Mar 25, 2023

Charlie Parker's "Bill's Bounce" manuscript

There are only a few surviving examples of Charlie Parker's musical handwriting. Four of them are reproduced in an article by Henry Martin in the journal "Music Theory Online." One of these examples is a lead sheet submitted to the Library of Congress for the copyright of "Bill's Bounce," a blues tune now known more generally as "Billie's Bounce." 

Here is the original image of the lead sheet as it appears in Martin's article. It's a photostat - a bit more legible in the article, if you click the link above, but still difficult to read.

In the chart below, I have transcribed the photostat of Parker's sheet as exactly as possible, including some of Parker's notational idiosyncracies and possible errors:

Here's a link to the original recording.

In the photostat of his manuscript, Parker drew some rather elegant treble clefs. To me, the style of the notation indicates quite a bit of music-writing experience. For a lead sheet that was probably dashed off quickly, his manuscript is reasonably professional and legible. 

The typed title in the photostat seems to have been pasted on after the chart was created. Was there another title under it? We may never know. 

 The bass line is written in two; the line shows Parker's attention to voice leading. His bass players would probably have played a 4/4 walking line rather than the 2-beat style shown.

Published versions of this tune do not match the manuscript. The most widely-known version is in the Charlie Parker Omnibook; a more accurate version (relative to the recording) is in The Best of Charlie Parker.

About the melody

• I'm pretty sure I hear an Eb (not D) on beat 4 of measure 1 in the recording. This and other discrepancies may have been "in the studio" revisions.
• In the recording, Parker adds a turn on beat 2 of measure 4. 
• At the end of measure 3, every fakebook chart that I have ever seen shows two eighth notes (F, D) on beat 4. It almost sounds that way in the recording, but upon listening I think the D is not actually played, just implied, and Parker’s chart matches the recording.
• In measure 5 the Bb and C should have been written Ab and Bb; that's how it is played on the recording, and it sounds right that way. This is probably a written error.
• At the end of measure 5, Parker writes a G# when it would have been more proper, and clearer, to write an Ab. I can’t see any reason for this. Was it somehow more natural to him to think G#? The reason wouldn’t have been because G# concert transposes better when going from concert to alto key - G# would transpose to E#, and most musicians don't want to think or read an E#. 
• From the beginning of the song to the middle of measure 6, the melody should probably have been written an octave lower, to be consistently in the same octave all the way through, as played in the recording. Perhaps Parker wrote it as he did to avoid cluttering the vertical spacing.
• The melody line in bar 9 outlines a Gm#7, anticipating the next measure. Outlining the upcoming change in solos is a common practice for Parker. I should note that this piece of the melody seems to be an example of a particular family of II V licks (see this post). It's interesting that Sonny Rollins' "Tenor Madness" uses the same lick, in the same spot in a 12-bar blues.
• The recording does not use the staccato/tenuto markings in measure 10.

About the chord symbols

It's hard to hear in the recording, but it's doubtful that the piano was meticulously following the chords on this sheet. However, the chord symbols do tell us something about Parker's concept for bebop blues. 

The following harmonic features on this sheet often show up in Bird’s solo lines over blues changes. His blues solo lines as a rule never follow a single, repetitive set of changes from one chorus to the next, and do not necessarily match what the piano may be playing.

• Passing diminished chords in measures 2 and 6. He often uses this device in blues solos.
• Triads are indicated in a few places for the I and IV chords (he probably did not mean this to be taken literally), but measure 4 indicates F7 to Faug. This reflects the traditional practice of adding the b7 note and/or other tensions in bar 4, to make the I chord sound more like a V of IV. Again, this is a device often used in solos.
• The Fm6 in measure 5 might seem odd, but taken with the indicated bass note, it becomes Bb9.
• The G7 in measure 9 seems a bit unusual. Could it be a simple mistake, that should have read Gm7? See comment on bars 9-10 of the melody, above.
• No turnaround in the last 2 bars (the recording does this also). Many current published versions mistakenly assume a turnaround here.

