Many great improvisers, in addition to creating extended solos in which they are the main melodic voice, are also masters of the musical dialogue known as trading. (This is discussed in detail in an earlier post.) As I mentioned in the last post, another kind of dialogue occurs within many great piano solos, in which the pianist’s left and right hands carry on a conversation with each other.
‘Ida Lupino’ by Carla Bley and ‘Silver’s Serenade’ by Horace Silver are two more tunes which lend themselves to piano solos with a conversational improvising approach. As with the previous examples by Charles Lloyd and Joe Henderson, the chord progressions of both these tunes consist mostly of chords lasting two measures. I have transcribed sections of Horace Silver’s piano solo on ‘Silver’s Serenade’ (from the album of the same name) and Paul Bley’s solo on ‘Ida Lupino’ (from the trio record ‘Ramblin’) which demonstrate two different conversational approaches to piano improvising. (Recordings of both tunes are available on iTunes, and a chart of ‘Silver’s Serenade is in The Real Book Volume Two, Sixth Edition. My exercise on ‘Ida Lupino’ includes a chart of the melody.)
Paul Bley’s version of ‘Ida Lupino’ on the ‘Ramblin’ album is the third of many recordings he has made of this tune. The solo on this version begins with a conversational approach and then moves on to more overlapping of the left and right hands. In the opening eight-bar section, Bley’s opening strategy is to have the right hand play simple melodic phrases over the held chords in the left-hand vamp and then rest when the vamp is active again. Bley’s approach in this section is largely limited to the G major scale, avoiding the differences between the chords in the vamp. The rest of the solo seems to be harmonically free – Bley’s left hand leaves the G pedal point and bassist Steve Swallow follows the improvised changes with remarkable intuition. My exercise on the vamp, which is in the middle of an arrangement of the tune (click here for page one and two) begins with a simplification of Bley’s one-scale approach, but moves on to scales that emphasize the harmonic motion within the pedal point.
Horace Silver’s solo on ‘Silver’s Serenade’ begins with left hand chords that are lined up with the beginnings of right hand phrases and works through a number of choruses toward a cleaner separation of chords and melodic phrases. In the sixth chorus, lightly questioning left hand chords are crisply answered with bop-style melodic phrases in the right hand. This chorus also includes two musical quotes that are seamlessly woven into the melodic line: the motive from Fats Waller’s ‘Honeysuckle Rose’ seems to be foreshadowed in m. 3-4, is fully revealed in m. 5-6 and then is concealed within the phrase at m. 9-10, as if being drawn back into the bubbling musical subconscious that it came from. At m. 13 a phrase from Bud Powell’s ‘Dance of the Infidels’ is also deftly placed at the end of the ii-V-I phrase that begins at m. 11. I don’t think there’s a way to practice this kind of inspired, split-second borrowing; instead, I think it shows how deeply Horace Silver had internalized these two great tunes. My exercise combines Silver’s left hand voicings with the basic right hand scales for each change or group of changes.