One of the tunes called last night at the jam was Green Dolphin Street. I didn’t know it from memory but I was familiar with the tune by ear and I have always liked it. So today I learned it.
In 8AM history class we are allowed to have laptops, so I did the more productive thing and looked up the changes. During class I analyzed them and memorized them.
The short version:
30 Minutes Long Tones
1 Hour Green Dolphin Street
1 hour Green Dolphin Street
I spent the whole day playing Green Dolphin Street transcribing Sonny Stitt’s recording.
It took roughly an hour to learn the entire head by ear with all of Stitt’s embellishments and phrasing subtleties. I used Transcribe and took it phrase by phrase, or in some cases just a couple of notes at a time.
After I got a few phrases down, I would play them solo (without the recording playing along).
Eventually I got the whole head and played it a few times with the recording and a few times without.
After a break, I came back to the same Stitt recording on Transcribe and learning his solo. A few phrases here and there I opted not to learn because they didn’t seem awesome to me. But most of it I loved and set about memorizing.
After I got part of it in my ear and fingers, I analyzed how it functioned over the chords. Through analysis, I understand how to use the lick. For instance, he could play three notes to enclose a chord tone, but that doesn’t mean all of those notes are suitable to emphasize and hold out for a long time. But the chord tone would definitely sound consonant, if nothing else, to play for longer. Note length is just one example of how to use understanding.
Now that I’ve learned Green Dolphin Street and Out of Nowhere from Stitt, I have started picking up on what makes his style unique. For instance, he likes to superimpose fast, bluesy embellishments on the melody. And he has a way of phrasing that lets him get away with many “wrong” notes, using them to enhance the sound of the resolution.
Since I spent the whole day on just learning this tune by ear, there isn’t much else to say.
In the next few weeks I will be publishing interviews with a jazz bassist, a graduate tenor saxophonist from Northwestern, a piano professor from Roosevelt, and more. Great stuff to look forward to.