So, what is the definitive, "correct" version of "Billie's Bounce" (or "Bill's," or "Billy's")? If you play the melody as it appears in the original manuscript, most musicians will say it's wrong. Even if you play as in the recording, it will not be what most musicians expect. Your best bet is probably to play the version that's in the Charlie Parker Omnibook, though it matches neither the original manuscript, nor the original recording. Common practice has kind of sanctified that one.

For more on this tune, and an analysis of Parker's solo on his original recording, see this post. Check the comment at the bottom of the post, from Mark Voelpel, author of The Best of Charlie Parker.

The article by Henry Martin in "Music Theory Online" that occasioned this post is here.

Martin has recently published Charlie Parker, Composer (Oxford University Press), a discussion and analysis of all of Charlie Parker's composed melodies. It's great read if you are into Parker scholarship.

Dec 26, 2022

Tunes published in 1927 will be entering public domain in 2023

As of January 1, 2023, U.S. copyright will expire for works published in 1927, including the following songs: 

Ain't She Sweet (Yellen, Ager)
Back in Your Own Backyard (Jolson, Rose, Dreyer)
The Best Things in Life are Free (De Sylva, Brown, Henderson)
Black and Tan Fantasy (Ellington)
Blue Skies (Berlin)
Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man (Hammerstein, Kern)
Creole Love Call (Ellington) 
Funny Face (Gershwin, Gershwin)
Hallelujah (Robin, Gray, Youmans)
He Loves and She Loves (Gershwin, Gershwin)
High Hat (Gershwin, Gershwin)
How Long Has This Been Going On? (Gershwin, Gershwin)
I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover (Mort Dixon, Harry Woods)
In a Mist (Beiderbecke)
Me and My Shadow (Dreyer, Rose, Jolson)
Mississippi Mud (Cavanaugh, Barris)
My Blue Heaven (Whiting, Donaldson)
My Heart Stood Still (Rodgers, Hart)
Ol' Man River (Hammerstein, Kern)
Russian Lullaby (Berlin)
'S Wonderful (Gershwin, Gershwin)
Strike Up the Band (Gershwin, Gershwin)
Struttin' With some Barbecue (Armstrong, Armstrong)
Thou Swell (Gershwin, Gershwin)
Why Do I Love You? (Hammerstein, Kern)

The next few years will be bringing increasing numbers of standards by Gershwin, Rodgers, and others into the public domain.

In classical music, notable pieces entering public domain are the Gershwin Preludes, Bartok's String Quartet #3, Copland's Piano Concerto, and Shostakovitch's Symphony #2. 

For more popular, jazz, and classical pieces entering the public domain, see the Wikipedia page 1927 in Music.

United States copyright law is quite restrictive as compared to many other countries. According to the provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976 and the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 (aka "Mickey Mouse Protection Act"), works published or registered before 1978 remain under copyright for 95 years.

With the passage of the 1998 law, the cutoff date for works entering the public domain became 1922, with any works published in 1923 or later remaining under copyright. Beginning in 2019, however, the clock began running again, with each new year bringing one more year of songs and other works into the public domain. Over the next 20 years or so, most "Golden Age" jazz standards will lose copyright protection.

Many other countries have shorter terms of copyright; one common formula is the life of the author plus fifty years (see this table). For example, in Canada you can record pieces written by Wes Montgomery (d. 1968) John Coltrane (d. 1967), Igor Stravinsky (d. 1971), Louis Armstrong (d. 1971). Lee Morgan (d. 1972), or Kenny Dorham (d. 1972).

Looking ahead, Mickey Mouse will become fair game in the US in 2024, unless Congress is somehow persuaded to change the present copyright law (again). 

However, if you are thinking of utilizing Mickey's image in 2024, you should consider that copyright will only expire on images from cartoons released in 1928, such as Steamboat Willie. In those early images, Micky had a somewhat different visage, with a longer, rat-like nose. He did not not yet have his white gloves or red shorts; they came later. If you want to use the white gloves or red shorts, you will have to wait a few more years.

Here's an interesting article on the subject, with an image of Mickey as submitted for copyright in 1929. It looks to me as though Mickey's nose had been altered a little by then, closer to its current look. He has his white gloves, too. The image is in black and white, so I don’t know about the red shorts. 

