~ Bach & Coltrane ~

~ today remembered as the hardest working artists in showbiz, super serious searchers across the centuries and through our local universe ~

'I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well.'

J. S. Bach 1685-1750

~

'Invest yourself in everything you do. There's fun in being serious.'

John Coltrane 1926-1967

Developing the diatonic harmony available on an equal tempered keyboard instrument of J.S. Bach.

wiki ~ J.S. Bach

Developing melody and into chords following along the pathways pioneered by John Coltrane.

wiki ~ John Coltrane

"Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist."
wiki ~ Pablo Picasso
Bach's evolution
tuning
counterpoint
four part harmony
the piano
major ~ minor
modulation
ornamentation
sequences

structure / form

Coltrane's evolution
Americana songs
the blues
451 into 251
V7b9
sheets of sound
V7 before each chord
each chord is V7

pedal tones

 

In a nutshell. One third of our musical trinity is the harmony that drives our music along, supporting the melody and combining with rhythms to get the dancers up and the house a rockin'.

In our theory studies in this work, Bach and Coltrane become our harmony bookends. Both Bach and Coltrane did the shedding and made their understandings of harmony and its evolutions clearly in the music they wrote, that thankfully we have preserved to this very mucho 'present' that is today.

Essentials attempts to create a combined historical, theoretic and cultural evolution timeline of harmony's evolutions and tonal qualities from an inside, diatonic basis on through to the distant realms of outside; the polytonality, atonality and eventually the full 12 tone chromaticism of free jazz and beyond.

inside / outside
diatonic basis
polytonality
atonality
the chromatic buzz
towiki ~ free jazz

European Bach bequeathes to us a vast library of music, much of which exemplifies the new harmonic potentials of his day, as the tuning of pitches was tempered to equal and adapted into the piano. Bach's "371 Chorales" and "The Well Tempered Clavier", became a harmony basis for our own early Americana church hyms. From these wholly diatonic works, we inherit the harmony backbone of what becomes our own Americana gospel musics.

From this basis, Americana Coltrane creates for us a complete diatonic evolution of tonal harmony. From a triad basis, we venture completely through and exhaust the complete diatonic realm,

the diain Americana jazz composition, within a decade span that electrified the global jazz community. Early empowered with a public school education, as a wind player melody was foremost. As the .

to wiki ~ WTC

That we have publishing dates and scores for both composers makes our 'in hindsight' theory work a snap. Artistically is where the real challenge begins as we each must decide for the creation of our own current work which elements along these evolutionary pathways are necessary to bring forth our own art. Then the shedding begins to master the chosen resources; the pitches and their evolutions into arpeggios and chords.

Keyboard chords. For our theory story here Bach's WTC represents the vast range of diatonic harmonic resource we gain by the perfection of the equal temper tuning of the pitches. For prior to this time different ways of tuning apparently do not have the full 12 pitch / key center potential as equal temper tuning provides.

ways of tuning

So the tuning precision of the 12 pitches 'encouraged and allowed' the scope of Bach's masterwork? In theory, that's the idea put forth here. As such it becomes a bookend for our theory studies. For while melody goes to the early mists of antiquity, the chords as we know and enjoy them today do not really exceed 500 years.

Saxophone chords. Coltrane started out with the full equal tempered resource of chords equally from all 12 pitches of the chromatic scale. He played saxophones, so no real way to play chords; select pitches struck together as on a piano. Coltrane conquered this reality through combining sheer will of velocity of pitches / rhythms with arpeggiating the pitches of each chord that comes along in a song's chord progression. This approach we know theoretically today as 'sheets of sound.'

chords
velocity
chord progression

'Sheets of sound' is a melodic cascade of notes that create a chordal effect not unlike that created by an orchestral harp, but Coltrane's jazz is way way faster in basic tempo and articulation of the number of pitches in a phrase. It's hard to hear the changes in these sorts of lines, the pitches just go by too quickly for most of us to hear and understand its theory. Further aural challenges develop through Coltrane's chord substitution principles.

towiki ~ sheets of sound
hear the changes

While very few strengthen to this level of actual performance, knowing its pitch theory is rather quite simple really. An alternative to 'sheets of sound' in the last decade or so is the rapid chromaticism of pitches that in 'harmony theory sense' lies just a bit beyond the organization of 'sheets of sound', a further degree in the blurring of tonal direction, altering of the tonal gravity, aural predictability and tonal center arrival of the art.

chromaticism
aural predictability
tonal center
art

Charlie Parker / "Cherokee." Is an Americana composer and saxophonist, 'here crowned as an 'Arpeggio King', who helped to pioneer a new approach to jazz in the early 40's. Termed 'bebop' by historians, 'bop' was both the most difficult music to play and the most exciting improvised music NYC had ever heard. Folks were said to be just stunned, and in good way.

