by Bob Kerwin

Get ready for another great jam session this coming Sunday. Johannes is back on piano, John Mesoloras on bass, and another new UW music professor, Todd Hammes joins us on drums. Dan is also back on sax and as our educator.

The tune of the week for our jam this Sunday is Softly in a Morning Sunrise. It is usually done in Cmin and either swung or in a latin style. Two good sources for more information on this song are Jazz Standards and Learn Jazz Standards. The last site has several good YouTube versions to check out, including Coltrane’s famous modal version.

The A section consists of  Cmin followed by a 2-5 leading back to Cmin. This pattern is repeated throughout the A section. A quick listen to Coltrane’s version suggests the A section is simplified to Cmin and he plays primarily pentatonic patterns/ideas over this tonality.

Coltrane was a master of playing changes so his was clearly an artistic choice, but breaking down the changes to their basics can be useful when first learning a tune, if the tempo is blazing, or if your goal is to free yourself up to focus on creating melodies.

Let’s look at the changes to “Softly” and see how they can be broken down to their basics. Here are the changes from one reference:

The form is AABA. The A section can be approached as written or as alternating Cmin – G7, or as alternating Cmin – Dmin7b5, or simply as all Cmin. Practicing all 3 ways gives you the most options.

The B section moves to the relative major, Eb, and at the most basic level can be thought of as Eb for 4 bars moving up a step to F for 4 bars.  Making the 2-5 change into the F and the 2-5 back to the A section add more options to create interest.

Lastly, here’s a latinized version to check out just in case we decide to do it that way.