By the way, Minnie Mouse also appears in the 1928 cartoons, though I don't think she is credited by name.

In addition to copyrighting Mickey, The Walt Disney Company has also registered him as a trademark. US trademarks can be renewed every 10 years, potentially going on forever. Disney has a strong case for Mickey as a trademark, but less so for many of their other characters, who will be falling out of copyright in the next few years. Here is an article from the Western New England Law Review that covers in depth the legal standing of Mickey and other Disney characters.

More links:

Dec 2, 2022

The Ballad of Davee Duckett

(Warning: This post contains moralistic content, and may be amusing only to those with a cynical sense of humor.)

Back in the 70s and 80s, I was a regular sax player in a 15-piece swing band that played at least once a week, in a wide range of venues. A few of those gigs have stuck in my mind for one reason or another. This one was around 1978 or so. It was a kind of surreal experience, in a corporate sort of way.

The band had been booked for a Saturday night dinner at Syntex, a major pharmaceutical company based in Palo Alto. As I remember it, there were one or two hundred employees and spouses in the audience. Our bandleader's day job was with Syntex sales, which was undoubtedly how we ended up with the gig.

Syntex's hot product that year was Neo-Mull-Soy, a new soy-based baby formula. Advertising for the product featured a cartoon duck named "Davee Duck." 

The organizers of the party had decided that the duck would would be the party's theme. They called him "Davee Duckett," and the program had a picture of Davee wearing a coonskin cap. I remember that audience members got coonskin caps, but that could be a manufactured memory.

The organizers had written a Davee Duckett team-building song. When the band took a break, sheets with lyrics were passed around, and the master of ceremonies led the audience in singing this song, to the tune of Disney's "Ballad of Davy Crockett":

Let me tell you a story I knowed
About Davee Duckett and the way that he's growed

The story's short but the product stands tall
Because he's made us
The winner of them all

Davee, Davee Duckett!
Neo-Mull Soy Boy!

I think there were more verses, but this one has stuck with me for 45 years.

In case you are too young to remember, here is Fess Parker singing the original song, which was the theme to Disney's "Davy Crockett" TV series. Fess played the lead role in the series. If you grew up in the US in the late 1950s, you will remember the song, and the coonskin caps that just about every little boy had.

The original "Ballad of Davy Crockett" actually has twenty verses. The lyrics are something that the Disney Corporation would probably rather forget, as they are insulting to Native Americans. But the internet has a long memory; here are all 20 verses.

If you would like to know the actual history of Davy Crockett (1786-1836), here is the Wikipedia entry. He did fight the "Injuns" in the Creek War of 1813, but we should also note that to his credit, as a member of the US House of Representatives in 1830, Crockett did vote against Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act.

I'd like to close this post on a cheerful note, but the Davee Duckett story doesn't have a happy ending. Contrary to the team-building song, Neo-Mull-Soy was not a "winner" for Syntex, and the product does not "stand tall." Neo-Mull-Soy was discovered to cause severe health problems in infants. Here is a CDC report

In 1979 the product was removed from the market, and Syntex became the target of a $2 billion class-action lawsuit. I can't find any record of how this suit was settled, although in a separate suit against Syntex in 1985, plaintiffs were awarded $27 million. A recent writeup of the Neo-Mull-Soy debacle can be read here

In 1984, Syntex cancelled the trademark for "Davee Duck." It's available, if you want it. Davee Duck rag dolls, part of the original advertising campaign, are also still available, on ebay. Here's one, $9.99 plus shipping.

Jul 4, 2022

"Chega de saudade" and "Saxofone, por que choras"

 A few days ago I was playing through the classic choro "Saxofone, por que choras," and had a sudden flash of realization: The harmonic structure of the A section of "Saxofone" is basically the same as the A section of Jobim's "Chega de saudade." I thought this might be worth a blog post.

There are a lot of great versions of "Saxofone" on Youtube. Here are just three of them. 

The 1944 original by the composer, Ratinho:

A modern version by Nailor Proveta:

A cool live version on accordion, by Dominguinhos:

Anyway, the harmonic structure of the "Saxofone" and "Chega" A sections are same in their broad outlines, though "Chega" does have some substitutions and additions. Here's the basic structure of "Saxofone." Compare it to the chords in "Chega" from any fakebook.