Mr. Parker was said to have heard pianist Art Tatum perform. Enough so that over a year or so of his own diligent practice, Parker deftly applied what Tatum was doing in his right hand to the whole range of his alto saxophone, later to hire pianist Al Haig and others, to play the left hand part, the chord changes, root motions of the chord progressions etc. So two cats combined to play Art Tatum's piano music :)

wiki ~ Charlie Parker
wiki ~ bebop
wiki ~ New York City
wiki ~ Art Tatum
wiki ~ Al Haig

So now with four hands on the songs, the music could go nearly twice as fast. By increasing the conventional tempos and using temporary modulations, and a sort of '12 tone diatonic structure' for his compositions, Parker and his many many contemporaries' created melodies, supported by the 'new' harmonies, that encompossed the 'whole tamale', that full 'diatonic pie' with 'all the color tones on top.' All those big band orchestral colors colors inherited from the swing cats of the 30's. Cellular level Two / Five cadential motions at blistering tempos, the arpeggio figure, representing chords in a melody line, again blazing the new pathway through the changes, while all still steeped deep deep deep in the blues.

wiki ~ swing music

wiki ~ the blues

"Cherokee." The jazz standard song titled "Cherokee" becomes Mr. Parker' initial portal into both the evolution of our harmony and time. Fast moving modulations and the subtle half note melody, deftly disguise what may come from the advancing improvisor in the blowing.

For legend has it that Mr. Parker, then in his early 20', was warming up prior to a performance in his home town Kansas City, Kansas 'running the changes' of this 1938 classy Ray Noble burner, "Cherokee." And that it was in this 'moment' that things 'clicked' and Parker's new vision manifests both compositionally and improvisationally. This vision completed the evolutionary quest of exploring the available diatonic color tones for each chord in turn.

This is coupled with Parker's 'exhausting' the relationship between the 12 tones and diatonic harmony. So from this point forward really, all the extended arpeggio pitches on all the chords are available. Including all of the blue notes and bluesy wasy to slip in and out of the pitches and phrasing.

Arpeggio based, Mr. Parker simply realized that to play the 'new ideas' he was hearing, he would first have to fully arpeggiate the supporting chord to make all of the pitches 'sound correct.' As the chord progressions of his songs gradually 'filled in' with more diatonic chords, cadential motions and chord substitutions, Parker, through his arpeggios, redefined the music of his day as he stayed 'inside' the changes, regardless of their complexity, and always kept some gospel feel and blue colors at hand. The classic Americana musical weave.

"Cherokee's" written melody rhythms are mostly whole and half notes, which gives the artist 'time to think', however briefly, as the music scoots along. For there's a neat trick in up tempo songs; that by sounding a long note value in time through changes, our imaginations will 'suggest' other notes and ideas, which we then try to play.

So often in the jazz / bebop literature we hear this long note or two, followed by some blistering lick, then another long note, then another notey lick etc. Long notes call, short notes response. Gives us time to think of what to say and how we want to say it.

We get to rhythmically 'push off' from a bar line, floating a sustained note, create some space. Have time for a breath, and give our minds a window to conjure the next phrase This 'push off process' works like a charm, and not just in jazz :) Space :)

This 'long note' improv idea is explained in the book Forward Motion by jazz pianist Hal Garper. Mr. Garper tells us that he learned it from Dizzy Gillespie, trumpet virtuoso, bebop and Latin pioneer elbow to elbow with Mr. Parker.

A synopsis of this work is included at the close of the discussion of musical time included in this book. It creates a way into Mr. Garper's idea of where a phrase begins and ends, which in his musings ties us right back up to J.S. Bach, whose experiments with the 'new' temperament of the day helped to usher in the then 'new' era of stacking up pitches into chords. That far back huh? Yep, way back to 1725 or so :)

time / forward motion

 

Two pathways in. So in the next menu there's two main pathways to initially choose; chords or melody. Find these exact same listings on the main menu of the title page.


 

 

 

 

 

 

~ John Coltrane ~
 

 

               
   

 

     
     

'American composer, tenor saxophonist, artistic evolutionist and loving Father to so many ...'

