Author Archives: tgcleary

A history of the ‘Autumn Leaves’ progression (with ‘Paul’s Question’, a tune on the changes of ‘Autumn Leaves’)

Two of the most iconic jazz versions of Autumn Leaves combine the tune’s melody and chord progression with a rhythmic figure idiomatic to jazz known as the ‘Charleston’ rhythm.  This rhythm is named for the James P. Johnson composition of … Continue reading

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Imitate, Assimilate, Innovate part 1 – stepwise patterns time-traveling through music history: Mozart, Haydn and Ella Fitzgerald

In a New York Times article titled ‘What Haydn Taught Mozart’, the music historian H.C. Robbins Landon quotes a number of letters by both composers that indicate the high regard these two icons of the Classical style had for each … Continue reading

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Imitate, Assimilate, Innovate, Part 2: Bud Powell and Wynton Kelly

Trumpeter, composer and educator Clark Terry, who I got to play with briefly in the early 2000s when he visited UVM, often used the phrase ‘imitate, assimilate, innovate’ to describe the process by which improvisers develop their melodic language.  In … Continue reading

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Musical Neighbors: Mary Lou Williams, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Elmo Hope, Bertha Hope and the ‘Three Musketeers’ collective

Although jazz musicians are usually understood either as solo artists or members of bands, there is another important kind of relationship between them that sometimes escapes the attention of listeners and historians. Throughout the history of jazz, many players have belonged … Continue reading

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The State of The Blues, Part Six: Gabrielle Stravelli’s solo on ‘Karma Medley’

Gabrielle Stravelli is a New York City based vocalist and songwriter who I had the honor of performing with in 2016.  She has recorded jazz interpretations of a wide range of songs, from the ‘standard’ jazz repertoire of Berlin/Porter/Rodgers/Ellington et. … Continue reading

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In praise of hibernating, returning to old challenges and (sometimes) choosing a slower pace

Glenn Gould’s iconic 1955 recording of J.S. Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’ was followed by a concert and recording career that accelerated at a feverish pace for the next decade, leading to his abandoning of live performance in 1964.  It is fascinating … Continue reading

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From Watermelon Man to Cantaloupe Island and beyond: Herbie Hancock’s ingenious reinventions (featuring ‘Caves of the Island’, an original tune based on ‘Cantaloupe Island’)

 In 1962, the first film in the James Bond series, ‘Dr. No’, was released.  As ‘Dr. No’ was a great success at the box office, Bond films continued to be released almost annually over the following decade, each one using … Continue reading

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‘Winter Sun’ – a tune on the changes to ‘Summertime’

Like George and Ira Gershwin’s ‘I Got Rhythm’ and W.C. Handy’s ‘Saint Louis Blues’, the song ‘Summertime’, composed in 1934 by Gershwin with lyrics by DuBose Heyward (originally for the opera Porgy and Bess), has been a standard throughout nearly … Continue reading

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An excerpt from Shirley Horn’s solo on ‘What Would A Woman Do?’ (The State of the Blues, part 5)

The great jazz vocalist and pianist Shirley Horn was best known for her unmistakable vocal sound, her ability to re-invent songs, often at unusually slow tempos, and her ability to accompany herself on piano. She also showed herself to be … Continue reading

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A history of the chord progression from Bobby Hebb’s ‘Sunny’, and an original tune based on it (‘Eye On The Sky’)

I began writing this post on November 23rd, 2o19, one day after the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.  According to an interview with composer Bobby Hebb, it was that event, as well as the murder of … Continue reading

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