Did Jobim consciously lift the chords from the Ratinho tune? It's not unlikely. He certainly used pre-existing chord changes on a number of his other compositions. Does this same chord structure appear in other choros? If any reader spots one, please let me know.

In the book Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music That Seduced the World, Ruy Castro describes how Jobim came to write "Chega de saudade" in 1956:

Jobim had written it almost on a whim - a short time before, at the home of Dona Nilza, his mother, he watched the maid sweeping the living room and softly singing a chorinho. He was impressed with the way the girl managed to sing such a complicated song, in 3 parts [note: Ruy Castro meant "3 sections"], when the large part of what one heard on the radio fit into a single musical phrase. He decided then and there that he would also write a chorinho like that.

Weeks later, at his family's place in Poco Fundo, near Petropolis, he got the idea for "Chega de saudade," and when he reviewed what he had written, he realized he had created a kind of samba-canção in three parts, but with a chorinho flavor...

Some comments: 

In referring to 3 "parts," or sections, Ruy Castro is referencing the fact that most choros are composed with a form AABBACCA, or something similar. Each section generally has a key change. "Chega" is in the form ABC, where the A section is 32 bars, the B section is 16 bars, and the C section is the last 22 bars. 

Although I am no expert, I don't hear this piece as a samba-canção. That genre is a slow or medium tempo samba with a sentimental theme. Even the earliest recordings of "Chega" don't have that tempo or feeling.

"Chega de saudade" is often regarded as the first bossa nova. I think of bossa as defined largely by a moderate samba rhythm, employing some North American jazz-style harmony, and played with the guitar style (and vocal style) developed by Joao Gilberto. "Chega" has the essential ingredients: 

•  It was composed by Jobim, using elements of American music such as melodic references to the old standard tune "Bye Bye Blues" in the A and C sections, and to "When You Wish Upon a Star" in the B section. Harmonically, the entirety of the B section of "Chega" is lifted from "When You Wish...". The C section has some bop-like turnaround material in mm. 51-52, and melodic material in mm. 53-57. The song uses a number of II V sequences (although, granted, II V's are not unique to jazz, and it's also true that jazz had influenced choro for decades previously).

•  The first recordings of "Chega" featured Joao Gilberto on guitar; his style was an essential component of bossa. The first recording, by Elizeth Cardoso (on an independent label), did not achieve great popularity. The second recording, by Joao Gilberto (on Odeon, a major label) became a hit. Gilberto's understated vocal style was another defining component of bossa.


Here are some versions of "Chega" that are worth checking out.

The first 1958 recording, by Elizeth Cardoso:

The subsequent 1958 hit recording by Joao Gilberto:

The 1963 recording by Jobim on his first U.S. album, The Composer of Desafinado Plays:

The 1995 recording by Joe Henderson and Herbie Hancock, on Joe's album Double Rainbow:

About the title: Jon Hendricks wrote English-language lyrics in the 1960s, and gave it the title "No More Blues." It's a pretty good choice for the title. "No More Blues" is a rough translation of "Chega de saudade," and also reminds me of "Bye Bye Blues." Perhaps Hendricks noticed the melodic similarity. I don't so much care for the English lyrics, though.

Vinicius de Moraes wrote the original Portuguese lyrics shortly after Jobim finished writing the song. According to Ruy Castro,

Years later, Vinicius said that one of the most difficult set of lyrics he had written had been those of "Chega de saudade," due to the arduousness of trying to fit the words into a melodic structure with so many comings and goings.

This song would obviously be challenging to sing. Mar Vilaseca does a great job on this track, and the band is terrific:

Apr 23, 2022

John Coltrane's versions of "Body and Soul"

Recently I spent several lessons with a sax student analyzing transcriptions of John Coltrane’s version of the Johnny Green tune “Body and Soul,” as played on the “Coltrane’s Sound” album. We looked at the transcription in the John Coltrane Omnibook, as well as the transcription by Andrew White. This project led me to check out other extant recordings of Coltrane performing “Body and Soul.” (Thanks, Luke!)