 

 

 

"I think I was first awakened to musical exploration by Dizzy Gillespie and Bird. It was through their work that I began to learn about musical structures and the more theoretical aspects of music." John Coltrane

The epic American harmonic evolutions. Depending on the pathway you took to arrive here, for many there will be no surprise that American jazz saxophonist John Coltrane is the central evolutionary theory figure for this theory book of American music.

Coltrane's legacy ranges to all known places. My work here centers on the advances he championed with the harmony. For through the study of his work we find a gadually additive, 'organic from within' series of harmonic evolutions authored into his compositions. So in theory we've a step by step guide to the necessary shedding, for those artistically inclined in a similar directions.

Coltrane's legacy ranges far and wide, this work centers on the advances he championed with the harmony. An additive, 'organic from within' series of evolutions he developed and authored into compositions.

great harmonic evolutions

John Coltrane. Depending on the pathway you took to arrive here, for some there will be no surprise that American jazz saxophonist John Coltrane is a central evolutionary theory figure for American music. While Coltrane's legacy ranges to all known extents, my ideas here center on the advances he championed with the harmony. For in his work we as theorists find a gadually additive, 'organic from within' series of harmonic evolutions authored into his compositions. So in theory we've a step by step guide to the necessary shedding, for those artistically inclined in a similar directions.

For in Mr. Coltrane's body of work, we can find the entire theoretical evolution of our tonality from diatonic inside to 12 tone out.

That Now available to artists globally, those who choose to follow in the now ancient traditions of using our 12 tone organizational scheme to emulate the natural musical sounds and combinations in our music. In perhaps more visual terms of artists working with light, color and dimension, everything from the cave paintings of Altamira through Michelangelo, van Gogh to Rothko.

So as music theorists, our pathway to 'parnassum' is solid, clear and filled with music to enjoy along the way. For at each of the basic theory steps of our theoretical musical evolution, Coltrane has captured its essence in stunning compositions, which magically retain the core Americana bluesy, gospel ascending sense of struggle to free the spirit in the land of time that always swings.

Coltrane's search. F

simply describe the exhausting of the harmonic resource into sheets of sound then beyond. Get from Eli's later train albulm nanes.

 

The evolution of American harmony. That Mr. Gillespie was the master trumpeter of his day.

modes
intervals

The evolution of 3 6 2 5 . That Mr. Gillespie was the master trumpeter of his day.

modes
intervals

V of V becomes V of anything.

. That Mr. Gillespie was the master trumpeter of his day.

modes
intervals

Everything is V7.

. That Mr. Gillespie was the master trumpeter of his day.

modes
intervals

Why? Mostly in that it seems as if Mr. Coltrane successively shedded, wrote and performed a gradually evolving level of harmonic complexity into his compositions. Necessitated by needing a greater intellectual and artistic challenge. I hope there are original charts to back my idea up somewhere because if we follow along with the recording dates spanning a decade, the path through to Giant Steps and beyond is quite clearly a theoretical exhausting of our 12 tone resource.

John Coltrane

anything from anywhere

Trane's harmonic evolution

chord substitution

Coltrane loved the chords. Not really too hard to project into his composing that he loved chords. As a saxophist the chords he loved, he could not play on his horn. But he could play arpeggios. ostly in that it seems as if Mr. Coltrane successively shedded, wrote and performed a gradually evolving level of harmonic complexity into his compositions. Necessitated by needing a greater intellectual and artistic challenge. I hope there are original charts to back my idea up somewhere because if we follow along with the recording dates spanning a decade, the path through to Giant Steps and beyond is quite clearly a theoretical exhausting of our 12 tone resource.

. Iperthrough diligent study simply exhausted it possible that by the simple neccesity of new varieties, Mr. Coltrane evolved our resources based on his own need to simply create greater and greater musical challenges for himself throughout his career. He brought forth his discoveries and evolutions in writing music that demanded a gradually increasing level of theoretical and artistic knowledge, coupled of course with strengthening the technical and physical aspects needed for its performance.

John Coltrane

anything from anywhere

Trane's harmonic evolution

chord substitution

 

Interesting to note here perhaps that while most of our evolutions within Essentials have been a gradual increasing of the pitches in a numerical sense, in the following case, while we'll initially follow this pathway we'll end up on a downhill trend, a somewhat of a decrease in the numbers of pitches while the challenge of the thought process necessary to hang at this new level is really a bit off the charts. So in a sense we've charted the triangle of knowledge or, Mr. Coltrane has, we've just come along after in his footsteps.

triangle of knowledge

Author's note: Might this creative and intellectual urge, in all fields of endeavor, simply be programmed into our DNA us as human beings? Could very well be. So a very special thanks and prayers to cats like Mr. Coltrane for showing us this most organic of human potential within the timeless artform we all love and simply call music :)

DNA

Relieving the tedium. So did Mr. Coltrane's mastering of the music he was performing simply necessitate his evolution of increasingly difficult levels of musical challenges? Was his searching in part to relieve the tedium and boredom that so many artitst commonly share about their own sound and playing? (There's a great story about artistic energy from recording engineer Tom Dowd's biography "The Language Of Music" about his work while engineering Mr. Coltrane's 'Giant Steps' recording.)

