Archives, Episode 53: The Jazz Solo (part 2)

My 3-part series of programs on the jazz solo last year invoked a lot of positive response.   I already re-broadcast the first one on an earlier archives program, and now I’m going to present you with part 2.  This is for those of you who either missed it the first time, or want to hear it again.

I start it out with John Coltrane’s classic solo on Giant Steps.  So many ways this solo has been described—and jazz critics are so good at finding wild words so they don’t keep having to say ‘it’s terrific’ or ‘I love it’.

So you get words like what writer Aidan Levy uses when he tries to describe what Coltrane does in this piece of art. He talks about the ‘architectonics’ of Coltrane building a house in under five minutes. I had to google that one. And he refers to it as a “vertiginous solo”. It means a whirling or turning action that can cause vertigo—a dizziness that comes with heights. A great metaphor, I think. Keeping that word in mind allows you to discover if, at the height of Coltrane’s solo, you notice yourself getting dizzy.

I also talk a bit about Tommy Flanagan’s piano solo, which has been described as being not so great, as the tune was thrown at him, had complex changes, and was played much faster than he expected.  Most say he struggled through it.  And while it pales in energy to what Coltrane did, my own untrained ears didn’t think it was so bad.

Also in this program you’ll hear classic solos by Cannonball Adderley, Clifford Brown, Sarah Vaughan, Charlie Christian, McCoy Tyner,  Canadian Guido Basso on fluegelhorn, drummer Elvin Jones, and free-jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman.

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