1) I used the old Real Book version of "Lady Bird" for years - in fact, since the old RB first came out. It is straightforward, and easy to memorize. I had an LP of a Tadd/Fats Navarro version, but I had never listened to it analytically.
2) When the Sher "New RB" came out, it had two lead sheets for "Lady Bird," both of them different from the old RB - a Miles version, and a Tadd/Fats version. I noticed the differences and wondered about them, but never actually researched it.
3) In 2005, Guernsey's auction house in NY staged an incredible auction of jazz memorabilia, including sheet music, instruments, and personal items that were consigned by the families of John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Gerry Mulligan, and many more. A catalog with details about the items was printed, and sold for (I recall) $26. I had to have one, of course, although actually bidding on the items was out of the question for me financially. The catalog was easily worth the $26. Besides documenting the amazing collection of auction items, it had thumbnails of some manuscripts - for example, the original score to "A Love Supreme" (final sale price: $129,200), the chords to "Naima" in Coltrane's writing ($10,620), and... a leadsheet to "Lady Bird" ($1534) that had belonged to Coltrane. The catalog seemed to imply that this chart was in Tadd Dameron's handwriting. The turnaround in bars 15-16 was shown as | C Ebmaj | Abmaj Dbmaj || (the chart showed triangular "delta" signs to indicate "major").
Note: Apparently you can still purchase this catalog from Guernsey's. The price is $60 now. Click this link and scroll down.
4) So, I thought that that settled it. Assuming that "C" and "Ebmaj" were meant to indicate major 7 chords, it would seem that the old RB got it right. Whether it was in Tadd or Coltrane's hand, I figured that if Trane learned it that way, it was good enough for me. Besides, I liked the sound of the parallel major 7 chords, and was used to playing the tune that way.
5) So back to the present - I thought this would make a nice little post. However...
6) Looking a little closer, the notation on the lead sheet thumbnail did not seem to match the other Tadd Dameron offerings in the catalog, at all. The other Tadd charts were much cleaner, and nicely calligraphed. Now, it's possible that someone else did the copy work for Tadd, but it started me thinking.
8) However! Another of the papers up for auction, thumbnail provided, was a sheet showing Coltrane's practicing how to draw a treble clef; he tried it both ways. I'd guess that both the practice sheet and the "Lady Bird" sheet were from very early in his career. And it's still possible that someone else wrote the lead sheet.
9) A couple of other characteristics of Trane's notation convinced me that the chart was probably in his handwriting: Indicating a major 7 chord with just a letter and a triangle, as in the "Naima" sheet;
10) But of course, the best info about a tune is to be found in the recordings. Here, once again, the tracks posted quasi-legally on YouTube were quite helpful. Here are some of the versions I checked out:
Miles with Charlie Parker playing "Half Nelson" (1947) (This tune uses "Lady Bird" changes, slightly tweaked, with a different melody, by Miles)
Tadd Dameron (1948) with Fats Navarro, Allen Eager, Wardell Gray. Very much arranged, with intro, harmony lines, kicks, shout chorus, and coda.
Tadd Dameron and Miles Davis (1949) with James Moody.
Miles Davis (1951). Jam session format, not much of the arrangement. Date and personnel listing is more correctly listed here.
Miles with Coltrane playing "Half Nelson" (1956). Uses shout chorus from "Lady Bird" original arrangement to set up drum solo.
Dexter Gordon and James Moody (1969). Uses shout chorus from original arrangement to set up drum solo.
Where the piano was audible, I can't say that I heard the all-maj7-chord version of the turnaround in any of these versions. I didn't hear solo lines outlining all maj7 chords, either. Of course, I'm just a horn player, without a pianist's ear, but overall, IMHO, I heard | Cmaj7 Eb7 | Abmaj7 Db7 ||. The last chord could equally well be G7. Please have a listen to these, and let me know what you think.
The Tadd Dameron performances are very much arranged, with harmony lines, an 8-bar "shout chorus" that sets up an 8-bar solo break, and arranged kicks. Some of the other performances include this shout chorus line as well. The only fake book source that shows any of this is the Sher "New RB," which shows the shout chorus as part of the "Miles" version, and some of the harmony notes and kicks in the "Fats/Tadd" version.
The original melody uses the notes as shown in my third handwritten example above for measure 3, with a similar shape in m7. This is a sort of "Honeysuckle Rose" shape. Often, though, the last 2 notes of m 3 will be switched (likewise in m7). Measures 4 and 8 are also played in various ways by different players - though I've not heard any versions with the b5 notes shown in the old RB for mm 4 and 8.
11) Just because a lead sheet belonged to a young John Coltrane, does not mean that it is "correct." All sorts of lead sheets have no doubt been floating around since the late 1940s. Here are some of the versions I checked:
a) The Coltrane sheet that we have been discussing.
b) The earliest fake book source that I can find is in a pre-Real Book bootleg from the early 1960s (I think). It was published with the title "Library of Musicians' Jazz," and probably reprinted under other titles also. Perhaps you have seen this book - the titles look like this:
This chart shows the melody as played in the 1948 arrangement, but shows the turnaround as all major 7 chords...as does the old RB. Maybe it was a source for the old RB.
c) The old RB version - The melody here is a bit different - in m4 and m8, the phrase finishes on the b5 of the chord. It sounds good, but I haven't found any classic recordings that do that. And incidentally, these notes in m4 and m8 seem to have been added in later, by someone with a different manuscript style.
d) The Sher New RB versions - The "Miles" version seems accurate; the "Tadd/Fats" version is also, though it omits some harmony notes and kicks, and does not show the shout chorus.
e) The Colorado Cookbook - Very close to the 1948 Tadd/Fats version, but in a minimal format, with no harmony, kicks, or shout chorus.
f) The Hal Leonard "6th Edition RB" version - Measures 4 and 8 were copied from the old RB, but the turnaround is fixed. Again, minimal format.
12) Conclusion? Well, as usual, one must consider the alternatives, and make a choice. I'm inclined to go with | Cmaj7 Eb7 | Abmaj7 Db7 || as a basic version, but I might play it differently at any given moment, just for the heck of it. I'm not sure how I'd play the melody at any given moment, but if playing with someone else, now I'd at least be aware of which variation they might be using. And it's good to know that cool shout chorus.
While we are on the subject, here are a few observations about the harmony in this tune:
1) The melody in bars 3-4 sounds like a II V lick (Honeysuckle Rose or otherwise); perhaps Dameron was thinking of this as a II V in Eb. To me, though, the | Fm7 | Bb7 | comes across more as a IVm bVIIdom in C. I don't hear the key of Eb being established, so much as a change of mode from C major to C minor. Of course, whether Eb major or C minor, it's 3 flats in both cases. For solos, you could think either way. C blues licks can work well in mm 3-4.
2) | Cmaj7 Eb7 | Abmaj7 Db7 || for the turnaround is a variation of the very basic | Cmaj7 A7 | Dm7 G7 | , via a couple of tritone substitutions, and the substitution of Abmaj7 for Dm7. However, this way the Eb7 Abma7 comes across as a quick, temporary change of key: V I into Ab major. The first 6 beats of the turnaround are like a snippet of "Giant Steps" changes. It's worth noting that the main part of the tune includes a modulation from C major into Ab major in mm 5-10; if the turnaround is played this way, it reflects that part of the tune.
Here's a great article about the 2005 auction.