By examining his original compositions in historical order, as based on their recording and release dates, we can sense, with the benefit of hindsight of course, what becomes a theoretically rather simple evolutionary path of increasing difficulty and challenge.

bored with my own playing
evolution of Coltrane compositions

As we delve into the analysis of Mr. Coltrane's art, what emerges is a pathway of evolutionary complexity, created mainly through basic chord substitution principles coupled with increasingly rapid tempos. While faster tempos will in and of themselves ramp up the intellectual, physical and artistic challenge of performance, that Mr. Coltrane's improvised art in his advanced compositions is oftentimes so astoundingly beautiful, torrential in its execution yet graceful and full of the core Americana, makes for really rather stunning, natural and organic combination and evolution of all things considered.

Evolution of the harmony / "Giant Steps." From a purely theoretical sense, Mr. Coltrane's composition 'Giant Steps' is viewed here in Essentials as the most organically evolved of our American harmonic cycles. For there was nothing quite like it before and even today, no such harmonic structures have emerged in the popular literature that goes the next step beyond this core cycle. So while players have subbed on top of subs, made every chord in a progression a dominant V7 type chord and created all sort of chromatic buzzing, no one musical composition has had the impact or compares to the logical mathematical balance and artistic brilliance of Giant Steps. Someday another evolution will come along. Cats today are working every day just like Mr. Coltrane, sifting through the pitches looking for the new way forward in melody, harmony and swing. In a couple of instances in our historical development, the one in between melody and chords, the arpeggios, have provided the stimulus for players to evolve and point the way to a next level. Maybe it will again be the arpeggios that will point the new way forward. Follow the arrows up.

bored with my own playing
evolution of Coltrane compositions

Coltrane's motiv. The main melodic motiv that Mr. Coltrane used in 'Giant Steps' is ...

bored with my own playing
evolution of Coltrane compositions

Coltrane's choice lick. 1235, 1235, 1235 ...

a purely theoretical sense, Mr. Coltrane's composition 'Giant Steps' is viewed here in Essentials as the most organically evolved of our American harmonic cycles. For there was nothing quite like it before and even today, no such harmonic structures have emerged in the popular literature that goes the next step beyond its core cycle. So while players have subbed on top of subs, made evry chord in a progression a dominant V7 type chord and created all sort of chromatic buzzing, no one musical composition has had the impact or compares to the logical mathematical balance and artistic brilliance of Giant Steps. Someday another evolution will come along. Cats today work every day just like Mr. Coltrane, sifting through the pitches looking for the new way forward in melody, harmony and swing. In a couple of instances in our historical development, the one in between melody and chords, the arpeggios, have provided the stimulus for cats to evolve. Maybe it will again be the arpeggios and their magic that will point the new way forward.

bored with my own playing
evolution of Coltrane compositions

Sheets of sound. From a purely theoretical sense, Mr. Coltrane's composition 'Giant Steps' is viewed here in Essentials as the most organically evolved of our American harmonic cycles. For there was nothing quite like it before and even today, no such harmonic structures have emerged in the popular literature that goes the next step beyond its core cycle. So while players have subbed on top of subs, made evry chord in a progression a dominant V7 type chord and created all sort of chromatic buzzing, no one musical composition has had the impact or compares to the logical mathematical balance and artistic brilliance of Giant Steps. Someday another evolution will come along. Cats today work every day just like Mr. Coltrane, sifting through the pitches looking for the new way forward in melody, harmony and swing. In a couple of instances in our historical development, the one in between melody and chords, the arpeggios, have provided the stimulus for cats to evolve. Maybe it will again be the arpeggios and their magic that will point the new way forward.

