Jaki Byard: Giant Steps

I love this arrangement of “Giant Steps.” The pace is nice and easy. The thing to listen to is how Jaki animates his phrases with very quick crescendos and decrescendos. Also his ease with jumping into some very big block chords. Then in the last 30 seconds of the performance, he goes into double time, and his fingers are just flying through the melody. It's ridiculous. He taught me an arrangement of “Giant Steps” that is in 3/4, and extremely difficult, equivalent to a Brahms piano exercise.

September 14, 2009 · 0 comments


Hadrien Feraud: Giant Steps

The instrument credits alone should give you a clear indication that this is not going to sound anything like your father's "Giant Steps."  Rising star French jazz bassist Hadrien Feraud is our captain for this futuristic space ride. This version of Coltrane's classic is put forth by two bassists. Feraud and Linley Marthe play the lead and the famous changes with the skill required of such a challenging composition. Soon their voices become barely audible in a cacophony of voice and music samples, sound effects, noises and various and sundry curiosities. I heard Elvis twice.

I have two ways to describe what hearing this music is like. Pick your favorite:

  1)  Late at night listen to the radio. Find "Giant Steps" being played. This may be difficult because there
       are hardly any jazz stations left. But should you succeed, turn the station dial back and forth really fast
       so that you can hear bits of the song and 20 other stations all at the same time.

  2)  Buy a small radio receiver. Commandeer a spaceship. Fly as far away as you can. Turn on the radio
       and try to pick up all of the radio and TV signals that have ever left earth and continue to exist forever
       in deep space. Say "Hi" to Carl Sagan.

You know what they say about the future, don't you? It is now.

May 20, 2008 · 1 comment


McCoy Tyner: Giant Steps

Although McCoy Tyner wasn't around for the original recording of "Giant Steps," he must have played it hundreds of times with Coltrane while in John's quartet. Some 30 years later, Tyner recorded this abridged version in tribute. Over the years, "Giant Steps" has become almost the de facto rite of passage for every young jazz musician. If you can improvise over those fast and complicated changes, you have earned your jazz bona fides! In a strange way, you sort of get the same feeling from Tyner on this cut. Perhaps he was seeking the role of teacher by indicating how it should be done, giving us a truncated "Giant Steps" that focuses on the very dynamics of the changes themselves. His block-chord playing is full, fast and impressive as can be. His single-note runs over the bass changes are nothing short of brilliant. He is a true master, encapsulating all in scarcely two minutes. Our rating, however, is 10 points lower due to what appears to be an egregious edit at the 18 sec. mark. McCoy is great enough that such an edit was an unnecessary intrusion, and it reflects poorly on those who for whatever reason made the decision.

February 20, 2008 · 1 comment


John Coltrane: Giant Steps

Jazzmen call improvisation based on underlying harmonic progressions "running the changes." Coltrane doesn't just run the changes, he dashes through, sprints past, hurdles over and vaults across them. "Giant Steps" is Coltrane's apex, the point at which all ascending lines converged. Never before had anyone played the tenor with such urgency. Yet Coltrane knew he'd reached the limits of this approach. When physicists declared light speed was an absolute, science fiction authors invented warp speed. Likewise, after "Giant Steps" Trane would go down a new track. Verily, as Genesis tells us, "There were giants in the earth in those days."

November 02, 2007 · 0 comments


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