Author Archives: tgcleary

Emulate, Assimilate, Innovate, part 4: Taking the fifth – melodic phrases using perfect 5ths

The ‘Cool Blues’ lick was a phrase Charlie Parker used in multiple improvised solos, including his March 1946 recording of Yardbird Suite and his May 1947 recording of Cheryl.  In February 1947 he recorded an entire composition titled ‘Cool Blues’ … Continue reading

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Leading with the left: Blues solos by Tommy Flanagan and Wynton Kelly that use hand-to-hand conversation (State of the Blues, part 10)

In a Keyboard Magazine article from 2011, George Colligan uses the term ‘hand-to-hand conversation’ to describe an aspect of Horace Silver’s style on piano. He demonstrates this with an example from Silver’s solo on ‘Cape Verdean Blues‘ where Silver alternates … Continue reading

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Broken Heart for Sale: a tune based on the changes of ‘All of Me’ and a glossary of melodic root position chord patterns – also, a history of the ‘All of Me’ chord progression

The song ‘All of Me’ by Seymour Simons and Gerald Marks is a jazz standard which has been recorded by countless artists. Two versions which show the multiple possibilities the tune contains for improvisers are the studio version by Count … Continue reading

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Wall, cardboard and paper pianos as practice tools

In 1947, the great jazz pianist and composer Bud Powell was sent to Creedmoor State Hospital, ‘one of the largest and most highly populated psychiatric facilities in New York State at the time’, writes Powell biographer Peter Pullman in Wail: … Continue reading

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‘Blue Mercy Line’: doubletiming bop language on a I-IV vamp

Blue Mercy Line is a tune I composed on a chord progression in the key of A which could be described as A7-D7 or I7-IV7.  I wrote this tune as an exercise in using the melodic language of Charlie Parker, … Continue reading

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‘You have to take a breath’: Bertha Hope’s inspired internal conversation (State of the Blues, part 9)

Recently I’ve been lucky to have connected with the great pianist and composer Bertha Hope.  She has recorded three stunning albums as a leader, ‘In Search of Hope’ (1990) , ‘Elmo’s Fire’ (1991),  and ‘Nothin’ But Love’ (1999).   Her first … Continue reading

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Afternoon River Bop: a line on the changes to Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson’s ‘Tune Up’

‘Tune Up’, by the alto saxophonist Eddie ‘Cleanhead’ Vinson, is one of a number of tunes which Miles Davis claimed to have written but which were actually composed by others.  Other tunes in this category include ‘Four’ (also by Vinson), … Continue reading

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One Time Only (in memory of Ellen Powell)

In memory of my friend, mentor and musical colleague, the great Vermont jazz bassist Ellen Powell, I wrote ‘One Time Only’, a tune based the changes of the jazz standard ‘There Will Never Be Another You’. Here’s a link to … Continue reading

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Tonight these chords belong to me: a history of the ‘Cherokee’ progression

British bandleader Ray Noble published his tune ‘Cherokee’ in 1938.  The tune begins with a chord progression that could be described as I – I7 – IV – iv – I.  In this progression, the tonic chord becomes a dominant … Continue reading

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Ellavolution: Ella Fitzgerald’s Evolution as an Improviser

Many thanks to Professor Judith Tick, a music historian at Northeastern University, for providing the inspiration for this post. Most of the transcriptions shown here were commissioned as research assignments for her forthcoming biography of Ella Fitzgerald; the idea of … Continue reading

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