Ira Giltner
wiki sheets of sound

Run it down. In the following discussions we'll examine the basic evolution of the harmony that leads up to Giant Steps.' This turns out to be a very simple, organic process that only works because I puzzled the pieces together in the following manner. For while I've tried to talk about this with musicians who knew Mr. Coltrane personally or deeply studied his music, or look at original scores or charts that might still exist that give a dating to when a composition was first penned or it's harmonic scheme first sketched out, I've had very little success. So luckily we can go to his recordings. Which while give the date of the sessions and the included compositions, unfortuneately I really don't know the date sequence that they were penned. So ... I simply must do the best with what I do have and create assumptions that hopefully a next generation of theorists will truly get to the bottom of. And in the meantime just be thankful for what Mr. Coltrane created for us, enjoy the music and keep searching for new and individually meanigful ways forward :)

bored with my own playing
evolution of Coltrane compositions

'Moments Notice'. I remember one time, after a college big band clinic rehearsal, asking tenor saxophonist Frank Foster if he would like to come out and sit in with our band as we had a gig that night. I was the financial / booking cat for the quintet and I promised him some loot, which he gracefully declined, and a steak dinner, which he gratefully accepted. What really sealed the deal was that the band I was in was named 'Moments Notice.' And when I was asking Mr. Foster to come out he asked me quite directly ... whether we actually knew and played this song. In probably one of my proudest moments of my then brand new career as a working jazz guitarist I confidently resonded 'absolutely Sir.' I then added that Sam White, our own tenor player, knew Mr. Coltrane's entire part from the recording by heart. So with a rather curious glance and then a rather profound clearing of the throat from Mr Foster, the look he gave me was surely his 'this had better all be on the level kid' look. And with that look I just knew he was coming out to hear Sam play his Coltrane, our wonderful altoist Dave Grippo chime in with his Bird like Cannonball lines and our hard driving and swinging rhythm section of Tim Paree bass, Jim Crawford drums and moi on guitar.

hopefully sit in and ell ... that as they say sealed the deal :) Long story short here was that when Mr. Foster showed to our gig that night and got ready to playgigte his steak dinner,

learning tunes

How it works. One helpful way to employ this concept is when learning tunes. As part of the learning process, go through the melodic and harmonic components of the song and find them all of this in a localized position on the fretboard. Physically understanding the close proximity of the components should aid us in learning the tune and creating theme's and variations in our solos.

learning tunes

John Coltrane. The central evolutionary theory figure for this Essentials work is of course saxophonist John Coltrane. And central to this text is the idea that I firmly believe that Mr. Coltrane's pursuit of "anything from anywhere" exhausted, and thus consequently by neccesity, evolved our resources based on his own needs to simply create greater and greater musical challenges for himself throughout his career. He achieved this evolution by writing music that demanded a gradually increasing level of theoretical and artistic knowledge, coupled of course with strengthening the technical and physical aspects needed for its performance.

John Coltrane

Trane's harmonic evolution

chord substitution

Might this creative and intellectual urge, in all fields of endeavor, simply be programmed into our DNA us as human beings? Could very well be. So a very special thanks and prayers to Cats like Mr. Coltrane for showing us this most organic of human potential within the timeless artform we all love and simply call music :)

DNA

Relieving the tedium. So did Trane's mastering of the music he was performing simply necessitate his evolution of increasingly difficult levels of musical challenges? By examining his original compositions in historical order, as based on their recording and release dates, we can sense, with the benefit of hindsight of course, what becomes a theoretically rather simple evolutionary path of increasing difficulty and challenge.

bored with my own playing
evolution of Coltrane compositions

As we delve into the analysis of Mr. Coltrane's art, what emerges is a pathway of evolutionary complexity, created mainly through basic chord substitution principles coupled with increasingly rapid tempos. While faster tempos will in and of themselves ramp up the intellectual, physical and artistic challenge of performance, that Mr. Coltrane's improvised art in his advanced compositions is oftentimes so astoundingly beautiful, torrential in its execution yet graceful and full of the core Americanan, makes for really rather stunning, natural and organic combination and evolution of all things considered.

Valences of tonal gravity. V7 before every chord and every chord becomes V7.

bored with my own playing
evolution of Coltrane compositions

 

Coltrane, John

American jazz saxophonist John Coltrane's work forms a basis of this Essentials work, to understand the evolution of the harmony of Americana music. Following in his path, here recreated by a historical timeline of the recording and release of his original compositions, we can create a guided study of the development and evolution of our own Americana tonality, and its evolutions and modernization of the last century or so.

As a single note melody player, my belief is that Mr. Coltrane's journey is partly driven by simple boredom. The same boredom we all as artists contend with. And which we often solve, through something new. For Mr. Coltrane, this becomes writing songs that give greater harmonic challenges for improvisation.

