especially in fusion.
    5. In the Lydian Concept Russell argues that we hear the greatest "unity and finality" in the C Lydian scale (a C scale with an F_). He rejected major and minor keys and instead advocated various scales so as to eliminate a tonal center. Parker's approach had demonstrated that any note could be made to fit harmonically, and Russell thought that any chord could be resolved with a scale.
    6. Although complicated in theory, the practical result was that jazz musicians used one scale over a number of chords instead of dealing with each chord individually. This meant that the emphasis was not on the changes; the challenge was to focus on melodic invention.
    7. Pieces like "Cubana Be/ Cubana Bop" (1947) that Russell wrote for Dizzy in 1947 introduced modal orchestral writing. It was not until 1956 that he wrote a piece under his own name: "Jazz Workshop."
    8. "Concerto for Billy the Kid"
      1. Russell was highly respected by the best jazz musicians, but he was also good at discovering young talent; for example, he discovered Bill Evans and introduced him to Miles Davis. Russell conceived of this piece as a showcase for Evans. Evans's solo here is rigorous, very different from the meditative playing that came later.
      2. There are only six musicians on this recording, but they sound much greater in number. Clashing scales, melodic fragments, dissonances, and rhythmic change-ups give the piece a modern sound even by today's standards and despite his use of a standard chord progression for Evans's solo ("I'll Remember April"). Through it all, the music still swings.
    9. The Jazz Workshop album was a hit with the critics but not a commercial success. Nevertheless, there was enough interest for him to tour with a small group and to sign with other labels. He had a productive relationship with avant-garde saxophonist Eric Dolphy, and one of his early compositions, "Ezz-thetic," became something of a standard.
    10. In 1963, he took a job teaching at the University of Sweden, where he also had a chance to tour with a sextet and to write some longer pieces. In 1969 he returned to the States to teach at the New England Conservatory of Music. The London Concert (1989) is a good example of a live performance and includes an arrangement of Davis's solo on "So What." He continued to be controversial; in fact, the Jazz at the Lincoln Center program refused to book him because his orchestra included an electric bass.

Chapter 13 Jukebox