There are at least five different recordings on Youtube of Coltrane playing “Body and Soul." The tracks were all recorded between 1960 and 1965. They reflect an evolution from his relatively conventional chords-based "Coltrane changes" period to his later free-jazz/abstract/spiritual approach. They are:

1)  The studio recording released on the album "Coltrane's Sound,” 10/24/60
2)  An alternate take from the same recording session
3)  Jazz Gallery, 6/10/60 (four months before the studio recordings)
4)  Live at Birdland, 6/2/62
5)  Live in Seattle, 9/30/65

Below are discussions of each recording. Be sure to listen to each track first - the music itself is what's important.

"Coltrane's Sound"


The first publicly-released version of Coltrane playing "Body and Soul" appeared on the Atlantic LP "Coltrane's Sound." The material for this album was recorded on October 24-25, 1960, but was not released until 1964. This track is the one I studied with my student, and the version that we will use as a basic reference in comparing other recordings. 

The musicians are Coltrane, tenor saxophone; McCoy Tyner, piano; Steve Davis, bass; and Elvin Jones, drums. With the exception of Steve Davis, this is Coltrane's "classic quartet," with whom he recorded and performed for the next five years. McCoy had been a member of the group since May 1960; Elvin had joined the band just a month before the recording session, in September 1960.  

Coltrane had left Miles Davis' group in April 1960, and was just beginning to establish himself as a leader. His "Giant Steps" album, recorded in 1959, had already been released, in February 1960. The songs and arrangements on these two albums represented much of the repertoire for his new quartet. "Body and Soul" was one of several standard tunes that had been reharmonized with "Coltrane changes."

The arrangement on this album consists of:

  • An 8-bar, double-time-feel vamp introduction on a concert Ebm chord (reminiscent of the intro in the 1938 Chu Berry version). Piano starts, drums join after 4 bars.
  • Melody played by the saxophone, with some melodic alterations to fit the reharmonization, and fills
  • Piano solo over one chorus of the form
  • Return to the bridge and last A section of the melody by the sax, and 
  • An arranged rubato ending, including a "chromatic third relation" chord sequence Db - A - F, and a gospel-like final cadence for the piano.

The form is AABA, same as the original tune. It is played with a "double-time feel," so the original 32-bar form feels like 64 bars. (In describing bar counts, I will assume a 64-bar format.)

The key is concert Db, as is standard in jazz renditions of “Body and Soul.” The A section is over an Ab pedal until the resolution to the tonic Db chord, with some whole tone scale suggestions set up by augmented chords over the pedal. 

The bridge goes up a half step to the key of D, as in the original song. Starting in bar 5 of the bridge, the arrangement uses a “Coltrane changes” sequence for 4 measures, with 2 beats per chord, beginning and ending on Dmaj7. The progression then goes to Dm7 in bar 9, as in the original. Bars 11-15 of the bridge are another “Coltrane changes” sequence, starting and ending on Cmaj7. The first 2 chords here, Cmaj7 and Eb7, are 1 measure each, the rest of the sequence 2 beats per chord. 

Here's a fairly serviceable chord chart.

Here's another (Coltrane changes are halfway down the page; click to enlarge). 

This original version from the "Coltrane's Sound" LP is a polished exposition of the arrangement. The mood is dignified, and respectful to the beauty of the tune and its jazz heritage. I’ve already mentioned that the intro may reference the Chu Berry recording; I hear echoes of Billie Holiday also.

Everything seems carefully planned. Judging by Coltrane’s later recordings of the tune, even some of the tenor fills were part of the arrangement. 

From Lewis Porter’s Coltrane biography:
His lovely ballad performances drew upon a repertory of unique ornamental features. Coltrane’s paraphrasing of a ballad melody did not vary much from one performance to another of the same piece, even in the specific locations and types of ornaments added…The paraphrase version became a distinct gestalt, ornaments and all.
Another quote from Porter:
Tom Dowd, Coltrane's recording engineer at Atlantic Records, remembers Coltrane's warmup routine: "John usually showed up about an hour before the session...he would stand in a corner, face the wall, play, stop, change reeds, and start again. After a while he would settle on the mouthpiece and reeds that felt most comfortable to him, and then he would start to work on the 'runs' that he wanted to use during the session. I would watch him play the same passage over and over again, changing his breathing, his fingering, and experimenting with the most minute changes in his phrasing."