As his practicing standards are legendary, Coltrane simply exhausted things and moved to a new level of challenge simply by evolving the harmonic complexities of his compositions through basic theoretical manipulations of the pitches and intervals; he continually sought a greater challenge in the harmonic structures of his compositions. And like many other artists in all fields of study, when existing forms do not exist to capture and express ideas, they create their own.

Remember, that we're thinking of improv 'through the changes.' That new or additional chords in a chord progression gives the improvisor another opportunity for exploration. In doing so advances the harmonic schemes of the day into new and yet unviewed vistas of creative opportunity for those who follow. Read on ...

Coltrane's harmonic evolution

Coltrane's harmonic evolution. With triangles and colors to represent our seven chakras, we can overlay the basic theoretical evolution that takes us from our core essential One / Five / One cadential motion through "Moments Notice" into "LazyBird" and "Naima" and on to our endpoint of the new cadential and harmonic cycle motion written and championed by Mr. Coltrane's seminal composition "Giant Steps."

Composing with the augmented triad. Jazz cats probably noticed the link to John Coltrane's 'Giant Steps' just above. This song is based on making the pitches of an augmented triad the key centers in a song. That its melody is a 'joyous modern gospel of half notes', disguises the complex coolness of its silent structure. That is, until the blowing.

We follow Mr. Coltrane's artistic evolution to this pinnacle of theoretical development and challenge as a pathway to understand Americana jazz evolutions. Often termed 'Coltrane changes', as a developmental destination before launching into 'A Love Supreme' and beyond. For these two songs and the improvisation withing the recorded musics that are more melodically centered on pedal tones and ragas than such true cyclical harmonies.

Mr. Coltrane puzzled the pitches of the augmented triad to become the key centers of 'Giant Steps', thus using an unbreakable loop to create a harmonic cycle. A tune many jazz players enjoy to this day, both for its joyous gospel in a more moderate tempos and yet a very powerful strengthening for the intellectual challenge in the shedding / preparation for its performance as well. P.s., makes a great bossa nova / samba in 2.

Regardless of whether we ever gig 'Giant Steps', the thought process of shedding the tune is potentially very valuable to the intellectual development of the improvising musician. For it is just so different than from anything that had ever came before it. It makes us think and prepare differently.

While there always seems to be common historical elements in the evolution of each American song, in 'Giant Steps', we can find a similar foreshortened cycle of its chord changes in the bridge of the 1937 Rodgers and Hart jazz standard "Have You Met Miss Jones."

wiki ~ Rodgers and Hart
wiki ~ "Have You Met Miss Jones"

"Giant Steps" adds a new compositional scheme for American harmony, and in the original recording, all at a rather ferocious tempo. Combined, they vertically ramp up the improvisational challenge for most jazz leaning artists from this point forward in our collective history.

I believe that Mr. Coltrane, in his dedication to the study of Americana music through his career, artistically exhausted what surrounded him and then sought greater challenges.

The new harmony structure of "Giant Steps" becomes the pinnacle of development. What Coltrane penned as his greatest harmonic challenge humbles his own improv lines to pentatonic scales.

composition before his final ascent towards "A Love Supreme." These two compositions couldn't be any more different, yet written by the same composer. Of course times we're different then. Artists spoke of their times in their art. Mr. Coltrane's health was failing.

wiki ~ Tom Dowd
wiki ~ Layla

"Giant Steps" also introduces a new way of using the five pitch pentatonic sounds in soloing through chord changes. In this work, Mr. Coltrane forgoes the traditions of the times to found a simpler approach. For as each of the chords in the main progressions are all major triads, each in turn is simply articulated by its five pitch, pentatonic scale. An example follows shortly.

And a bit of trivia history here, studio recording genius Tom Dowd, who engineered this game changing jazz recording for Mr. Coltrane, would a dozen years later engineer the sessions for blues rocker Eric Clapton's epic 'Layla' sessions, with riff master Duane Allman.

wiki ~ Tom Dowd
wiki ~ Layla

Key centers based on the augmented triad. Here is the root motion of the first four bar phrase of Coltrane's 'Giant Steps.' A rather ingenious way to backpedal roots to a starting point, but using the pitches of an augmented major triad, an evolution from the more common motion of perfect 4th from which it evolves.

Each pitch of the augmented triad, becomes a tonal destination center of this composition. Read right to left, the bold font, Eb augmented triad pitches. So, we're backpedaling in major 3rd's via diatonic V7 chords ? Yes, it does seem so :)

~ B / D7 / G / Bb7 / Eb ~

Key centers in composition now have 'something new' to organize themselves, a new 'silent architecture.' This in itself will evolve new key schemes for writing songs. While motion to Four still wins the day, new ways to get there, or not, evolve.

