Tunes for August 2012: "Blue Train" and "There Is No Greater Love"

Performance Notes by Dan Wallach

Jon Coltrane’s 1957 recording Blue Train from the album with the same title is more or less a straightforward 12-bar blues in Eb concert.  Coltrane’s solo in this recording is masterful and complex.  Please take the opportunity to listen.  Set a goal to try to transcribe one of the licks from Coltrane, Curtis Fuller, or Lee Morgan and make that lick the motif (grounding theme) of your improvisation.  Hopefully every time we do this exercise, we come up with new variations on the chosen theme.


There Is No Greater Love is a standard composed in 1936 by Isham Jones.

The form of the tune is 32-bar AABA.

The tune starts on the I chord in Bb.  The next chord is the IV.  Bar three starts a circle progression that eventually gets the harmony back to Bb where we started, closing the first A section.  The second A section is nearly identical.

The first six bars of the bridge are solidly in the key of  G minor.  The bridge ends spinning the harmony back to Bb as in the first two A sections.

A great recording of this tune is on Ben Webster's album, “There is No Greater Love”.

Tunes for July 2012: "Bye, Bye, Blackbird" and "Stella by Starlight"

Performance notes by Dan Wallach

The 1926 American standard, Bye, Bye, Blackbird, composed by Ray Henderson is most commonly played in the key of F.  The 'A' section hints of going to G minor but never fully modulates, and spins back to F.  The second 16 bars (bridge) again starts out suggesting a modulation to G minor, but again ends up going back to F.  Please listen to Miles Davis’ recording of this tune off the album “Round Midnight.”

The chords we will use for the jam will be:

|Fmaj7             |G-7        C7         | Fmaj7             |G-7      C7    |

|Fmaj7             |A-7b5    D7b9    |G-7                  |C7                 |

|G-7                  |D7                       |G-7                  |C7                 |

|G-7                  |C7                       |F6                    |F6                 ||

|F7                     |F7                      |Eb7                  |D7b9             |

|G-7                   |G-7                    |Db7                 |C7                  ||

|Fmaj7               |G-7      C7         |Fmaj7             |A-7b5  D7b9 |

|G-7                   |C7                      |Fmaj7             |G-7      C7      ||


The standard Stella by Starlight, by Victor Young, has a rich and haunting melody.  The tune was influenced by the compositional style of Sergei  Rachmaninoff .  The song is unique from other tunes of the day as the form is A1-B-C-A2.  The melody often moves by small intervals and the tune contains several long sustained notes.  At the jam, we will play the tune at a medium swing tempo using the chords and key from the Real Book.

The tune starts out with a minor ii-V7 to D minor. The next 2 bars are a ii-V7 to Bb major. The second 4 bars suggests Eb major with a slight twist in bar 8 with an Ab7.  The next 8 bars move through several key areas finally resolving to G minor.  The 'B' section does a special circle progression vi-ii-V7-I in Bb.  The V7 chord is substituted with a VII7(#11).

The 'C' section starts with a minor iii-VI7-ii-V7 in C minor. The next 2 bars set up Bb minor but resolves to Bb major (another deceptive cadence).

Many great recordings exist of this tune -- please listen to several.

Stella by Starlight played by Stan Getz
Stella by Starlight played by Chet Baker