The transcription of the album version in the Coltrane Omnibook is nicely done, though I do have some minor disagreements about rhythm here and there, and a couple of notes are shown in the wrong octave. The transcriber is not credited. Coltrane played the tune with a double-time feel, so each measure of the original tune shows as two measures in this transcription. The transcription seems to get the reharmonized chord changes pretty much right. The link above is to the Bb edition; concert key and Eb editions are also available.

Andrew White’s transcription of Coltrane’s solo (unavailable since Andrew passed away, as far as I know) is meticulous, as were all his transcriptions. The solo is notated in tenor key (concert Db, Eb for tenor sax). Andrew did not change the song’s original measures to fit a double-time feel, so his note values appear twice as fast (e.g., where the Coltrane Omnibook shows eighth notes, Andrew shows sixteenths). I like his rhythmic representations a little better than those in the Omnibook. 

The New Real Book Vol. 3 (Sher Music) has a lead sheet for the Coltrane arrangement, with a somewhat different take on how to represent the chords. Double-time feel is represented the same way as in the Omnibook. 

Alternate take


This alternate take, also from the 11/24/60 recording session, was released on a 1999 CD reissue of the album. It was recorded first, before the take that was selected for the original LP. The take originally chosen for release is more polished, and more carefully played. This alternate (first) take has a 16-bar vamp intro, where the second take tightens it to 8 bars. Coltrane's presentation of the head in the second take is somewhat pared down as well. Some of the sax fills and embellishments are nearly identical in the two takes. The rubato coda is exactly the same, including the piano's gospel-like final cadence.

Jazz Gallery 6/10/1960

This live recording is the earliest Coltrane version I've seen; it preceded the Atlantic recording session by four months. Personnel are Coltrane, tenor; McCoy Tyner, piano; Steve Davis, bass; Pete LaRoca, drums. In the Youtube track below, "Body and Soul" starts at 1:00:10.


McCoy Tyner had just joined the band, about two weeks earlier. Elvin Jones had not joined yet. The "Body and Soul" arrangement had already been in the band's book; according to Porter, McCoy's predecessor Steve Kuhn remembers playing it with the group.

Comparing this performance to the album version, we can hear that the arrangement had not quite jelled yet. There is no introduction, although McCoy plays a similar vamp figure for the A sections. Coltrane takes a solo chorus after playing the head. His playing is in general a lot busier, with more virtuosic display. Perhaps this was because of the energy that comes with a live club situation; perhaps it was because Coltrane was trying things out, exploring approaches to the tune.

Still, this was one of the mellower tunes played that night - compare this 7-minute “Body and Soul” to the 30-minute over-the-top version of “Liberia” (based on “A Night in Tunisia”) that is at the beginning of this recording. “Body and Soul” and "Every Time We Say Goodbye" were the ballads providing some variety in an otherwise up-tempo, high-energy set.

The coda as played here is pretty much the same as in the studio recordings. Even in this early version, it was already a composed, permanent feature of the arrangement.

Regarding McCoy's role in the band, here is a quote from an interview cited by Porter:
My playing, I believe, possessed also this metronomic rhythmic accuracy [McCoy is here comparing his playing to Monk's]...because I have a good strong left hand, John knew that he could count on this rhythmic foundation, on this carpet, and that even when he threw himself into his wildest improvisation, he would always have behind him, unshakeable, the regular tempo of his pianist.

Live at Birdland 6/2/62

The next recording we have is from two years after the studio recording - June 2, 1962. It was recorded from a radio program called "Live at Birdland." The full half-hour broadcast is here. (Note: This is not the Coltrane album called "Live at Birdland.")

The band is Coltrane’s classic quartet, with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones.

This version has the energy of a live club performance. The group follows the arrangement, but is freer with it. There is a 12-bar intro; the vamp is looser than in the previous recordings. Coltrane plays the head, including fills that are similar but not identical to the worked-out fills in the 1960 LP version, then takes an additional chorus. Tyner takes two choruses, and Coltrane plays the head from the bridge. 