A new solid structure yet still have common, a new 'closed' modulation and compositional scheme, based on the augmented triad pitches, truly re-electrified the jazz scene in 1960. (Didn't daVinci sometimes think, thus write this way too? Write sentences from right to left? Which when held up to a mirror's reflection, it then appears as normal writing? )

Here are the roots of the chord cycle creating its closure. Example 4j.

wiki ~ John Coltrane
wiki ~ daVinci
wiki ~ daVinci
wiki ~ daVinci

root / - 3rd / p.4th / - 3rd / p.4th / - 3rd / p.4th

Using pentatonic parent scales. Mr. Coltrane's improv approach on these changes simply .

George Russell
wiki ~ Lydian Chromatic Concept Of Tonal Organization

Getting there in a new way. Well, while in a way just the same old B up to B, spanning two octaves, we surely didn't get there a traditional way. In pianist and theorist George Russell's The Lydian Chromatic Concept Of Tonal Organization, Mr Russell describes the various vehicles major American musical innovators employed to get to their harmonic destinations.

George Russell
wiki ~ Lydian Chromatic Concept Of Tonal Organization

In a 'story' about traveling harmonically along on the Mississippi River, while there are rafts and steamboats and speedboats, Mr. Russell describes Mr. Coltrane's melodic vehicle of choice as a rocket ship :) And while surely the theory is cool and the Five / One to close the loop surely helps to get our ears around these sounds in a more conventional cadential way, the original recording by Mr. Coltrane really illuminates that axiom about how the 'whole is greater than the sum of its parts ...'

Exhausting the possibilities. Is it possible that Trane's evolution to 'Giant Steps' is in part created by his exhausting of the challenge of the current music he was writing and performing? That through the theory of chord progressions and chord substitution, he gradually devised greater and greater musical challenges for himself ? Seems a natural enough progression. Ever get bored with your own playing?

A prolific composer, we can examine Mr. Coltrane's compositions historically by their recording dates and thus theorize to a possible harmonic evolution of his understanding, development and culminations.

A similar evolution perhaps? The sixteen string quartets of Herr Beethoven might provide a similar degree of insight into this evolution of a musical artist. We can more easily track the Beethoven works by their published dates and thus examine with a greater degree of confidence the tonal evolution between his early and late quartets. While all of the music is aurally stunning, the ramping up of the musical challenge of the later and last works is simply unmistakable. For even the best of players in Beethoven's day were said to have declared the last group of quartets 'unplayable.'

wiki ~ L. Beethoven

wiki ~ Beethoven string quartets

Do explore these wonderful works as your time and resources permit. There are surely many, many other composers whose creative works follows a similar sort of evolution. Actually, in all of the fine arts and beyond, one might track such evolutions. One way that both Coltrane and Beethoven are remarkable to me is that their own 'evolution' never leveled off or declined.

 

They seemed to have continued to ramp up the challenge musically and artistically until they raptured onward. Neither artist had a 'retro period' that I know of that re-visited earlier successes in new ways later in their careers. As a pure jazzer here, I shed the Coltrane regularly while the Beethoven quartets always seem to be able to put a bit more 'Sunday' into my Sundays :)

 

 

~ Bach & Coltrane ~

~ two searchers across centuries ~

'exhausting the existing resources so as to discover the new ways forward ... '

~ Coltrane's harmonic evolutions ~

~ Bach's chorales ~

~ Americana's love of V7~

~ and the pulse of the blues

     
Footnotes:

(1) Isacoff, Stuart. Temperament ... The Idea That Solved Music's Greatest Riddle, p. 40-42. USA Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 2001

(2)Aebersold, Jamey and Slone, Ken. The Charlie Parker Omnibook. New York: Atlantic Music Corp., 1978.

