A little Ornette Coleman to get things started

Ornette Coleman - Tomorrow Is the Question CoverTranscription, in my view, is the best thing an improvisor can do to improve their abilities as a player. In doing so, you study phrasing, time and groove, tunes, licks and cliches…pretty much every component of the Jazz vernacular (or whatever style you might be studying). It also greatly improves your ear, your concept of sound production, and provides inspiration, influence and a sense of history in your solos. What better way to reach for the greats than by studying them without a middle man filtering it for you?

I’ve done lots of these through the years and have had them all typed up, ready to go in folders on my computer. I recently decided to share, in part to get comments on editing, but mostly just to get these out into the world for anyone who might want them. Feel free to download and study to your heart’s content. All I ask is that any copy you give out or share gives me credit for the work done and maintains the link back to here at the bottom.

For the kick-off, I’m going to begin a little left-field from where my tastes normally lie. Here’s Ornette Coleman from his 1959 recording Tomorrow is the Question improvising on his tune, “Turnaround”. I wrote an analysis right on the music as part of a class I was taking while at the New England Conservatory (thanks Allan Chase!). We we’re studying the idea that Ornette seems to improvise with an approach Allan referred to as “chaining”. Basically, he plays an idea, develops it for a bit, then takes some of the new material from the development and treats it as a new idea, which he develops for a bit…so on and so forth…

So, how about an Ornette-inspired practice tip?

Experimenting with Melodic Chaining:

  1. Play a simple, memorable idea
  2. Develop that idea a few times (Ornette tended to do it 2 or 3 times)
  3. Take an interesting twist from your improvisation (added notes, a fun rhythm or what have you) and play it in isolation
  4. Go back to step 2 and repeat indefinitely

Feel free to leave comments on the analysis or whatever strikes you.

The solo in Eb: Coleman – Turnaround (in Eb)
The solo in C: Coleman – Turnaround (in C)

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3 Responses to A little Ornette Coleman to get things started

  1. Oh hell yes. More of this stuff please. The analysis of motive development is especially juicy. Bravo Molto Basso Profundo Ridiculoso!

  2. Adam says:

    Will do! Glad you liked it. I’ll be following up with a Joshua Redman transcription on the same tune. The transcription is already done, but I have to type up the post. Check back soon.

  3. Pingback: Joshua Redman’s take on “Turnaround”

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