In this sax solo, I hear Coltrane displaying virtuosity in the service of conveying emotion. He's mostly inside the harmony, with what I'd call some outside overlays. In a couple of spots he splits overtones to produce a chord, a technique not heard on the earlier versions. McCoy, as usual, lays down a solid rhythmic foundation. Elvin and McCoy constantly anticipate each other's rhythmic kicks. There is a terrific band rapport.

Live in Seattle 9/30/65

The last recording that we have of “Body and Soul” is from September 30, 1965. It was released on the 1994 CD reissue of the album "Live in Seattle" (the LP was originally released in 1971, four years after Coltrane's passing). It is the longest version we have, at 21:25 minutes. The personnel is the quartet (Pharoah Sanders and Donald Garrett also participated in this gig, but do not appear on this track).

This is a much more radical, abstract version. We can hear a conflict between structure and freedom. Coltrane is testing the traditional boundaries of music: rhythm, harmony, melody, arranged structure. He is asking a lot out of the band, himself, and the audience.

Compared to the 1960 studio version, here are some differences and similarities:

The piece is still in Db; the eighth-note pulse is still swing.

The introductory vamp no longer uses the arranged rhythm and voicing.

The chords in the A section are "understood" - alluded to by both Coltrane and Tyner, but not necessarily stated explicitly. The "Coltrane changes" are still present in the bridge.

Solos are much longer. They are about exploration. 

The underlying beat is "understood," and downbeats are not always stated explicitly. However, there is still an implicit feeling of 8-bar units.

The AABA structure of the arrangement is mostly followed, though not always marked off as clearly as in the previous recordings. At about 14:57, in the second A of the seventh chorus, the pedal note changes from Ab to F for 8 bars. In the eighth chorus, starting at about 16:42, the bridge is eliminated (unless it's stated too abstractly for my ears). At 18:55 we hear Coltrane cue the bridge, beginning the out-head BA.
The arranged coda is almost exactly as performed in the 1960 Atlantic version. That may be the most conventional, straight-ahead moment on the album. Coltrane plays some nice split-overtone "chords" near the end.

McCoy Tyner seems to be trying to do his job of providing a chordal mooring for Coltrane.

Coltrane avoids jazz clichés like II V patterns or blues licks. For most iterations of the bridge, he plays melodically over the "Coltrane changes." McCoy's solo is much more "inside” than Coltrane’s.

Coltrane is exploring extended techniques on the saxophone - overtones, multiphonics, textures - that don’t have much to do with outlining chords. 

This period of Coltrane's music is sometimes described as "transcendent." This "Body and Soul" track, though it is much more "out" as compared to the earlier versions, is actually one of his more traditional recorded performances from this period. For example, in Cosmos, at the beginning of the Seattle album, even the concept of "beat" is challenged. 

It would seem that even in late 1965, "Body and Soul" was still being placed in the set as the ballad that provides a texture that is relatively comfortable (if that's the right word) to the audience. 

Following the Seattle gig, the group changed dramatically. In November 1965, Coltrane hired Rashied Ali as a second drummer. Presumably he was looking for a more multidimensional rhythmic tapestry. Pharoah Sanders and Donald Garrett also became regular members.

McCoy Tyner left the band at the end of 1965. Here’s a quote cited by Porter: 

What John is doing now is constructive for him, but not as compatible to me as before…I didn’t see myself making any kind of contribution to that music.
Another McCoy quote:
I felt if I was going to go any further musically, I would have to leave the group, and when John hired a second drummer, it became a physical necessity. I couldn’t hear myself. John was understanding.
Elvin Jones left the band in January, 1966. Here is a quote from a "Downbeat" magazine article:
At times I couldn't hear what I was doing - Matter of fact, I couldn't hear what anybody was doing. All I could hear was a lot of noise.
Another Elvin quote, from a radio interview, regarding Coltrane's late music:
Well, of course it's far out, because this is a tremendous mind that's involved, you know. You wouldn't expect Einstein to be playing jacks, you know?

