Oct 8, 2015

Coltrane and the "Delta" Symbol for Major Seven Chords, part 2

Just to not leave the job unfinished, I've looked at the rest of the thumbnails of John Coltrane manuscripts from the jazz auction catalog, mentioned in my last post, to see if there was a clue as to when Coltrane might have started using the "" symbol to indicate major 7 chords (Yusef Lateef asserted that Coltrane introduced this usage to jazz). The evidence is inconclusive.

(Click here for Part 1)

The manuscript name and the symbol used for "major seven" chords are shown below. While I was at it, I checked for "minor seven" chord symbols also:

A Love Supreme:   
Saida's Song Flute:  △, mi, mi7
Like Sonny:  maj, maj7 (recorded 1960)
I'm a Dreamer:  maj, maj7, -7 (This is the chart with chords in concert, melody transposed for Bb. Recorded 1958.)
Unidentified (chart for King Kolax):  maj7, mi7
Swinging Seventh:  m, m7, -
Handwritten Chord Progressions:  maj7
From Diz to Tadd:  maj7, -7
Moody Speaks:  ma7, mi7
Apollo:  Eb (letter only), maj7, -7

The catalog also showed thumbnails of several Tadd Dameron charts, presumably written out by Dameron, but including a "Lady Bird" chart that I had thought might have been in Coltrane's hand:

Tadd's Delight:  maj7
Choose Now:  maj7
Milt's Delight:  ma.7
Smooth as the Wind: maj7
Lady Bird:   (Byline "signature" similar to Tadd's other charts, but treble clef in a different style; this is the only chart in the Dameron group using the "" symbol.)

The catalog also showed one lead sheet written by Wayne Shorter:

Africaine (Wayne Shorter):  △7, -7 

So, the charts using the "" symbol were:

A Love Supreme (recorded 1964)
Saida's Song Flute (recorded 1959, released on the "Giant Steps" record with the misspelling "Syeeda's")
Naima (1959, on the "Giant Steps" record)
Lady Bird (chart perhaps written out by Coltrane; if by Dameron, it would be the only use of the "" symbol in the catalog's Dameron group of charts; date impossible to know)
Africaine (chart by Shorter; this tune was recorded in 1959 with Art Blakey)

I'm not sure we can draw any conclusions here, but FWIW, it looks as though both Coltrane and Shorter were using the symbol by 1959. In Coltrane's case, perhaps not earlier. Wayne used a "△7", Coltrane just a  "". Coltrane was inconsistent in using "mi7" or "-7" symbols.

If any readers know of any use of the "" symbol for major 7 chords pre-1959, please leave a comment. Trivia? Maybe, but it's interesting.


  1. hello, i've been wondering for a long time if there is a symbol for a maj7th sharp 11

  2. No special symbol that I know of - just maj7#11.

  3. This appeared on my Facebook the other day. After I read it, I did a little searching around. I found that the American Civil Rights digital library has a handwritten score by Mingus of Fables of Faubus which apparently dates from 1957, two years earlier than the Coltrane example cited, so it does seem there are earlier examples: http://crdl.usg.edu/export/html/loc/evenhand/crdl_loc_evenhand_br0131s.html

    You can see the image here: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/brown/images/br0131s.jpg

    I looked around to find some Miles Davis examples from the time, but it doesn't look like he was using it at this point.

    1. CBroom - Thanks for the research. The image says "Berklee Press" at the bottom of the manuscript paper, and Berklee Press was founded in 1957 - so, maybe! It's possible that Mingus got his blank paper from Berklee, but that makes me not entirely sure where the example comes from.