As this song is protected by copyright, no chart or recording is included, just its theory magics of its pitch formulas, presented in Essentials up a half step from the written key centers. Sincerest thank you to Mr. Coltrane, and all of his associates, for putting in all of the hard work to get us to where we are today.

how the fuck is that fair, that super idiot politicos get to ruin all of the generational evolutions that families, communities, towns, states and countries have worked hard to develop.

here and their organizations in a different key than the .

wiki ~ copyright

"Giant Steps"

"Giant Steps." As a first click in, the jazz styled song "Giant Steps" takes us directly to the evolutionary end of the our studies of our Americana music theories, as outlined here in this Essentials text. Written by saxophonist John Coltrane, developed and thought to be written as early as 1957, recorded in May 1959 and released in 1960, it bookends our musical style spectrum. After circling the globe for a year or so on the radio airwaves and on vinyl, its 'new magics' forever evolved the Americana jazz influence on the global music scene.

wiki ~ "Giant Steps"

 

For this song is at the apex of our historical Americana harmony evolutions. And while we've advanced beyond "Giant Steps" tonally, or more atonally actually, simply by leaning more and more chromatic through altered color tones and chord substitution, this composition is still today, in 2019, a last 'true' structural evolution of our harmonic formulas and approach to melodic improv. From Congo Square in New Orleans to today, with our blues and gospel essential core of 'three chords and the truth', we can place "Giant Steps" at the forefront.

tonal
atonal
chromatic
altered color tones
chord substitution
blues
gospel
three chords / the truth
wiki ~ Three
wiki ~ Congo Square

 

That "Giant Steps" modulates through three diatonic key centers is probably no celestial coincidence either. For the number three comes up a lot in our musics :) All told, this composition is representative of the modern evolutions of our myriad of different styles and genres Americana, their melodies, harmonies and bass line relationships.

modulates
key centers
musical styles
melody
harmony
bass lines

 

"Giant Steps" harmony. Today known as 'post bop symmetry', or perhaps more commonly as 'Coltrane changes', old meets new yet again to create innovation as this song is formed by a perfectly closed and symmetric loop of chords, based on the major 3rd interval, the three pitches of the augmented triad. These three pitches, become the song's key centers.

Two, eight bar patterns are used to include each of these three key centers in two different cycles. One is by direct V7 / I cadential motions and the second slips in a Two chord before each occurence of V7.

The eight bar 'A' section, is comprised of the 'new', chords whose root motion follows the minor 3rd / perfect 4th cycle. This 'cell' is repeated twice, from two different starting pitches. Once completed, its symmetry gets us back to our original key center.

The eight bar 'B' section is the 'old', simply a Two / Five / One cycling of the three major key centers of the A section, as structured by the major 3rd interval of the augmented triad pitches, but now using the tried and true Two / Five motions to get us to each of the key centers.

wiki ~ Coltrane changes
perfect closure
loops of pitches
key centers
cadential motions

"Giant Steps"

Melody. Two melodic / rhythmic figures predominante, the motion of half notes mostly, as the 'giant steps.' The antecedent major 7th arpeggio in half notes leads the A sections while a consequent, a '2-1 or 9-8' suspension / interval pattern / turnaround of the pitches, is applied throughout and featured in the B section. All motorized in its bright tempo, that sense of a 'giant stepping' in half notes comes right to life in our aural imaginations.

antecendent
consequent
major 7th arpeggio
suspensions
bright tempo

"Giant Steps"

So for the jazz artist the best of both really; a sort of 'hundred yard dash' on a cycle of chords A section followed by the rapidy moving and modulating cadential motions via the sleek and the so essential coolness of the Two / Five / One turnaround.

jazz artist
jazz guitar
2 5 1

 

This song was ground breaking in its day for two main reasons. First, the harmony cycle evolved a new organization of root motions, thus creating a new bass line story. And second, that Coltrane's super heroic improvisations combine startling clear approach and application of pentatonic colors to each chord.

Combined with the more traditional, 'through the changes improv approach' also found throughout the solo, we today inherit the best of both which, even tempo aside, elevates the game for all who come after. There's some blue hue throughout of course, and personally, when the melody is sounded as a ballad, that gracious, gospel Americana essence of call and response is clear as day.

bass line stories
loops of pitches
pentatonic colors
key centers
through the changes
blues
gospel
three chords / the truth
call and response

 

So while the pentatonic five is historially the ancient melody group for indigenous cultures around the world, it again finds a new and quite stunning application in this song. This composition evolves the musical art of the day in complexity, yet clarity too. That rare combination in any fine art, that can evolve a whole new genre, adding new pathways to explore to create new works with its structures and component parts.

perfect closure
loops of pitches
key centers
altered color tones

 

Author's note. At my daygig the other day "Giant Steps" came over our housetunes airwaves. Within a chorus or two, boss Jasmine remarked that she thought the horn player had drank some serious Red Bull energy drinks before making the recording. We all laughed of course. Later when I described to the crew the 'global influence' of this song back in the day, she quipped, 'no surprise, for as soon as I heard it, I could tell it was something very special.'