Further reading

Here’s a great writeup about Coltrane and his music in late 1965 by Keith Raether, with reminiscences from the engineer who recorded the “Live in Seattle” album (the article is reprinted on Steve Griggs'  website, Joe Brazil Project).

Here's my account of the only time I saw John Coltrane live, in January 1966, after McCoy Tyner had left, but while there were two drummers, Elvin Jones and Rashied Ali (actually three, counting percussionist Juno Lewis).

This post draws a fair amount of material from the biography John Coltrane: His Life and Music by Lewis Porter, and from The John Coltrane Reference by Chris DeVito, Yasuhiro Fujioka, Wolf Schmaler, and David Wild, ed. Lewis Porter. Both are excellent works of jazz scholarship. Click for the Amazon links:


Apr 3, 2022

"Body and Soul" - What was the original key?

Recently I spent several lessons with a student analyzing transcriptions of John Coltrane's version of "Body and Soul," as played on the "Coltrane's Sound" album.

As often happens, that effort brought up some questions. One was, why do we play it in Db? Was that really the original key? 

One of my college teachers, Eddy Flenner, who had been an arranger in the 1930s, told me that the tune was originally written in the key of C, but was often taken up a half step “to brighten it up.” This idea seemed questionable to me, as it would assume that most listeners can somehow perceive the difference in keys. I don't think that people generally have perfect pitch, even subliminally.

It turns out that the 1930 sheet music was indeed in the key of C (click to enlarge):

"Body and Soul" was originally written for the British singer Gertrude Lawrence, but she apparently never recorded it.

The website lists 17 early versions of “Body and Soul,” all from the year 1930, with sound files of each recording. Five are in Db, 3 in C, 3 in Bb, 2 in Eb, 2 in F, and one each in G and Ab (I'm leaving out some modulations within the arrangement). 

True, different keys would have often been chosen to fit a vocalist’s range, or could be the result of inaccurate recording speed or playback speed. But with the sheet music in C, and with so many early recordings in Db, I have to consider that perhaps Eddy was right after all.

In one of these 1930 versions, Louis Armstrong begins in Eb with trumpet, modulates to C for his vocal, and finishes in F#. Louis uses a different set of lyrics, as explained in the article:

Some other early jazz versions:

Red Allen


solo in C, modulates to Ab

Benny Goodman



Django Reinhardt



Chu Berry and Roy Eldridge


C (Chu), to Db (Roy), back to C

Coleman Hawkins



Art Tatum

1938, 1940, 1941


Art Tatum

1937, 1943


Art Tatum



Billie Holiday



Charlie Parker



Charlie Parker



On the Chu Berry/Roy Eldridge recording, guitarist Danny Barker plays an intro that strongly resembles the piano vamp intro in the Coltrane’s Sound recording. I could believe that Coltrane’s intro referenced Chu Berry's. I should also mention that the modulation up a half step for Roy's trumpet solo (from C to Db) would definitely have a "brighten it up" effect within the arrangement:

Tatum’s key of B may seem to have been a glitch in recording speed or playback speed, but that's how it sounds on three different recordings. Tatum would have had no problem with that key, or any other. In 1937 he recorded it in Db, in 1953 he recorded it in C.

The key of Db for jazz versions was set in stone with Coleman Hawkins’ definitive 1939 recording, a jazz version that was also a best-seller:

In Lewis Porter’s John Coltrane: His Life and Music, there is an interesting quote from Jimmy Heath:

We were talking about the fact that the older tenor players like Hawkins and Webster played in the key of D-flat because it was the heaviest key for tenor - gets the best sound. “Body and Soul,” all those tunes were in D-flat…Trane said, “I’m going to practice in D-flat.” Being who he was, he would zoom in and practice in D-flat for the next six months.

It’s true that concert Db is a fat-sounding key on tenor, especially on the lower notes. However, though Hawkins played the head to “Body and Soul” in the lower register; Coltrane favored the higher register of the tenor, and played the head an octave higher than Hawkins did.

In the next post, I'll discuss John Coltrane's recordings of "Body and Soul" from 1960, 1962, and 1965.

To close, here's Billie Holiday in 1940. I'm including this just because it's so nice.